Cape May is a peninsula and island (divided by a narrow channel); the southern tip of the island is the southernmost point of the U.S. state of New Jersey. The peninsula resides in Cape May County and runs southwards from the New Jersey mainland, separating Delaware Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. The cape is named for Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, a Dutch explorer who was working for the Dutch East India Company.

Sunset Beach on Cape May

Cape Island

Cape Island is a man-made island at the southern tip of Cape May County, which consists of Cape May, Cape May Point, West Cape May and portions of Lower Township. The island is separated from the mainland and the rest of Cape May County by the man-made Cape May Canal, Cape Island Creek and Cape May Harbor which cut it off from the rest of the Cape May Peninsula.

Cape May Canal is a 2.9-nautical mile (3.3 mi; 5.4 km) waterway connecting Cape May Harbor to the Delaware Bay, at the southern tip of Cape May County, New Jersey.[4] Before the canal was built, "Cape Island" referred to the site of the City of Cape May, southeast of Cape Island Creek, a tidal "creek" and marsh that has been partly filled in at its southern end.[5]


The Kechemeche tribe of the Lenni Lenape were the first residents of the area that historians know of.[6] Each summer, the Native Americans vacationed at what is now Cape May to escape the summer heat. While there, they fished, hunted, and collected fruits before the advent of autumn mandated the return to their inland villages.[7]

The first European to catch a glimpse of Cape May was navigator Henry Hudson and 18 of his crew mates on the Halve Maen. On August 28, 1609, while searching for the Northwest Passage, Hudson decided to sail up the unexplored Delaware Bay. Several miles up the coast, strong tides pulled the Halve Maen to a sandbar, and the crew was stranded until thunderstorms and wind aided the ship around the Cape May peninsula. This event was recorded by Hudson's first mate, Robert Juet.[8]

News of his discovery sparked a search for the location of a new trading post. English explorer Samuel Argall explored the bay and named it for the governor of the Virginia Colony, Lord De La Warr.[9] Not to be outdone, the Dutch also sent some navigators to look for suitable sites for trading ventures. Among the band of explorers were Cornelis Henderson, Adriaen Block, and Cornelis Jacobsen Mey.[10]

The recorded history of Cape May stretches back to 1620, when Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey surveyed and named the area for himself. It later grew from a small settlement to the large beach resort it has been since the 19th century.[6] The City of Cape May asserts that its status as a vacation spot began in 1766,[6] with Philadelphians coming in by stagecoaches, ships, and horse-drawn wagons, and that the Kechemeche Lenape had primarily used the land for hunting beforehand. Hotels were already on Cape May as of 1834.[6]

In 1782 during the American Revolutionary War, the young Continental Navy Lieutenant Joshua Barney fought with a British squadron at Cape May and Delaware Bay. Barney's force of three sloops defeated a Royal Navy frigate, a sloop-of-war and a Loyalist privateer. The battle ended with the loss of two British vessels and one American sloop.

In popular culture

In Mad Men season 1, Betty Draper reveals that her father owns a vacation home on Cape May.

In Pretty Little Liars season 7 premiere, Alison DiLaurentis' summer in Cape May with CeCe Drake is discussed as being a pivotal point in their friendship, because of Ali's pregnancy scare.

In The Blacklist season 7, episode 14, Elizabeth Keen is told her mother walked into the waters of Cape May and was never seen again.

See also