Cape May County Park & Zoo
707 Route 9
North Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Park Hours: 9:00am-Dusk
Summer Hours: 10:00am-4:30pm
Winter hours: 10:00am-3:30pm
*The park and zoo are open every day but Christmas (weather permitting) and may have extended hours for special events.
Fee: The zoo is free but they appreciate donations
I visited the zoo in late September on a very gloomy rainy day, which I do not recommend for visitors. The animals like the humans took cover in their sheds and would not come out until the sun peaked out at the end of my visit. It still is an interesting zoo.
I have to admit that it is a little dated in that the philosophy of zoos continues to change and I think the zoo could use another updating to give the animals some more room and better stimulation in their respected areas. They just need more room to move around.
The entrance to the zoo and park
The gift shops and restaurants are typical to a zoo with overpriced children’s fare and gifts but it still is fun to walk around and watch the families have a good time. The gift shop does have some interesting items.
This pristine zoo and park features more than 550 inhabitants representing 250 species. Over 200 acres of beautiful, natural wooded areas and open space. Winding trails for hikers, bikers, joggers and wildlife watchers. Picnic areas and a huge playground make the park and zoo your perfect place for a family adventure (Cape May County Zoo and Park).
I finally got to revisit the zoo in 2022 and it was a much more pleasant experience to come to the zoo in the warm sunshine. It gives both me and the animals a different perspective. The place was also mobbed. It was Firemen’s Convention weekend, and the zoo was busy with families visiting the animals displays and taking pictures.
There were all sorts to tour guides working that day and docents explaining the animals and their habitats to the visitors. The sad part is that the animals look so bored. The giraffes I thought looked the most bored of all. There is not much land for them to room around and they get to see this area over and over. They have plenty of room to stretch out but not like in the wild.
The weather was nice that afternoon but a little hot and that made the animals so sleepy. Most of them were sleeping when I visited the larger animals in their pens. The heat must have gotten to them like many of the humans on the benches around the park.
The small displays of reptiles, birds and the smaller monkey family were nice as those displays challenge both the animals and people to really look at the life of these animals. One of the displays that was interesting was the Red Panda display. The docent was talking about like the in the wild for these animals and how they have to breed them captivity as there are not many of the left.
What I also like about the museum is that they have a very nice gift shop with all sorts of stuffed animals and tee-shirts and a very cheery staff that is willing to help you. They also have a very engaging carousel that takes the kids and their older kid parents who enjoy the music and the ride as much as their kids do.
It is a really well maintained zoo where I can tell that the staff really cares and take very good care of the residents here.
Park & Zoo History:
The Cape May County Park Central is located two miles north of the heart of Cape May Court House and occupies both the right and left side of Route 9. This site was originally a southern plantation of the Matthews family.
Back in 1763, on Daniel Hand’s plantation in Middletown (now called Cape May Court House), the State Assembly petitioned erecting a courthouse and jail. The petition was granted and the cost was limited to 300 pounds. In 1764, Daniel Hand gave one acre to the county for the purpose of building a courthouse.
During the dame time, just north of the courthouse’s land, was the Matthew’s plantation. The main plantation was located below the lake and tributary waters. Just north of the tributary and small lake, the Matthews had an orchard that was set aside as a family cemetery and for the slaves of the plantation. This site still remains and is part of the park today. For a short period of time during the 1700s-1800s, this site was also used to bury the poor.
In “The 1942 Park Land Acquisition,” approximately forty acres of the Matthews plantation donated to the count to be used as a park and meeting place. Most of the land was wooded but some was lakes and tributary waters and also the cemetery. At this time, very little was done to the land. Later, a building used as a laundry at Crest Haven was moved from that location and converted into a maintenance and supply building with a comfort station and a six grill brick barbecue pit was constructed. It was during this time that the 4-H department, after holding its fair in Cold Springs or the riding club grounds, decided to ask permission to hold the fair at the county park.
The county road department and employees of Crest Haven cleared a section of the grounds of trees and brush, then seeded the ground for grass. This made a clearing for tents and booths, plus a horse ring to be used by the 4-H fair. The telephone company donated light fixtures and wire. Several years later, Pepsi-Cola donated a booth to be sued for refreshments. This was the extent of the county park for many years.
