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“Chalfonte Is A Unique Experience” 4 of 5 stars
Review of The Chalfonte

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The Chalfonte
301 Howard St., Cape May, NJ 08204   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #29 of 42 hotels in Cape May
Mount Airy, NC
Contributor
19 reviews 19 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 8 cities Reviews in 8 cities
18 helpful votes 18 helpful votes
“Chalfonte Is A Unique Experience”
4 of 5 stars Reviewed February 27, 2013

I turned fifty last May and my husband surprised me by arranging a week in Cape May at the Chalfonte. I can’t think of a better way to have spent that milestone birthday and hope to repeat it again this year.

The Chalfonte Hotel has been part of my life for 30 years. It was part of my early adulthood and our courtship. It's where we spent our first married winter as caretakers of the hotel. I’ve spent countless birthday weekends there, innumerable hours in the kitchen or rocking on a porch with a good book or better companionship. I am predisposed to love the Chalfonte.

Do not, however, mistake my love of this Grand Dame for baseless sentimentality. The Chalfonte is an experience that, for many...for those of us lucky enough to find her in this way, becomes a part of the fabric of life. She allows for moments that stand out forever in our memories.

I’ve traveled for fun and business from New Orleans to Baltimore to Providence and stayed at a range of hotels from dives to $300 a night rooms, bed and breakfasts, kitchy motels and hostels. Each has their place in society and meets different travel needs. I do not mean to denigrate any. Well, ok, there was that Best Western in High Point, NC a few years ago, but that was an isolated incident and was nearly entirely an issue with the General Manager.

By and large, one hotel is much like the next. Most stays, interchangeable. Staff rise to set this hotel apart from that but little else is truly different.

The Chalfonte, however, is unique.

As others who’ve written on this site have advised, do not come to the Chalfonte expecting a Holiday Inn, or a Radisson, or a Courtyard. If the homogonous, modern, mostly-isolated-in-your-room experience is what you want, there are many such choices in Cape May.

Do not come to the Chalfonte expecting a small intimate B&B with six rooms and only a few other guests, either.

The folks at the front desk do a great job of telling folks about the lack of AC, or an elevator or private baths and other points deemed by many to be negatives.

The Chalfonte is a glorious sprawling hotel with wooden floors, plaster walls, shared baths on the hallways in many cases and where generations of families have returned year after year. Come open to finding something different. To stepping out of your comfort zone and back to a time when guests met new folks on vacation, had new experiences, read a book and, once the car was parked, never moved it till it was time to head home.

As with any place, there will be the occasional less-than-perfect moment of loud music, distracted employee or impolite guests. For me, and for many others, however, those few, rare moments have been greatly overshadowed by innumerable, irreplaceable memories … sitting at dinner with strangers to leave as fast friends, meeting folks on the porches … an admiral and his wife who were stationed at Pearl Harbor when the bombs started falling, a couple who run a hostel near the a state woman’s prison, a children’s author, a lawyer from Egypt, a museum curator from Berlin …

Falling asleep to the sound of the waves crashing two short blocks away … waking to the sound of gulls and bird song and the scent of the sea breezes in a hotel with windows that actually open. Watching a storm rage over the distant horizon from the cupola.

And sometimes, in a quiet moment in the middle of the day or of an evening as the fog rolls in off the ocean enveloping her ginger-breading in a fine mist shimmering with the flickering gaslight and the steady clopping of horse-drawn carriages echoing around, sometimes one can imagine the year is something quite different than what the calendar reads.

And that, my friends, is not a moment to be found in any modern hotel. No matter the price.

Room Tip: Take a room on the Ocean side if possible.
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Rating summary
  • Location
    4 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    3 of 5 stars
  • Service
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    3.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    3.5 of 5 stars
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (19)
Date | Rating
  • English first
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English first
South Jersey
Top Contributor
185 reviews 185 reviews
19 hotel reviews
Reviews in 62 cities Reviews in 62 cities
86 helpful votes 86 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed September 21, 2012

My wife and I were treated to a wonderful stay at the Chalfonte..Neither she nor I had ever stayed in an old 19th century hotel but we were impressed. Our accommodations were extremely well appointed, spacious and very comfortable.. Granted given the buildings age there are of course some anomalies in terms of noise etc. but it was all part of a grand experience..I can only imagine how it must have been to guests over 100 years ago..
If you elect to stay be advised that some things we expect in modern hotels ie. elevators may not be the case.. The coolest thing about staying here was a feeling that one could step back into and gain an appreciation of yesteryear.. The staff was very helpful and we have nothing but positive comments to make on the Chalfonte..

