This quiet coastal town is no stranger to shipwrecks and sunken treasure.


Back in 1938, the Federal Writers' Project published Delaware: A Guide to the First State, one of 47 federally-commissioned state guide books full of history and folklore. Of Lewes, it notes: "Lewes has been plundered by privateers and has bargained with Captain Kidd for his loot; it has bombarded in war, and knows all about shipwreck and sunken treasure."

Walking around the quiet, peaceful town today, this image of Lewes as a place of great drama and action seems like a stretch of the imagination. But as the Federal Writers' Project says, "Its present is saturated with the drama of its past." While Lewes may no longer be the site of privateers' raids or great naval upheaval (almost ironically, the town's coastal location and slow pace now make it a popular destination for retirees), its rich history still resounds through the salty air.

This small town in Delaware's Cape Region dates all the way back to 1631, when Lewes (pronounced lew-iss), Delaware, was founded by the Dutch. Lewes proudly calls itself "the first town in the first state." It's home to a number of museums (don't miss the Zwaanendael Museum, which offers a glimpse into the area's past) and historically significant structures, like the Ryves Holt House (believed to be the oldest house in the state, dated to 1665).

Just north of popular Atlantic Coast destination Rehoboth Beach—known for its classic boardwalk and family-friendly beaches—Lewes offers similar charms with fewer crowds. Of course, you can pass the day lounging by the beach or, but Lewes has much more to offer than just pretty views.

This town is meant for walking. You can tour most of Lewes's quaint attractions on foot—wander the Historic district, admire the architecture, and pop into a few downtown shops. Check out The Vintage Underground, a basement-level shop stocked with vinyl and other unique finds, and PUZZLES, a family-owned puzzle shop. After you've hit the antique shops and souvenir stores, stop by Edie Bee's Confection Shop for unique candies, chocolates, and other treats.

Catch the sunset at Cape Henlopen, where the Delaware Gulf meets the Atlantic Ocean. Cape Henlopen State Park features over 4,013 acres of preserved land, including attractions for the whole family. The Point Overlook at Cape Henlopen provides a fantastic vantage point for birdwatching (know what to look out for with this handy guide) or simply taking in the view; alternately, stay close to the shore at the park's fishing pier, which is open for fishing 24-hours a day. You can even borrow a bike for free and take a loop around the park—don't miss the Gordons Pond Trail, a 3.2-mile trail that tours the park's various ecosystems, from the sand dunes to the wetlands.

A coastal defense site during World War II, the Fort Miles Historical Area provides kids and adults alike with an enriching educational experience; tour Battery 519, a gun bunker constructed in 1941, and climb to the top of Tower 7, a key coastal observation tower (that also happens to offer a panoramic view of the park and coast).

For breakfast, pick up NY-style bagels at Surf Bagel and house-roasted coffee at Notting Hill. When it's time for lunch, sample some true delicacies at Touch of Italy, a restaurant, deli, and market known for its mozzarella—made fresh daily—and hero sandwiches (try the Da Vinci, which features salami, soppressatta, fresh mozzarella, sun-dried and roasted red peppers, and extra-virgin olive oil, all piled high on a seeded sub roll). Get your sandwiches and a few other artisanal grocery staples to-go (don't miss the eclairs for dessert) and pack up for a beachside lunch for the ages.

Spend an afternoon unwinding at Crooked Hammock Brewery, a backyard-style hangout brewing a stellar IPA (the Beach Escape) and fun seasonal flavors, like a Piña Colada Sour. For a more formal evening dining experience, visit Heirloom, an upscale, but approachable farm-to-table restaurant helmed by James Beard Award-nominated Executive Chef Matthew Kern.