“Down to the sea in ships,” says the Bible. Flip the saying so that your focus will be on a fall seaside family getaway. Lewes offers fun by the sea without even getting wet. Southern Delaware Tourism says, “Springtime is a great time for families to visit Southern Delaware. The weather’s warm, and there’re many outdoor things to do. If you after Labor Day, you can get good deals on lodging and there’re no crowds.”
Tours by the beautiful sea
In 1828, because of a dire need to protect shipping traffic from the treacherous storms along the Atlantic Coast, breakwaters were built in Cape Henlopen. They were second only to those in Cherbourg, France, and the first in the Western Hemisphere. They’re now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Come visit the lighthouse that sits on the east end of the breakwaters. The tour features a boat ride, inspection of the interior, and a climb to the top lantern room.
The Lantern Tour of the Indian River Lifesaving Station informs landlubbers of the valor of the former surf men who once manned the historic building. Every night from the mid-19th century to the early 20th century men patrolled the beaches, searching for ships in distress. Their mission was to rescue all on board.Visit the old station for an intriguing experience. Docents dressed in the uniforms of the U.S. Lifesaving Service (the mother of the U.S. Coast Guard) define the maritime equipment displayed in the museum. Listen to the harrowing tales of shipwrecks and the lifesaving efforts. Then, by dark of night, follow the interpreters as they guide you to the water’s edge by lantern light. You, too, will be carrying a lantern to illuminate your way over sandy mounds. Listen hard for the desperate cries of ancient mariners.
Dolphins belong to the family of mammals that includes killer whales and porpoises, but they are the favorites of humans; and they seem to like the humans, too. Children, especially, enjoy watching for their playful antics of leaping in the air and following boats. Beginning in May, Fisherman’s Wharf is offering whale and dolphin watching cruises. Spend two hours or more searching the ocean for these fascinating creatures. They offer cruises from morning to night (including a dinner cruise), and guarantee a dolphin sighting.
Out of the 179 lightships built in the U.S. between 1820 and1952, the Overfalls is one of the seven remaining, and has been deemed a National Historic Landmark. Take the opportunity to tour this floating lighthouse. The ship sailed under the U.S. Coast Guard, and maintained military standards. The vessel was assigned to remain in the same ocean location for two years, and the 14 sailors
who made up its crew worked two weeks on and were given one week shore leave. View their quarters, the galley, the mess, the upper engine room, the captain’s and officer’s living spaces, and more. At the foot of the gangplank is the Welcome Center and Ship’s Store where you can find a collection of nautical items to take home.
Crossing other bodies of water
Explore the Rehoboth Lewes Canal on the water taxi, Mummichog (an Indian word meaning “minnow”), for an early morning eco-tour. Look for sightings of blue herons, osprey, geese, egrets, beavers, and other wild life. You’ll have a great view from the Trident Tri-toon open air vessel, piloted by a captain who’ll point them out. Engage the kids with a camera to record the adventure.
Vehicles from buggies to automobiles have rolled onto the Woodland Ferry since the 1740s, making it one of the longest running ferries in America. It spans the Nanticoke River, and operates daily. The cable ferry was established and run by the Cannon family until mid-19th century, and is now under the auspices of the Delaware Department of Transportation. It has a checkered past due to the exploits of Patty Cannon who used the ferry to transport kidnapped black people (escapees and freemen) on their way to Georgia.
For more information
Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse Tour: Open to adults and children ages 6 and above. Reservations required; call 302-644-7046. Visit delawarebaylights.org
Dolphin Watching: Tickets available by phone (302-645-TUNA) or online at fishlewes.com.
Lightship Overfalls: visitdelaware.com. Open from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday 10am–4pm. Sunday 12-4pm. For off-season tours, phone 302-644-8050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Woodland Ferry: woodlandferry.net; 302-629-7742.
Indian River Lifesaving Station tour: destateparks.com