The 85-minute ferry ride between Cape May and Lewes offers passengers more than just a stress-free mode of transportation. In fact, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry is a prime place to view the area’s rich history and natural beauty.
“The ferry is very interesting experience,” says Michael Porch, the ferry’s marketing manager. “I always see something new.”
The first things many passengers notice are the lighthouses. The Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859, and the Delaware Breakwater Lighthouse—established in 1885—is one of Delaware’s oldest. There’s also the Harbor of Refuge Lighthouse in Lewes, a white, cast-iron structure built in 1926 and designed to endure intense Atlantic storms.
Lee Mikles, co-owner of Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen, says spotting the lighthouses from the ferry is like taking a step back in time.
“It is very cool to see the lighthouses. It makes you think of what it must have been like for seafarers to finally see those and know they were close to land,” says Mikles. As of press time, Grain is opening its fourth location on the ferry this summer.
Depending on what time of year they hitch a ride, passengers will spot way more than just lighthouses.
“You have a lot of shorebirds and migratory birds. The peninsulas are known as bird funnels and birds often fly right over the ferry crossing when they are migrating,” says Porch.
Dolphins are visible year-round, as they come into the bay to feed on Atlantic menhaden, a type of fish that people often use for bait. Whales are often spotted between the months of November and April.
“We get a notice from the Coast Guard that the ship has to stay at 10 knots or under if whales are in the area. We can’t guarantee that you will see dolphins or whales, but the captain will always announce over the PA system for passengers when he sees them. It is always a highlight for the trip,” says Porch.
The ferry is open 365 days a year and will travel four times each way daily during the busy summer months. Porch says he believes one of the best times to ride the ferry is the evening.
“We have some of the most spectacular sunsets because the Delaware Bay is the longest east-to-west body of water. When you’re crossing the bay and the sun is going down, you see a long trail of light and colors; it is really spectacular,” promises Porch.
Visit cmlf.com for information about ferry operations and the departure schedule during COVID-19.
Published as “Serenity at Sea” in the 2020 Summer Beach Guide.