History, scenery, quaint towns, outstanding eateries and the engineering wonder of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge are yours to enjoy, on one of America’s classic driving trips. Named for the three states that comprise the peninsula, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia, technically, the peninsula is now an island, since the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal has cut it off from the mainland of the USA. Today more than 40 per cent of the shipping traffic in and out of the Port of Baltimore reaches that city via the canal.
Begin your drive down the Atlantic Coast of the Delmarva Peninsula in Wilmington, Delaware’s largest city, famous for its surrounding DuPont-related destinations such as Longwood Gardens, Winterthur, Hagley Mills and the Nemours mansion. To read more about Wilmington, see the Continue Your Drive Into Delaware section of our article about following the Brandywine River.
Take Route 1 south, to Newark, famous for the University of Delaware and their Fighting Blue Hens. The city was founded in 1694; Main Street is well worth exploring with its shops and restaurants. For dining, try Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, Bamboo House or the Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant. There are many ancient historic buildings in Smyrna and you are lucky if you end up in the town on a Saturday morning, when the The Smyrna Museum is open. Otherwise, have a drive around town to see some of the many places on the National Register. Sheridan’s Irish Pub is a favorite eatery.Dover is Delaware’s state capital. There are some special museums here, including the Johnson Victrola Museum and the Air Mobility Command Museum. You can visit the John Dickinson Plantation to get a look at Colonial life. You can also tour the Old Statehouse, and the Governor’s Mansion and grounds. Racing fans will head to the Dover International Speedway. Just down the road in Milford there are some good dining options, including Mama Maria Italian, Abbot’s Grill, and Meding’s Seafood for the quintessential crab shack experience. Lewes was founded in 1691; the town has charming old buildings and shops, and its showpiece is the beautiful Cape Henlopen State Park, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay. For a truly nautical side trip, take the Lewes – Cape May ferry over to New Jersey and back again.
Rehoboth Beach is an appealing seaside town with a traditional Boardwalk, offering just enough of the old time nostalgia. Rent a bicycle surrey and drive the boardwalk. Buy some Dolle’s Salt Water Taffy and see it being made; you cannot miss their big sign. Day or night, this is among the best family-friendly boardwalks on the east coast. Bethany Beach is Rehoboth’s quieter seaside sister with a smaller boardwalk all its own; it is still one of Delaware’s best-kept secrets for vacationing.
The middle slice of the Delmarva Peninsula belongs to Maryland and is usually dubbed “The Eastern Shore”. Ocean City, Maryland, is a popular and lively beach and resort town. The beautiful beach and the 3-mile long Boardwalk are the main attractions here. Stroll, take the tram, or find a bench to enjoy the passing parade. For a good meal, the Sahara Café offers breakfast and lunch.
And there’s more to come! Look for the sequel to this Delmarva Peninsula driving trip in September, when we will explore the quieter Chesapeake Bay side of the peninsula, visiting the narrow necks and islands there, as you drive the nation!