Beautiful, historical, and natural are all words that can be used to accurately describe the small, historic town of Laurel in Sussex County, Delaware. With a population of only 4,000 people, visitors to this Atlantic Coastal Plain town on the Delmarva Peninsula can expect a quiet, relaxing vacation away from the crowds of the bigger cities and towns that are only a short drive away.
Laurel is mostly known for its outdoor recreational opportunities, including hiking, biking, bird watching, nature viewing, and horseback riding. The town is surrounded by natural beauty that includes the scenic Broad Creek and many ponds and lakes, such as Trap Pond, Chipman’s Pond and Tussock Pond, that are popular with canoeists, kayakers and anglers.
It’s also known for its long history, which means many of the old buildings around the town are on the National Register of Historic Places.
A number of popular events take place in Laurel throughout the year, including the Party at The Pond/Jeep Jamboree in April and the Broad Creek Bike and Brew in June.
Below are 15 of the best things to do in and around Laurel, Delaware.
1. Enjoy a meal at Abbott’s on Broad Creek
Fresh, inventive dishes using items sourced from local farms are what you can expect when you order a meal at Abbott’s on Broad Creek in the center of downtown Laurel. Lunch and dinner are served every day, and happy hour also happens daily.
The focus is on American cuisine, with options such as cheeseburgers, crab cake sandwiches, smoked turkey Rueben, Buffalo chicken BLT, BBQ brisket, and, of course, a variety of tasty desserts. On nice days, you can enjoy your meal in the outdoor dining area.
2. Trap Pond State Park
At one time, freshwater wetlands covered a sizeable area of what is now Trap Pond State Park in Laurel. The original beauty of that ecosystem is still visible in the park today. Another striking and interesting feature is the patch of Baldycress Trees, which don’t usually grow in more northern climates.
There are many ways to enjoy the beauty and natural surroundings of this 23-acre park. Visitors can hike around the pond, where anglers fish for a variety of species, including crappie, catfish, and largemouth bass. On your wanderings, you may spot some of the wildlife that calls the park home, including bald eagles, blue herons, hummingbirds, and woodpeckers.
A nature center where you can learn more about the park is on-site, and rowboats, pedal boats, and kayaks are available to rent. Other on-site amenities include a playground, volleyball courts, a disc golf course, and horseshoe pits.
3. Visit the Treasures of the Sea Exhibit
Renowned treasure hunter Mel Fisher recovered a magnificent treasure when he discovered the wreck of the Atocha. That treasure is now on display at the Treasures of the Sea Exhibit in nearby Georgetown.
Millions of dollars in artifacts are showcased in the permanent exhibit, including silver bars, silver coins, bronze cannons, South American emeralds, and various religious items.
The exhibit also includes plenty of information about Spain and its colonies, the history of the ship, and the treasure hunt. You can watch a video about the search, and there’s a gift shop on-site where you buy actual coins that were recovered from the wreck.
4. Explore Holts Landing State Park
The relatively undiscovered Holts Landing Park in Dagsboro covers 203 acres of scenic landscape. It features a variety of settings, including a beach area, fields, and a hardwood forest.
On-site, there is a hiking trail called the Seahawk Nature Trail, which is a 1.4-mile-long loop. Visitors can participate in a variety of activities, such as paddling, fishing, and picnicking.
5. Get a history lesson at the Laurel Heritage Museum
Situated in the historic Laurel Train Station, the Laurel Heritage Museum was once the place where townspeople greeted visitors to the town. On-site, there is a broad collection of historical artifacts and documents on display, so visitors can learn more about the town and its colorful history.
6. Nanticoke Indian Museum
As the only Native American museum in Delaware, The Nanticoke Indian Museum is where visitors to nearby Millsboro can learn more about a proud heritage, culture, and history.
Visitors get an extensive history lesson through various exhibits that feature many artifacts that have been passed down by community elders. The displays showcase items of historical and cultural significance, including tools, a wooden canoe, traditional clothing, weapons, pottery, artwork, and various items dating back 8,000 years.
Visitors also learn about native arts and can purchase items such as jewelry and dream catchers at the on-site gift shop. Tours are available.
