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Week Long Stay in Cape May, NJ

July 3 - 8, 2011

sunny 85 °F

We always try and get away for at least 5 or 6 days during the week of July 4th since my husband closes his business. This year we decided to try Cape May. We figured great beaches, great dining, and nearby wineries you can’t go wrong?

Day 1

We woke up at 6am figuring it would take us around 3 hours to get down there. Despite hitting rain the entire way down once we hit the Garden State Parkway, we did reach Cape May by 9am. We found a spot right near Cabanas Beach Bar and Grill to park the car. There were parking meters everywhere, but being it was before 10am we were okay. For breakfast I read about George’s Place but we couldn’t find it so we figured Cabanas would be fine. The service was very easy going and prompt. I wasn’t too crazy about the crab omelet that I chose for breakfast, but my husband was very happy with his Caribbean eggs benedict (which looking back I should have ordered).

I read up of a lot of places to stay in Cape May and was going back and forth with either a beach front hotel or a quaint B&B. I almost picked Congress Hall, but read about a new hotel that was opening up for the summer called Ocean Club Hotel (formerly the Atlas Inn). The hotel just opened about 2 weeks before we arrived so I didn’t think us checking in before 3pm would be possible. Since we had time to kill, we plugged in the GPS and headed to one of the four wineries nearby.

The first winery we visit was Natali Winery http://natalivineyards.com where they are known for their fruit wines.
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It was a little early to start tasting (10:30am) but we gave it a go. The first tastings of white wine did not fair too well with me. A couple of their reds did make up for the whites that we tried. We settled on purchasing a bottle of their Cedar Hammock. We were told that we could walk around the vineyard and look at all the different grapes.
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After a nice scroll, we headed to our next winery, Hawk Haven. http://hawkhavenvineyard.com/index.html
Hawk Haven is actually located a bit north of Cape May in the town called Rio Grande. It is only about a 10 - 15 min. drive from Cape May and about a 5 min. drive from Natali.

When we arrived we noticed there were signs saying that it is Sangria Sundays starting at noon.
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It was around 11:30 and figured we would do a tasting and check out their sangria. We were able to taste both several white and red wines. Their pino grigio was one of the best pino grigio’s I have tasted in a while. We wound up buying a bottle of pino grigio and bottle of their cabernet. The staff suggested we should go outside since they were getting ready for their Sangria Sundays. We found a nice table and each had one of their infamous sangrias served in a mason jar (which I love).
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It was a beautiful setting and enjoyed listening to the two guys playing the guitar and mandolin. Before we knew it was getting closer to our check in time. After hitting a bunch of traffic we were able to get to our hotel by 2pm. The Ocean Club Hotel had valet service so we handed the keys the valet and walked in. The lobby had glass doors to enter and the walls were painted in a light blue green color. No pictures were hung yet but you could tell that once it is all completely decorated, it will look very nice. At check in we were told our room would not be ready for another 1/2 hour so headed to their tiki bar for a cocktail.
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Since it was the day before July 4th, the pool and bar area were very crowded. The staff was trying to accommodate everyone, but with one register to use for everyone, it was a bit chaotic. No drink menus were made yet, but I saw a large container of sangria. We both opted to try their sangria. While it was good, it wasn’t nearly good as Hawk Haven.

Within a half hour our room was ready and we were able to check in. I booked the king bed with soaking tub ocean view room. The room was beautiful and had a terrific view of the pool area and ocean.
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We noticed that for the air conditioning, you have to use your key card. There was a holder on the wall to leave your key in it to activate the AC. I assume this was to prevent the air from being on while no one is in the room. Being it was a hot summer day, we left one key in the holder while we stayed in the room, otherwise it would have gotten too hot.

After settling in, we got ready for dinner. The Ocean Club does have a restaurant (Sea Salt) but would not be opening until the following weekend. I had no restaurant plans for the evening so we headed out on foot to look for somewhere to eat.

Our first stop was the Rusty Nail. I heard that on Sundays they have a reggae band playing. Apparently so did everyone else. When we got there, it was so crowded that it was impossible to find a seat, nevertheless grab a drink. We managed to get two margaritas, but they were filled with sour mix. After seeing the band struggling to set up, we headed back out down one of the side roads.

My husband noticed a B&B with people sitting outside on the porch and read the sign “The Mad Batter”. I couldn’t believe it - it was one of the places I heard about that has great breakfast. I thought that their dinner couldn’t be bad so we headed over. We didn’t have any reservations, but after waiting a few minutes we were seated outside on the porch.
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The dinner was excellent. We started off with a nice bottle of red wine that paired well with our first course, a special appetizer of brie wrapped in pastry dough and fresh fruit.
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I had the entree special of sea bass.
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My husband had a terrific burger.
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It was even nice to see the horse drawn carriages go by every once in a while.
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With our bellies full, we walked down to the Washington Street Mall. We were told by friends to be sure to stop at the Ugly Mug for a drink. It was a bit crowded but found two seats for a quick night cap. After taking a few wrong turns and a very long walk, we finally reached our hotel and it was time for bed. It was a long day!