Room Tip: Porch access rooms are a treat..
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  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Absecon, NJ
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
3 hotel reviews
Reviews in 6 cities Reviews in 6 cities
9 helpful votes 9 helpful votes
1 of 5 stars Reviewed September 10, 2012

My husband book a two night stay (minmum) for our 15th Wedding Anniversay for $200 a night!!
We arrived to a wedding that consumed the whole hotel (couldn't sit on the porch & restaurant/bar was closed). Because of the wedding we couldn't find parking. The wedding was suppose to be done at 10 and some of the wedding party (not staying at the hotel) stayed on the porch until midnight - drunk & using foul lanuage.
The woman at the front desk was rude and very poor customer service.

Not exactly a romantic weekend listening to drunks from the wedding.

The room was nothing more than a supposed queen size bed, a night stand and a single window with broken glass and dirty old curtains that were too heavy for the rod and were drooping down. No mini-fridge. When my husband booked he was told it had a mini kitchen. The front desk had no explanation for the mix up. The only positive was the bathroom was newer but they glued one shower door shut and to turn on the bath you had to climb in the end of the tub!!! Hot water took forever. Our bedroom at home was 3x the size and cleaner!
The "A/C" never came on the first night & it was awful humid (no breeze from window).
The 2nd night it was so cold, I slept with my fleece jacket on!!
There was a wedding the 2nd night too - but they were done by 10. Again no bar or sitting on the porch.

When we checked out and told them about the air conditioning, all they said was "sorry".

For $200 a night, a free breakfast should have been included and a mini-fridge and cleaner! Never again!
The Chalfonte is nothing more than a overpriced boarding house! Don't waste your $$$

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 1 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 1 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 1 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 2 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 2 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 4
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Brooklyn, New York
Senior Contributor
42 reviews 42 reviews
7 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
15 helpful votes 15 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 29, 2012

We spent a night in August. The room was a queen with a bath (shower actually) on the top floor. The place is over 100 years old with creaky floors and guests. Our room had central A/C it was small by contempoary standards. We opted for the meal plan $30 a head which was dinner and breakfast. Dinner was great, go with the crab cake and the sea food bisque, drinks and desert are extra. Breakfast was a buffet with the usually scrambled eggs and freshfruit, bacon etc. We enjoyed chillin' on the porch in the rockers watching the horse drawn carriage and bicyclists pass by. My main complaint is that the bill is unreadable, I asked the front desk what mt evening in the hotel cost me and she circled a number on the bill that is $50 less then my math. I hope my Am Ex bill agrees with her.

Room Tip: European bath has a toilet and shower in suite, shared baths are in the hall.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Senior Contributor
28 reviews 28 reviews
14 hotel reviews
Reviews in 22 cities Reviews in 22 cities
19 helpful votes 19 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 16, 2012

Just recently returned from a three day stay in Cape May.
First the good..... The hotel itself is charming and is in a wonderful location (near the beach and in a very lovely part of Cape May). The bed was comfortable and the food in the restaurant was pretty good. Also, some renovations took place and I really liked the shower stall. The porch rocking chairs are fun.
The bad..... You are not able to individually control the temperature in the room. It is great that the hotel now has air condtioning, but it was a little too cold for me. I did not spend much time in the room, but it was cold once out from under the covers.
Also...remember that it is not a bed and breakfast, so food is not included with the room rates.
T.V's are not in the rooms, but there is a communal tv on the main floor.
Wanted to give a higher rating..........but I was quite bothered by how cold my room was.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chevy Chase, Maryland
Top Contributor
66 reviews 66 reviews
25 hotel reviews
Reviews in 25 cities Reviews in 25 cities
55 helpful votes 55 helpful votes
3 of 5 stars Reviewed August 11, 2012

