If you want to get away from the beach for a few hours, we at the Oldfather Group highly recommend checking out the great collection of museums in the coastal regions of both Delaware and Maryland.
With a history dating back to the early 1600s, there’s certainly no shortage of places to check out. And they’re as eccentric as they are educational, ranging from museums that speak to the history of the area to some of our favorites that include shipwreck collections, Native American history and one where you can even envision what it was like to ride a horse drawn carriage through the middle of Sussex County.
And you can tour these fantastic local attractions for little or no money, though donations are always appreciated and go toward the upkeep and continued operation of these coastal gems.
We’re not going to even attempt to feature all of our local museums here in this blog, as we simply don’t have the space. But keep reading below for information on seven of the Oldfather Group’s favorites.
Then pick a nice day, or a rainy one if you’re a beach bum, and visit some or all of these local treasures.
Located on the corner of King’s Highway and Savannah Road in Lewes, this striking museum tells the story of the town’s Dutch heritage via artifacts, displays and interactive exhibits.
The building was built in 1931 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the state’s first European settlement and is modeled after the town hall in Hoorn, Holland. Hoorn was the hometown of David Pietersen de Vries, the leader of the original Lewes expedition.
Call 302-645-1148 or visit the Zwaanendael Museum online for more information.
DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
One of the best kept secrets in coastal Delaware, this incredible collection of shipwreck artifacts is located in Fenwick Island, above the Sea Shell City gift shop on Route 1.
It may not look it from the outside, but inside there are gold bars, royal jewelry and many other examples of priceless artifacts from days gone by.
There are even three photographs salvaged from the Titanic, a huge selection of 17th and 18th century spirits and some of owner Dale Clifton’s collection from the famed Atocha shipwreck.
And there’s no better storyteller in the area than Clifton, so try to make it on a day when he’s there.
Call 302-539-9366 or visit www.discoversea.com for more information on the Delaware Shipwreck Museum.
Nanticoke Indian Museum
If you want to learn about the original inhabitants of Sussex County, be sure to take some time and visit this fabulous museum located on Route 24 in Oak Orchard.
A former schoolhouse for children of color during Delaware’s days of segregation, this museum tells the story of the Nanticoke tribe during the days before the “white man” came to coastal Delaware.
The museum is located near the tribe’s powwow site (cancelled for 2020 due to COVID-19) and offers a unique glimpse into the “people of the tidewater.”
Be aware that hours are limited in the winter time, if you plan to visit during the offseason, so be sure to call first. But it’s well worth the trip to Oak Orchard.
Call 302-945-3400 or visit www.nanticokeindians.org for more information on the Nanticoke Indian Museum.
Rehoboth Beach Museum
Located in the former ice house, near the old train station and skirting the Lewes & Rehoboth Canal, this museum detailing the long history of Rehoboth Beach is a true gem in the “Nation’s Summer Capital.”
One side of the museum features exhibits dating back to the city’s early days as a Methodist Church site, as well as relics from Funland, the Boardwalk and other sites throughout the city.
The other side boasts a rotating exhibit that’s featured such displays as “the history of the bikini” and “Rehoboth’s role during World War II.”
Call 302-227-7310 or visit www.rehobothbeachmuseum.org for more information on the Rehoboth Beach Museum.
Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum
While this fun local museum in Georgetown features several outbuildings that Mr. Marvel himself collected throughout the years, including an old church, an old schoolhouse and a wonderful barrel barn, the highlight of the museum is the hotelier’s collection of old carriages.
These carriages are featured in the town’s biennial Return Day celebration, held every other November, and include a postmaster’s carriage, complete with “onboard toilet,” the Queen’s carriage and many others.
Unless open for a scheduled event, you can only view this collection via appointment, but we encourage you to call and schedule one as it’s a great way to spend the day.
Call 302-855-9660 or visit www.marvelmuseum.com for more information on the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum.
A 45 minute or so drive from the Delaware beaches will place you in the western Sussex County town of Seaford, the Nylon Capital of the World, and one of the finest small town museums in Delaware.
Located in the city’s old post office downtown, exhibits at this local treasure revolve around topics like the Nanticoke Indians, the mass production of nylon, former Governor William Ross and the notorious Patty Cannon and her gang of thieves and murderers.
Opened in 2003, you’ll find thousands of local artifacts at this great local museum in western Sussex County.
For more information on the Seaford Museum, visit the Seaford Historical Society online.
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum
For something a little different, consider spectacular Ocean City, Maryland, and this great spot located on the resort’s famous boardwalk.
The Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museum is certainly not like the others on our list, but it’s a great way to spend the day with friends and/or family members when you’re at the beach.
Exhibits include some wild and crazy topics like the world’s tallest man, a shrunken head and even some mind-boggling visual illusions located throughout the museum.
With a dozen galleries and plenty of chances for hands-on experiences, this so-called “weirdest place on the boardwalk” is a great local treasure in Ocean City.
Visit www.ripleys.com/oceancity for more information.
For more on the coastal region’s museums, and everything else that makes the Delaware and Maryland beaches such a great place to live and work, call the Oldfather Group today at 302-260-2000 or visit us online at www.theoldfathergroup.com.
And keep visiting us here on www.thecoastalcompass.com for more great information on the coastal region.