7. Spend an afternoon browsing Laurel Junction
Laurel Junction is an indoor/outdoor flea market with an array of shops and vendors that are open all week long.
Find great deals on almost anything you can think of, including clothing, antiques, cosmetics, jewelry, fresh produce, baked goods, collectibles, crafts, comic books, sporting goods, and art. A convenience store, food court, and full-serve restaurant are on-site, and there’s entertainment on the weekends.
8. The Seaford Museum
Situated in nearby Seaford, The Seaford Museum – which is housed in the former post office in the downtown area – showcases many different exhibits. There are thousands of artifacts depicting the history of the country, the state, the town, and the surrounding area.
The restored building itself is something to see with its modern features. Inside, visitors learn about the region’s natural resources, the Nanticoke Indians, agriculture, shipbuilding, and the railroads. There’s also a variety of changing exhibits on-site at any given time, and a gift shop is available.
9. Spend a day in nature at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Visitors wanting to do some prime wildlife viewing in the area can do so at the 10,144-acre Prime Hook National Refuge near Milton. This refuge was originally set up as a sanctuary for the variety of migratory birds who make stopovers in the area during their travels.
Today, you can explore the refuge, which lies along the shores of Delaware Bay. Be on the lookout for wildlife, including hundreds of bird species and dozens of fish and mammal species. Along the way, you’ll pass through several different habitats, including wooden swamps, upland grasslands, forest areas, and both salt and freshwater marsh areas.
10. Indulge in some comfort food at Laurel Pizzeria
When a craving for pizza strikes, look no further than the delicious, prize-winning pizza served at Laurel Pizzeria. There’s a reason why locals have voted this Italian Restaurant one of the best in the region. The food is top quality and made with the freshest ingredients. In fact, the pizza dough and sauce are made on-site each morning.
The menu features a wide variety of other familiar favorites. Signature items include crab cakes, pasta dishes, subs, sandwiches, burgers, wings, and salads. The staff are friendly, and the ambiance is laid-back.
11. Explore the Marvel Carriage Museum
Get a taste of the region’s history with a tour of the Marvel Carriage Museum in Georgetown. Start your tour with a viewing of the various treasures that are displayed, including a victrola collection, photos, old telephones, antique furnishings.
Also on-site are some historic buildings, such as an old schoolhouse and two large barns housing a collection of carriages – including an antique horse-drawn hearse.
12. Cape Henlopen State Park
An entire day can be spent exploring Cape Henlopen State Park near Lewes and participating in the wide variety of available activities. Canoeing, disc golf, fishing, kayaking, paddleboarding, windsurfing, and geocaching are just some of the popular activities in the park.
Biking and hiking trails are on-site, and a lifeguard-supervised beach attracts many locals and visitors on hot days. Other amenities include a campground, picnic tables, and bathrooms.
While exploring the park, you can stop at the Fort Miles Museum and Historical Area, which showcases the area’s role during WWII. The Seaside Nature Center is home to a live osprey camera, large fish tanks, a touch tank with stingrays, and a gift shop.
13. Hit the greens at Heritage Shores Golf Course
Designed by architect Arthur Hills, Heritage Shores Golf Course in Bridgeville is a beautifully-maintained par 72 course with challenges at every hole. Water, bunkers, and surging fairways are some of the challenges you will meet on the way to the 18th hole. Practice facilities and one of the best driving ranges in the state are also on-site.
14. Visit the classic amusements at Funland
Funland in Rehoboth Beach is where visitors can find fun and excitement for the whole family. Situated right on the town’s boardwalk, this amusement park features 20 thrilling rides for younger and older kids, midway games, an arcade, and a shooting gallery. A haunted mansion is also on-site.
15. Explore Killens Pond State Park
A variety of activities are available to visitors at Killens Pond State Park in Felton, such as birdwatching and boating. On-site amenities include baseball fields, boat rentals, a camping area, a disc golf course, horseshoe pits, a picnic area, hiking and biking trails, and bathrooms.
The pond is popular with anglers, who fish for a variety of species, like bass, catfish, perch, and bluegills. The Killens Pond Nature Center is home to exhibits about the local wildlife.