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As you all know, I love planning day trips to classy and Victorian Cape May. Taking a Cape May day trip is a popular way for New Jersey locals to bond with their families and friends, while at the same time, enjoying a beautiful seaside resort.
However, I also think it’s a ton of fun to take a day trip to West Cape May — which is Cape May City’s artistic and trendier cousin.
I’ve had the good fortune to visit West Cape May several times and never get bored of this unique borough.
Between the wildlife preserves and artistic atmosphere, West Cape May has a special charm that’s hard to replicate in other Jersey Shore towns. I highly recommend checking it out, even if West Cape May’s major attractions aren’t all on the Atlantic Ocean (shocker!).
West Cape May is Perfect for a Day Trip
West Cape May is a small borough in Cape May county. Don’t let West Cape May’s small size fool you, though! There is plenty to see and do here in one day, so you’ll need to plan in advance.
While you won’t have the same traditional downtown experience as Washington Mall in Cape May City, West Cape May is still home to many amazing boutiques, local shops, funky restaurants, wineries, and natural beauty.
All the restaurants and shops are within an easy drive of each another. What makes West Cape May wonderful for a day trip is that you won’t have to spend much time in the car, thanks to all the short driving distances between sites.
How to Make the Most of a West Cape May Day Trip
Cape May City is the most popular place for tourists to visit. However, West Cape May is no longer “off the beaten path.” A lot of people like to vacation in this area, especially visitors who want fresh food and great wine.
Because West Cape May is popular, you need to pack your patience in high season (seriously, pack your patience), and plan your activities in advance. I don’t recommend “winging it” in July and August. It’s just way, way, way too crowded. You’re able to be more spontaneous in the winter months, though.
Avoid Peak Travel Periods
Once you exit the Garden State Parkway, you don’t have any major highways cutting through West Cape May. Instead you have smaller, two lane county roads. Small roads are nice in the off season due to the peach and quiet, but we all know small roads are a blessing and a curse.
So – you need to keep in mind that these smaller roads were never designed to accommodate New Jersey’s dense population, nor the numbers of out of state tourists that cause the shore’s population to swell in the summer months.
Make Reservations Ahead of Time
West Cape May’s restaurants – such as Exit Zero, The Black Duck on Sunset, and Sapore Italiano – are all very popular with both locals and tourists. You will need to make reservations in advance especially for Christmas holidays, summer months, and Mother’s Day weekend.
To reserve a table, you can either call the restaurant in advance or make a reservation using an app such as OpenTable and Resy.
Keep in mind (like everywhere else in the world) that restaurants in West Cape May have gotten rather strict about last minute cancellations. Make sure to confirm (or cancel if needed) your reservations twenty-four hours in advance to avoid extra headaches.
Know Your Backroads
Like I said, West Cape May doesn’t have any major highways. And although it’s a small borough, local roads might confuse out of staters.
Download any maps ahead of time. Even better, look over Google Maps before hopping into the car and driving to your next destination. Have at least a rough idea of where you’re going not to add to the headaches on these small roads in the summer.
Since so many tourists are unfamiliar with West Cape May’s sudden four-way stops and unexpected turns and hidden driveways, hazardous driving conditions may occur, and like I said, you don’t want to add any accidents or road rage incidents. Just take your time and read directions prior to hopping in the car.
And if you get lost, for the love of god, don’t slam on your brakes in the middle of a busy road and cause a collision. Pull over and look more closely at your GPS. No need to rush.
What to Do in West Cape May in a Day
Okay, so what is there to see and do on a West Cape May day trip? A lot. A whole freakin’ lot.
Most of my favorite things to do on a West Cape May day trip have to do with wine, food (and desserts), shopping, and nature, but honestly, West Cape May has so much to see and do that I highly recommend you continue to do your own research to create the perfect adventure for you!
Below are a couple ideas to get you started! Happy reading!
