So…we can’t pretend we had great hopes for Delaware. Our principal interaction with the second smallest state on the map up to this point had been that bit in Wayne’s World where Wayne and Garth “tour” some of the more showy states before getting to Delaware and the only thing they can think to say is “hi, I’m in Delaware”. But let us tell you this – it is so much more than that!
We cruised into Delaware – nicknamed The First State because…well…it was the first State, from Annapolis which is just over the border in Maryland. We crossed the impressive Chesapeake Bay Bridge and before we knew it we were in our 44th State. We headed straight for the State Capital, Dover, and its pretty unassuming (but still very attractive) State Capitol.
Dover itself is quite a sleepy but pretty little city. We walked around the Capitol area with its wide streets and big green spaces. There isn’t loads to do in Dover but if you ever find yourself there you should stop by the nothing-short-of-adorable Johnson Victrola Museum. The museum highlights the life and achievements of one of Delaware’s native sons, Eldridge Reeves Johnson, founder of the Victor Talking Machine Company and a pioneer in the development of the sound-recording industry. Its actually a fascinating and lovingly curated museum – which is also free – plus it has lots of statues of Nipper the dog from the HMV adverts. The tour guides we had were incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.
The roads into and out of Dover aren’t the most attractive. Delaware is famous for its lack of a sales tax, which means there are LOADS of massive roadside stores and malls. However there is one roadside attraction worth making a stop for. Miles the Monster sits menacingly outside the Dover International Speedway, standing ready to lob the car he’s carrying in his hand.
From Dover we headed to the coast, we’d heard about how nice some of Delaware’s beaches were. Our lunch stop was in Rehoboth Beach, a popular destination for people who live just a couple of hours away in Washington DC. Another of Delaware’s famous sons is the Dogfish Head brewery – one of the grandfathers of the American craft beer movement and for lunch we were booked in at their brewpub in Rehoboth. The beers were predictably delicious, their Flesh and Blood orange IPA and Festina Peche berliner weisse were particular highlights, and the food was tasty too. Rehoboth is a nice seaside town not dissimilar to English seaside towns (though slightly better kept if we’re honest).
From there we made our way to the HQ of Dogfish Head, something of a pilgrimage for Josh. The brewery itself is in a small rural Delaware town called Milton and on the sunny day we were there it was an incredibly pleasant place to be. Plus you get free beer for just turning up! Their legendary 60 Minute and 120 Minute IPAs were tasting absolutely fantastic fresh from the tanks.
After our beery stop we made our way back to the coast and the tiny town we were staying in for the night – Lewes. Continuing the Dogfish Head theme of the day we were booked in at their motel – surprisingly named the Dogfish Head Inn. Its a beautifully renovated roadside motel only a couple of years old, complete with roaring fire and tasty coffee in the lobby. Outside there’s a firepit area which, in the summer, would be a popular place to share a beer with your fellow residents. Our room was small but really comfy and nice.
Lewes itself – the town is only a two minute walk from the Inn – is tiny, basically a single street, but its a great all American small town street with cafes, bookshops and bars. We headed to Agave Mexican for a frankly massive helping of nachos before retiring to the Inn full to the brim of food.
The next morning was our last on this holiday and before we headed back to DC and the airport we swung by Cape Henlopen State Park, with its wide sandy beaches and abundance of bird life. While Delaware might not be home to the prettiest towns and cities, it does have beautiful coastline and some very excellent beer!
Rate the State
Good for: Beaches, beer and shopping.
Bad for: It doesn’t have the most attractive, bustling cities and the abundant strip malls are a bit ugly.