My first visit to Cape May has sold me on a return visit! The Chalfonte is truly charming -- an over-used description in a very charming town -- but true. My rundown on various aspects:
1. Architecture and Ambiance -- Charming; breezy, terrific porch to relax and chat
2. Rooms: Varied! Very, very varied! Stayed in two of the "suites." The first one was cramped without any charm; the second was great with a huge balcony. Friends stayed in the twin rooms -- the price of $100 is reflective of the small space and the bath down the hall. If you're cool with that, it's great. Advice: Get really specific when making your room reservation so you are happy and expectations are set and met.
3. Staff: Friendly, but FAR from accommodating; they are not going to do ANYTHING other than their specific jobs. Don't ask for help with this or that -- if it's not exactly what they do -- it's above their pay grade. Some staff didn't even know when breakfast was; how to get a horse buggy ride; and helping book a ferry ticket "Go to the library" doesn't feel very service-oriented. The over-all impression was that guests are lucky to be able to stay at the property.
4. Breakfast -- Really, really bland. AND it's from 8:30 am to 10:00 am -- too late for early beach goers and too short for those that like to sleep in. AND, coffee service while starting at 7am -- closed at 10 am as well!
5. Beds: All of us (twin rooms, suites) had really COMFY beds. The hotel is quiet and our sleep was fantastic.
I will return to Cape May -- but will select from the plethora of fantastic accommodations with equal charm. Enjoyed the stay -- but not worth repeating.

Room Tip: Do NOT call the 800 number. Call the hotel directly. Staff is good at describing the rooms.
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with family
    • 3 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 3 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 3 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
West Grove, Pennsylvania
Senior Contributor
36 reviews 36 reviews
4 hotel reviews
Reviews in 17 cities Reviews in 17 cities
8 helpful votes 8 helpful votes
4 of 5 stars Reviewed August 8, 2012

Let's begin by saying that staying at the Chalfonte is supposed to be like a "trip back in time". It is NOT a "five star, modern" hotel, NOR does it want to be. It's old....REALLY old! That is the charm of staying here. It is clean and well maintained, it's just old!
This was our third visit over the last 10 years. Upgrades include AC in most rooms, but not all. (Ask!) Some are getting TVs. An obvious yield to tourist pressure. No phones!
The rooms are comfortable and well appointed. Maid service is timely and thorough. The front desk was quite friendly and helpful. The giant porch is wonderful for "hanging out". We recently (actually) enjoyed a rainy morning on the porch. The huge awnings did a great job of keeping the rain at bay! The breakfast buffet and Prix Fixe dinners are an amazing value! Their chefs and food have been covered by FoodTV, the New York Times, etc. The King Edward Bar is quite charming for a nightcap!
The only drawback, and it can be a serious one, is there is NO "dedicated" parking. On one occasion we had to park over a block away! The good news IS, if you are a "walker", there is really no reason to drive anywhere. It's 2 blocks to the beach and promenade. The walk to "the action" is a little longer, but within reason. I need a double knee job and I just walked it for a week, okay?
So, I highly recommend the Chalfonte. Just keep your expectations within reason and I think you will be delighted by the "Old World" charm!

Room Tip: Room 4 in the "Southern Quarters" has the only private, second story porch!
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  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 4 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about The Chalfonte

Address: 301 Howard St., Cape May, NJ 08204
Location: United States > New Jersey > Jersey Shore > Cape May
Amenities:
Beach Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Restaurant Suites
Hotel Style:
#15 On the Beach Hotel in Cape May
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Established in 1876, The Historic Chalfonte Hotel is recognized as the oldest continuously operating hotel in Cape May, America's Original Seaside Resort. Situated just two blocks from the beach, The Chalfonte offers a unique seashore experience defined by warm, Southern-style hospitality and simplistic traditions. We cater to every budget with spacious suites, guest rooms with premium and European style baths, and traditional rooms with shared baths down the hall. Guest rooms feature crisp linens and cool seaside colors, and are free of televisions, telephones, and clock radios. Our nationally acclaimed Magnolia Room restaurant serves Southern-style fare with lovingly prepared family recipes and our King Edward Bar is famous for its classic cocktails and casual ambiance. Our guests continuously return from around the world to enjoy this very special destination. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Chalfonte Hotel Cape May
Chalfonte Cape May
Chalfonte Hotel Cape May

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