New Jersey’s southernmost point, Cape May, is a beach town that many know for its charming Victorian architecture, cozy B&Bs, and miles of beaches. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your pets at home. Bring your furry friend along for a Cape May dog-friendly vacation. There’s so much fun for you both to enjoy without sacrificing.
While many beach towns empty out during the off-season, Cape May isn’t the ghost town that you may expect. The Jersey Shore’s southernmost beach town is still a charming and cozy getaway in the offseason, especially during the Christmas and holiday season. Yes, some of the shops, especially those near the beach, are closed. But, there are lots of fun things to do in Cape May: there are a lot of great restaurants, bed and breakfasts, and shops where you can indulge without the crowds and still bring your dog.
Things to Do for a Cape May Dog-Friendly Vacation
Downtown Cape May is fairly flat and fairly compact. It’s easy to get around on foot via the sidewalks that line the streets. And if you have a car, there are a few fun and unusual dog-friendly things to do outside of the heart of Cape May.
Cape May Beach
Maybe you and your dog are beach bums. Then you most certainly have come to the right place, as I find Cape May to be one of the best East Coast dog friendly beaches. In most cases, exploring the beach and the ocean are probably what drew you and your dog to visit Cape May in the first place.
Cape May has more than two miles of beaches for you to enjoy. Go for a walk, sit and watch the ocean waves, or go fishing. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the beaches that, in all likelihood, you will have all to yourself.
Each beach has its own rules for dog visitors, but generally, your furry friend is permitted on the beach during the offseason.
Cape May Promenade
Due to a storm decades ago, Cape May no longer has a proper wooden boardwalk. Instead, the Cape May Promenade is two miles of paved sidewalk run along the dunes and parallel to the oceanfront.
The fact that the Promenade is paved actually makes it a bit easier to walk. You will also find plenty of benches and a pavilion along the walkway.
The rule for dogs on the promenade is similar to the beach: dogs are welcome from November through March only.
Go For a Downtown Walking Tour
Cape May is famous for its Victorian architecture. The city’s 600 historic Victorian buildings rival that of San Francisco.
Take your dog for a walk around downtown Cape May and admire these beautiful buildings. Each property is different. Colors, details, and styles can vary within a matter of feet.
Get a Bite to Eat
Enjoying a dog-friendly lunch or dinner in Cape May during the offseason is a bit more of a challenge. Outdoor decks and eating areas generally are not open during this time of the year. Additionally, many of the restaurants along the promenade and beach are closed for the season. The downtown area, with its pedestrian-friendly shopping area, is your best bet.
I recommend getting take-out food and finding a nice spot to enjoy your meal. During my visit, my husband and I ordered food to go from Cape May Fish Market then walked down to the promenade to use one of the many empty benches for our winter picnic. Later, we also got hot beverages from Coffee Tyme.
Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum
Although not downtown, the Cape May Airport is the non-profit Naval Air Station Wildwood (NASW) Aviation Museum is a dog-friendly Cape May spot. That’s right: dogs are welcome inside the historic 1943 hangar that houses a wide range of aircraft from airplanes to helicopters, including engines!
There are also interactive exhibits, like a flight simulator and an air traffic control tower, as well as an Enigma Machine. Visitors, on two legs or four, can get up close and personal with these airplanes and helicopters that have served the country.
During the offseason, you will need to plan ahead for the NASW Aviation Museum. The museum is only open on weekdays from December through March. The rest of the year the museum is open daily.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry
If you and your dog enjoy boat rides, consider the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. The car and passenger ferry runs across the Delaware Bay connecting Cape May, New Jersey, with Lewes, Delaware. Cruises take 85-minutes in each direction and run year round. And, best of all, pets are welcome on the exterior decks of the ferry. No doubt your dog will love the fresh air, the breeze, and all those ocean scents!
Other Spots to Explore
Cape May has some other great spots to enjoy. The Cape May Lighthouse and a World War II Lookout Tower sit just outside of the city center. The tower is especially interesting. Originally, the tower was one of fifteen that were built along the Delaware Bay during World War II. Today, this one in Cape May is the only one still standing.
Unfortunately, both spots are not dog-friendly if you want to enter either building. You can, however, take your dog for a walk about outside. For more on these spots, check out my post on a Cape May for a winter getaway.
Tips for your Dog-Friendly Cape May Vacation
- It goes without saying, always clean up after your dog. Additionally, be prepared with clean-up bags.
- While Cape May is very dog-friendly, during the offseason you’re unlikely to find water bowls for your pet. Bring water and a bowl for occasional drink breaks.
- Always confirm the rules for the specific beaches and areas you and your dog will be visiting as they can change.
Getting to Cape May
Visitors who are driving to Cape May will note that the Garden State Parkway, which runs along New Jersey’s Atlantic Coast, leads right to the city.
Parking in downtown Cape May can be a challenge. When crowds are small, as they generally are during the offseason, there’s a lot of parking available. But if the weather happens to be unseasonably warm or it’s a holiday, prepare to search for parking. There are small lots with paid parking close to shops and restaurants. There is street parking throughout the city, including spots that run parallel to the promenade and beach. Parking meters are only in effect from May through the end of October, although there are exceptions.
Visitors driving to the lighthouse and the Lookout Tower have nothing to worry about. There are large parking lots with free parking at both attractions. The parking lot for the lighthouse wraps around and leads into the park while the Lookout Tower’s parking is across the street.
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All photos, as well as all opinions, are my own.