The off-season at the Delaware beaches is an especially great time for visitors to fully relish all the factors that make the coast so special. It also serves as a reminder to locals that they should never take their residence for granted.
This summer, there was a lot of fanfare about the opening of the Lewes History Museum in the Margaret H. Rollins Community Center off Savannah Road—and deservedly so. But don’t forget the shady complex of old structures on Shipcarpenter Street. Take a tour of the buildings, or simply rest here after shopping on Second Street. I like to get an ice cream from King’s Homemade Ice Cream and sit in a rocking chair on the porch of the Old Doctor’s Office, a Grecian Revival building that dates back to 1840.
Located in Cape Henlopen State Park, this area is a hit with surf fishermen. It’s hard to find a parking spot in summer—either in the lot or on the beach. In the off-season, park up by what looks like concrete ruins. It’s actually Battery Herring, a bunker once covered in sand that was part of Fort Miles, a World War II Army base. Later, Battery Herring became the home of a Navy sound surveillance system.
Hike down the incline—yes, there’s actually a hill—to the beach. If the conditions are right, you might see surfers even in winter. From here you can stroll toward the fire-control towers near Gordons Pond or toward the point. Be sure to look up on the Great Dune to spot the gun barrel, which thrusts through Battery 519, now the Fort Miles Museum.
We all know that coastal Delaware is a culinary destination. We just can’t always get into the hotspots in summer. Now’s your chance. Agave in Lewes this summer opened its expanded dining room. (The restaurant has effectively consumed the first story of the building.) You still might have to wait. But since they text you when your table is ready, head out onto Second Street or grab a drink at a less-crowded spot.
It’s also easier to snag a table at Bluecoast Seafood Grill + Raw Bar on the highway, which opened this summer. Outdoor dining will last as long as weather permits. This location is a prize because of all the parking.
Now that you don’t need to pay to park in Rehoboth Beach, the city is more inviting to diners who want to stroll and snack. Likewise, since traffic has eased up between Dewey and Bethany, there is another reason to explore the dining options in the southern beaches. Of note is Our Harvest, which opened this year in Fenwick Island.
Dewey’s nightlife scene is not as vibrant as it is in summer, and that’s OK for those who go here in the daytime. Without the need for a permit, there are plenty of places to park near the beach. The advantage here is that it’s less of a schlep from a beach entrance to a spot on the sand. In Cape Henlopen, it often feels like you’re a Sherpa trudging from the lot to the beach. Also, if you want a cold one at Dewey Beer Co., it’s an easy walk on flat terrain.
All you have to do stand on the state line and look from one side to the other to see the difference between Fenwick Island and Ocean City. Relish the quiet resort’s calmness before crossing the border for a still busy OC boardwalk and nightclub scene.
Some might argue that these aren’t beach towns. But consider that both have rich shipbuilding histories. Milton was the hometown of choice for many ship captains. Regardless, the little downtown gems give you a good glimpse of small town life. Both have restaurants worth trying, and Milton has a paved walk alongside the Broadkill River with plaques saluting the governors who were born in Milton or who lived here.
Created in large part to transport goods as well as people, the ferry opened in 1964 just before bridges and highway arteries eased the difficulty of getting produce and merchandise to points north and south. Today, the ferry is popular for leisure travelers, and it offers great views of the lighthouses, breakwaters and the cape. Ride it as a passenger just for the experience. You might spot dolphins or whales.