Though Lewes only has an official population of about 3,500 residents, for much of the year, it’s overrun with tourists from all over the mid-Atlantic region.
Lewes is close to some of the state’s most popular beach resorts, and there are a number of state parks both in Delaware and neighboring Maryland and Virginia.
Southern Delaware is known for its great fishing and surfing. It’s also dotted with a variety of historic attractions, many of which date back more than two centuries to the time of the Revolutionary War.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Lewes, Delaware.
1. Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park is one of the area’s biggest outdoor recreation destinations. It’s open from sunrise to sunset from the beginning of March until the end of November annually.
Swimming, fishing, surfing, and biking are popular park pastimes, and for those who prefer spending the night under the stars to a hotel, there are ample campsites as well.
During peak times, the park’s beaches can get crowded, but they’re decidedly more laid-back and less developed than those found in Rehoboth Beach.
Cape Henlopen Lighthouse is worth checking out, and there are some annual festivals held in the park too.
2. Cannonball House
For lovers of history traveling on a budget, Lewes’ Cannonball House would be a great place to get a historical overview of the area without breaking the bank.
Located on Front Street near the downtown area, it was originally built in the mid-1700s.
Over the years, the historic house has served a variety of roles and is now the home of the town’s historical society. It is full of interesting exhibits that touch on the Revolutionary War and the Bombardment of the town by the British during the war of 1812.
The house is open daily, and admission is just a few bucks per person.
3. Pirates of Lewes
For vacationers traveling with little ones in tow, there are few better nautical experiences than dressing up like a pirate and heading for the open water.
Pirates of Lewes is a unique area attraction that offers tours for families that generally last slightly longer than an hour.
Tours take place aboard a massive boat staffed by enthusiastic and safety-conscious employees. Activities include water fights, treasure hunts, and sing-alongs that are frequently the most memorable experiences of children’s vacations.
Keep in mind that for each four children, there must be at least one adult chaperone, and tickets go quickly during peak times.
4. Lightship Overfalls
From the early part of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century, more than 150 lightships were built along the mid-Atlantic coast.
The Lightship Overfalls is one of only a few remaining, and after major renovations, it’s now open to public tours.
The ship has been listed on the National Register of historic places for nearly a decade. During its career, it was used as a moveable lighthouse to warn ships of dangerous reefs and of their proximity to land at night and when visibility was low.
The ship is open seasonally, and professionally guided tours are available.
5. Cape May-Lewes Ferry
Across the Delaware Bay, the distance between Lewes and Cape May, New Jersey, is just slightly less than 20 miles.
The Cape May-Lewes Fairy takes about 90 minutes to cross the bay and offers riders some of the most scenic ocean and land vistas they’re likely to see on their trip.
The ferry can haul nearly 100 cars and carry more than 600 passengers at a time. There’s both indoor and outdoor seating, and hot and cold drinks and light refreshments are sold as well.
It’s common to see dolphins and a variety of marine bird species along the way.
6. Doors of Fame
Rehoboth Beach and Lewes have always had thriving art scenes, and both towns have their fair share of unique galleries that mostly highlight the works of local and regional artists.
The Doors of Fame is a unique art attraction that’s located at the headquarters of the Rehoboth Art League.
As its name implies, the exhibit consists of multiple doors inscribed with the names of artists dating back to the ‘30s, when the league was founded.
Regional art aficionados may recognize a few notable names, and the league’s permanent exhibits are worth checking out as well, including paintings and sculptures.
7. Zwaanendael Museum
Though it’s one of the most difficult of southern Delaware’s attractions to pronounce, the Zwaanendael Museum is a worthwhile place to spend an hour or two for those looking to get an interesting and educational crash course in the area’s history.
Most of what’s on display at the museum relates to its maritime, military, and culture. There are a number of exhibits touching on the Dutch influence in the area dating all the way back to the 1600s.
The museum is open year-round, but hours change seasonally, so check the schedule on their website before making a special trip.
8. Bethany Blues
Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, and Bethany Beach are all known for having an abundance of dining options, and Bethany Blues is one of the area’s favorite BBQ restaurants.
