- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: October 2012

Hurricane Sandy hits Cape May

Pre-hurricane photo taken October 28, 2012


Hurricane Sandy is poised to strike Cape May today with wind gusts up to 70mph and destructive waves continuing into Tuesday with heavy coastal flooding. Cape May, the barrier islands along the Jersey Shore, and coastal communities along the Delaware Bay have been evacuated.

4:30pm: Sandy is 55 MI ESE of Cape May, NJ. [source: The Weather Channel]

5:00 pm: Sandy is still a hurricane, about 30 miles offshore. The storm “might just miss Cape May” and go into the Delaware Bay, but we will be in the hurricane circulation. [source: The Weather Channel]


Superstorm Sandy has passed, leaving Cape May sandy and soggy, but still standing. Check our Facebook page for updates on area businesses.

Photo Gallery: Aftermath of Sandy


West Cape May Mayor Pam Kaithern announced today that, “Trick or Treat will NOT happen tonight in the Cape Mays. An island-wide Trick or Treat will be held this Saturday, November 3, from 5:00 to 7:00pm, in conjunction with CM, CMP and WCM.


Here we are, Howl-O-Ween Month again! Many of us will be thinking about a costume for ourselves, our children, and maybe for our dogs. When choosing costumes for ourselves and our children, we can go by what we like, what is “hot” this season, a child’s favorite character or super hero, and most importantly a costume that is safe! We can get reflector tape to put on costumes or on Trick or Treat bags and we can remind ourselves and our children to “look both ways” before crossing. Many of these choices and safe precautions are important if we are going to costume our dog as well!

When choosing a costume for your dog be sure that it fits. A costume too big can be a tripping hazard, and a costume too small can be uncomfortable, at best, for your dog and a choking hazard as well. Remember that your dog need to be able to see, or your dog could become fearful at sudden movements or sudden/loud noises. Also pay attention to any hazardous materials used in a costume for your dog(s), which they may chew on or eat, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or worse. You want to enjoy Howl-O-Ween with your dog(s), not be visiting the vet instead.

Speaking of “toxic,” remember that chocolate, xylitol (a component of many sugarless gums and other low sugar products), and many other “candies” are very toxic to your dog. Depending on the size of the dog, the amount consumed, and the individual dog susceptibility, these products can cause vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, or death. Be very vigilant is insuring that your dog does not have access to or does not consume the Trick Or Treat Goodies which are okay for 2-legged Howl-O-Weeners but NOT okay for 4-legged Howl-O-Weeners! Better to make some homemade doggie treats so your dog can do the Howl-O-Ween thing with you, enjoy the fun of a few treats, and stay safe and healthy at the same time. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for you that. Based on the enthusiasm here, I think your dog will love them, too!

Have Fun! Be Safe!


Cool Cubes

  • 3 cups plain non-fat yogurt
  • 1¼ cups canned pumpkin
  • 2 Tbsp natural (local) honey

Combine, whisk well, pour into ice cube trays, freeze 2½ hrs. Pop out as needed or store in a sealed freezer bag.

Note: You can use mashed banana or unsalted peanut butter instead of the pumpkin for variation.

This Month’s Good Read: Train You Dog, Change Your Life by Maureen Ross, M.A., N.C.C., and Gary Ross, M.E. This is a wonderful book to read and review to refresh yourself on training your dog, or to get ready for your first dog. The book focuses on building a healthy, trusting relationship with your dog through the discussion of fundamentals, training, and applications. There are many elements of this book that will benefit you and your dog, even if your dog has been family for some time. We can all “learn a few new tricks” and have fun learning together!

