Cape May County is the southernmost county in the U.S. state of New Jersey. Much of the county is located on the Cape May Peninsula, bounded by the Delaware Bay to the west, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and east. Adjacent to the Atlantic coastline are five barrier islands that have been built up as seaside resorts. A consistently popular summer destination with 30 miles (48 km) of beaches, Cape May County attracts vacationers from New Jersey and surrounding states, with the summer population exceeding 750,000. Tourism generates annual revenues of about $6 billion as of 2015, making it the county's single largest industry, with leisure and hospitality being Cape May's largest employment category. Its county seat is the Cape May Court House section of Middle Township. As of the 2017 Census estimate, the county's population was 93,553, making it the state's second-least populous county, a 3.9% decrease from the 97,265 enumerated at the 2010 United States Census, in turn decreasing by 5,061 (-4.9%) from the 102,326 counted in the 2000 Census. Cape May was one of only two counties to lose population in the decade since 2000; the decline was the largest percentage decrease of any county statewide and the second-largest in absolute terms. The county is part of the Ocean City, NJ Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the Philadelphia-Reading-Camden, PA-NJ-DE-MD Combined Statistical Area. Before the county was settled by Europeans, the indigenous Kechemeche tribe of the Lenape people inhabited South Jersey. Beginning in 1609, European explorers purchased land from, and contributed to the decline of, the indigenous people. The county was named for Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, a Dutch captain who explored and charted the area from 1611 to 1614, and established a claim for the province of New Netherland. In 1685, the court of Cape May County was split from neighboring Burlington County, although the boundaries were not set until seven years later. In 1690, Cape May (originally known as Cape Island) was founded, becoming America's oldest seaside resort. The county was subdivided into three townships in 1723 – Lower, Middle, and Upper. The other 16 municipalities in the county, including two no longer in existence, were established between 1827 and 1928. In 1863, the first railroad in the county opened, which carried crops from the dominant farming industry. Railroads later led to the popularity of the coastal resorts in the county. Improved automotive access led to further development after the Garden State Parkway opened in 1956.
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