Beach Plum Farm
I can sum up my stay at Beach Plum Farm in a single word: tranquility.
Set among 62 acres of pine forests, marshlands, and formal and informal gardens, this West Cape May retreat has a kicked-back elegance that blends homespun comfort with pure indulgence. It’s virtually guaranteed to slow your pace, reset your heart rate, and remind you that it’s okay to let the world get along without you for a while.
I usually work when I travel—a bad habit—but I accepted the invitation to relax this time. A chilled bottle of sparkling wine awaited me. Instead of reflexively plugging in and checking email, I poured a glass, headed outdoors, and spent an hour or so reading under the late afternoon skies. The only sounds were the rustle of branches, the hum of cicadas, and the occasional bird call. It was indescribably restful and set the tone for the remainder of my stay. I put the phone on mute, ignored the TV, and connected only to nature and my surroundings.
Beach Plum Farm is home to a half-dozen rustic barns and cottages. The Whaler Cottage, built by the Hand family in the late 1700s, is one of the oldest structures on Cape Island. My digs, the Plum Barn, was built as a carriage house in the mid-1800s and was converted to a residence in the 1950s. The arts-and-crafts-style Winona Cottage followed in the 1930s, purchased by its owner from a Sears Roebuck and Co. catalog some assembly was required; those mail-order houses came in pieces, like giant games of Legos.
Both the Hidden Barn and the Hill Barn—built Amish-style, without a single nail—were raised by Lancaster craftsmen in 2018. The Winsome Cottage, circa 2022, is the newest and largest home on the property. It has four en suite bedrooms and even a “folly tower” for birdwatching.
Each dwelling can accommodate six to eight people, making them ideal for family reunions, retirement parties, and other milestone events, including, of course, weddings (I’d get married again just to throw a party here!). A fleet of street-legal golf carts is on hand to zip you around the farm or into town. You can also hop on a bike to pedal through the fields and meadows.
After settling in, I wandered the grounds, stopping at the gracious parterre garden, and strolling under ornamental arches heavy with hyacinth bean vines—the edible flowers look like tiny orchids, and taste just like fresh snap beans! I also peeked into one of two hoop houses—open greenhouses that host the farm’s public dinners. A grand repast was in the works; the focal point was a big aluminum tub filled with ice, vibrant red peppers, bright lemons, and Ball jars filled with spicy honeyed lemonade. By the way, the farm is BYOB.
Nearby is the main barn store and farm kitchen, with a seasonal menu that changes depending on what’s growing at the time. Among the items available during my stay were cowboy chili and cornbread; greens and goat cheese frittata; pork sausage with gravy and house biscuits; and BBQ zucchini. My own kitchen was stocked with bakery-fresh cake and bread, plenty of eggs and bacon, and a pot of blackberry jam, among other staples.
The staff members were solicitous but not intrusive. And the farm is blessedly free of piped-in music, which always feels to me like an imposition. “The birds are the music,” says Director of Agriculture Christina Albert. “The wind in the treetops is the music.”
The Plum Barn is richly appointed, but not fancy or glamorous—it feels “lived in,” thanks to designer Will Riccio, co-owner of the farm with Curtis Bashaw. Crisp white beadboard walls contrast with dark wood beamed ceilings. The living room features lightly worn woven rugs on the flagstone floors, a freestanding wood fireplace, and a tweedy couch, dressed with mismatched throw pillows.
All three bedrooms are equally homey, with simple furnishings, deep, pillowy mattresses, and fluffy bedding. I could have sworn that the bed skirt in my room was burlap, a weave my mother used to call hopsacking. That evoked a sweet memory, as did the bath curtain, made of a blue-and-white striped ticking fabric I hadn’t seen since I was a girl.
Other features—an enamel pitcher and butter dish, a roughhewn bench with a sheepskin throw, an old-style radio, and of course, the deep porcelain farmhouse sink—made me feel as if I’d gone back in time to the family farm of my youth.
“Part of our mission statement is, ‘relaxed but elegant, luxurious but fun,’” says Albert. “That’s the feeling that resonates in all our cottages: simple, beautiful, but not fussy.”
Luckily, the weather was brisk on my visit enough to light a fire. The barn also has an outdoor seating area with a firepit for s’mores and an old-fashioned rope swing.
The winter calendar includes multi-course, farm-to-table dinners inside the hoop houses (with heaters and blankets to keep you toasty). Past centerpieces have included a vintage red Farmall tractor, festooned for the holidays; and a wood-paneled Jeep Wagoneer with a Christmas tree lashed to the top. The evenings end with hayrides, caroling, and moonlight strolls.
Wintertime here “could not be more Hallmark,” says Albert. I daresay it holds true in all four seasons. If you’re searching for tranquility, it’s right around the corner, at Beach Plum Farm.