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Avoiding the Summer Hordes in Lewes, DE

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My favorite time to visit a beach town is before the summer hordes arrive or after they have already departed.  Thankfully, my family and I have discovered that the off season is the best time to visit a mid-Atlantic coastal town, like Lewes, DE.

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There is so much to do in Lewes – a quaint beach town that sits at the entrance of Delaware Bay along the Atlantic seaboard.  Lewes (pronounced LOO-iss) was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, where it was a whaling and trading post founded by Dutch settlers on June 3, 1631. During the 1800s and early 1900s, its population lived off of the resources of the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. The treacherous waters of the Delaware Bay provided jobs, such as Ship Pilots. It’s a town with a rich history and plenty to do, both on and off the beach.

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Outdoor Activities

During the day, the cooler off season weather makes it the perfect time to check out the beauty of the beach. Beginning in May, an estimated 50 thousand summertime visitors will descend on this small town.

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Hike Along the Beach

Use this opportunity to hike up and down the almost deserted beach, play in the waves if the weather’s right, enjoy the beauty of the dunes, and enjoy the wind, sun, and sand.  Always be on the lookout for Atlantic Bottle Nosed Dolphins, which are often spotted traveling in pods of 10-15.

Access to the beach can be found from one of two public parking lots along Cape Henlopen Drive. Avoid parking on private land or on side streets.

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Biking

Try biking along the coast at Cape Henlopen State Park. There are several amazing biking paths that will reveal some incredible scenery.  You can grab a bike at the Gordon Reid Borrow-a-Bike Program, located next to the Seaside Nature Center at 15099 Cape Henlopen Drive.  You can also rent a bike in town from Seagreen Bicycle or Lewes Cycle Sports, among others.  Or, bring your own bike!

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Start with the Gordons Pond Trail, a scant 3-mile long trail that leads you to close to Rehoboth Beach. Bike back and check out the Bike Loop Trail through the state park.  Take some time to park the bikes and explore the foot traffic only spur trails or climb one of the WWII observation towers.

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Explore a little further, and you’ll come to Fort Miles – an important WWII fort that is now encompassed by the state park.

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Kayaking & Paddleboarding

When good weather holds, there’s kayaking and paddleboarding options. Quest Adventures – The Kayak Shack is adjacent to the Beacon Hotel, located at 514 E. Savannah Road, and is an easy walk from downtown Lewes. There are a number of kayak tours to chose from, but my choice would be an excursion along the canal and then into the salt marshes.

The Great Marsh Preserve offers interesting kayaking and some incredible scenery, but some of the inlets get shallow.  Make sure you know when the tides come in and out – paddling is a lot easier if you’re working with the tide, rather than against the tide.

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Traveling By Water

The water plays a prominent part of all there is to see.  But if you’re tired from all of the outdoor activities, let someone else do the work!

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Water Taxi Sightseeing Tours

If you have more time, consider one of Cape Water Tours longer tours, such as the Broadkill River Tour, the East End Lighthouse Tour, Dolphin Tours, or its Eco Tour.

A favorite of mine is spending a day on the Broadkill River.  This tour will take you to Milton, which is just a few miles away from Lewes by car.   Having lunch in Milton and then returning to Lewes, recalls the olden days when travel was slower, giving you a chance to absorb the scenery. This five-hour tour along the twisting Broadkill River will expose you to all sorts of lovely birds:  egrets, heron, hawks, eagles, cormorants, and kingfishers, among others.

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Ferry to Cape May

Or, consider a ride on the Cape May to Lewes ferry across to Cape May, New Jersey – a wonderful little Victorian era town.  The ferry terminal is located at 43 Cape Henlopen Drive and offers a gift shop, On The Rocks Dockside Grill, and a free round of mini-golf.  The terminal is in the midst of some renovations, which will revamp the restaurant and offer a stage for live music.  Completion is slated for spring / summer 2020.

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Second Street Shopping

No quaint town is truly a quaint town if it doesn’t have some boutiques to browse. The good news is, Lewes is a really neat, quaint lil’ town! We love Blooming Boutique, located at 107 2nd Street. This unique store sells useful and affordable merchandise for women of all ages.  Here you’ll find handbags, shoes, clothing, jewelry, as well as a lot of different fun accessories. When you stop in, say hello to the friendly greeter, Maggie, and make sure you rub her belly!