Annual Halloween Parade and Trick-or-Treat on the Mall a Howling Success

Thousands of little Trick-or-Treaters descended the Washington Street Mall Sunday, Oct. 21 for the Mall Merchant’s annual event. Following Trick-or-Treat, the Cape May’ Halloween Parade got underway and brought out the best and the worst in scary and whimsical masqueraders. And the winners are:

012 Cape May Annual Halloween Parade
Final Awards List

Special Awards
Family        The Kelly Family – “Pirates” , Villas, NJ
Funniest        The Mortensen Family – “Best Thanksgiving”, Cape May, NJ
Most Scary    Jacqueline Hagan – Villas, NJ
Best Homemade Costume    Brianna Austin – Philadelphia, PA
Silliest        Jakob Pender  “Best Shore Theme” – West Cape May, NJ
Most Adorable    Ryden Powers & Riley Amenhauser – Cape May, NJ
Best T.V. or Movie Character    Gage Grossman – Cape May, NJ
Most Original    Mahogany Kelly – Villas, NJ

Age 3 & Under  Division A
1st    Anastasia McPherson-Orenich
2nd    Adeline Yerk
3rd    Kayleigh Smith

Age 4 – 6    Division B
1st    Nevaeh Heap
2nd    Allison Romeo
3rd    Anthony Colucci

Age 7 – 9    Division C
1st    Kyle Satt
2nd    Giana Cole
3rd    Bianca Potter

Age 10 – 12   Division D
1st    Christine Leigh
2nd    Garrison Swan
3rd    Michael Tresoikis

Age 13 – 17   Division E
1st    Julia Grossman
2nd    Anisha Lal
3rd    Khamar Matthews

Age 18 & Up – adults   Division F
1st    Suzanne Muldowney
2nd    Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick
3rd    Linda Ewing

Themed groups  Division G
1st    The Devine Family
2nd    The Mastasiak Family
3rd    The Mercuri Family

Themed Floats  Division H
1st    The Flickenger Family
2nd    Matthew Mastalski Jr.
3rd    Mack the Bulldozing Bulldog

Fall in Cape May – Something for Everyone

The leaves do not turn on Cape Island as fast as they do further north. It is generally late November, more often December, before the frost hits the pumpkins or the Christmas lights. The temperatures, especially this Fall, have been warm enough to enjoy fishing on the beach as well taking in the last vestiges of a tanning sun. We are an island which embraces quirky holidays like Halloween. You can stroll the street and takes pleasure in the Fall decor and still have time to catch a sunset over the Cove. So, if you can’t be here, our staff photographer Michelle Bumm offers you a virtual tour of Fall on the island.

Pour the Wine…

This article appreared in the Fall 2012 issue of Cape May Magazine
Willow Creek Winery opener

The sea mist and its sheer curtain have lifted. There’s not a cloud in the sky and the sun begins its high ride. A breeze ripples from the bay to the harbor, and you can hear the whisper of the ocean rolling in at the cove.

The water and the weather are what make Willow Creek Winery possible here on the outer coastal plain stretching along the tip of the cape. Far as the eye can see, there are grapevines in perfect rows, reaching up to meet the day.
The scent of lavender drifts across the villa veranda from a sweeping swath of pastel purple spikes. Honey bees buzz over mounds of catmint. Banks of hydrangeas are opening their big mop heads. A cock crows – as if to announce an event.

And here she comes on her golf cart – Barbara Hamilton Bray-Wilde, waving and smiling and flying up the driveway. She is the chatelaine of Willow Creek vineyards, villa, gardens and brand new winery.

This season, for the first time since planting 40 acres of vineyards over seven years ago, Willow Creek Winery is attempting to open to the public. It’s an exciting time at this historic farm on Stevens Street in West Cape May that grew lima beans and soybeans before its reincarnation as a vineyard.

“Hello, hello,” says Barbara, clutching a small orange ball. “It’s my baby Fuyu persimmon, the first one from my new tree. See, it looks like a little squashed tomato. You eat it like an apple. I have a Hachiya persimmon, too, shaped like a heart. It must be tempered by frost. It gets soft and you eat it like pudding.”

