Located near Cape Henlopen (where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean), Lewes is loaded with history -- so much so that it would be a main center of the proposed Delaware National Coastal Heritage Park. What Lewes is not loaded with are noisy arcades, crowded mega-restaurants and loud bars.
Indeed it isn't. There is no boardwalk in Lewes, but there is plenty to see and do in this well-mannered, reserved, pretty little place -- including, if you pick a warm fall day, sunning on your choice of a bay or ocean beach.
The Ryves Holt House (218 Second St., 302-645-7670) could be called the First House in the First Town in the First State. Built about 1665, the Spanish brown (some might call it pink), shingled structure may be Delaware's oldest home. Named after a high sheriff of Sussex County, Del., who lived there in the 1700s, the house today hosts the Lewes Historical Society Visitors Center.
From the visitors center, you can take a guided walking tour of historic Lewes at 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Fridays, or a guided walk through two of Lewes' dozen graveyards at 2 p.m. Thursdays. Both tours are conducted until the end of October.
If you would rather see the sites at your own pace, buy a ticket at the visitors center that grants admission to a general store circa 1800, an 1884 boathouse and lifesaving station, an 1800s doctor's office, a one-room schoolhouse and eight historic homes -- including the Cannonball House, which was damaged by the British during the War of 1812. Docents, sometimes in period dress, are happy to take you through each building.
The Zwaanendael Museum (Savannah Road and Kings Highway, 302-645-1148) has artifacts from the British warship DeBraak, which sank off the Delaware coast in 1798 (film director Peter Weir visited the museum and used the DeBraak as a reference while making the movie Master and Commander). Also on display are exhibits about the 1813 British naval blockade and bombardment of Lewes. Included is a copy of an amusing letter from the commander of the British squadron to the town's chief magistrate, dated March 16, 1813, politely asking to buy cattle, vegetables and hay.
"If you refuse to comply with this request," the letter reads, "I shall be under necessity of destroying your Town. I have the honor to be, sir, Your very obedient Serv.t, J.P Beresford."
If you somehow don't get your fill of history in Lewes, there's more at Cape Henlopen -- the park contains one of 11 concrete towers along the Delaware coast that were used for military observation during World War II. Climb the 114 spiral steps for a great view of the surrounding waters and coastal woodlands, plus messages written in the sand below ("Hi!" "We'll Miss You Jonathan").
For those who are just thirsty, the Irish Eyes Pub and Restaurant, 213 Anglers Road, 302-645-6888, has a festive bar outside, overlooking the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal, which cuts through town.