Clear your calendar, and head to this quaint village to kick back and chill out.

Delaware: Lewes
Credit: Meg McKinney

Sometimes we get away from home simply to do nothing. There's something seductive about spending time relaxing and getting to know yourself again. This 377-year-old waterman's town at the mouth of the Delaware River fills the bill. Check in here for a long weekend that can be as busy (there are options) or carefree as you desire. You'll find two new boutique hotels, enough shops to fill an afternoon, plenty of good food, and waterfronts to inspire your musings.

Blue Hues
Tucked between the main street and the bay, Hotel Blue provides contemporary, Euro-style accommodations for adults. From the lobby's cream-and-indigo leather sofa to the rooftop pool and fireplace, the 16-room inn exudes cool.

As you check in, grab an espresso or latte to take up to your room. We like the posh spread of the junior suites best. Each offers a tile fireplace, two flat-screened TVs, fancy stereos, Frette robes, original local art, a small refrigerator, and a clear ice bucket akin to a lava lamp that changes hues from ruby to sapphire to gold. The most surprising splash of color lights up the huge bath--transparent double sinks have blue lights strung underneath them. It's easy to become transfixed by the in-room light show. All the rooms sport queen-size beds topped with a beach ball pillow, ideal for napping with the window open to cool breezes. or 1-800-935-1145. Rates: from $215.

Boutique Beds
Another small inn amid Second Street businesses draws discerning guests and their families. The 1926 Hotel Rodney, on the corner of Second and Market Streets, recently reopened after a major modernization. The ground, second, and third floors have been totally remodeled, and the basement is well on its way. It boasts 20 rooms and 4 suites that harken to another age with modern conveniences.

Restored antiques populate the hardwood-floored rooms with new bedding and flat-screen TVs. The baths gleam with large black marble tiles, mirrored walls, and roomy showers. The master suite boasts a two-person walk-in rain shower and dressing area with Carrera marble sinks. Each room's air unit looks like a Jetson-age steel appliance mounted on the wall; best of all, it heats and cools quietly.

Our favorite place to relax is the glass block-walled lobby. It's an ideal spot to grab a cup of coffee and to read the paper on the fireside sofa. or 1-800-824-8754. Rates: from $110.

Filling Up
Three eateries have bubbled up to the top of our don't-miss list. The Hotel Rodney shares lobby space with a cozy little bistro called Beseme. Serving three meals daily, it pairs crêpes, omelets, and quiche with a small bites menu of dishes such as grilled eggplant salad, warm figs and goat cheese, and roasted quail.

Over in the Villages of Five Points shopping area (closer to State 1), Fish On reels in the crowds. This publike restaurant feels casual and family-friendly. Its menu is huge and ambitious. Best eats include the halibut over sautéed spinach topped with crab.

Our third fave keeps getting better. Café Azafrán dishes up tapas along with a small but fine selection of Spanish wines. On a village side street, it makes for an easy place to tuck into mussels, lamb tenderloin with chickpea salad, and grilled veal sausage.

Strolling the Shops
Lewes' shops include spots for ladies to find resort-ready clothes, local jewelers, and antiques. Whenever we are in town we don't miss going on a spree.

Puzzles twists your logic with thousands of mind-benders, crosswords, jigsaws, brainteasers, and more. It's one of the best shops of its kind anywhere. At Peninsula Gallery you'll find original art, especially the affordable glass works of local Deb Appleby.

Beach Options
Folks can enjoy walking the half-mile from the village to the Lewes city beach. Lifeguards patrol this family-friendly beach, and bathrooms make the trip convenient.

For a wilder experience, drive to Cape Henlopen State Park, a mile beyond the city beach. This mostly undeveloped site offers beach access directly to the Atlantic Ocean. A favored spot by surfers and birdwatchers, it boasts more wildlife than crowds. Be sure to bring everything you need--blanket, beach chairs, a cooler--for a blissfully peaceful day at the shore.

The First City in The First State
Named for an English town, Lewes (pronounced LOO-iss) got its start around 1631. Explore its history in the churchyard of St. Peter's on Second Street, where graves date back centuries.

Five Ways To Relax:

  • Indulge in a sleepy morning. Sip coffee or tea, and watch the boats dock on the canal from the rooftop fire pit at Hotel Blue.
  • Stroll around town at dusk--or grab an ice cream from King's.
  • Take a blanket down to the shore--either the bayside or the ocean--and watch the tide roll in.
  • Ride the ferry across the Delaware Bay to Cape May, New Jersey, and then ride it back again. If you feel ambitious, get off and appreciate the colorful Victorian village in the Garden State.
  • Wander through the tasteful farmers market on Saturdays with your camera to take photos of colorful fruits and veggies. Grab a pastry from one of the bakery booths to nibble as you go.

"A Seashore Surprise" is from the June 2008 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.