She’s a petite figure in this large landscape, but a tough-as-a-dirt-farmer business woman. “I never say, ‘No I can’t do that,’ she says. And, I don’t take no lightly.” In the 14 years she has owned the property and invested millions, she has faced all sorts of political, competitive, neighborhood, natural and technical obstacles, but her patience and persistence eventually overcome most conflicts. Typically, she’s up with the birds, ready to face the next challenge.Barbara
“When you own a farm like this,” she says, “you can’t preserve it or keep it selling strawberries and string beans at a cute roadside stand.”

Traveling her vineyards by golf cart, Barbara lays out in words the gardens that will populate Willow Creek’s plant trail, designed for beauty and education. “This is the Swamp Garden. Isn’t it lovely, all green and cool? A woman from the Farm Bureau said, “Aren’t you going to skim off that ugly sticky green stuff?’

“Well, no that floating icky green stuff is Duck Weed Lemnoideae. When you look closely you can see there are lots of tiny individual green plants. It’s a high protein food source for waterfowl, and in some parts of the world, human food.”

How is it that Barbara is a well-versed plants woman, and a designer (with expertise from Longwood Gardens’ professionals) of a 40-acre vineyard and estate gardens?

“My degree is in biochemistry from Berkeley, but my grandmother, Gwendolyn Detwiler Bray, was an official of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society [sponsor of the Philadelphia Flower Show]. She had large gardens and was my mentor. I was breeding iris when I was six.

“Oh, the cell phone.” It’s a local inspector asking 20 minutes-worth of questions about the winery’s fire suppression system, the wells, the water supply. “The DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] has been here 23 times,” says Barbara. “They keep picking nits, but they can’t find anything major that’s wrong.” The state legislative quagmire over operating farm vineyards in New Jersey held up opening of wineries like Barbara’s for over four years. Those issues were resolved earlier this year, but local contention continues over how Willow Creek is to be used for social events. As the summer set in, neighborhood opposition to the winery as a site for weddings and other large events grew more heated. Issues are still being debated on the local and state levels.
Honey Bees   Next stop, a few hundred feet down the trail, the Honey Bee Garden. Two tall handmade, dove-tailed boxes house the busy bee society. The worker bees are gathering nectar for the Willow Creek Raw Honey label. “Here will be planted Monarda (bee balm) and lots of it. Butterflies, the birds and the bees are attracted to the strong mint aroma and bright red and pink flowers.”
It’s the cell phone again. Vineyard manager Kevin Celli has news.
Willow Creek’s eco-friendly tour bus will be arriving. “Visiting a California vineyard, I rode one of these little busses. Home at Willow Creek, I thought, we can provide that service here, our guests riding along, learning the care of vines, winemaking and grape harvesting.”
The state of New Jersey requires that agro-tourism farms include educational features. Barbara’s creation around that rule is about 20 teaching garden stops.

“And here’s one of the folly gardens. Victorians loved follies – small whimsical buildings. This little folly house was built by one of our longtime employees who passed away recently. We will plant hydrangeas in this shady grove in his memory.”

Ahead, the vineyard crew is planting 1,500 more grapevines: Albarino, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and Seyval Blanc. Barbara wheels the cart to a raked field where precise straight rows have been hand-measured by vineyard foreman Francisco. He and his helpers are power pushing posts in the soil before planting the “new kids.” She greets the men, noting Francisco’s new tractor with air conditioning.

“They are our babies,” she says, wheeling up and down rows of irrigated vines. Mother Nature is cooperating this season.” She pulls up to a new 12,000 square foot building. The hand-carved yellow pine post- and- beam, high- ceiling architecture houses the winery where the grapes will be turned into wine and bottled. (Willow Creek’s first offering was bottled in Pennsylvania.) The huge tasting room and bar are designed for wine tastings and wine-paired, farm-fresh dinners.

“Presenting Willow Creek wines,” says Barbara, beaming. “Our days are warm, our nights are cool and produce growing conditions in a marine micro-climate similar to Bordeaux, France. Our terroir, the well-drained, rich, sandy, loamy soil, grows exceptional grapes. We have bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malvasia, Chambourcin and some wonderful port!”

