Delaware was the last place we ever expected to vacation. It’s not that it seemed uncool, or too far–it’s just that it was completely off our map. As the famous scene in Wayne’s World so eloquently depicts it, most people have no idea what to think about Delaware. I don’t want to bullshit anyone, so I’ll just cut right to the chase about our experience of vacationing here. Most people that vacation in Delaware go for the beaches–we went for the beer.
Where to Stay in Lewes, Delaware—or Why to Visit: A Beer-Centric Hotel
Dogfish Head has grown from a tiny microbrewery to one of the most widely distributed craft beers in the United States. What began in a brewpub in Delaware, outgrew itself and opened a large brewery. Just recently, they’ve added an inn. The Dogfish Inn is located in Lewes, Delaware, about 3.5 hours from New York City. Designed by Studio Tack in NYC, the property has the vintage motel throw-back appeal of many of the new hotels popping up in the Hudson Valley/Catskills, combined with the modern amenities that the everyday traveler would expect.
Each of the 16 rooms come stocked like a tiny giftshop, with Woolrich blankets, beach chairs, tote bags, and even snacks like hoppy pickles and potato chips. They also have tivoli radios, large showers, a mini-fridge, and Malin + Goetz bath products. Retro American-made beach chairs and Apolis tote bags are ready for trips to the local beaches. The lobby at the Inn also serves as a common space, with a couple couches, a fireplace, board games, and most importantly–delicious chicory coffee, which is brewed just down the street at Notting Hill.
The Dogfish Inn is set in coastal Delaware in the town of Lewes, a cute little beach town that’s very walkable. Within walking distance of the inn, restaurants, boutiques, and bars abound. The whole town seems to be beer-centric, and most bars restaurants have great taps. If you enjoy beer, beaches, and bikes, this may just be the perfect vacation spot for you. Bonus: the hotel is very dog friendly. Bring fido!
On Saturdays, the lobby also plays host to the Inn’s “fireside chats” with Sam Calagione, the CEO and founder of Dogfish. (During the summer, these take place outdoors at the firepit.) Sam is cool enough to stop by the Inn and meet whomever is staying there, hanging out for an hour to give out beer samples and answer questions. He’s a great storyteller, too. Check with the concierge to see if it’s happening and BYOB! (Note: it may seem odd, but the Dogfish Inn doesn’t sell beer. Head to R&L Liquors for one of the most impressive beer and liquor selections we’ve ever seen!)
What to Do in Lewes, Delaware: Drink All the Beers, Check Out the Beach
The beaches in coastal Delaware are gorgeous, with grass sprouting out from the rolling sand dunes. Unfortunately we traveled here during the dead of winter and didn’t get to take a dip. If it’s not quite warm enough for a swim, but warm enough for a walk, Cape Henlopen State Park has a couple trails through the forest and sand dunes that are worth checking out. They’re bike friendly too, so grab some wheels at the hotel, which are complimentary! Besides the trails, there’s also some history here, including WWII bunkers and cannons. Climb one of the observation towers for amazing 360 degree views of the coast.
The little coastal town of Lewes, DE is definitely quiet, but with enough to do for a chunk of your morning or afternoon. Rather than one “main street”, it’s a little more spread out, but clustered into something like a 4 block radius. Just a few minutes walk from the hotel is Canalfront Park, home to Lightship Overfalls, one of seventeen remaining lightships in the USA. (If you’re wondering, lightships are exactly what they sound like–floating lighthouses.) Tours of the lightship are seasonal; check their calendar for hours and availability.
Chances are, all beaches and scenery aside–you’re here for the same reason we are. The beer! The actual Dogfish Brewery, is located about 10 miles away in Milton. If you’re going, make sure to let the Dogfish Inn concierge know so they can reserve you a space for a tour–they fill up quick and you’ll need a reservation. The tours last about two hours and take place about every 30 minutes Monday through Saturday.
Last, Rehoboth is the “coolest” town in the area, with lots of boutique shops, galleries, and the like. It’s also where the Dogfish Brewpub is located, so you should plan on spending an afternoon in town then hit the brewpub. A highlight of the boardwalk: Dolles Candyland, where you can buy more than 25 flavors of salt water taffy amongst other sweets.
Where to Eat and Drink Around Lewes, Delaware
We’d heard really good things from a friend about Half Full, so we headed there for our first meal in Lewes. It’s a tad confusing when you open the door–there will inevitably be a lot of people standing around. Space is limited here, so people waiting for tables and takeout orders are pushed to the middle of the room. It creates kind of a fun, social environment though. Grab a beer from the “bar” (which is a window) while you wait. When we finally sat, we ended up chatting with the family next to us–including an 86th birthday. His secret to a long life? Three ounces of whiskey before dinner. Cheers to that!
For breakfast, Nectar Cafe came highly recommended but was closed for the season. Notting Hill, who brews the Dogfish Chicory Stout Coffee, is great for breakfast or lunch. On our way out of town, we grabbed bagels to-go from Surf Bagel, which were great. For snacks, lunch, or dinner, A Touch of Italy was delicious–we ordered some cheese and olives to-go, which we snacked on by the fireplace at the inn. Order from the deli, or have a sit-down meal in their small dining room.
The Dogfish Brewpub was the big dining highlight of our trip. We got a private tour of their mini-distillery, where they’re experimenting with the development of all types of spirits, in a tiny refrigerated room. After the tour, our awesome friends from Philly joined us for dinner, and together we had a fantastic dinner, sharing lots of appetizers. A band played as we stuffed our faces. By the way, if you plan to indulge (we’d recommend it), call a cab. Shamrock Taxi Service showed up within 5 minutes of us calling from the Inn.