The Cape Henlopen Region Is a Hot Place to Call Home

New businesses and communities prove that the Cape Henlopen region is really on the upswing.

Kim Wronski never thought she’d leave Union County in northern New Jersey, where she raised five kids. But when her husband retired from his 30-year law enforcement career, the state’s high taxes made it hard for them to live in financial comfort. Plus, the area had become crowded.

Enter coastal Delaware, specifically communities around Cape Henlopen. “We took a leap of faith to come here,” says Wronski, who moved to Woodfield Preserve, in the Milton area. “It broke my heart to leave, but honestly it was the best thing I’ve ever done. It’s beautiful. I can breathe here. There’s less traffic, beaches, great restaurants—I could go on and on.”

Senators is one of many new communities along Kings Highway, which leads to downtown Lewes and Cape Henlopen State Park. These neighborhoods have easy access to the beach and Route 1 businesses.
Senators is one of many new communities along Kings Highway, which leads to downtown Lewes and Cape Henlopen State Park. These neighborhoods have easy access to the beach and Route 1 businesses. Photo by Deny Howeth.

Wronski isn’t the only one singing the praises of the Cape Henlopen Region, which roughly covers the Cape Henlopen School District’s feeder pattern. In 2022, Sussex County’s population was 255,956—a 29.3% increase from 2010. Compare that to the United States population, which grew 7.7% during the same period, and Delaware’s population, which increased by 13.2%.

- Advertisement -

The bulk of Sussex’s growth is in the Cape region. For proof, drive down New Road and Kings Highway in Lewes. On Routes 9 and 24, farmland is turning into neighborhoods with lower price tags than places close to the shoreline. “The ‘beaches’ are moving west,” says restaurateur Kevin Reading, owner of Abbott’s Grill, which took over the old Sydney’s Restaurant and Lounge near Milton.

While some newcomers are part-timers with vacation homes, many are full-time residents or plan to go full time after retiring. “The coastal region has shifted to a year-round place, and that’s not only the Lewes area,” agrees Jay Doaty, a real estate agent with the Lewes–based Oldfather Group. “Anything from Routes 1 to 113 is hot—especially Lewes and Milton. There’s [now] much more shopping, restaurants and businesses catering to year-round customers.”

Swaths of sand, surf and a laid-back lifestyle are all good reasons to visit coastal Delaware, but the low taxes, new communities and vibrant restaurant scene are incentives to stay.
Swaths of sand, surf and a laid-back lifestyle are all good reasons to visit coastal Delaware, but the low taxes, new communities and vibrant restaurant scene are incentives to stay.

Michael Fennemore agrees. “The conveniences of shopping, restaurants, health care and other day-to-day needs are accessible,” says Fennemore, whose family owns Fifer Orchards Farm, which has a Dewey Beach market.

“It’s beautiful. I can breathe here. There’s less traffic, beaches, great restaurants—I could go on and on.”

In short, the area has grown “dramatically,” he adds.

Back to Basics

Taxes, especially property taxes, are the leading draw, says Michael Moreland, a consultant with Keller Williams Realty in Rehoboth Beach.

- Partner Content -

A study by the financial website WalletHub found that Delaware’s property tax rate is the sixth-lowest in the country, tying with Louisiana, Utah and West Virginia. According to SmartAsset, an online source for financial information, the average Sussex County, Delaware, homeowner pays $1,120 annually in property taxes—about one-third of the U.S. average. (Granted, much of the county is still rural.)

World War II fire towers dot the coast from Lewes to the Indian River Inlet. The silent sentinels are remnants of Fort Miles, the Army base on what is now Cape Henlopen State Park.
World War II fire towers dot the coast from Lewes to the Indian River Inlet. The silent sentinels are remnants of Fort Miles, the Army base on what is now Cape Henlopen State Park.

Sharon Veazey and her husband, who moved to the Lewes area in 2023, were thrilled to discover that Delaware’s property taxes, personal income and retiree taxes are less than in Oklahoma, their former home state. She is retired; her husband is a teacher and makes 30 percent more than in Oklahoma.

Young families often choose to live in the Cape Henlopen School District, which is expanding. The new Frederick D. Thomas Middle School in Lewes is the district’s third middle school, and it joins new elementary schools and an addition to Cape Henlopen High School. Veazey says the special education services for her son are better here than in her former state.

Fun in the Sun

The Veazey family also appreciates the Cape’s recreational attractions, including hiking and biking trails. They aren’t the only ones. “I’m close to the Georgetown–Lewes bike trail, which is part of my home’s appeal,” says Dori Samson, who fell in love with historic Lewes when she visited on a whim.

When complete, the Georgetown–Lewes Trail will run 17 miles. For now, it stretches from Fisher Road near Harbeson into Lewes, where it bumps into the Junction and Breakwater Trail to Rehoboth.