Remember the cock that crowed on entrance to Willow Creek? Barbara has designed a secondary label, Wilde Cock Winery, combining her last name and her favorite fowl, colorful game cocks that roam part of the property.
The cell phone rings. “Time to get back to the villa,” says Barbara. “I have a 10 a.m. appointment with my lawyer about the latest round of inspections.” Her lawyer is her fiancé, Marcus Karavan.

“OOOOps. A little detour. Here is Hellebores Hollow. We have thousands of these little faces, first to bloom in spring, even when the snow is on the ground, they thrive here in the shade by this small swampy area with the Ostrich ferns.
Vines“Here’s the bed of Wormwood, Artemisia absinthiun from which we made our Absinthe.” Wormwood’s aromatic leaves and flowers are the main ingredients. Absinthe was popular among painters and writers in the mid-1800s. Five in the evening was called l’heure verte (the green hour). Artistic imbibers believed the rich green lacquer enhanced their creativity, a muse in a glass.”
Rounding the corner toward the villa, Barbara rolls along her vegetable bed.
In their prime are artichokes. It’s been a robust crop this spring and good for eating. Barbara has decided to let the plants grow tall and bloom. “The large purple flowers are dramatic for arrangements here at the villa and at Southern Mansion.”

The expansive villa is a modern adaptation of the Southern Mansion that Barbara owns and operates on Washington Street in the center of Cape May. “People thought I was crazy building this villa in a dusty farm field in 2006. It looked out of place, but in my picture, it was already sitting in the green of a vineyard tapestry.

“I moved out here to the country in 1998. My daughter and son needed a normal life away from the managed life of an up scale B&B, staff, weddings, caterers.” Now Hamilton is 16 and Richard 14. They go to Lower Township schools and they are local yokels and love it.

“Not intentional,” says Barbara, “but the history of this place is in the shape of my life.” Originally, the land was part of J. Elias Rutherford’s large farm called The Plantation. “Like me, Rutherford was owner of a hotel in town,” says Barbara. “His was the Mount Vernon, promoted as the largest hotel in the world. Rutherford grew produce for the hotel. He treated guests to carriage rides to the farm for picnics and watermelon feasts – knowing that watermelon was filling and more economical than meat to satiate his guests. The winery now will become an amenity of my hotel, but we’ll have a lot more to offer than watermelon!”

The Southern Mansion is one of the most successful B&Bs in the Mid-Atlantic region. When Barbara first saw it, taking a walk on a vacation in 1994, it was abandoned, forsaken, vandalized. Designed by famous architect Samuel Sloan, it was built in 1863 for Philadelphia industrialist George Allen whose family lived at the one and one-half acre seaside estate for the next 83 years.

WCW Bottled Wine

Barbara and her then boyfriend, arranged to buy the property within three days with a vision of what it could be. “If I see a pile of manure, I’ll figure a way to use it and make it lovely,” she says. In less than two years, a marriage, and living with 10 craftsmen, working “20 hours a day in a construction zone with one toilet,” the Southern Mansion threw open its doors in 1996, fresh as new. (Cape May Magazine, Fall, 2008, The Southern Mansion.)

Barbara Hamilton Bray-Wilde has been restoring, building, planting for nearly 20 years on Cape Island. She has altered the way the island looks and the way people enjoy it. She says it’s too soon to kick off her boots, sit on her veranda, sip her wine and enjoy all that she has created.

“Oh, excuse me,” she says. “It’s the cell phone. It’s the architect…”

Scarecrow Alley Scarier and More Creative Than Ever

The 4th Annual Scarecrow Contest sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC) is underway, and it’s time to rally friends, family, schoolmates and colleagues to visit the Physick Estate, 1048 Washington Street, and vote for your favorite goulish crow whose creators are competing for prizes, with an overall prize of $200 earmarked for the People’s Choice Award given to the creators of the scarecrow that receives the most votes from visitors to the Estate.

