In a previous post last summer, I wrote about how my wife, Catharine, and I liked to ride the Cape May-Lewes Ferry — which crosses Delaware Bay to connect northern Delaware and southern New Jersey — just for fun when visiting the Jersey Shore.
Unlike most passengers, who are actually trying to get somewhere — holding 100 cars and other vehicles, the ferry provides a relaxing alternative to traffic-choked I-95 when traveling up or down the East Coast — Catharine and I just enjoy being out on the water. So we’ve taken the 34-mile, nearly three-hour round-trip voyage from Cape May, New Jersey, across the bay to Lewes, Delaware, and back strictly as a day trip.
It’s essentially a “cruise to nowhere,” and on a beautiful sunny day it’s a delight to sit up on deck and just watch the water, the sea birds and the occasional dolphin go by.
On our last ferry ride in the summer of 2015, we did get off for an hour at the Lewes ferry terminal to see a tall ship docked nearby and to explore the facilities there. But further research has convinced me we’re been missing some good sights and activities in Delaware. In short, we should now remake our “cruise to nowhere” into a “cruise to somewhere.”
Lewes, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey
Lewes, located at Cape Henlopen where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, prides itself as being the “First Town in the First State.” It was founded by the Dutch in 1631, and some of the architecture in its historic district dates back to the 17th century.
The city has museums, antique shops, restaurants, and, if you want to stay overnight, some nice accommodations.
There are also some alluring beaches on both the ocean and bay sides — Rehoboth Beach, known for its lively boardwalk along the Atlantic, lies just to the south — along with bike and walking trails that wind through nearby parks and nature preserves.
Our plan next time we ride the ferry is to bring our bikes and explore Cape Henlopen State Park, which lies just east of the ferry terminal and offers six miles of ocean beaches and numerous trails and bike paths to follow. You can also climb a World War II-era watchtower for panoramic views of the area.
Unlike Lewes, we know Cape May well because when we’re at the shore we always stay in Ocean City, a half hour drive north (or an hour if you take the scenic route along the coast).
When we ride the ferry, we usually take the opportunity to spend some time in Cape May, known as the nation’s oldest seashore resort.
Cape May has a beautiful broad sandy beach right in town, but the big attraction is its stunning Victorian-era gingerbread houses, which line many of its streets. With their turrets, expansive porches, and brilliant multi-colored exteriors, Cape May’s houses never fail to astonish us, even after well more than a dozen visits there.
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry guest services staff will help you plan a variety of day trips to suit your own interests; you can call them toll free at 1-800-643-3779. You can also get day trip ideas by watching their video.
Activities on the Ferry and in the Terminals
While the ferry runs several times a day year-round, it brims with special musical activity during the summer.
Late Friday afternoon sailings from early July to late August will bring a series of “Rock the Boat Musical Cruises,” while certain Sunday afternoon sailings in the same time period will feature low key Sunday JAMZ, complete with specials from local microbreweries.
Both Cape May and Lewes ferry terminals will present a series of free outdoor concerts (with free parking) in July and August offering musical tributes to performers such as Billy Joel, Journey, Elvis, and the Rolling Stones, as well as other musical styles. Concerts in Cape May will be on Wednesday evenings, while those in Lewes will be on Thursday evenings.
And a number of Fireworks Cruises will also feature live music.
You can get more information on the ferry’s special events by going here.
Travel Tip of the Day: Dogs ride free on the pet-friendly Cape May-Lewes Ferry!