- Advertisement -

Cape Henlopen State Park also features plenty of trails, plus beaches and camping spots. “You can watch the surfers, you can go to the beach—it’s my favorite place,” says Melinda Girardi, who relocated to Lewes a few years ago. “I think Herring Point is my Zen spot.”

For families, the Rehoboth Boardwalk is a destination. But now those living west of Route 1 don’t need to go into town to entertain the kids. Nick’s Mini Golf has converted the old Capital One Bank near the Rehoboth Mall into an indoor course.

Part of the Cape’s appeal is the warmth of its residents as well as the abundance of activities. Gail Shelly, for instance, moved here because it was LGBT-friendly. Veazey didn’t know anyone when she came to Lewes. “There is such friendliness that it was easy to connect to volunteer organizations, moms groups and book clubs,” she says.

Kathleen Garry fell in love with the area and the people. “When COVID hit, we sold our home in New York,” says Garry, who previously used her condo only in summer. “When people ask, ‘How did you find Lewes?’ I say: ‘The grace of God.’”

Sips, Snacks and Songs

Cape Henlopen is on the “Culinary Coast,” so food sweetens any activity. Near Cape Henlopen State Park, you can’t miss the red barn that houses Big Oyster Brewery, a hangout for tourists and a growing number of locals. New communities, including Olde Town at Lewes, surround the brewpub.

Lewes Brewing Company, which has outdoor seating by the Georgetown–Lewes Trail, plans to open soon on Savannah Road. lewesbrewing.com

Also close to the trail is Brimming Horn Meadery, which makes beer in addition to honey wine. brimminghornmeadery.com

Old World Breads, a bakery selling coffee and sandwiches, is next to Beach Time Distilling near the Nassau bridge. oldworldbreads.com; beachtimedistilling.com

In Rehoboth, bicyclists often pause at Revelation Craft Brewing Company for an IPA. The small brewery is the first location for the company, which recently opened a larger facility in Georgetown. revbeer.com

This summer, Big Oyster will have a sibling on the Rookery golf course in Milford to serve the growing population in that area. The Lewes location has a generous outdoor seating section. bigoysterbrewery.com

Another option is Crooked Hammock Brewery on the corner of Kings Highway and Route 1, which offers an enclosed backyard with games. crookedhammockbrewery.com

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery started the beer craze in coastal Delaware, and the Milton campus is in the community of Cannery Village, just steps from the brewery’s bocce ball court and steampunk treehouse. dogfish.com

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery helped fuel the dining scene in Milton, proving that downtown Rehoboth has some competition for customer dollars in the inland towns.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery helped fuel the dining scene in Milton, proving that downtown Rehoboth has some competition for customer dollars in the inland towns.

The brewery has helped fuel the dining scene in Milton, proving that downtown Rehoboth has some competition for customer dollars in the inland towns, including fast-growing Millsboro.

For instance, Kaisy’s Delights closed its downtown Rehoboth site and moved to the former bank in downtown Millsboro. Residents were so pleased with the full-service menu that owner Thierry Langer changed the format of the Lewes location—as well as the name. It is now Elevation 26. Expect a mix of French, Austrian and Polish dishes at both restaurants. kaisysdelights.com

Nectar Café & Juice Bar, which started in downtown Lewes, also recently opened in Millsboro. The breakfast-lunch restaurant is in Blue Water Grill’s old location. cafenectar.com

Surf Bagel, now celebrating its 20th anniversary, opened a spot in Long Neck near Millsboro. The surfer-themed breakfast-and-sandwich shop has been busy. There’s a new location in Milford. surfbagel.com

Restaurants on Coastal Highway serve residents who don’t want to venture into the cities in summer. Kevin Reading’s Abbott’s Grill is an example. The two-story building is in the Paynter’s Mill community. It is the third Abbott’s for Reading, who also owns Brick Works Brewing in Long Neck. The Milford site is now Benvenuto, but the Laurel location still thrives. abbottsgrill.com

Closer to Rehoboth, 302 The Local recently opened in Chaps Pit Beef’s old space next to Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery. Owner Chris Desch, who had the Chaps franchise, said he changed the concept to appeal to area residents, who can hang out in the speakeasy-style bar and nosh on burgers and fried chicken sandwiches. 302thelocal.com

New live music venues include The Listening Booth, which opened in Tanger Outlets and is moving closer to Lewes on Route 1. listeningbooth.com

A few miles west of Route 1, The Room at Cedar Grove features live musical performers and, typically, a multicourse meal. There is a full bar, where the locals catch up on gossip. paulkaresde.org

Related: 6 Reasons Why Businesses and Individuals Should Move to Delaware

Our Best of Delaware Elimination Ballot is open through February 22!

Holiday flash sale ... subscribe and save 50%

Limited time offer. New subscribers only.