Scarecrows are entered in one of four categories: “Individuals or Families,” “Businesses,” “Non-profits, Church, Club, Scout Troops” or “School Class.”

Visitors to the Physick Estate will be asked to vote for their favorite scarecrow by filling out a ballot in the Carriage House from Friday, Oct. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 4. Friends and family members are encouraged to visit the Estate and vote for their favorites.

1st Annual Dragon Boat Fest Floats to Success

The city’s first Dragon Boat Fest, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May,  had a remarkably beautiful, crisp fall day and many, many participants to make it a great success. Boaters raced from noon to 5 p.m. at Cape May Harbor raising money for their charitable causes.

Thirty-three teams, made up of 22 paddlers each, competed in Saturday’s first Dragon Boat event. Traveling from throughout the Tri-state area and Maryland.
Teams comprised of BCS (Breast Cancer Survivors) competed as “Sisters” within their own division.

Chamber President John Cooke noted that among the participants was the Coast Guard Chiefs Association which competed alongside enlisted men. “Wildly decorated teams,” said Cooke, “Chanted Cadence as they marched or danced to the launch area.
The Uniqueness of this wonderful event is that it created not only a team building environment but a community building setting as well. Many people probably for the first time were able to enjoy the asset we know as Cape May’s harbor.”


A ghostly walk through Cape May

Ghosts and October are like peanut butter and jelly. It’s that time of the year, when Halloween is on the horizon and things seem to go “bump” in the night more often than usual.

If you can’t make it to my haunted weekends in Cape May, here’s the next best thing: a do-it-yourself version of one of my walking ghost tours. Pack up a few snacks, a bottle of water, and a lantern (or flashlight) and head out onto the dark and shadowy streets of Victorian Cape May in search of some of the unseen residents we call ghosts. Of course, you can do this in the broad daylight as well, but it’s not half as much fun.

Just remember to respect people’s private property. Please do not trespass or try to enter any private residences.

Our starting point will be Beach Avenue and Ocean Street

Cross Beach Avenue and stop across from the Inn of Cape May.

The Inn of Cape May

This is one of my favorite haunts in town. The fourth and fifth floors are particularly active. If you are lucky, and you stay here a few nights, you may encounter the “Lady in Blue.” She is a former housekeeper who still checks on the rooms. She has been seen as a ghost wearing a luminous blue dress. If you are extra lucky, you may encounter the two dead children who have haunted the hotel since they both drowned almost 100 years ago. They are heard running up and down the hallways late at night, calling each other’s names. Maybe they will call yours.

Head toward the Washington Street Mall

Stop on the corner of Ocean and Columbia.

The Columbia House (left) and the House of Royals

The lovely old Columbia House on the southwest corner has a playful cat – a dead one. The ghostly feline tends to jump up on guests’ beds in the middle of the night to cuddle. How sweet. Maybe this furry phantom, named Alex, will even follow you home.

Look across the street

On the opposite corner, you will find Queen Victoria’s House of Royals. Two former “ladies of the evening” still haunt this property. They tend to mingle with (living) guests on the top floor of the old hotel. it’s always good to have company, late at night, when you are reading in bed — especially if you happen to be reading one of my Ghosts of Cape May books!

For the complete walking tour, pick up the Fall 2012 issue of Cape May Magazine, on stands now. Call 609-898-4500 to subscribe ($24 for 6 issues)

Vintage Ball Adds Grand Flair to Victorian Weekend

Couples waltzed their way ‘round the dance floor during the Vintage Dance Weekend on Saturday, Oct. 6 and Sunday, Oct. 7. Vintage Dance instructor Martha Griffith taught dance students to  kick-up their heels as they did in Cape May’s Victorian heyday.  Later Saturday evening students tested their new steps at a costumed Vintage Ball with live music of the period by Spare Parts in Convention Hall.