If you’ve been following our blog on theoldfathergroup.com, you’ve no doubt read about many of our local sites and attractions here in the coastal Delaware region. We’ve tried to highlight as many great places as we can, and we’ll continue doing so in the coming weeks and months.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our local area, and perhaps even learning a few things in the process.
But today, we want to take you on a different kind of journey to places you might not know about. Or maybe you’ve just never visited them because you didn’t have enough information.
These are our “off the beaten path” sites in southern Delaware that make for a fun day, but places that you probably wouldn’t visit unless someone told you about them. Trust us though, every place on our list is worth a visit.
Some are historical in nature. Some provide a fun day in the great outdoors. Still others are just a fun way to spend time with people you love.
But all offer some sort of fun and entertainment, at either no cost or at a very minimal one.
So pick a day and jump in the car for a quick road trip with family and/or friends.
And enjoy yourself!
Here are our “Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Attractions” in southern Delaware. Let us know what you think…
Zwaanendael Monument. Let’s start with where it all began here in southern Delaware, and that’s with the Zwaanendael settlement. Originally called Swanendael (Valley of the Swans) by the Dutch, the colonists who settled in what is today Lewes were whalers and set out to harvest the mighty creatures for their oil. It was ultimately a complete disaster, but this settlement in 1631 marked the first time Europeans settled in our area.
This failed attempt at settlement is today remembered via a monument on Pilottown Road in Lewes, though many people simply don’t know it exists. You may have even driven past it 100 times and not known it was there. Look for it on the right as you drive parallel to the Lewes Harbor. It’s definitely worth a stop and a photo – it’s where the state of Delaware has its roots.
Confederate Memorial. Dedicated in 2007, this monument is located on the grounds of the Nutter Marvel Carriage Museum on South Bedford Street in Georgetown and stands as a testament to Delaware’s Confederate veterans. Delaware was very divided during the Civil War due to its proximity to the Mason-Dixon Line and many young men from Sussex County went off to fight for the Southern States. There are more than 100 names on the monument, which includes “the name of any Delaware statesman who resided in Delaware prior to the Civil War and favored the Southern cause.”
The Town of Bethel. If you’ve never visited the historic town of Bethel (originally Lewisville) and you enjoy local history, you’re in for a treat. With a population of around 200, this entire southern Delaware town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is located on the north bank of Broad Creek near Laurel. Once known for its shipbuilding prowess, many of the homes in town were actually built by ship carpenters in the late 1700s to early 1800s. Interesting places to visit include the Bethel Heritage Museum, the Bethel General Store and the nearby Woodland Ferry.
Phillips Landing. Since we’re on the subject of Bethel, let’s also talk about nearby Phillips Landing. A true hidden gem of Sussex County, this wildlife area provides boating access to Broad Creek and the Nanticoke River, as well as picnic tables, walking trails and more. A relatively recent addition to Phillips Landing is the Captain John Smith Monument, which was erected in 2007 after it was discovered that this was likely the area where the famed English captain first met the area’s Nanticoke Indians, as it’s very near where Broad Creek empties into the Nanticoke, which in turn empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
Phillips Landing is known for bass fishing, bird watching and for peaceful serenity. If you’re looking for a nice quiet “off the beaten path” place to enjoy the day, Phillips Landing is it. There’s only one way in or out of Phillips Landing and that’s via Phillips Landing Road from Portsville. It can be hard to find, so you may want to Google this one or enter it into your GPS for a little assistance.
Great Cypress Swamp. Now here’s an interesting place that is definitely “off the beaten path” and that you will definitely never forget once visiting. This 11,000-acre labyrinth is also referred to as the “Burnt Swamp” because of all the fires that have raged there in the past, and it’s been the subject of many legends and ghost stories through the years.
This stories of the swamp go back to 1524, with the swamp itself most well known for its abundance of cypress trees. But it was once also significantly larger than it is today. Route 54 runs through the heart of the swamp, but there is also an abundance of dirt trails that you can take through the back reaches and dark paths of the labyrinth, and many locals tell stories of their many adventures through this often frightening maze during their youth.