For pet owners, check out P.U.P.S. for everything you’d need for your favorite pooch – toys, accessories, and Made in the USA treats.

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Antique lovers will enjoy Lewes Mercantile Antiques, with a variety of antiques, collectibles, and upcycled items for your home.  Located at 109 2nd Street, this indoor marketplace features over thirty different antique dealers offering a variety of items.  As the saying goes, you’ll find something for everyone at this area hotspot.

Deanna’s & Piccolino is another fun clothing boutique with exquisite clothing and fun accessories.  With new arrivals coming in all the time, you’ll always find something interesting.

Places to Eat

If all of this hiking, biking, and shopping has created an appetite, you’re in good hands. Whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner – or simply an afternoon coffee and snack – there’s a place worth trying (or two, or four). I recommend the restaurants below because I’ve been there and tried them. Yet there are numerous others to try out as well.  I’ll just have to go back for another weekend to try them all!

Breakfast

The Blue Sea Cafe on 2nd Street offers a nifty breakfast menu that will start your day off right. The coffee is good and the prices are reasonable. We liked it so much that in our recent visit, we went twice, enticed by offerings such as the Silver Dollar Pumpkin Pancakes and Lahmajun (ground beef, tomato sauce, herbs, and spices embedded in a flat pita dough, rolled and covered with red onions, feta cheese, and a squeeze of lemon).  Mmmm… so good!

Notting Hill Coffee Roastery & Bakery also offers a good cup of coffee, as well as yummy baked treats to start your day or power it along in the afternoon.  The prices are reasonable and the on-site organic coffee roasting creates a really interesting atmosphere.  Find Notting Hill at 124 2nd Street.

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Lunch

There are multiple options for lunch, including the Blue Sea Cafe (again).  If you’re in the mood for upscale Mexican cuisine, try the stylish Agave.  After opening their doors as a small cafe in 2008, Agave has expanded to offer a large dining area and is a well known local haunt.  They offer entrées and appetizers perfect for sharing, plus a variety of tequila, margaritas, and seasonal hand-crafted cocktails.

Good food at reasonable prices can be found at Arenas Deli & Bar, just outside of town at 17314 North Village Main Boulevard.  Arenas offers a variety of appetizers, 40+ sandwiches, 10+ salads, and a handful of soups.  Pet-friendly outdoor dining is available during the warmer months.

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Dinner

For dinner, Agave might be a good choice, but for some interesting seafood and new American cuisine, a visit to Striper Bites is a must.  This quintessential nautical shanty is a mainstay in Lewes, located at 107 Savannah Road.  Though their focus is seafood, they also offer chicken, steak, and non-meat options.

If you’re up for a drive, head 10 minutes out of town to check out Matt’s Fish Camp for their award-winning Sticky Icky Wings and some seafood favorites.  The super-relaxed atmosphere is a great place for “coastal comfort food.”

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Where To Stay

If you love to stay at bed and breakfast inns – and you have a dog – then you’ll definitely want to check into The Lazy L Bed & Breakfast at Willow Creek, where you can enjoy luxurious dog-friendly comfort. Located at 16061 Willow Creek Road, you’ll be right next to one of Delaware’s salt marshes with great seasonal views.

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If you’re staying at the bed and breakfast and you didn’t bring your own kayak, you can rent one from them and launch directly from the inn’s private dock into Great Marsh Preserve.  This is a great option to experience a wonderful sunrise paddle adventure.

Generally I’m not a fan of beach hotels, but the Beacon Motel – a beach hotel if there ever was one – is an excellent choice at 514 East Savannah Road.  We like it for its convenient location to downtown, ample parking, and close proximity to the beaches and Cape Henlopen State Park, which is an easy 2-mile bike ride away.  The Beacon Motel is slightly more affordable than The Lazy L, and is both quiet and comfortable.  I think this is important when you’ve got an active day of daytripping planned – I’d definitely go back to this hotel!


There is a lot to see and do amid the quiet off season atmosphere of a beach town.  And Lewes is a great blend of beach town and natural environments to explore.  So don’t rule out spending a weekend along the coast during ‘sweatshirt weather’ – you may just make it a yearly affair!  ◊

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