The restaurant’s founders traveled far and wide on their quest to find the country’s best barbecue recipes, and most guests agree that they succeeded in doing just that.
Their own brand of barbecue takes the best of Texas, Tennessee, and the Carolinas, and their menu features everything lovers of great Q come to expect, like ribs, burnt ends, and pulled pork sandwiches.
They’re known for their tasty sides too, like mac ‘n cheese and country-style green beans.
9. Junction and Breakwater Trail
The Junction and Breakwater Trail stretches for nearly six miles between Cape Henlopen State Park and Lewes Beach.
The trail follows the route of a now-defunct railroad that, for much of the 17th and 18th centuries, was the state’s primary means of transportation. It winds its way through a variety of natural environments, including forests, fields, and coastal marshlands.
The trail is free to use and open to walkers, runners, and bikers. It is relatively flat, making it appropriate for those traveling with children and other adults who aren’t exactly in tip-top physical shape.
10. Delaware Seashore State Park
Compared to neighboring Maryland, Delaware’s beaches and resort towns are generally quieter and less developed.
Delaware Seashore State Park is comprised of nearly 3,000 acres along the coast and is just a short drive from both Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
Though swimming and sunbathing are popular park activities, it’s big with surfers and anglers as well.
Surf fishing can be particularly good during the fall when striped bass are most active, and in designated areas, it’s possible to pull vehicles directly onto the beach.
The park hosts a variety of fun annual events as well, like a sandcastle building contest in July.
11. Big Fish Grill
From crabs and flounder to clams and oysters, the Delaware coast is known for its fresh seasonal seafood.
Big Fish Grill was founded in ’97. Since then, it’s consistently been ranked as the best seafood restaurant in the area.
That’s quite a distinction considering the competition, and they’ve done it by using the freshest ingredients paired with both traditional and contemporary recipes.
For those who aren’t into seafood, they also serve steaks, burgers, and pizza. They’ve also got impressive selections of beer, wine, and spirits, many of which are produced locally.
Big Fish Grill is located on Coastal Highway in Rehoboth Beach.
12. Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
The Dogfish Head Brewery is The First State’s most recognizable beer brand. Though their beginnings were humble, their beers are now shipped to suds lovers all over the region.
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats has been open in Rehoboth since 1995. In addition to great food and locally-made beers and craft spirits, it often hosts live entertainment in the evenings during the warm spring and summer months.
Their beers run the gamut from light and crisp to dark and malty, and their menu includes lots of great food that pairs well with beer, like pizza, burgers, and wings.
Even for beach minded vacationers, too many days in the sun and saltwater can get to be a bit much after a while.
Since it was founded in 1962, Funland has been a popular family attraction that’s like an amusement park, boardwalk, and video arcade all rolled into one.
Funland opens for the season during the second week of May and generally goes until the end of the summer.
Many of Funland’s original visitors now bring their families on their yearly vacations. It can draw big crowds, so if you’d rather avoid the masses, consider visiting when they first open for the day.
14. Tanger Outlets
Tax-free shopping is a bonus for visitors to the first state. Many residents from neighboring states like Maryland and Pennsylvania make special trips to save on things like cars, clothes, and electronics.
For decades, Tanger Outlets have been favorite stops for thrifty shoppers, and there are several locations in Rehoboth Beach, just a few minutes from Lewes.
It’s not unheard of to save more than 50% on designer brand names like Gap, Adidas, and Eddie Bauer.
The outlets have many eateries as well; they’re particularly popular destinations when the weather isn’t conducive to spending the day on the beach.
15. Lupo Italian Kitchen
Lupo Italian Kitchen is located on Rehoboth Avenue in Rehoboth Beach and is a favorite evening dining destination for harried travelers in need of traditional Italian fare.
Lupo is particularly well-known for its classics, like chicken and veal parmesan, fried calamari, and spaghetti Bolognese.
They also have a number of seafood dishes, as well as tasty salads and appetizers.
It’s slightly more upscale than many nearby restaurants, but most visitors think it’s great value due to its comfortable atmosphere, hefty portions sizes, and relatively reasonable prices.
To avoid the evening dinner rush, consider dining early before it gets busy.