The Mason-Dixon Line even runs through the swamp, though the historical marker signifying its significance is long gone. If you want to find your way into the back reaches of the swamp, just stop and ask a local. But be sure to also know your way out before entering, especially if it’s getting close to dark. And while you’re there, take a look around for the infamous Selbyville Swamp Monster.
Mason-Dixon Midpoint Marker. Speaking of the Mason-Dixon Line, if you want to see a true piece of history that is the very definition of “off the beaten path,” then jump in the car and drive to the town of Delmar. A few miles west of town, just off Route 54, sits one of America’s most famous landmarks, though you could drive right past it and not even know it was there. Located in a rudimentary enclosure with absolutely no fanfare, or even signage, is the midpoint marker of the famous Mason-Dixon Line. Dating back to 1763, this was the line that determined once and for all the 250-mile border between land owned by William Penn and land owned by Cecilius Calvert (or today, Delaware/Pennsylvania and Maryland). The line runs for 332 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to western Pennsylvania, and the middle of that line is here in southern Delaware. To find it, drive west on Route 54 and you’ll see it about six-and-a-half miles west of town.
DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum. Located above Sea Shell City in Fenwick Island is one of the area’s best kept secrets, and probably something you'd never know was there if you weren’t told about ahead of time. But it’s also a must see on any history lover’s tour of southern Delaware. The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum offers an ever-changing exhibit that expands and diversifies with the acquisitions of new artifacts as they are recovered.
The museum’s collection of shipwreck and recovered artifacts is one of the largest in the Mid-Atlantic and contains artifacts from around the world. It’s current location houses about 10,000 artifacts at all times, while the other 80 percent of the collection is rotated throughout museum exhibits around the world. And here’s a tip – call ahead and see if owner Dale Clifton will be on-site the day you want to go. The man is an expert storyteller and has recovered many an artifact in his day. His colorful tales will captivate you.
Lavender Fields Farm. We’ve highlighted this coastal Delaware gem in a previous blog post, but felt it worthy to include here in our “off the beaten path” writeup as well. If you haven’t been to Lavender Fields, do yourself a favor and pay a visit to this unique southern Delaware farm today. Located in Cool Spring, between Georgetown and Lewes, the acres of heavily scented lavender are especially fragrant in the spring and early summer, but you’ll have a good time no matter when you decide to visit.
In addition to the lavender fields, there’s also a gift shop where you can buy a bevy of lavender themed gifts and foods, a tearoom, which is actually located inside the former Lewes Train Station, and a beautiful French themed labyrinth. Pay Delaware’s only lavender farm a visit today – you won’t be sorry.
Hopkins Farm Creamery. Located on Route 9, just west of Five Points in Lewes, Hopkins Farm Creamery is one of the most delicious stops in southern Delaware. Part of the largest dairy farm in Delaware, the creamery offers more than two dozen delicious, creamy ice cream flavors, all made on-site. The farm maintains more than 1,000 cows, all of which are milked three times a day and produce more than 12 million pounds of milk each year. Now that’s a lot of ice cream! Plan a visit to Hopkins today, but keep an eye on the calendar. They’re not open during the cold weather months.
James Farm Ecological Preserve. A true southern Delaware gem, there are seven distinctive habitats at James Farm, and you can walk through all of them. And the best thing is – you can visit the preserve free of charge from sunrise to sundown. This 150-acre farm is managed by the Delaware Center for the Inland Bays and now features more than three miles of walking trails, three observation platforms, a boardwalk beach crossing, wildflower gardens, an amphitheater, rest areas and a freshwater wetland area. This is a real southern Delaware treasure and one that you don’t want to miss! James Farm is located on Cedar Neck Road in Ocean View.
NOTE: The featured photo for this blog entry is silverware from the Titanic exhibit at the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum in Fenwick Island.