by Jim Weaver-
Best known for its great beaches, Southern Delaware has a great history as well. So when its not a “beach day” there is a wealth of great things to explore here.
Located where Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic, it has a long and illustrious maritime history. Captain John Smith of the Jamestown Colony in Virginia explored and mapped the rivers of Southern Delaware in 1608-09. Surveyors Mason and Dixon established the southern boundary of Delaware in 1764, the line that separated North from South during the Civil War. At the small stone marker you can stand with one foot inMaryland and the other in Delaware. You can also visit a marker in Lewes, where the Dutch first landed in Delaware in 1629.
The first state in theUnited States (by virtue of being the first to sign the U.S. Constitution in 1783) Delaware might never have been a separate state. Pennsylvania and Maryland both wanted the land, but in the end because it had been first settled by the Dutch it was granted separate statehood.
For more modern attractions, you can tour the historic Lightship “Overfalls” in Lewes. Coastal waters could be treacherous and ships needed signal lights to guide them. Anchored lightships were used where light houses could not be built. Only 17 lightships remain of the 179 commissioned between 1820 and 1952. The Overfalls is one of very few open to the public.
In Bethany Beach, you can tour the Indian River Lifesaving Station built in 1876. When ships ran a ground on coastal sand bars during storms and were sinking, the exceptionally brave men of the Lifesaving Service came to their aid. Its a fascinating story that is little known.
Nearby in Fenwick Island you’ll find the Discover Sea Shipwreck Museum. This free museum is located on the upper floor of a souvenir shop, but don’t be fooled. Its an excellent museum filled with millions of dollars worth of treasure and artifacts reclaimed from dozens of sunken ships off the Atlantic coast and in theCaribbean. Many of the ancient sunken ships were Spanish vessels loaded with treasure from the “new world” headed back toEurope.
Even before America entered World War II, there was much concern that Germany would attack our Atlantic coast. In 1941, the military began building massive coastal fortifications. Today, at Fort Miles Historic Area just north of Lewes you can visit one of these facilities built to defend the Philadelphia Ship Yards, oil refineries along theDelaware River, and Dupont chemical works from attack. There is a massive artillery piece here with a 12 inch bore. Originally there were two, plus a number of smaller guns. The big guns could fire a 275 pound payload up to 25 miles — really big bang.
A gun barrel from the U.S.S. Missouri (the battleship where the peace treaty was signed ending the war withJapan) has been acquired recently. TheMissouri was the last American battleship ever to be built and went into service in early 1945 just months before the treaty signing. The gun barrel is 66 feet long and has a 16 inch bore. It will be placed on a (yet to be built) outdoor mount for public display at FortMiles.
Southern Delaware also has some great food. At Luca Restaurant in Millsboro they always use the freshest local ingredients in keeping with Italian tradition of following the rhythm of the seasons. The daily features are chosen from what is delivered fresh each morning. Its pasta and bread are made fresh daily. Wines are hand picked by an Italian Master Sommelier, some specifically for Luca. It is an Italian wine experience like no other. Located in a former bank building, the vault at Luca has been converted to a private dining area that can seat up to six guests.
The difference is in the extra little touches at Nage Bistro in RehobothBeach. From the specially formulated cocktails to the handcrafted garnish on the bistro’s chef-created sandwiches, entrees and desserts, everything is just a little bit better here. Its a great meal at a reasonable cost.
The Bellmoor Inn & Spa offers upscale lodging inRehobothBeach, with a variety of luxury hotel features and special amenities. Its elegant, near the beach accommodations are the ideal lodging option for family vacations or romantic weekend getaways. Its centrally located near the best attractions, beaches, museums, entertainment, shopping, and dining. The Bellmoor is the ideal hotel choice in RehobothBeach.
Southern Delaware has an abundance of ecotourism activities. There’s everything from whale and dolphin watching to beach combing, nature walks, photo opportunities, canoeing, and bicycling. Part of the Atlantic Flyway, the area home to a variety of land and sea birds. Other options include a choice of great beaches, camping, nature trails, boating, and fishing including surf, ocean, bay, and freshwater.
The cultural experiences are numerous here, including a summer arts festival, a winery, art galleries, dinner theater, historic train rides, outdoor performances by the ocean, and sounds, an annual Nanticoke Indian Pow-wow, which draws native Indians for tribal dances from near and far.
Order your free Visitor’s Guide at <www.visitsoutherndelaware.com> and begin enjoyingSouthern Delaware.