15 Best Things to Do in Lewes, DE

Lewes, DE skyline
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The city of Lewes in Delaware’s Sussex County may lack in size, but it’s home to some of the most frequently visited beaches in the state.

Lewes is home to 3,500 residents, but it’s usually packed with tourists for most of the year, making it one of the most popular tourist destinations in the mid-Atlantic region.

This small city is nestled in the area where the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay meet along Cape Henlopen.

Lewes is well-known because of its miles of beautiful beaches, wildlife sanctuaries, nature trails, and charming smalltown appeal.

Within this small city, you’ll come across various museums, historical landmarks, districts, local restaurants, and a wide array of shops and specialties.

In addition, this city has a rich and deep history being the first European settlement established in Delaware.

Not to take this long, below are the 15 best things to do in Lewes, Delaware.

Wander through the Cape Henlopen State Park

Sunset at Cape Henlopen State Park
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Your first agenda upon arriving at Lewes is to visit its most popular attraction, the Cape Henlopen State Park.

This attraction in Lewes boasts one of the most extensive outdoor recreation destinations in Sussex County.

It’s open from March to November each year for visitors to enjoy various outdoor activities like surfing, swimming, biking, fishing, and camping.

Trail leading to the beach of Cape Henlopen State Park
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Cape Henlopen State Park is packed with tourists who want to enjoy white-sand beaches and turquoise blue waters in peak times.

Aside from its beautiful beaches, the park also has a charming lighthouse worthy of checking out.

Stone path bridge in Cape Henlopen State Park
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Browse through the Zwaanendael Museum

Sign post of Zwaanendael Museum
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The Zwaanendael Museum, situated along King’s Highway, is known for its maritime, social, and military history in the region.

Aside from the fascinating history inside the museum, it’s also best known for its unique architecture.

The museum’s building design follows the Dutch traditional town hall structure called “Hoorn.”

Exterior of Zwaanendael Museum
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Its design is mainly influenced by the Dutch settlers that arrived on its shores in the 1600s.

Despite its name, which is quite difficult to pronounce, this museum is worth visiting because of its fascinating exhibits filled with artifacts and memorabilia of the early European and Dutch settlers in the area.

Spending an hour or two browsing through its exhibits gives you a clearer picture of Lewes’s history.

Entrance of Zwaanendael Museum
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Soak under the Sun at Lewes Beach

Boats on Lewes Beach sand
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Aside from Cape Henlopen State Park, another top-notch beach destination you need to visit is Lewes Beach.

Lewes Beach is popular for locals and tourists because of its white sand beach and crystal-clear waters, perfect for swimming, boating, and other water sports.

Moreover, Lewes Beach is situated a few miles off Cape Henlopen Drive near the Cape Henlopen State Park, making it accessible to everyone.

People around Lewes Beach
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Lewes Beach is also a nice place to watch the sunrise before swimming on the beach.

Aside from being a popular swimming and sunbathing destination, Lewes Beach is also home to numerous theme parks like the Midway Speedway Park and Jungle Jim’s River Safari Park.

Overall, Lewes Beach offers a different way to enjoy the city’s natural beauty, which you and your loved ones should not pass on.

Cloudy day at Lewes Beach
Antony-22, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learn Fascinating History at the Lewes Historical Society Main Campus

The Lewes Historical Society is situated in the heart of the city has several historic buildings for visitors to explore.

Each building has its own fascinating backstories to tell for visitors, making this historical attraction a unique place to check out.

The historical backstories of these buildings mainly highlight Lewes’s deep roots in the maritime industry and the city’s backstory that runs through many centuries since its founding.

Some of the historical buildings to check out are; Thompson Country Store, Hiram Rodney Burton House, Burton-Ingram House, Rabbit’s Ferry House, Doctor’s Office, Midway School #178, Ellegood House, and Blacksmith Shop.

In addition, the area has a museum that preserves artifacts and memorabilia of Lewes’s past.

Walking tours are the most popular activities you can join there either by yourself or your loved ones.

Get Onboard the Lightship Overfalls

The Lightship Overfalls at the dock
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The Lightship Overfalls is docked along Pilottown Road in Lewes is one of the last remaining lightships constructed to serve the United States Lighthouse Service.

Today, it’s one of the best historical attractions people can visit in Lewes.

The ship now serves as a floating maritime museum where you can visit and join guided tours on and below the decks.

The top part of Lightship Overfalls
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In history, more than 150 lightships were constructed from the 19th to the mid-20th century in the mid-Atlantic Coast.

You should visit this place and appreciate one of the few remaining lightships in the world, especially if you're an enthusiast of maritime history.

Moreover, the Lightship Overfalls has already been listed on the National Register of Historic Places, making it an important piece of history in Lewes.

The Lightship Overfalls on a dock
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Hike along the Junction Breakwater Trail

Trees framing the Junction Breakwater Trail
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The Junction Breakwater Trail near the Cape Henlopen State Park is a charming pine-studded trail that follows along with an old railroad system in Lewes.

The trail connects the Rehoboth Beach and Wolfe Neck in Lewes.

It’s a great and easy trail to hike where you’ll enjoy the beautiful scenery from the farmlands and wetlands you're passing through.

Marshes at Junction Breakwater Trail
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The trail covers roughly six miles back and out, making it a perfect destination to offer yourself a break from the beaches of Lewes.

Overall, the Junction Breakwater Trail is a spectacular destination for outdoor enthusiasts and avid hikers who want to see a different view of Lewes’ beauty.

Sunlight shining through Junction Breakwater Trail
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Ride the Cape May-Lewes Ferry

Front view of Cape May-Lewes Ferry
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The Cape May-Lewes Ferry regularly travels from Lewes to Cape May in New Jersey.