Day 2

We woke up a little later then I wanted so I thought that somewhere close by would be good for breakfast. On our way back to the hotel last night, we noticed there was place nearby called Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grill. I wasn’t in the mood for walking far either, so we had breakfast there. It was okay. We each had the eggs benedict, but the hollandaise sauce to us really didn’t take like hollandaise. The good thing however, we noticed there was a liquor store right next to the restaurant in case we needed to get anything during out stay.

After breakfast we headed to the beach. We had to buy ourselves each a week badge ($15 per person) to go on the beach. The Ocean Club Hotel had available to the guests, towels, beach lounge chairs and umbrellas. This made it nice and easy to walk to the beach with very little to carry. We walked up to the tent where an employee sat and asked of a few towels and umbrella. It was nice and relaxing to spend a few hours on the beach.
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It was getting hot, so we headed back to the tiki bar and a few cold drinks. After cooling down, we freshened up and headed back to the Washington Street Mall to do some shopping. It was a nice long walk to see all the beautiful victorian homes and B&Bs.
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Since it was the 4th of July, I wanted to have dinner a bit earlier then normal. I made reservations at Martini Beach. We got ready back at the hotel and headed back down Beach Ave. to Martini Beach. It was very easy to find, since it is located right about Cabanas where we had breakfast the day before. We walked up the stairs and were immediately seated over looking the ocean. The menu offered both tapas and entrees for dinner and a nice variety of martinis. My husband had the “Dirty Buffalo” martini and I had the “Cucumber-Basil Gimlet”.
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We decided on the tapas menu for dinner. Our first item was the octopus kebabs. They were surprisingly very good. I normally don’t have octopus and was a bit hesitant, but they were tasty.
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My husband picked the next course, fried calamari, which had a nice light crust.
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I then had the escargot, while my husband had the kobe beef skewers.
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Our last course, which we both shared, was the spanish bbq shrimp.
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These were excellent!

The dinner at Martini Beach was very good and would definitely go back there.

We headed back to our room where we were able to view the fireworks from our balcony. It was a nice way to end a great day.
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Day 3

We woke up to a bright and sunny day. Today was the day we would try and find George’s Place. After a good walk down Beach Ave., we notice people standing outside of a restaurant on the corner. I look above and see the sign “George’s Place”. We found it! Unfortunately we were told the wait would be around 45 minutes, but after yesterday’s breakfast I didn’t want to take any chances. We put our names down and grabbed a cup of coffee down the street.

It was finally time to get our table and were seated in a booth. The place was very tiny, but also very busy. For breakfast I had the smoked salmon scramble. My husband had the breakfast quesadilla.
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Both were very good. I can see why there is always a wait here.

After breakfast we spent a few hours on the beach like we did the day before.
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This day seemed very hot so, I did go in the water for a few minutes, but it was very cold. We could only stand to be on the beach a few hours. The sand was extremely hot walking back to the road.

Since we still had two more wineries to visit, we headed back out to try another winery. The next on the list was Turdo Winery http://turdovineyards.com/Home_Page.html
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We heard from the Hawks Haven winery, that this wine had an italian style to it. After tasting several wines we enjoyed their petit syrah. We purchased a bottle and sat outside in their courtyard. It had a very nice italian grotto feel to it.
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Since we had dinner reservations that night at the Pier House we wound up saving the rest of the wine for another time.

The Pier House is located north of the Ocean Club Hotel, but still close enough to walk. We headed out and pasted the Peter Shields Inn, which looked quite impressive set up on the hill.
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I requested to be seated outside at the Pier House.
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The service and food were excellent. We started out with a very fresh jumbo shrimp cocktail, followed by a very large portion of fried calamari with 3 sauces.
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My husband had the “ph balance” for dinner. It is the Pier House’s version of surf and turf. This version has the lobster tail thin crisp flash fried.
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I decided to go with the local baby flounder served whole and the same way as the lobster tail. I was warned however, that the fish has bones throughout so had to be careful while eating it. It was worth it though, very good.
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We were both very full so we walked back towards our hotel and back to the Washington Street Mall. I made a few souvenir purchases and then headed back to our hotel. After another good day it was time to call it a night.

