Cape May Zoo: Free – and a Good One, Too!

This cheetah is pacing the fence because she can smell the white tailed deer on the other side! Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

This cheetah is pacing the fence because she can smell the white tailed deer on the other side!

The Cape May Zoo is definitely something special.  Ok, sure, it has some of the same animals you’d find in almost any other zoo.  But what other zoo – besides the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. – has over 500 animals…and charges no admission prices to the casual traveler?  And the zoo is clean, the animals well-cared for and happy, there are no pushy donation displays, and the enclosures just small enough to let you get close to the wild animals…  What other zoo would I drive 4+ hours in horrible traffic, just to visit for a few hours?


I first read about the Cape May Zoo about 7 years ago.  However, a 3 hour drive (without traffic) to a free zoo just couldn’t compete with other travel options (like, going to the shore, climbing a mountain, or canoeing from one end of the river to the other…after all, how nice can a free zoo be?)  After several years of visiting northern New Jersey, though, we were beginning to run out of attraction options so I brought up the zoo again.  My group still wasn’t impressed until I discovered it was considered a “gem” by AAA…and then it became a “must do” day-trip.  And, oh, was it worth it!  (BTW, the zoo has also won the Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, now through 2017).

 

This piebald peacock (piebald is similar to albino) was one of the first animals we saw in the Cape May Zoo

This piebald peacock (piebald is similar to albino) was one of the first animals we saw in the zoo

We arrived in the middle of the morning.  (The drive, considered to be 2.5 hours by Google Maps was actually 3 hours due to traffic.  On the way home, it was well over 4 hours.  So let’s just say that if you’re coming from North Jersey you should expect some traffic, especially on a weekday!  Oh, and we avoided to Parkway ‘cause we’re cheap and didn’t want to have to pay the tolls.  I doubt it would have been much faster, though, since the Parkway is notorious for its slow traffic!)  The parking area is a fair distance (maybe 0.25 miles / 0.5 km) from the zoo; just follow the signs and you’ll get there pretty quickly (the path and zoo are fully wheelchair accessible).

 

De Brazza's Monkeys, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

The De Brazza’s Monkeys were hilarious – they have eternally surprised faces which become very surprised when they swing on a rope and land someplace they didn’t quite expect!

Once in the zoo area, make an immediate right to get to the zoo entrance.  We got lost here, partially because we were looking for a restroom, and partially because the gift shop and snack shop are much more apparent than the zoo entrance!  At the entrance, an employee gave us a short talk about not taking food into the zoo (no food or drink allowed, although I don’t think they minded our water which was very visible), told us what to look for, and handed us several color-photo-copied-black-and-white maps of the zoo grounds.  Then we stepped inside.

 

A bird in the bird house, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

A bird in the “World of Birds” house

And I won’t bore you with a discussion of every animal we saw except to tell you our favorites: The bird house (not very big but very, very nice) the reptile house (although the female end of the group was rather grossed out by the snakes, the rest of the exhibits were fascinating!), the peacocks that roam freely throughout the zoo, the otters tumbling and swimming in their pool, the monkeys (my personal favorite!), and the entire African exhibit (who can resist zebras, lemurs, snow leopards, and – best off all – mother and baby giraffes?)

A scarlet Ibis in the bird house, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

A scarlet Ibis in the bird house

 

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the zoo – too bad it wasn’t sunny, but maybe the heat would have made the animals less active and I wouldn’t have traded that for the sun!

A tortoise near the reptile house, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

A tortoise near the reptile house

 

Blue Macaws - I think they look like they're kissing :-) Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

Blue Macaws – I think they look like they’re kissing 🙂

A bobcat rests - quite nearby to the macaws! Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

A bobcat rests – quite nearby to the macaws!

Giraffes at the Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

Giraffes (baby pictures below)

And a video we took of the giraffes:

Although I don’t think we’ll be going back soon (it is rather a long drive from North Jersey), we’ll remember for a very long time to come!

 

Round Trip Walk: About 3.5 miles (5.5 km).  Or that’s how far I walked.

Elevation Gain / Loss: Negligible.  You’re in Cape May here; probably the biggest elevation change is when you’re on a boardwalk in the African exhibit!

Facilities: There are restrooms in the zoo, as well as on the other side of the gift shop.

Hours: Open every day except Christmas, 10am to 3:45pm (during Daylight Savings Time, open until 4:45pm)

Fees: None to enter the zoo as an average, every-day citizen.  As a family group of 10, we were fine.  Organized groups are charged a fee.  A fee is charged for the rides, gift shop, and snack shop.  Donations greatly appreciated, but not pushed for.

 

The mother and baby giraffes, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

The mother and baby giraffes

Key GPS Coordinates for the Cape May Zoo

Parking Area: 39.10564N / -074.81651W (60 ft.)

Restrooms (outside the zoo area): 39.10372N / -074.81361W (52 ft.)

Restrooms (inside the zoo area): 39.10215N / -074.81458W (48 ft.)

Bird House: 39.10302N / -074.81557W (45 ft.)

Reptile House: 39.10147N / -074.81372W (42 ft.)

African Area: 39.10006N / -074.81561W (37 ft.)

 

Zebra in the African exhibit at the Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

Zebra in the African exhibit

 

The gpx file for Cape May Zoo can be downloaded – please note that this and the GPS Coordinates are for reference only and should not be used as a sole resource.

Download File size: 90.5 KB Downloaded 40 times

(Note: I do my best to ensure that all downloads, the webpage, etc. are virus-free and accurate; however, I cannot be held responsible for any damage that might result, including but not limited to loss of data, damages to hardware, harm to users, from use of files, information, etc. from this website.  Thanks!)

 

Gold Lion Tamarin, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

Gold Lion Tamarin

 

Getting to the Cape May Zoo

 

From the South: Take US-9 North to Court House South Dennis Road and turn left (or take the Parkway to Exit 10B and turn left; continue until the road crosses US-9).  Continue 1.1 miles, then turn right into the Cape May County Park.  Follow the signs to the parking area (“Zoo Parking”).  This is a fairly large parking area; it was quite empty-looking on a weekday in May.

 

Leucistic white tailed deer, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

This leucistic (similar to albino) white tailed deer was funny – it first licked the handle of the shovel to get the salt, then nipped at the zoo keeper until he gave it treats!

From Philadelphia: Take I-76 S to where it meets I-295; continue south on NJ-47 S.  Take Exit 13 (after only a little more than a mile) to merge onto NJ-55 S (toward Glassboro / Vienland).  After 40.5 miles, continue onto NJ-47 S for an additional 2.8 miles.  Then take a left onto NJ-347 S for 8 miles; continue straight onto NJ-47 S (again – are you beginning to see a trend?)  After an additional 4.1 miles, turn left onto Court House South Dennis Road and drive 4.7 miles.  The park entrance will be on your left; follow the signs to the Zoo Parking.

 

This camel seems like it's laughing at us! Cape May, New Jersey

This camel seems like it’s laughing at us!

From the North: Either take the Parkway to Exit 10, turning right onto Court House South Dennis Road and following the directions “From the South”, or go to Google, type in the GPS coordinates of the parking area (minus the “N”, “W”, and “/”) and the address you’re coming from and turn off tolls…it’s just too complicated to explain without a map J  We used a GPS.

 

A map showing how to get from the parking area to the Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

A map showing how to get from the parking area to the zoo

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