Experience Americas Most Treasured Roads
Touring the Byway
6 Days / 5 Nights (Optional Day 7) | Gateway City: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
We recommend starting your journey in Philadelphia and making your way to New Castle, a city settled in 1651, where you can still find hundreds-year-old houses on every corner of the historic streets. Begin exploring at the First State Welcome Center and New Castle County Courthouse, one of the oldest surviving courthouses in the United States dating from 1732, both a part of the First State Heritage Park. Next up, the New Castle Visitor Center at the Historic Society, that is the gateway to tour the Amstel House Museum, and the Dutch House Museum, which showcases Dutch Colonial antiques and artifacts that reflect the traditions and lifestyle in early America. Spend your first evening relaxing in a quaint bed and breakfast in the historic city center.
As you begin your drive along the Bayshore Scenic Byway on Day Two, after a stop at the Read House and Gardens, the 14,000 square foot home of George Read II, son of one of Delaware’s signers of the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution, head south to Delaware City, on DE-9 to explore Fort Delaware, located on Pea Patch Island, Fort DuPont State Park, the African Union Church Cemetery, and Port Penn Interpretive Center, where displays explain the folklife of the historic wetland communities along Delaware’s coastline. When you reach the Augustine Wildlife Area, grab your binoculars to try to spot as many different species of waterfowl as you can. In the evening, curl up in a historic bed and breakfast in Odessa.
On Day Three, begin your day by stepping back in time in Odessa, where you can experience 18th-and 19th-century domestic life, economics, and politics, on tours of the 1770 Collins-Sharp House, the 1772 Corbit-Sharp House, and the 1780 Pump House, which once served as the town jail. You’ll want to, of course, have lunch at Cantwell’s Tavern. Back on the route, pause for some serious Bayshore breezes at the Delaware Blackbird Creek Reserve and Cedar Swamp Wildlife Area near Townsend, before reaching Woodland Beach Wildlife Area. From there, you’ll pass through Leipsic and Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, two natural and protected areas that exemplify Delaware’s coastal landscape. Spend the evening in a charming historic inn in Dover.
Today, on Day Four, you’ll be exploring Dover, starting at the First State National Historical Park Welcome Center for exhibits on Delaware history and a peek into the Delaware Public Archives, plus The Green, a public square that has been the state’s political center for centuries. Outside the city, visit the John Dickinson Plantation, another location of First State National Historical Park, to hear the stories of the enslaved people who lived, worked, and died on the plantation. After exploring the Ted Harvey Wildlife Area, wrap back around to Dover to stay another night.
The next day, Day Five, you’ll be headed for Magnolia, where you can drive by the John Lindale House, being restored, and visit the Bowers Beach Museum before reaching Frederica, with over 100 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places including Trinity Methodist Church, the Hathorn House, and the John Dill Store. Here the Milford Neck Wildlife Area and the Mispillion Marine Reserve await, plus Barrett’s Chapel, Museum and Cemetery, plus Killens Pond State Park. When you reach Milford, a river town with a vibrant downtown that was once home to a once-flourishing shipbuilding industry, you can tour the Parson Thorne Museum and enjoy the Mispillion Riverwalk before staying in Milford for the evening.
Before leaving Milford on Day Six, learn about Milford’s history from the 1700’s through its shipbuilding years to the present day at the Milford Museum, then head for Slaters Beach to savor over 10,000 acres of ponds, wooded swamps, grasslands, and salt and freshwater marshes at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Along with Fowler Beach, Broadkill Beach, and Slaughter Beach, this protected area provides sanctuary to a myriad of wildlife species. From there, it’s on to Pemberton Forest Reserve and the Marvel Southmarsh Preserve, before reaching Milton, Home of the Great Marsh Reserve and the Milton Historical Society. Plan to stay in historic Lewes for the evening.
Once in Lewes, spend an optional day exploring this very historic city with its own Historic Lewes Byway if you choose.
From there, we wish you a safe passage if you’re continuing on another Delaware Scenic Byway, or a safe and pleasant journey home.
View the Detailed Itinerary below to see the full route, which is complete with dining, shopping, and lodging recommendations!
Son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution, Delaware Governor, Chief Justice, and U.S. Senator from Delaware, George Read was barely 32 when he set out to build a grand mansion with the expectation that he would become an important statesman like his father. He did serve as US attorney from Delaware, but never gained political traction, but he did create a showpiece mansion, that some say may even be the best surviving example of domestic architecture from Philadelphia’s grand federal period. It was built mostly by Philadelphia craftsmen, and many of the materials came from there too.
Bombay Hook is part of a chain of refuges that extend from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico to provide breeding grounds and refuge for migrating birds. It has been named a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, and a nationally recognized birding spot designated a Globally Important Bird Area.
This impeccably preserved town was settled by the Dutch in 1662, along a Native American trail that was the shortest distance between the Delaware River and the Chesapeake Bay. Two years later, it fell to the British. By the 1730s, Odessa was fully developed, playing a role as a key shipping point for over a century, until the railroad was laid in Middletown instead of here. That prompted a change of name from Cantwell’s Bridge to Odessa. Today, Odessa is filled with tree-lined streets surrounding beautiful 18th and 19th century homes.
Providing habitat for over 245 species of birds, the refuge was originally created to safeguard the pristine wildlife habitat of coastal Delaware, and provide feeding, nesting, and roosting areas for migratory birds.
It is amazing from its early history that Lewes ever became a town. Originally named Zwaaendael by Dutch settlers in 1631, and were wiped out in 1632, the land was later deeded to a group of Mennonites by the City of Amsterdam to keep from being captured by Maryland. They settled in 1663, and in 1664, the British who had captured Dutch holdings in New York, ordered the settlement razed. The Dutch regrouped by 1673, but in 1682, the Delaware colonies were given to William Penn. He renamed it Lewes. After the British bombarded the town in the War of 1812, Lewes was finally incorporated in 1818. Since Delaware was a border state, but not part of the Confederacy, Lewes became an important stop on the Underground Railroad, where safe houses were identified with a single candle in the top window of the house. Fort Miles was built during World War II to protect local factories and oil refineries. Today, Historic Lewes is a very peaceful, quaint, historic place.