CAPE MAY

B&Bs and You: Six Good Choices

Even if you can't stay at Angel of the Sea, you can take a tour of the house.
Even if you can't stay at Angel of the Sea, you can take a tour of the house. (Photos By Anne Mcdonough -- The Washington Post)

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By Anne McDonough
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 24, 2007

Aquick walk down Ocean, Hughes, Perry or any number of streets in Cape May's historic downtown nails home that a Victorian atmosphere and a plethora of bed-and-breakfasts are this resort town's stock in trade.

For those looking to winnow their overnight options in a town bursting with them, here are six suggestions. Many properties do not allow children. Some don't have on-site parking, and in high season, expect two- or three-night minimum stays. Rates listed are the lowest per night for double rooms this summer; taxes are extra.

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The Abbey Bed & Breakfast Inn overflows with a mishmash of history and trivia -- and some spectacular furniture, such as an S-shaped conversation settee. The place is full of quirky charm, from the vintage fixtures (the pull-chain toilet is a hoot, the stall showers call for some maneuvering) to the incredible array of hats (helmet to fedora) and dozens of tiny tin soldiers lined up for battle in one of the public rooms. The owner has sold the adjacent carriage house; now the inn is down to seven rooms, in the main Gothic Revival building, each named for an American city.

34 Gurney St. Rates from $110. Info: 866-884-8800, http://www.abbeybedandbreakfast.com.

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The sconces, lampshades, bed trimmings and everything else are full-throttle Victorian at the rambling, 27-guest-room Angel of the Sea, favored by anniversary couples looking for the quintessential Cape May B&B experience. Ignore the lobby's commercialism, with its displays of jewelry, figurines and other tchotchkes for sale, in favor of settling into an ocean-view chair on one of the inn's vast wraparound porches. Many of the rooms are snug; some boast floral wallpaper and decorative plate displays, and about a fourth of them have ocean views. It seems far removed from the downtown crush, though it's just a few blocks to the north, and mere feet from dinner at the acclaimed Peter Shields Inn. There are also free house tours three times a day.

5 Trenton Ave. Rates from $155. Info: 800-848-3369, http://www.angelofthesea.com.

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With grand 14-foot ceilings, smashing velvet cutout curtains and a history as a 19th-century gambling house, the Mainstay Bed and Breakfast Inn offers six rooms in the main building and six in an adjacent cottage. Room sizes and layouts vary, and many of them are accessed via steep staircases; the Henry Ford, on the smaller end, has a perk to offset its size: a private porch off the back. It's not for those with vertigo or carrying extra bulk, but our favorite spot in the house is the tiny cupola, reached via a steep pull-down staircase. With a book, a cup of coffee and use of the house binoculars, an entire stay could be whiled away up here . . . but then you'd miss the afternoon tea.

635 Columbia Ave. Rates from $290. Info: 609-884-8690, http://www.mainstayinn.com.

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