Beach Plum Farm
Beach Plum Farm is a West Cape May icon. This farm is open to the public and is one of the best things to do on a West Cape May day trip.
What’s amazing about this local farm is that it provides a lot of produce and other food to some of Cape May’s best restaurants. By visiting Beach Plum Farm, you’re doing a lot to support the community and help keep food locally sourced, which is better for the environment.
At Beach Plum Farm, enjoy a bit of shopping at the Farm Market. You’ll find a ton of Cape May products to add to your kitchen, including spices and peanut butter! I would shop here every day if I could.
As a visitor to Beach Plum Farm, my main piece of advice is not to feed the free roaming roosters. They tend to explore the picnic area where people enjoy “grab and go” breakfasts. Don’t give them human food.
Willow Creek Winery & Farm
Cape May County has tons of wonderful wineries, and West Cape May is no exception! Willow Creek Winery and Farm is a huge winery that’s located on 50 whooping acres of land.
Like Beach Plum Farm, Willow Creek Winery is also open to the public every day. Sign up for a vineyard tour to get a close look at how these grapes are grown to produce some fantastic wines.
Willow Creek Winery also offers educational tastings to visitors who want to learn even more about how the climate here helps create these fantastic local wines.
Exit Zero Filling Station
Exit Zero Filling Station is one of the coolest outdoor dining experiences that I have ever seen, no questions asked. You can eat in a funky tent or trailer with just you and your party. Inside also has a very funky and fun ambiance that will make you feel super duper happy inside.
At Exit Zero, I recommend going to happy hour for some local beers from Cape May brewery, and then devour one of their signature Indian or Thai dishes. Delicious.
Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area
Additionally, you don’t want to miss out on the natural beauty on your West Cape May day trip. So I recommend that you park your car and take a stroll through Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area.
I personally recommend visiting the wetlands in the spring or fall when numerous birds migrate through this area, but if you love butterflies, then you need to go at the end of the summer to see the monarch butterflies briefly call this place their home before continuing their migration over the Delaware Bay.
Beyond the wetlands, you can visit Cape May Point State Park to see a slice of history, including Cape May Lighthouse and a World War II bunker.
As always, the usual disclaimers about respecting the local wildlife applies. Don’t feed or agitate the birds. Don’t try to take a sea turtle home as a pet. Keep your distance and respect the beautiful creatures who call the Cape May wetlands home.
Amazing Artisan Shopping
You can’t go on a West Cape May day trip and not indulge in some shopping! It’s simply unheard of not to use your credit card here!
Although West Cape May has plenty of shops, I’m going to highlight two different options in this post. Of course, feel free to continue your research and go to as many shops as your heart and bank account desire! No judgement here.
Cape May Honey Farm
Cape May Honey Farm provides high quality raw honey to residents. This store is super awesome, and I recommend that all honey aficionados check it out on a West Cape May day trip!
In addition to finding the perfect honey, Cape May Honey Farm also sells products, such as soap, beeswax candles, and so much more!
West End Garage
West Cape May certainly knows how to transform old buildings into new and amazing venues. West End Garage is a primer shopping mall located inside a former garage and gas station.
Inside West End Garage, you’ll discover a lot of really cool art collections created by local artists. These galleries will make you want to redecorate your own home.
West End Garage also has a bakery and cafe owned by Beach Plum Farm if you need a coffee or a sweet treat.
Chez Michel Bakery
Last but not least, you need to go to Chez Michel Bakery for an extra special treat for your West Cape May day trip. This small bakery is owned by a classically trained French pastry chef, so you can taste an authentic bit of a Paris on your journey at the south Jersey shore.
My personal favorites are the chocolate croissants and cream puffs. Seriously, I could eat them every single day, and never get tired of them. So light and fluffy and perfect. I promise that you will leave Chez Michel Bakery with the biggest smile plastered on your face.
I hope you’re all busily planning a West Cape May Day Trip! If you can think of other wonderful things to see and do with only a day in West Cape May, feel free to reach out!