Do you love to travel but hate to leave your best friend behind? No, I’m not talking about your husband. I mean man’s best friend: your doggie.
Well, that is certainly the case in my household, where my awesome wife LaRissa and I share a passion to travel as much as possible, whenever possible. But that travel experience is just not the same when we have to leave our buddy Gomez the Gentleman — a 30ish-pound, 2-year-old Boston Terrier — behind.
So, whenever possible, we take Gomez with us. And we were delighted to find out that our friends who own the acclaimed Montreal Beach Resort and its adjacent Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille — the Hirsch Family — decided to open another Cape May property: the Boarding House, and this spot is dog-friendly. A spring mini-vacation to Cape May was our destiny.
Boarding House Since we live in Somers Point, we rarely stay over in Cape May, but the Boarding House looked so appealing, we couldn’t pass it up.
The surf-inspired hotel is basically in the heart of Cape May, a few blocks from The Washington Street Mall, so just steps away from some of the historic town’s best restaurants and shops. We like it because even though it’s close to everything, it is still away from the crowds of tourists and has the intimacy of a bed and breakfast with the amenities of a modern hotel.
Walk into the lobby and a chalkboard celebrates the arrival of its four-legged guests with their names printed in colored chalk. While there, grab a coffee, a cup of fruit-infused water or buy some amenities from the boutique hotel’s mini convenience store.
Head to one of the 11 rooms — you will be able to choose from a Queen Double or King room or the King Suite — and be prepared to be wowed by the modern, eco-friendly amenities that include plush bedding, a 43-inch flat-screen TV, a luxurious chair, table for two to enjoy a meal (there is also one outside), a gorgeous bathroom and even a surfboard rack for your board.
The Boarding House went the extra mile for us, offering a canister with Gomez’ picture on it full of “G” treats and even a biscuit with his face and name on it. How awesome … customized treats. He was appreciative of his mid-afternoon snack.
Gomez immediately made himself at home and jumped on the bed underneath a surfboard that boasted the hotel’s name, but he was really psyched to go for a walk to the dog park that is right across the street. While there, he met some new friends, shared some communal water and even wrestled. Good times.
A maximum of two dogs are allowed in each room, and they can’t weigh more than 80 pounds. Guests are charged an extra $45 per dog, per day on top of their room rate. Reservations for dogs must be made over the phone.
If you are not a doggie fan, no problem. The Boarding House also has rooms they never allow dogs in, and there is even a fabulous rooftop balcony with seating and umbrellas where doggies are not allowed.
Other things we really loved about the Boarding House included the artwork by acclaimed local artists, including David Macomber, Lou Fermonte and Kathy Fallon; the custom surfboard art by Kona Surf Co, the upscale shampoo and washes in the shower plus locally-made hand soap by Shore Soaps Cape May; and the in-room coffee maker with their Boarding House Blend coffee handcrafted by Cape May Roasters; and the ability to order meals in your room from the Hirsch Family’s great restaurant, Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille.
Not your ordinary bike rental When we go to Cape May, we usually do what most people do: Walk Washington Street Mall, go to the beach, eat too much and do touristy stuff.
But thanks to the Hirsch Family’s suggestion to rent a bike, we explored Cape May unlike we ever explored Cape May before.
And we didn’t just rent any bike, we rented a Pedego, an amazing brand of electric bikes that we couldn’t recommend more. I own an electric bike, but the Pedego brand is definitely another tier. The Pedego shop in Cape May – they have others around the area with plans to open more – offers bike sales and rentals in a variety of styles.
We opted for the most popular beach cruiser styles, and we loved them. Renting an electric bike couldn’t have been easier. Store Manager David Cassidy was super nice and helpful, showing us the different bikes, explaining the pros and cons and — most importantly — giving us advice on how to ride them and where to take them.
The Pedego bikes ride like a charm. And we rode them hard. Capable of going about 22 mph, we rode them for about 6 hours — they cost about $100 for a full-day rental — and the battery will generally go about 30 to 60 miles on one charge. Since the half-day rental is only about $30 less, the all-day rate is a no-brainer.
Before you leave, they will give you a tutorial, helmets, a bike map guide and advice. Looking back, the Pedego rental really made our mini vacation truly memorable. Go to PedegoCapeMay.com.
Exploring the Cape May area We liked our Pedego bikes so much we never went to our usual stomping grounds, except for dinner … but more on that later.
We were really shocked that even though I lived here for more than 25 years and my wife is from this area, that we never really explored the nature side of Cape May. It also amazed us because shore areas like this are usually full of housing and condos, but the Cape May area really hasn’t allowed that to happen. So kudos to them.
While we stayed in Cape May proper, we mostly rode our Pedego bikes in West Cape May, North Cape May and Cape May Point.
