The Bedford Inn
Want to learn more about Cape May history? You’ll find much of it on the walls of the Bedford Inn.
The dining room of the Italianate villa features a wraparound mural depicting the original Convention Hall, the lighthouse, and the sunken ship Atlantus (apparently, a lot less sunken when the mural was painted).
Other vignettes include ferries scudding along the bay between Cape Island and Delaware. Then there are the animals: generations of dogs and cats beloved by innkeepers, past and present. The mural is a grand yet homey touch that pretty much sums up the Bedford: opulent in that very-Victorian manner, but wonderfully cozy and friendly as a family hearth.
Built in 1883 as a “mother-daughter” house, the Bedford has side-by-side front doors that open to parallel staircases and separate living quarters. It originated as a family home, was later converted to apartments, then became a bed-and-breakfast, when a passageway was opened to join the two sides.
The exterior, in shades of burgundy and umber, is more representative of the Victorian style than the candy colors you’ll see at some local B&Bs. The interior is authentic, too, with dark woods, ornately carved furnishings, gilded mirrors, floral carpets, and vintage lighting.
But for all its seeming formality, the mood here is relaxed and welcoming, as befits a seaside hotel. Clusters of seating in the parlor and on enclosed and outer porches invite conversation with fellow guests. Though I arrived alone, I made friends during my stay: Rutgers alumnae who were planning a college reunion at the inn. The Bedford has also hosted weddings, birthdays, and other special events; a writers’ retreat will convene here in the fall.
The 10 guest rooms all are named for members of the founding Page family: Joseph and Josephine, Ellen and Edward, and so on. I was happily ensconced in Edith’s Room, a quiet corner haven with a plush queen bed, soft as a cloud. Each room is rich with period antiques—like a porcelain wash basin and pitcher, complete with elaborate stand—but also has modern conveniences, including flat-screen TVs and bedside coffeemakers.
Damaged by fire in 2014, the Bedford came back better than ever with comforts that can be rare in historic inns, like central air in the common areas. In haunted Cape May, the place even has its own ghost—reportedly a man in search of the wife he tragically lost. Innkeeper Paula Murray says she’s witnessed paranormal phenomena, like lights and TVs turning on and off. And famed Cape May ghost hunter Craig McManus has sensed the presence of spirits here, too.
The Bedford is a family affair: since 2019, Murray has owned the inn with her brother, Marc Jacoby, and her sister-in-law, Roxanne Went, who is the resident master baker. You’ll find some of Went’s recipes (for sour cream cinnamon loaf, apple cheddar quiche, “decadent French toast” and other delicacies) on the inn’s website.
Come morning, I enjoyed coffee on the second-story porch, reading in a wicker rocker. It couldn’t have been more restful. Then came the best part of my Bedford stay: breakfast, which alternates, day by day, between sweet and savory.
Luckily, I was there on a sweet day. My new friends and I gathered around the dining room table for fruit crepes with banana slices, raspberries, strawberries, and blueberries, topped with whipped cream. That was accompanied by a side of sliced ham, plus fresh orange juice and from-scratch blueberry muffins (on savory days, you may be served seasonal quiches and frittatas). The inn’s outdoor garden, a certified wildlife habitat, provided the herbs and other ingredients.
Teatime is also observed at the Bedford, with wine, cheeses, sliced meats, crackers or baked goods served promptly at 4pm. Trust me, you won’t go away hungry.
Located on Stockton Avenue, the Bedford is an easy stroll to beachfront shops, restaurants, and attractions. During the summer, the staff sends you off with complimentary beach tags and chairs. But if the weather is dull or rainy, there are plenty of games on hand—cribbage, Monopoly, Scrabble—plus puzzles, books, and a parlor piano, complete with sheet music.
Murray is a former business executive who always dreamed of running an inn. She confirms that the reality is as gratifying as the dream. It’s her special pleasure to anticipate her guests’ needs, almost before they do, and see that they’re quickly fulfilled. It’s little wonder some Bedford regulars come back year after year, and a few are working on their second decade.
“I love greeting the guests and getting to know them,” Murray says. “And I really love getting repeat guests—it’s like family coming home.”