B&Bs and You: Six Good Choices

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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Heresy, we know, but thank goodness for the decidedly non-Victorian Mission Inn, an eight-bedroom stunner a few blocks from downtown. It's an easy walk, but bikes (plus beach chairs and umbrellas) are provided. Trompe l'oeil headboards, exposed-beam ceilings and intricate murals replicate the look of actual California Spanish missions without their ascetic atmosphere, thanks to whirlpool tubs, multiple showerheads and flat-screen TVs. The innkeepers painstakingly researched the colorful history of the property (Ethel Barrymore, among others, partied here); an evocative portrait by the building's eccentric previous owner hangs in the solarium.

1117 New Jersey Ave. Rates from $205. Info: 800-800-8380, http://www.missioninn.net.

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P oor Richard's Inn is reportedly haunted (don't worry: "If it's haunted, the spirits are very good," said innkeeper Harriett Sosson) and has the relaxed atmosphere, if not the prices, that would appeal to the backpacker set. Breakfast, for example, is help-yourself. Decorated in a hodgepodge of Victorian and modern styles -- abstract paintings line the hallway, while one room features a vintage sewing machine and others have claw-feet tubs -- the tall, narrow eight-guest-room property is the kind of place where you really can make yourself at home. (And the sign on the one private bathroom that's not en suite? Don't worry, you don't actually have to "Drop Coin in Slot Turn Handle and Push.") One room, a renovated porch with a queen-size bed and a daybed, is stocked with just the right kind of beach books.

17 Jackson St. Rates from $120. Info: 609-884-3536, http://www.poorrichardsinn.com.

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The Queen Victoria Bed & Breakfast comprises four buildings on two facing blocks, with amazing porches, rockers and up-to-date amenities -- such as wireless Internet and flat-screen TVs -- wrapped in traditional Victorian decor. (And a pedigree: The trademarked wallpaper was designed for the queen's use in Scotland's Balmoral Castle.) A few of the 32 rooms and suites, such as Kew Garden in the Prince Albert Hall building, have their own entrances. Afternoon tea, a 24-hour guest pantry, bikes, beach towels and chairs are all included.

102 Ocean St. Rates from $210. Info: 609-884-8702, http://www.queenvictoria.com.

For other lodging, contact the Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May (609-884-5508, http://www.capemaychamber.com) and visit the county's tourism site, DiscoverCapeMay.com (http://www.discovercapemay.com).

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