The County of Cape May was approved by referendum in November 1962. The State of New Jersey enabled an act for a park commission of nine residents of the county, which was established on February 5, 1963. The commissioners would serve terms of 1 to 5 years without compensation. A director was appointed in January 1966 and a solicitor was appointed in 1967.
The primary function of the park commission is to plan, acquire, develop, maintain and administer park land and the recreational facilities, thereon, which provide values for the benefit of the entire county. The Park Commission assumed complete responsibility of the County Park Systems on January 1, 1967. The County Park Facilities in 1967 were the same as they had been since the stat of the park! Facilities included maintenance and supply building with a comfort station, a band stand, 3 shelters, 1 six grill barbecue pit and a drinking fountain.
The Cape May Zoo layout
Parks facility developments under the commission in the year 1967 were: 2 ten car parking lots, 6 group and organization barbecue pits, 40 picnic tables, 13 picnic grills and 1 playground. In 1968, they added 1 manual pump with shelter, 2 shelter, 2 ten care parking lots, another playground, 10 picnic tables, 6 picnic grills, 2 shuffleboard courts, 3 horse pitching courts, 3 swinging par benches and 8 regular park benches. Also, they added 1 volleyball court, 1 badminton court, 1 croquet court plus a camping area for Boy Scouts and Girl Scout and a foot bridge.
In 1969, a large amount of recreation facilities were added along with some park equipment to better serve the park users. On the recreation additions: 1 horseshoe pitching court, 3 quoit pitching courts, 1 deck tennis court, 1 aerial tennis court, 1 archery range, 1 boccie court, 1 tether ball court, 1 tether tennis court, 1 hopscotch court, a natural trail, 3 swinging park benches, 2 entrance gates, 4 foot bridges, 5 parking lots and 24 shelter picnic tables. All available to the public to use. Also, during this period, the residence of Charles W. Allen was purchases and made into an office fro the Cape May County Park Commission.
It has been close to seventy years since the parks beginning but the facility is still expanding and remains open to the public year round.
(History of Cape May Parks & Zoo; Parks System)
History of the Cape May County Zoo:
The Cape May County Zoo was created in 1978 within the Cape May County Park. The dedication was on May 6, 1978.
At the opening of the zoo, it consisted of an African lion, primates (spider monkeys), various barnyards animals and New Jersey wildlife animals. In the early 1980’s, the zoo gradually incorporated into its displays more exotic animals such as black bears, bison, antelope, primates and birds. All exhibits were constructed by park personnel.
The Giraffe Exhibition at the Zoo
Beginning in 1986, a zoo renaissance began. Donations were solicited and major reconstruction was underway. Some of the projects that were completed consisted of a complete perimeter fence, a new lion exhibit, a Bengal tiger exhibit, a cougar exhibit, a giraffe and camel exhibit, a reptile house and a construction of a medical building and diet preparation building.
In 1989, the zoo became AZA accredited and has remained an accredited zoo to this date.
Throughout the 1990’s, renovations and new exhibits continued with the construction of an African Savannah, which consisted of 57 acres that display giraffes, zebras, antelopes and ostriches. Reconstruction of a reptile house replaced the original reptile house that was destroyed by fire in 1998, also a “World of Birds” walk through Aviary was constructed.
From the zoo’s beginnings in 1978, the animal population was around 70 animals and today the zoo consists of 550 animals representing 250 species.
The Cape May County Zoo is home to 13 flamingos from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
The zoo has recently improved traffic flow, parking and beautified the entrance to the zoo. The zoo is undergoing restroom renovations along with other amenities and necessities.
The Cape May Zoological Society added a train and added an animal themed carousel late in the summer of 2008.
The Cape May County Zoo celebrated its 40th birthday in 2018.
(History of the Cape May County Zoo)
Disclaimer: The information of the history of the Cape May County Park & Zoo was taken directly from the Park’s website and I give them full credit for the information. Please call ahead for weather and seasonal conditions to the park.
The day I visited it was raining and the animals just like the humans ran for cover.