Coastal Delaware is blessed to have more than two dozen miles of beautiful Atlantic coastline, along with more prime waterfront nestled along the inland bays and along the historic and picturesque Delaware Bay.
And where the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet is one of our favorite coastal Delaware municipalities – the charming, historic and quaint town of Lewes.
Known as the “First Town in the First State,” Lewes dates back to 1631 when a pioneering group of Dutchmen settled a whaling colony along the shores of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
The spot of that colony can be visited today by taking a trip along Pilottown Road and looking to the right just before getting to the giant windmill erected by the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment. A large monument marks the spot and is definitely worth a visit.
Though the settlement is long gone, it was the beginning of European colonization in what is today the state of Delaware. If not for that settlement and the proof thereof, the land that is today Lewes would have gone to the Calvert family and eventually become a part of Maryland.
But we digress…
Today, we want to tell you all about present day Lewes and give you a quick tour of some of our favorite spots. Keep in mind, however, that there’s no way we could include all of the places we love in Lewes in just one blog entry.
This is merely a sampling of some of the destinations we’ve come to know and love during our exploration of the area where we live and work.
Before we get started, take a moment and hear what our CEO Dustin Oldfather has to say about this most historic of coastal Delaware municipalities.
As we mentioned above, Lewes dates back nearly four centuries and was originally settled by the Dutch, not the British as is commonly believed.
As today’s blog is about current day Lewes, we won’t go into a lot of the local history. But if you want to know more about the history of the “First Town in the First State,” we recommend a stop into the architectural wonder that is the Zwaanendael Museum.
Located on the corner of King’s Highway and Savannah Road, this museum was built to resemble the town hall in Hoorn, where Dutch exploration leader David Pietersen deVries hailed from. It’s filled with local treasures and many a tale of days gone by.
In the museum are exhibits on Lewes’ role in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and lots of memorabilia commemorating the first Dutch settlement in the New World.
To read more about the Zwaanendael museum, as well as many of the other fantastic museums in southern Delaware, read our previous blog on the subject here.
Okay, on to more of our favorite sites in beautiful downtown Lewes, Delaware. We continue with one of the mid-Atlantic’s largest and most beautiful state parks…
At more than 5,000 acres, Cape Henlopen State Park is Delaware’s largest state park, which dates all the way back to 1682 when William Penn himself set aside the land to be held in trust for the common good of area citizens.
Today, the park features one of the best surfing areas in the state and also boasts the Fort Miles historic area, including barracks, a refurbished bunker and a World War II observation tower, as well as the Biden Center and plenty of beachfront.
Cape Henlopen is also one of Delaware’s state parks where you can use your state-issued surf tag and actually drive onto the beach for surf fishing.
You can also watch the Cape May-Lewes ferries coming in and out of port and view both of the Delaware Breakwater’s lighthouses from high atop the park’s Great Dune. Biking, hiking and bird watching are also popular activities at the park.
Since we mentioned the ferry in the previous entry, let’s move right onto one of the region’s most popular ways to travel between the Delaware beaches and the New Jersey Shore.
And that, of course, is the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
The ferry provides a major transportation route between the Delmarva Peninsula and the New Jersey Shore, giving travelers a shorter option when traveling north to New York City and points beyond.
The 17-mile route across the Delaware Bay takes about an hour-and-a-half to travel and each ship in the fleet can hold up to 100 cars and 800 passengers. The Lewes Ferry Terminal hosts special events throughout the year and also boats “On The Rocks,” a popular food and beverage outlet outdoors on the deck.
Fares for the ferry vary depending on the time of the year and the day of the week, so always check ahead before traveling. You can learn more about the Cape May-Lewes Ferry on their website.
Staying with our nautical theme, for the time being, we want to mention one of the area’s finest areas to relax and enjoy some quiet time, along with taking in a little bit of local history.
Stroll along the peaceful Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, while taking in the historic 1812 Memorial Park, the beautiful Canalfront Park and the iconic Lightship Overfalls. All of these sites, along with the Lewes Life-saving Station, can be visited during a stroll along the canal.
Just across Savannah Road from 1812 Memorial Park is one of the more unique small town inns you’ll ever encounter, which is owned by the popular Dogfish Head Brewery.
The Dogfish Inn opened in 2014 and offers a fun and unique lodging experience in downtown Lewes. From the hotel’s specially made coffee to the “innmates” who run the place and it’s location on the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal, the Dogfish Inn is as unique and “off centered” a hotel as you’re ever going to find.
Head back across Savannah Road and you can take a stroll down historic Second Street, the main shopping area in downtown Lewes.
You’ll find a great selection of shops here, as well as banks, restaurants and even historic buildings and cemeteries. If you have time, take a stroll through the graveyard at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church and view the many gravestones. You’ll find some interesting ones for sure.
Other highlights of Second Street include King’s Ice Cream shop, the Ryves Holt House (the oldest residential home in Delaware) and Agave Mexican Restaurant, among others.
You’ll also find our next highlighted business, which we’ll be featuring below.
One of the newest and more unique shopping experiences in downtown Lewes can be found at Vintage Underground, located in the basement at 205 Second Street.
Serving up “vintage delicacies and fresh music daily,” Vintage Underground feature music, clothes and vintage records, among other unique items.
The store is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m daily and offers a one-of-a-kind shopping experience in the “First Town in the First State.”
For more information, visit their Facebook page.
Sitting at the end of Second Street, on Shipcarpenter Street, is the expansive Lewes Historical Society Complex.
The Society has a membership of nearly 1,000 and holds programs at many of its in-town locations, including the Burton-Ingram House, the Hiram Rodney Burton House, the Ryves Holt House, mentioned above, the Cannonball House and at many of the buildings housed on it’s complex downtown.
Tours of the complex, other historic sites and of downtown Lewes are conducted regularly. To learn more about the Lewes Historical Society, visit their website.
If you enjoy fishing, then there’s no better place to launch from than Fisherman’s Wharf, along the eastern side of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal.
Still family owned by the Parsons family, the Fisherman’s Wharf fleet consists of head boats, deep sea charter boats, cruising vessels and sightseeing vessels.
So whether it’s a fishing trip, an evening cruise or even an attempt at some dolphin watching, Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to start.
Learn more on their website.
We saved one of our favorite summertime spots for near the end of our Lewes blog. But if you have young ones at home, or even just the young at heart, you’re going to want to hear all about Kaisy’s Delights.
Located at 1548 Savannah Road, this Lewes sweet spot features all kinds of goodies, including fruit compotes, frozen frappe, fruit smoothies, ice cream, frozen lemonade and much more.
Non-dessert items on the menu include potato latkes, quiches, seasonal soups, and build-your-own omelettes.
To lean more about this popular Lewes hot spot, visit www.kaisysdelights.com.
Well, we saved ourselves for last, but our blog entry of downtown Lewes wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Lewes office of the Oldfather Group of Ocean Atlantic Sotheby’s International Realty.
Located on Savannah Road, between First and Second Streets, this is one of our three offices and is a perfect spot to pop in and say hello if you’re on your way to Lewes Beach and are interested in a home in beautiful coastal Delaware.
If you like, take a look at LewesHomesForSale before you visit so you have an idea of what’s currently available in the “First Town in the First State.”
Then stop in and say hi. We’d love to welcome you to the beach and tell you all about this fantastic area of the world.
As mentioned above, this is just a small sampling of things to see and do in the historic town of Lewes, Delaware.
We have many other favorites, many of which you can read about on our blog page.
And if you’d like to check out some of the places we’ve mentioned above, but aren’t exactly sure how to get there, check out the handy map below. Locations appear in the order they were mentioned in the main copy above.