Delaware — Attractions
Delaware really is one of the underrated gems of the American East Coast. You’ll need a car to do any serious exploration, but it will be money well spent. Delaware has superb beaches with fun, friendly shore towns attached. There is a rich heritage of arts, crafts, and wealth along the Brandywine Valley, where most of the state’s attractions are found. Visitors can also experience Revolutionary War battlefields, quiet wildlife preserves, and a number of endearing colonial-era historic towns like New Castle and Lewes. Best of all, few tourists seem to know all this is packed into tiny, obscure Delaware.
The most popular of Delaware’s five beach towns is Rehoboth. It’s got that perfect blend of small town friendliness and resort amenities that seem to suit just about anyone. Accommodation ranges from classic cottages to boardwalk hotels. There are water sports, fantastic restaurants, bars, and shops in its historic town center. If you need more action after dark, take the summer trolley to nearby Dewey Beach, which is known for its lively nightlife.
Address: Delaware Coast
Winterthur Museum and Country Estate
Tucked into Brandywine Valley is a magnificent eight-story mansion which is famous for its premier collection of American antiques and decorative artwork. There are 175 rooms decked out in period style that feature fascinating relics of early Americana. One-hour Discovery Tours showcase the main highlights, but it really takes two days to fully explore Winterthur. Between the 1,000-acre garden and the three-acre Enchanted Woods for kids, you can easily spend a day just wandering around the grounds and getting lost in your own thoughts.
Address: Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, 5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, DE 19735
Delaware’s original capital was New Castle, a thriving colonial-era seaport that has been wonderfully restored to its original 17th century ambiance. Sitting along the banks of the Delaware River, nearly all of the original houses, shops, and cobblestone streets have been preserved as something of an open-air museum. Just park your car anywhere in town and start walking. It’s one of Delaware’s most enchanting towns and well worth a day when visiting the Brandywine Valley.
Address: New Castle, Brandywine Valley
Delaware’s Brandywine Valley is home to one of the finest gardens on the planet. Longwood’s 1,050 acres of woods and gardens are a world-class attraction, featuring more than 11,000 different kinds of flowers, plants, and trees, all laid out in beautiful but natural form. You can easily spend a day tracing its paths from section to section. From the tropical Conservatory to the 380 fountains in the Main Fountain Garden, there is a lot of scope to the land and always a special seasonal display to add to the magic.
Address: Longwood Gardens, 1001 Longwood Road, Kennett Square, DE 19348
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Delaware’s Delmarva Peninsula is one of North America’s main stopovers for migrating birds. This renowned wildlife refuge is the best spot in the state to witness rare species in action. Even when migrating duck and geese aren’t here in October or November, there are lots of full-time residents of the park. There is a 12-mile auto route, three observation towers, and several hiking trails that get you right into the heart of the refuge. May and June are the peak months for bird watching, but Bombay Hook is a lovely spot at any time of year for some peace and quiet.
Address: Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 2591 Whitehall Neck Road, Smyrna, DE 19977
Lewes is both the oldest town and the oldest beach resort in Delaware, but it hasn’t lost an ounce of luster since it was founded in 1681. In fact, Dutch-flavored Lewes has all the right elements for a classic East Coast getaway. Its historic core is well preserved and filled with just enough quality inn, shops, and restaurants to cater to travelers in the know. There is also a lovely little beach on site and a great marina which is the ideal spot to charter a cruise or fishing excursion. If Rehoboth and Dewey are too touristy, Lewes may be just the ticket.
Address: Delaware Coast
Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site
One of the pivotal battles of the American Revolutionary War, it was here in 1777 that George Washington impressed the Marquis de Lafayette so much with the courage of the American troops that he convinced the French to back the colonists instead of the British. Three driving tours help give a perspective of the battlefield, and the visitor center does a good job of laying out the story and offering useful guidance.
Address: Brandywine Battlefield Historic Site, 1491 Baltimore Pike, Chadds Ford, DE 19317