LILY MULLOCK / THE NATURE CONSERVANCY / Sunset at South Cape May Meadows

In recent years there’s been an explosion of interest in eco-tourism, responsible travel to natural areas. In New Jersey, one of the most exciting destinations for environmentally friendly travel is Cape May. Located at the southern most point of the Jersey Shore, this beautiful town is known for its stunning Victorian homes and its role in the Underground Railroad, but green spaces and wildlife also abound. If you’re heading down to Exit Zero, here are some of the can’t-miss spots to infuse a good dose of Mother Nature into your exploration.

BEACH PLUM FARM

Beach Plum Farm
140 Stevens St., West Cape May; 609-459-0121
This working farm and food supplier to local restaurants is open to the public and welcomes passionate eco-tourists to dine with them, shop in their farmer’s market and even stay overnight in their bespoke cottages. Take a guided tour to learn about their regenerative agricultural practices and taste the flavors of the farm through a seasonal dinner series hosted onsite.

SHUTTERSTOCK / THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

Cape May Bird Observatory
The Northwood Center, 701 East Lake Dr., Cape May Point; 609-400-3868
The Cape May Bird Observatory (CMBO), founded in 1976, was named a best destination for birding by National Geographic. Take a walk on the wild side here by signing up for a guided outing with experienced naturalists that highlight bird breeding spots and the spectacle of migration, depending on the season. All levels are welcome, with excursions labeled as E-Z Birding and A Bird Walk for All People geared toward beginners.

Cape May Point Science Center
101 Lehigh Ave., Cape May Point
The center is all about environmental advocacy, education and research. It previously served as a hotel, hospital and religious retreat and is now becoming a renowned ecological intersection of marine, insect and avian species. You can take a tour every Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning. Make sure you look up because since the center is located in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, there will be beautiful birds everywhere.

Cape May Whale Watcher
1218 Wilson Dr., Cape May; 609-884-5445
All aboard the 110-foot Cape May Whale Watcher to observe the wildlife action in New Jersey’s waters. The morning dolphin watch cruise is a favorite for families, and humpback whales have recently been spotted on excursions. Marine mammal sightings are guaranteed, and the company is a Whale Sense participant, promoting responsible whale watching.

LILY MULLOCK / THE NATURE CONSERVANCY / Garrett Family Preserve

Garrett Family Preserve
801 Wilson St., Cape May; 609-861-0600
This 180-acre preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy is a paradise for birds, bees and butterflies. Visitors will find a tranquil setting to observe nature, plus six trails ranging in length from 0.2-0.5 miles and a two-mile perimeter loop along the forest edge which can be explored by bike or on foot. Bird migrations peak in the spring and fall, and wildflower fields put on a beautiful show from May to July. A large stand of milkweed welcomes endangered monarch butterflies in the late summer. Stop in during any season to see the “Dream Machine Monarch” sculpture by artist Rubem Robierb on site—take a picture of your own butterfly transformation and share it on social media with #TNCMonarch to join the kaleidoscope (that’s what a group of butterflies is called!).

REVOLUTION RAIL COMPANY

Revolution Rail Co.
609 Lafayette St., Cape May; 888-738-0123
Journey on a rail bike adventure where you’ll take a four-mile out-and-back trip along The Nature Conservancy’s Garrett Family Preserve. Riders will have the chance to observe birds, pollinators and other wildlife while learning about the history of the area. These recumbent bikes on decommissioned railroad tracks are easy for all ages and abilities and are a great way to get the whole family out and moving in nature.

South Cape May Meadows
692 Sunset Blvd., Cape May; 908-879-7262
The Nature Conservancy led a full ecological restoration of this 200-acre coastal sanctuary in 2007, adding features to support wildlife and improve flooding in the surrounding community. Flat, sturdy trails meander through varied habitats including beaches, wetlands, dunes and lush meadows. Known globally as a paradise for birders, the preserve offers you the opportunity to observe visiting and year-round avians from the covered bird blind that extends into the marsh, as well as a pair of nesting osprey that (in season) have their own streaming channel on YouTube. Views of the charming Cape May lighthouse abound, and a stretch of undeveloped, protected beach—a Jersey shore rarity worth experiencing—also beckons.

Sunset Flower Farm
550 Hands Mill Rd., Belleplain; 609-504-4637
Visit a working flower farm where you can stroll the fields and see crops of peonies, sunflowers, hydrangeas and a variety of summer annuals. Owned and operated by Linda and David Rau, the outpost makes the most of Linda’s degree in horticulture and experience as a floral designer, and David’s many years of managing and running a working farm. They promote agritourism with a variety of year-round events.

©ISTOCKPHOTO.COM / THE WETLANDS INSTITUTE

Wetlands Institute
1075 Stone Harbor Blvd., Stone Harbor; 609-368-1211
Promoting understanding and appreciation of wetland ecosystems through research programs and education is the bailiwick of this nonprofit. Families and individuals can enjoy fun and interactive experiences including on-water wildlife tours, daily programming and seasonal events like the World Series of Birding and the Shorebird and Horseshoe Crab Celebration.

Read More:
Protect and Celebrate Nature in New Jersey

Osprey: From Surviving to Thriving
Birds of NJ: Figure Out What’s In Your Backyard