Our journey started just about a mile down the street to Ostara’s Coffee House, where we sat outside and enjoyed some stellar marshmallow lattes while noshing on a homemade vanilla bean, chocolate chip muffin. It was a great way to start the morning.
After a bike ride back to the Boarding House, another walk for our buddy Gomez and some showers, we jumped back on the bikes and took a long ride — several miles — to the Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in North Cape May for a late breakfast.
There, we sat outside at a picnic table under an umbrella, enjoyed some stuffed french toast and something we never had before: potato pancakes. These aren’t your typical potato latke type but have the consistency of a regular pancake but are made out of potatoes. They are smooth, creamy, light and go great with some applesauce. We will be back for sure. Go to UncleBillsPancakeHouse.com.
A few miles up the road, we gave ourselves a short bike tour of Cape May Winery & Vineyard, which was full of people sipping vino — and it was only about noon. The grounds are beautiful, and we vowed to return. Go to CapeMayWinery.com.
Our long bike ride returned us over the channel bridge — not too far from the Cape May Ferry — and we made several stops.
Our first stop was the most impressive: Willow Creek Winery & Farm, a sprawling property that features gorgeous landscaping, a giant winery area open to the public and available for private events and a vineyard in full bloom. The entire property is paved, which made it a great ride for our Pedegos, and we stopped often to take photos of the spectacularly maintained grounds.
We noticed that Willow Creek also has a farm-fresh grill eatery, special events, firepits, tours and even their own rental cottages. Thoroughly impressed, we once again vowed to return. Go to WillowCreekWineryCapeMay.com.
Right down the street was Beach Plum Farm, Entrepreneur Curtis Bashaw’s rustic and breathtaking farm that features a small shack restaurant, plenty of picnic tables and umbrellas, a market full of Beach Plum produce, eggs, meat, poultry and other artisanal products.
Beach Plum’s landscaping was also spectacular, and our bikes were powerful enough to take us off road to the back of the property that featured most of the farmland. We saw plenty of chickens and even visited the giant pig pen, which was situated near the farm’s bee hives, which produce plenty of local honey.
Beach Plum also offers plenty of special events as well as cottages to stay. We can’t believe it took us this long to visit, but we are sure glad we did. Go to BeachPlumFarmCapeMay.com.
Our last two steps on our Pedego bikes were touristy, but we had to do it. We checked out the Cape May Lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park, and we parked our bikes and took in the ocean view at the tip of Cape May Point.
Dinner at Harry’s
After turning in our Pedego bikes, returning to the Boarding House, taking a nap, another shower and Gomez for another trip to the dog park, it was time for dinner at our favorite restaurant in Cape May: Harry’s Ocean Bar & Grille.
The place was hopping, full to the max with their front window open serving drinks to the masses, who were happy to sit at picnic tables and take in the beach view.
The rooftop bar was equally full, with a band playing some classic rock, and we chose to sit on the outdoor patio overlooking the ocean, where Harry’s offers private tent rentals and VIP service during the day.
Gomez joined us at the dog-friendly Harry’s, and our server brought out a giant bowl of water for him to sip.
We started with some of Harry’s signature crushes — get the Half & Half Crush made with fresh-squeezed orange and grapefruit juices, Pinnacle Orange vodka, triple sec and Sprite — before diving into our favorite New England clam chowder on the planet.
Choosing from Harry’s menu is always a difficult task because it’s one of those menus where you want to order everything. So we settled on the crab, spinach and artichoke dip and the bacon-wrapped scallops for appetizers.
For a mid-course, a half dozen Cape May salts hit the spot, as did the Thai curry mussels, which we always get at Harry’s because of their tremendous flavor with red curry, coconut milk, lemongrass, garlic, ginger and jalapeno.
Realizing we ordered too much, we split one entrée: Harry’s meatloaf, a phenomenal creation with “hunter sauce” — aka brown gravy — and bacon onion jam over garlic mashed potatoes and garlic-buttered challah toast. Wow! Go to HarrysCapeMay.com
We skipped dessert at Harry’s so we could take Gomez for a walk and to make room for homemade ice cream at Uncle Charley’s Ice Cream on Washington Street Mall.
I don’t know how this place has eluded me all of these years, but I will say that Uncle Charley’s is right up there with Springer’s in Stone Harbor as the best homemade ice cream you will find in South Jersey. I particularly recommend the vanilla peanut butter and the chocolate marshmallow, which I have dreamed about since having it.
What an adventure
If you are looking for a mini getaway and want to take your dog, I cannot encourage you enough to head to the Boarding House and explore Cape May like you never have before. It was one of the best mini vacations my wife and I have ever taken — and Gomez, of course — and we will likely make it an annual event.