It’s easy to keep your beach trip predictable, but with a little searching, the hidden gems of Sussex County are in reach.
Shake up your fall itinerary and venture (slightly) inland to these five spots recommended by Elizabeth Keller, director of the Delaware Tourism Office.
Founded in 2012, the Delaware Botanic Gardens at Pepper Creek has become a space for education and sustainability. Keller says families can head out to spot fall foliage while hiking along marked trails. Delaware Tourism also has an interactive mural in the gardens as part of its Delaware Discoveries Trail. The gardens are open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday through Sunday. Guided tours are available every day at 10 a.m. for $12. Member admission is free, with the exception of tickets for adult guided tours, which are $10. After a walk in nature, Keller suggests refueling at Good Earth Market in nearby Ocean View, which boasts a delicious menu year-round. (31806 Good Earth Lane, Ocean View; 537-7100; goodearthmarket.com )
Travel time from Bethany Beach: 30–40 minutes
30220 Piney Neck Road, Dagsboro; 321-9061
Kayak amid cypress trees at Trap Pond State Park. This nature spot offers visitors a little bit of everything, including hiking, biking and camping (cabins and yurts are available for a semi-glamping experience). Keller recommends getting to the park early in the morning to watch the “serene” sunrise over the water. Admission and camping fees apply to in-state and out-of-state visitors. Looking for a bite that’s not cooked over a campfire? Keller suggests American Fare at Abbot’s on Broad Creek. (111 Delaware Ave., Laurel; 280-6172; abbottsgrill.com )
Travel time from Fenwick Island: 50–60 minutes
33587 Baldcypress Lane, Laurel; 875-5153
In the mood for a wine tasting? Find the full experience at Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery. “I don’t think people think of Delaware as a wine destination, but [Salted Vines] has really great wine and a really great experience,” Keller says. The winery offers educational tastings as well as small bites like charcuterie. Spend an afternoon relaxing in their tasting room or outside on the lawn. The extensive wine list includes a taste for every oenophile.
Travel time from Bethany Beach: 20–25 minutes
32512 Blackwater Road, Frankford; 436-1500
Prime Hook is the spot for birding. Keller says spring and fall both see migratory birds making a stay in Delaware. “There are really unique species you can find,” she says. The 10,144-acre refuge provides a safe space “for federally and state-listed threatened and endangered species, as well as many neotropical migrating bird species,” according to the refuge’s website. The area’s marsh, ponds, swamps, grasslands and forest also provide home to a variety of fish, insects, plants, mammals and other animal species. There is no fee to enter, and the refuge is open daily from a half-hour before sunrise to a half-hour after sunset.
Travel time from Lewes: 20 minutes
11978 Turkle Pond Road, Milton; 684-8419
There’s no better way than to travel Sussex County than on two wheels. Ride 6 miles by bike on the Georgetown-Lewes Trail, which Keller says offers a “real” taste of the area via countryside roads, from coastal Lewes to rural Georgetown. The path—now popular among cyclists, runners and walkers—was once the route of the Delaware Coast Line Railroad. The trailhead on Gills Neck Road offers parking, restrooms, an information kiosk, water-bottle filling station, water fountain and bike repair area. Along the trail is The Brimming Horn Meadery (28615 Lewes Georgetown Highway, Milton; 664-1188; brimminghornmeadery.com ), a Viking-themed spot known for its meads, ciders and wines.
Travel time from Rehoboth Beach to Lewes starting point: 20–25 minutes
173-189 Gills Neck Road, Lewes