In 2003, beachgoers celebrated the completion of the Del. 1 bypass, which helped ease bumper-to-bumper traffic on U.S. 13. But an accident, holiday weekend, festival or road construction can still turn the highway into a parking lot. Lower your blood pressure with some mood-boosting detours to attractions near Del. 1. Even if traffic is flowing, a few pit stops can make the trip more fun. (If you plan to visit the wineries and breweries, drink responsibly.)
You don’t need to drive far to take a break. The Historic Houses of Odessa is a 30-acre property peppered with five historic structures that reveal the town’s heritage. Odessa dates back to 1731 when it was named Cantwell’s Bridge for the toll bridge that spanned Appoquinimink Creek. To buoy port operations, the town became Odessa in 1855. The historic houses are open for tours. Plan your visit to coincide with lunch at Cantwell’s Tavern, which was built in 1823. It’s operated by the Ashby Hospitality Group, which also owns The Deer Park Tavern in Newark.
201 Main St., Odessa • 378-4050
Or, save lunch for Smyrna and Brick Works Brewings and Eats, a brewpub owned by seasoned restaurateur Kevin Reading. While beer fuels the concept, Brick Works is also a family-friendly restaurant. (There is a kids menu.) There are sandwiches, salads and entrées such as Cajun meatloaf, root beer-glazed pot roast and chili-glazed salmon. If you miss this one, try the new location in Long Neck.
230 S. Dupont Blvd., Smyrna • 508-2523
Between Smyrna and Dover, you could carve out an easy self-guided brewery and distillery tour. Smyrna is also home to “The Juke,” which is the taproom at Blue Earl Brewing. Sample a flight of craft beers with too-cool-for-school names like Jo Loco Brown Malty Cold Medina. Food is available on weekends. Owner Ronnie “Blue” Earl Price gives 40-minute tours on the first Saturday of the month at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. They’re limited to 25 adults with ID.
210 Artisan Drive, Smyrna • 653-2337
The brewery is near Painted Stave, a distillery located in the former Smyrna Theater. Owners Ron Gomes and Mike Rasmussen, who spearhead the craft distillery movement in Delaware, named their company for the curved wood pieces that form a barrel. As an homage to their location, one of their first products was Silver Screen Vodka. One-hour tours are $12 per person with tastings. They’re limited to 20 people.
106 W. Commerce St., Smyrna • 653-6834
If it’s a beautiful day, consider a visit to Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, a 16,251-acre nesting, resting and mating area for more than 150,000 ducks and geese. (The waterfowl population peaks in October and November.) Laced with footpaths, bike paths and a 12-mile auto trail, the refuge is a destination for birders. You might also spot deer, muskrat, river otters, foxes and possums.
2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna • 653-9345
For a path less traveled, hop onto Del. 9, which will take you past Sambo’s Tavern in Leipsic, which is near Bombay Hook. Take a break and get crackin’ at this iconic seafood restaurant, which was founded in 1953 by Samuel “Sambo” Burrows. Still family-run, the tavern is open from April through October. That’s largely because tasty blue crabs, harvested seasonally, are purchased from local watermen, who pull up to the restaurant’s dock on the Leipsic River. Note that it is a tavern; you must be 21 to enter.
283 Front St., Leipsic • 674-9724
Just off Del. 1 near Dover Mall, the Delaware State Police Museum and Education Center was dedicated on April 28, 1998, to commemorate the force’s 75th anniversary. Visitors can learn about the history from guides and the collection. Among the police vehicles: 1941, 1946 and 1949 Ford two-door coupes, a 1998 Ford Crown Victoria and a 1971 Bell Helicopter Jet Ranger. Delawareans of a certain age will wax nostalgic at the sight of Trooper Dan, the early 1970s Volkswagen Beetle that served as a mascot and outreach tool. Replaced by Sgt. Dan, the Beetle “retired” in 1998.
1425 N. Dupont Hwy., Dover • 739-7700
Bargain hunters will appreciate Spence’s Bazaar and Auction, which is open on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, beginning at 7 a.m. The indoor/outdoor flea market—known by locals as “The Sale”—boasts a bakery, deli with Amish foods and 250 tables with wares ranging from antiques to nurse uniforms.
550 S. New St., Dover • 734-3441
Not far from the bazaar is the unusual Johnson Victrola Museum, a tribute to Eldridge Reeves Johnson, inventor of the Victor Talking Machine Co. Born in Wilmington, he grew up in Dover and worked as a machinist in Camden, New Jersey, where he met Emile Berliner, creator of the gramophone and disc record. In 1901, Johnson combined his and Berliner’s patents to form the Victor Talking Machine Co., which created the Victrola. RCA bought the company in 1929. The museum has phonographs, recordings, memorabilia, trademarks, hundreds of machines and thousands of records and advertisements.
375 S. New St., Dover • 739-3262
Visible from Del. 1, the Air Mobility Command Museum is located in Hangar 1301, which was used for the development of air-to-ground rocket weaponry, a secret project, during World War II. (Bombay Hook served as a firing range for the innovations.) Among the 30-plus planes in the collection are bombers, cargo planes, tankers, fighters and a Douglas C-133 Cargomaster, which is large enough to hold three buses inside. Visitors can attempt to fly the museum aircraft via a flight simulator and climb into an aircraft control tower.
1301 Heritage Road, Dover Air Force Base, Dover • 677-5938
Harvest Ridge Winery is about a 23-minute drive from Dover. Owner Chuck Nunan turned a hobby into a destination in a pleasant, rural setting. Harvest Ridge’s sister business, Rebel Seed, is the state’s first cidery.
447 Westville Road, Marydel • 343-9437
Just south of Dover is Fifer Orchards, a family-run farm and market with an active calendar of events and seasonal U-pick produce.
1919 Allabands Mill Road, Camden-Wyoming • 697-2141
As you’re driving through the Milford area, keep an eye out for the giant propeller in front of Meding’s Seafood. The metal landmark once belonged to the aircraft carrier USS Shangri-La, while the business dates back to 1983, when Henry Meding, an electrician, began selling seafood from his pickup truck. Sales were so brisk that he built the restaurant and market. The seafood, particularly the crabs and the fried oysters, makes Meding’s worth the stop.
3697 Bay Road, Milford • 335-3944
Happily born out of co-founder Eric Williams’ midlife crisis, Mispillion River Brewing opened in 2013, and its products—packaged in colorful cans—are now found throughout the state. The beers have eye-catching artwork and names such as Not Today Satan IPA, Reach Around IPA, and Space Otter, a pale ale.
255 Mullet Run St., Milford • 491-6623