I’ve been hesitant to post about Lewes, Delaware. And not because we don’t like it — quite the opposite, in fact. We like it so much that we completely understood why our friends who introduced us to the beach town a few years ago wanted to keep it on the DL. So, other than a mention here and there, I waited until now to do a full write-up.
It seems that most families in the DC area head to Rehoboth, Bethany, and Ocean City for under-three-hour-drive beach getaways — and those were the towns we had previously visited (though more often opted for North Carolina beaches). But a few summers ago, friends invited us to join them in Lewes, the beach town they had been visiting annually for years. From our first trip there, we totally got why they didn’t want word to get out to the masses.
Smaller than the aforementioned towns, Lewes is much more low-key with a lot less people. It doesn’t have the big boardwalk, busy strip of beach stores and eateries, or large amusements that many families seek out for their beach getaways. But for some of us, the lack of all that is actually the draw. Instead of all the bustle, there’s more nature. And rather than a bevy of places to eat and play, there’s a charming little town with less but still enough options for off-the-beach food and fun. It’s easy and relaxing and only about a two and half hour drive from our house on Capitol Hill. Since that first trip, we’ve been several times, from a multi-day getaway to weekend and overnight stays to day trips.
Why have I decided to share now? A few reasons: 1) I’ve been learning that more people know about Lewes than I realized 2) I recently saw an article about it in a much larger publication 3) A friend is taking a trip there and just asked me for tips, so I felt inspired to expand on the text I sent her 4) I highly doubt a KFDC post could change the vibe of a place.
So, to the good stuff. Here’s what we love about Lewes and what we’ve done pretty much every time we’ve been there…
We go to the beach at Cape Henlopen State Park, about a four-mile drive from Lewes. It’s gorgeous, with dunes, trees, and marsh areas and bike trails that wind through it (more on that below). There’s six miles of coastline along the Atlantic, the sand is nice and soft, and there is always plenty of space (great for beach games). Dogs are also permitted, which is a big plus for us. We always go to an area near a jetty where the kids can surf and boogie board. While there are concessions in part of the park, we always bring a cooler of food and drinks or pop out to grab sandwiches from Taste of Italy, a great Italian deli in town. The park is open 8am – sunset, and it’s not a bad idea to go on early side in case they limit capacity. There is a daily entrance fee — $10 for out of state vehicles, and $5 for in state. An annual pass is $70.
Lewes Beach is on the Bay and also accessible (and free). We’ve taken morning walks along the shore, but have never spent a beach day there. Dogs are not permitted.
A great activity from Lewes is a bike ride through Cape Henlopen State Park to Rehobeth. There are several trails to ride, all of them easy to pedal and very scenic. Wind through wooded areas, cruise along boardwalks over wetlands, and be on the lookout for historic sites like Fort Miles and nearby towers and canons — the area was a coastal defense in WWII. We usually bring bikes or rent them from Lewes Cycle Sports, but free bikes to borrow apparently are available at the park’s Seaside Nature Center on a first-come, first-served basis (we have never used them, so I don’t know how easy it is to get them).
As mentioned above, the kids and friends always surf and boogie board when we go. We rent boards from East of Maui and BYO boogie boards, but those are available to rent, too.
Cape Henlopen State Park is full of even more recreation. It’s free to walk through, and as mentioned, there are both historic and scenic sights, plus a Nature Center.
The town is small, but has several good restaurants and other places to get bites and drinks. The subs at Taste of Italy are yummy. Agave is great for Mexican for dinner. Wheelhouse is right on the water and has a large menu with something for everyone. Nectar Cafe has the best juices as well as breakfast and lunch. Notting Hill Coffee also has delicious breakfast sandwiches and pastries and, of course, coffee. And ice cream at 2 Dips is the best way to end the evening. (Update: Just heard 2 Dips recently closed, but other nearby ice cream options are Kings Homemade Ice Cream in town and Dairy Queen on Savannah Road near the beach.)
Where to Stay
Since Lewes is small, rental house inventory always seems limited, so booking far in advance is a good idea. For longer stays in larger houses, Airbnb or VRBO are good to check. I’ve seen lots of Lewes Realty and Jack Lingo signs around advertising rentals, too.
For shorter stays, we always opt for the Beacon Inn. It’s not fancy, but it’s clean, the service is great, there is a pool, it’s a very easy walk to town, and they allow dogs. We love it. Friends have stayed at and recommend Hotel Blue, and I’ve heard the Dogfish Inn is great, too.
Have you been to Lewes? What are your favorite things about it?