Riding this ferry is one of the best experiences you shouldn't miss in Lewes.

The 20-mile journey from Lewes takes you to the equally beautiful city of Cape May.

People near Cape May-Lewes Ferry's station
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However, the journey itself is already a great experience since you'll see dolphins and various marine bird species along the Delaware Bay.

The ferry can fit up to a hundred cars and can transport more than 600 passengers from point to point.

In addition, the ferry has indoor and outdoor seating, while food and beverages are available for your convenience.

Aboard the Cape May-Lewes Ferry
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Explore the Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve

The Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve nestled on the western portion of the Roosevelt Inlet in Lewes is a less-crowded beach area popular for hiking, fishing, and beachcombing.

Although Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve may be part of the Cape Henlopen State Park, it’s an attraction of its own since it’s physically separated by sea.

It’s only accessed through Route 1 or the Coastal Highway leading you to Broadkill Road.

The Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve is one of the few remaining undeveloped sandbar or barrier islands in Delaware.

This nature preserve is the best place to go if you want to see the raw beauty of Lewes’ beaches.

The best way to experience this attraction in Lewes is fishing along the peaceful shoreline.

Or perhaps doing beachcombing and collecting charming shells.

Score Unique Finds along the Second Street’s Local Shops

Shops along Lewes Second Street
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If you’re looking for quality leisure time while in Lewes, head down to Second Street, the main commercial area in the city.

Second Street is teeming with local shops, boutiques, and services that are a perfect place to shop for unique finds and souvenirs.

Check out the Blooming Boutique if you’re looking for clothes, cosmetics, and jewelry, while down the street, you will be taken to Twila Farrell, a unique shop for beach outfits.

On the other hand, The Bungalow is a charming gift shop that you should visit to score unique finds and exciting souvenirs.

In addition, Second Street is also filled with local restaurants and cafes that offer various cuisines worthy of trying out.

Unwind at the Lewes Canalfront Park

The Canalfront Park has been the center of local activities and happenings in Lewes since 1631.

This place which serves as the heart of the community is a gorgeous place you and your loved ones need to see and experience.

The park has excellent views of the canal itself and nearby attractions like the Lightship Overfalls docked nearby.

In addition, it has the amenities that make a top-notch park from kayak launch, sports facilities, children’s playgrounds, paved walkways, treeline, to gardens.

Moreover, it’s a great place to unwind since it’s nearby restaurants, eateries, and cafes.

Walk Inside the Cannonball House

Exterior of the Cannonball House
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From the name itself, Cannonball House is a unique historical site that you need to check out when you’re in Lewes.

History buffs or not, Cannonball House provides everyone a fascinating history, providing everyone a better understanding of Lewes’ rich history and heritage.

Situated along Front Street, Cannonball House was built in the mid-1700s and served various purposes over the years during the American Revolution, but it became popular when it was literally hit with a cannonball when the British bombarded the city.

Today, the Lewes Historical Society converted the Cannonball House into the local maritime museum.

It’s where you’ll find artifacts and memorabilia of the city’s rich maritime history.

Buy Fresh Produce at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market

If you want to immerse with locals at the same time buy fresh produce and fresh flowers, the Historic Lewes Farmers Market is the perfect place you need to go.

This local farmers’ market has been running since 2006 by volunteers and has grown bigger ever since.

Like most farmers’ markets, it is an exciting place to visit and buy fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, locally-sourced meat, organic products, and homemade pastries.

At the same time, it gives you a perfect chance to rub elbows with locals.

Best of all, the Historic Lewes Farmers Market lets you support small-time and backyard farmers in the city.

Visit the Fort Miles Historical Area

Fort Miles Historical Area's watchtower
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The Fort Miles Historical Area is nestled atop the Great Dune after it was constructed in the middle of World War II as a coastal defense in Delaware Bay.

Today, this fortification has turned into a popular historical tourist destination near Cape Henlopen State Park.

A display at Fort Miles Historical Area
Ron Shawley, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s an awesome place to visit where you’ll come across artillery batteries, huge guns, munitions, and other armaments that are preserved in the Fort Miles Museum.

The museum’s exhibits offer visitors a chance to get a closer look and experience first-hand how armaments were used back in World War II to defend the country.

A display at Fort Miles Historical Area
Ron Shawley, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Celebrate the Mid Atlantic Sea Glass and Coastal Arts Festival

Every June in Lewes, the city celebrates the Mid Atlantic Sea Glass and Coastal Arts Festival featuring various sea glass artists in Delaware.

The festival highlights more than 70 years of the artistic talents of locals in creating artworks from sea glass.

In addition, the celebration is filled with a festive atmosphere where thousands of people gather at the Lewes Historical Society Campus to join various activities.

Moreover, vendors, musicians, and food trucks from various places along the East Coast converge to the city, adding more fun and excitement to the festival.

So, when you’re planning to visit Lewes, it would be great to schedule it for June to witness this festival.

Treat Yourself with Delicious Ice Cream at the Hopkins Farm Creamery

The Hopkins Farm Creamery along Dairy Farm Road serves the best ice cream in Lewes.

The ice cream they serve is freshly-made since their shop is located on an actual family-owned dairy farm.

The Hopkins Farm Creamery serves 25 delicious ice cream flavors.

If you want to cool down after an entire day soaking under the sun at Lewes’ beaches, you should head to this ice cream shop/dairy farm to treat yourself and your loved ones.

Final Thoughts

Amidst its quaint appeal, Lewes is an excellent place where history and nature meet.

It’s a must-visit vacation destination with the family without putting a hole in your pocket, while history buffs will get their hands full of fascinating backstories of its past.

Whenever you’re ready to visit Lewes, you can revisit this post for ideas where to head and what to do in this popular tourist destination in the mid-Atlantic region.