Take a step back in time at New Jersey’s Cape May, one of the country’s original seaside resort towns. Spend an afternoon strolling through the sand dunes, or marvel at the many beautifully preserved Victorian-era buildings. In the spring and summer, come for the Strawberry Festival and try new dishes during the popular Cape May Restaurant Week. During the fall, the town transforms into a storybook-perfect attraction, complete with colorful leaves. Around Christmas, meet local artisans at annual craft markets, and admire the beauty of the towering waves. No matter when you visit, you can find your perfect Cape May vacation rental for an unforgettable getaway. With that said, here are the top spots to check out in and around Cape May.

1. Cape May Beach

Experience sweeping sea views with a vacation rental along Cape May Beach. Here, sprawling Victorian homes line Beach Avenue, placing you just moments from the long, wide strip of white sand. If you want to stay within walking distance from the shops and restaurants of downtown, opt for a rental closer to the eastern section of the beach. The western end is quieter, offering plenty of opportunities for quiet walks by the water.

2. Downtown Cape May

Immerse yourself in Cape May’s classic seaside charm in the downtown area. Packed with ornate, candy-colored buildings, this historic neighborhood is a feast for the eyes. Washington Street pedestrian mall is the heart of the local action. Stop into Tisha’s for a seafood dinner, or grab a coffee and browse the many local shops and galleries. Most downtown vacation rentals lie just a five-minute walk from the beach.

3. West Cape May

If you’re looking for a relaxing vacation rental just a quick bike ride from the bustle of downtown, West Cape May is a great choice. This quiet neighborhood sits just north of the South Cape May Meadows, where you can wander through the extensive trail system to watch wildlife or explore the windswept beach. Most local streets are residential, creating a comfortable atmosphere that’s welcoming for families.

4. Cape May Point

Get away from it all in Cape May Point. This secluded area, which sits on the tip of the peninsula, offers peaceful streets and quick beach access. Many rentals in the neighborhood lie on heavily vegetated streets, so you can enjoy privacy on your back deck. Cape May Point is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts — hikes the trails at the Higbee Beach Wildlife Management Area, check out the lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park or go fishing at Lighthouse Pond.

5. North Cape May

Find out how the locals live in North Cape May, a lovely and modest neighborhood tucked away from the busy downtown area. Here, adorable cottages and compact homes suit small families and couples, offering a comfortable escape. In the afternoon, enjoy a private patch of sand on the long beach that runs along the western edge of the neighborhood. After a day of sunbathing, watch a spectacular sunset and indulge in a seafood dinner at the seaside Harpoons on the Bay.

6. Villas

Villas is a modest neighborhood situated about seven miles northwest of downtown Cape May. Vacation rentals in this area range from small cottages to palatial waterfront homes. Villas offers some of the best sunsets in the area; for the best view, opt for a vacation rental on the ocean. After a busy day, check out the restaurants on Bayshore Road — Fish and Fancy Seafood Take Out is a favorite among the locals. The Cape May Airport lies close by, so it’s a breeze to catch an early flight.

7. Diamond Beach

Diamond Beach, with its tall condos, offers a modern, energetic vibe. Check out the many condos that dot the southwestern end of the beach for a luxurious escape; many feature pools, so you can enjoy an alternative to the ocean that sits just seconds away. Make use of your vacation rentals kitchen, or visit one of the many restaurants on Pacific Avenue. After dark, visit Bungalow No. 7 Beach Bar, where you can enjoy a cocktail with a view of the water.

8. Wildwood Crest

Stay a stone’s throw from a white-sand beach in Wildwood Crest. Here, large condo complexes sit directly on the sand, so you can go from your front door to your beach towel in seconds. If you’re traveling with the kids, look for vacation rentals near Rambler Road Park or Centennial Park, which feature large playgrounds and open, grassy areas.

9. Wildwood

Stay a short drive from Cape May in Wildwood, a fun-packed resort town on the coast. The heart of the area is Wildwood Beach, which buzzes with activity all summer. Take a spin on the carnival rides at Morey’s Piers, or cool off at Splash Zone Water Park. The Seaport Aquarium offers close-up views of sea life, and the local boardwalk provides excellent people-watching opportunities.

10. North Wildwood

North Wildwood, with its whitewashed cottages and wide streets, brims with a classic seaside vibe. Many local vacation rentals feature multiple levels and spacious balconies, so you can enjoy a breezy dinner after a day of adventuring. The pristine beach in North Wildwood makes for peaceful afternoons of sunbathing, and the excitement of Surfside Pier lies a few minutes’ walk down the sand. For fishing and easy boat access, look for properties along Beach Creek in the north.

11. Erma

If you’re dreaming of days on the greens as well as the beach, Erma is a convenient choice. Vacation rentals in this area sit near the Cape May National Golf Club, a stunning course that encircles a bird sanctuary. Between rounds, make the five-mile drive to Cape May for swimming and shopping. If you’re flying in, the Cape May Airport is just two miles away, so you can go from baggage claim to unpacking in no time.