New Jersey's historic Cape May County, on a peninsula situated between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware Bay, was named for Cornelis Mey (later May), a Dutch captain who sailed past her shores in the early 1600s. English-speaking whalers and farmers from New England settled here in the late 1600s, buying large tracts they called plantations. Shipbuilding became an important industry in the 19th century, employing hundreds who crafted sloops and schooners used for coastal trading. Although Cape Island (now Cape May City) was advertised in the late 1700s as a popular, healthy place for sea bathing, the barrier islands remained largely uninhabited until train service from Philadelphia was established in 1863. With thousands of visitors arriving daily by rail during the summer season, the seaside resorts of Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Strathmere, Avalon, Stone Harbor, and the Wildwoods blossomed. Today, tourism is the county's largest industry, as vacationers enjoy both its 30 miles of beaches and the mainland's quaint historic villages.
By Joseph E. Salvatore MD, and Joan Berkey