It was a tad too hot to sit on the beach directly in the path of the sun today, so W and I headed to good old Cape May, which is all of about 8 minutes from Wildwood Crest. There are all sorts of wonderful things to see and do in Cape May…but one of the most fascinating is Sunset Beach.
Sunset Beach is at the tip of Cape May and is the site of the World War I ship, the Atlantus. Because steel was a hot commodity during the war, the government turned to concrete in building ships. The Atlantus was a 3,000 ton, 250-foot long freighter. When the war ended, it was used to transport soldiers back from Europe and to transport coal within the New England region. It was then “retired” and after being stripped, it was towed to Cape May in 1926. Shortly after, the Atlantus broke free of its moorings during a storm and went aground.
And there it remains. Here is what it looked like in 1955…
That’s pretty amazing, right? Well, here’s what it looks like today, literally, today…
Sunset Beach also features “Cape May Diamonds,” which are pretty cool. The beach (if you can call it that) is covered with stones that wash up on shore. It’s nearly impossible to walk on without shoes (for me, anyway), and even in sandals/flip flops, it can be somewhat unpleasant.
Now, let me tell you about these Cape May Diamonds. They are pure quartz crystals that were first discovered by the Kechemeche Indians, who believed the stones had extraordinary powers to bestow success and good fortune. They used to trade them for other items with colonists as well as give them as gifts. These crystals originate in the Delaware River and wash up on this shore in huge numbers.
Believe it or not, the crystals can be polished and faceted to the point where they actually look like diamonds. I’ve never gone to Sunset Beach and not observed people walking up and down the beach, collecting stones and shells. Kids absolutely love doing that, I might add. Not that W and I are shy when it comes to scouring Sunset Beach for treasure. Given that I was in flip flops (and got stuck in wet sand, so I was mucking around with gooey sand and pebbles all over my feet and sandals) and was barely moving because I was sick, I think we had an impressive haul today. Don’t judge me! (They’re great for a decorative accent or for crafts, if you’re one of those types, which I’m not…but maybe I’ll try to do something creative!)
But that’s not all that Sunset Beach has to offer. Every evening (between May and September) at sunset, you can witness the Sunset Beach Flag Ceremony, which is a rather emotional experience. For more than 40 years, the folks at Sunset Beach fly flags that were veterans’ casket flags (donated by families). And, each night as Taps plays, the flag is lowered and folded (with the assistance of children, who’ve likely scheduled a night to help…it’s a popular attraction!).
Cape May is a great place to spend the day when you’re on vacation at one of the shore points…I’ll share some more tidbits about Cape May soon!