June 11, 2023 It was another blue-sky day, but a little warmer with temps in the 80’s. We had our usual, special Sunday breakfast and left around 11:30 to do some sightseeing. Our first stop was only 9 minutes away. We were going to Cape May Point State Park.
(Driving through the area, we have come to the conclusion that Cape May, in general, has some of the most beautiful New England-style homes with meticulously manicured yards. Large or small, they are well-cared for and maintained.) One is more beautiful than the next. We reached Cape May Point State Park and turned in.
We were going to the Cape May Lighthouse. We visited this area back in Sept. of 2018 and at that time I climbed to the top of the lighthouse, so I decided not to do it today. New Jersey had 6 lighthouses along their coast, but only 5 remain and this lighthouse is still operated by the Coast Guard as an active aid to navigation with a first order Fresnel Lens.
Each lighthouse in the U.S. is designed or painted with a distinctive pattern or “daymark” which makes it easy to identify. Each lighthouse also has a characteristic or “coded sequence” of light flashes making it possible to identify the light and its location along the coast. The Cape May Lighthouse was constructed in 1859 standing 157 1/2 feet tall and is the 3rd lighthouse on this site. The first was built in 1823 and the 2nd in 1847, The first two lighthouses are now underwater due to erosion. There are 199 cast iron spiral steps to climb up to the watch gallery.
We walked around the grounds exploring the oil house and the entrance to the lighthouse where they had an example of a Fresnel Lens to see up close.
The grounds also contained 6 swallow birdhouse colonies (bird condos) which were very active.
From there, we walked to the beach where we could see the remains of a WWII bunker built in 1942-43 to guard against naval attack.
In the 1980’s, the state built a ramp on the bunker and opened it to picnickers, fishermen, and sightseers. In 1990, due to considerable erosion, the bunker was closed to the public for safety purposes.
There was a beautiful sand beach along the coast there.
From there, we took the 8 minute drive to Sunset Beach.
We went there to look at the historic wreck of the SS Atlantus. We walked closer to the water where the wreck is not too far offshore.
The SS Atlantus is a partially submerged centuries-old concrete ship. The stern is still visible with the concrete washed away from the steel girding beneath. The midsection is completely submerged, but at low tide the bow peeks above the water.
The SS Atlantus is the most famous of 12 concrete ships built in Brunswick, GA during and after WWI and is the 2nd ship constructed in the Emergency Fleet. It was launched in 1918. It ran aground on a sandbar in June of 1926 after a storm hit and it broke free of its mooring. It was used to transport American troops back home from Europe. At one time, there was a billboard painted on its side advertising boat insurance. Someone had a sense of humor. There were lots of people enjoying a nice beach day at Sunset Beach. People come to watch the sunset here and try to find themselves some Cape May Diamonds–smooth quartz pebbles that look like diamonds. Every night in the summer, there’s a flag-lowering ceremony to the tune of Taps, a tradition that has gone on for over 40 years.
As we left the beach, we saw the WWII Lookout Tower at the roadside. We parked and walked closer to check it out. You can climb the 6 floors and view the interpretive panels and exhibits along the way.
Built in 1942, the tower was one of 15 towers that helped aim batteries of coastal artillery (guns aimed to fire on enemy ships) from New Jersey to Delaware. The gun batteries were designed to destroy German battleships.
From there, we drove a few miles to Higbee Beach.
We found a side road that took us closer to the beach and the Cape May Canal, an inlet to Delaware Bay. Across the inlet, we could see the Cape May-Lewes Ferry Terminal with the ferry loading there.
We waited for the ferry to leave and watched the commercial, tour, and pleasure boats using the canal to get out into Delaware Bay.
We walked out to the point and the canal entrance where we found the dog-friendly beach.
There were fishermen out on the jetty/breakwater trying their luck at fishing.
The ferry blew his horn and was ready to leave. As the captain pulled out, we could see a large RV on the ferry going to Delaware.
It left and the smaller boat traffic tried their best to avoid the ferry’s wake.
After emptying our shoes of the sand, we took the short drive back and made a quick stop at the Westside Market near the campground for some milk. The market had a lot of fresh, homemade goods and some of the essentials.
We arrived back at the campground around 2 PM and relaxed outside and watched the new campers arrive. The 2 RVs behind us left this morning, but the spots remained empty for the night. We ate a later dinner and took our evening walk. We had a great “War and Water” day visiting some of the historic sites and beautiful beaches in the area.