Day 4
Since we had such a good dinner the first night at the Mad Batter, we thought that we would head back for breakfast. The wait was only about 10 minutes and we were sat outside on the porch again. I ordered their Morgan Rostie Omelet which consisted of swiss cheese, crabmeat, sundried tomatoes, potatoes, and herbs.
Since I didn’t have a great experience with the omelet and crabmeat early I asked if they could leave it out. No problem and it was really good.
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My husband decided to go with the chorizo and egg scramble.
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After breakfast we made it back to the beach and relaxed for a few hours. The weather started to get cloudy so we headed back to the hotel and got ready to visit our last winery. It was a good thing we did because it started to rain. The last winery on our list was the Cape May Winery. http://www.capemaywinery.com
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This winery was the closest one to Cape May so it was about a 5 minute drive. We walked into the winery and were given two wine glasses. They told us to head to the backroom where we would do the wine tasting. The back room opened up to a great big room with the one wall stacked with wine barrels. It was very impressive.
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We did our wine tasting and enjoyed both the white and red wines.
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Since the weather was not clearing we each got a glass of wine and went upstairs to the covered deck.
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The place is pretty big and has a lot of different areas to relax and have some wine whether it being inside or out.

Once the rain subsided and we were done with our glasses of wine we headed back towards the hotel. I wanted to stop at the Lobster House and go to the Schooner Bar which is located right next to the restaurant. We pulled into the parking lot and already notice a wait to get into the Lobster House and it was only 4:00pm. After we found a spot we walked around to find the Schooner Bar, which is actually a boat permanently fixed to the dock.
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It is a great place to have a cocktail and an appetizer.
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We were going to see how long the wait was for the Lobster House, but when my husband came back from checking, he said the line was already two blocks long. We figured we would find somewhere else with seafood to eat in town which shouldn’t be too hard to fine.

We made back to the hotel and got ready for dinner. A few days earlier we stopped in the Pier House for a beer and noticed their menu had a large selection of seafood which we were both in the mood for. I called the restaurant and they said they had availability for the two of us so we walked to the restaurant.
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We were seated outside and enjoyed an enjoyable dinner. We started off with their calamari sauté which was more or less a very satisfying stew.
For dinner my husband had fried shrimp and scallops, while I ordered the special of the night “stuffed grouper”.
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By the time we were done with dinner it was pretty late. We headed back to the hotel and settled in the night.

Day 5

Being this was out last full day so we wanted to make sure we didn’t sleep too late. We woke up to a sunny day and wanted to try a new place for breakfast.
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Being that we walked around a lot, we passed by Congress Hall and saw that there was an outdoor eating area - the Blue Big Tavern.
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It looked cute enough to give it a try. We were seated outside and had another good breakfast. My husband ordered the Presidential which consisted of two eggs any style, two strips of bacon, two pork sausage links, and a choice of two pancakes or malted waffle, AND home-fried potatoes. He picked the malted waffle and it smelled wonderful.
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I went with the birds in the nest which was very good.
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After enjoying another good breakfast it was time to spend our last day on the beach.
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Before we knew it, it was time to get off the beach and get ready for dinner. We did have a drink before we headed to dinner at the tiki bar at the hotel. It wasn’t too crowded so it was nice to spend some time there.

Pool area at the Ocean Club Hotel:
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I had made dinner reservations a few weeks prior at the Washington Inn. I was in Cape May about 20 years ago with my parents and always remembered how good the food was here. Plus it continues to get rave reviews. It was a little further then some of the other restaurants, but I used my handy iPhone® and mapped out the way to the restaurant.

It was only about a 15 minute walk and we saw the awning of the restaurant.
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We walked in and were seated in the garden room. I looked over the wine list and saw they had one of our favorite bottles of wine, Novelty Hill.
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For my first course I picked the escargot and my husband went with the grilled shrimp bruschetta appetizer. Both were very tasty.
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Then for dinner I had their rack of lamb and my husband had their NY sirloin.
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We were both extremely happy with what we picked. The food was amazing and the service was very attentive. I can see why this place continues to get the reviews it does. It was a great place to spend our last night in Cape May.

We were ready to leave when we noticed it was pouring outside. We had a pretty good walk ahead of us and there was no way we were walking in it. The Washington Inn recently put in a wine bar in the restaurant so we grabbed two seats at the bar. We ordered two glasses a port and wound up talking to a very nice couple who were also waiting out the rain.

The rain finally subsided and we walked back to our hotel. We noticed people were still outside at the tiki bar and figured we would stop in for a night cap for our last night. Again the bar was quiet and we were able to talk to the bartender at the bar.
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I think once this place is up and running after a month or so it will be a great place to come back to. The Ocean Club Hotel is going through its growing pains, but I think it has a great future.

Soon it was time to head back to our room. We asked the people at the front desk about check out and since my husband wanted be on the road early they suggested we check out that night. It took a little while, but we settled up the bill and headed back to the room.

Day 6
We woke up and were out the door by 7am. The weather was beautiful. We said our good byes and were back home around 10am. It was a great trip to Cape May and hope to return again soon. I have been to several different areas down the shore, but Cape May, by far, is one of the best NJ shore destinations there is.
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Until next time...

Posted by susannj 07.14.2011 06:17 Archived in USA Tagged cape jersey may_nj shore_nj_new

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