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Top 10 Scenic Drives in Delaware

From tax-free shopping at beach boutiques to sprawling mansion grounds, there’s more to Delaware than initially meets the eye. The state is full of hidden treasures to unlock with the investment of just a little time, and its history from the Native Americans to its part in the Underground Railroad is well-preserved. Some of Delaware’s greatest assets won’t be found in the pages of a mundane guidebook – they must be discovered firsthand in a manner that is often unexpected but always relished. With one of these scenic drives, you have a point of departure for your own discovery of Delaware to cherish for years to come:

No. 10 – North Star to Middletown

North Star to Middletown Delaware
Flickr user: Fintrvlr

Starting Location: North Star, DE
Ending Location: Middletown, DE
Length: 25 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This tour of the northwest portion of the state provides its visitors the opportunity to see rural towns and sweeping farmlands. Stop in Newark to take in historic buildings like St. John the Baptist Church and Rhodes Pharmacy before possibly touring the University of Delaware’s grounds. In August, travelers flock to Middletown for the Olde Tyme Peach Festival, and you can see St. Andrew’s School – the backdrop for the Robin Williams classic film, Dead Poets’ Society – there any time of year.

No. 9 – Indian River Bay

Indian River Bay Delaware
Flickr user: Rich Renomeron

Starting Location: Long Neck, DE
Ending Location: Bethany Beach, DE
Length: 26 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

The Indian River Bay, a favorite summer spot among Delaware residents, has begun to see a bit of tourism in recent years. Its shores are largely pristine, and visitors are free to explore without a lot of fanfare - just find a nice spot to sit and watch the fishermen at work. Consider a side trip to Delaware Seashore State Park to watch wildlife, or forge a water adventure with swimming, surfing, or sailboarding in the summer months.

No. 8 – Wiggins Mill

Wiggins Mill Delaware
Flickr user: Mike Mahaffie

Starting Location: Middletown, DE
Ending Location: Middletown, DE
Length: 12 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Ideal for whiling away an hour or two or even a full afternoon, this route in the Wiggins Mill park area provides recreational opportunities for all ages. The actual 200-acre Wiggins Mill Park in south New Castle County has various sporting courts and fields, from basketball to soccer, to satisfy athletic natures. The prime attraction of the park, however, is its easy-to-traverse trail around Wiggins Pond, which showcases local flora and fauna.

No. 7 – Blackbird State Forest

Blackbird State Forest Delaware
Flickr user: Mike Mahaffie

Starting Location: Blackbird, DE
Ending Location: Blackbird, DE
Length: 12 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

This loop through the 5,400-acre Blackbird State Forest in New Castle and Kent Counties and its surrounding country areas gives travelers the chance to tune in with nature and recharge their minds. Kids will enjoy the education center on site, where they can see a beaver dam diorama, a working beehive up close, and scores of other things they don’t see every day. Park the car and explore the forest on foot on one of the many nature trails, or commission a horse to save your legs from tiring and gain a higher vantage point.

No. 6 – Delaware Route 6

Delaware Route 6
Flickr user: Patrick Nouhailler

Starting Location: Blackiston, DE
Ending Location: Woodland Beach, DE
Length: 14 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Much of this drive through Kent County is characterized by rural woods and light hills, but there are still many points of interest despite its relatively short length and lack of people. Stop in Smyrna to learn about the Underground Railroad that passed through the area or just enjoy a bite to eat in its historic downtown. At Woodland Beach, tour the 17th century Sutton House that now plays home both domestically and professionally for Woodland Beach Wildlife Area workers.

No. 5 – Mouth of the Delaware to Brandywine

Mouth of the Delaware to Brandywine Delaware
Flickr user: pontla

Starting Location: Dover, DE
Ending Location: Brandywine, DE
Length: 57 miles
Best Season to Drive: Spring, Summer, and Fall
See this drive on Google Maps

Characterized by rolling hills and valleys, this drive that begins alongside the Delaware River is both scenic and serene. There are, however, tastes of civilization on the way, interspersed with an array of wildlife refuges, such as Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge and the Woodland Beach Wildlife Area. The New Castle Courthouse Museum is worth a stop to learn about the region’s Native American roots and later history, and a tour of the Nemours Mansion and Garden in Wilmington provides a peek into privileged lives not so long ago.

No. 4 – Nanticoke Heritage Byway

Nanticoke Heritage Byway Delaware
Flickr user: zizzybaloobah

Starting Location: Seaford, DE
Ending Location: Laurel, DE
Length: 16 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Exploring the woods and farmlands of western Sussex County, this drive gives travelers the chance to experience a quieter way of life away from the hustle and bustle of cities and obligations. Stop on the Nanticoke River to take the historic Woodland Ferry to the other side or test your luck with a rod and reel in its waters. In Trap Pond State Park, there are numerous opportunities to stretch out your legs on a hike or bike.

No. 3 – Lewes Tour

Lewes Tour Delaware
Flickr user: Jeffrey

Starting Location: Nassau, DE
Ending Location: Lewes, DE
Length: 11 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

It’s difficult to improve upon a coastal drive, but this shorter route in the Lewes region of the state is especially beautiful to behold. It travels on the outskirts of Great Marsh Preserve, where birdwatchers can spy migratory sea birds and nature lovers of all sorts can enjoy a leisurely stroll. Cape Henlopen State Park is also easily accessible, where travelers can stop to tour Fort Mills or picnic on the Lewes-Rehobeth Canal.

No. 2 – Red Clay Valley

Red Clay Valley Delaware
Flickr user: Chris Foster

Starting Location: Yorklyn, DE
Ending Location: Yorklyn, DE
Length: 22 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

Through sleepy towns and wooded hills, this drive loops through the heart of New Castle County in a region known to locals as the Red Clay Valley. Old growth forests dominate the landscape, and there is no shortage of historic buildings to tour and photograph. In Hockessin, consider climbing aboard the Historic Red Clay steam train for a ride to Greenbank and back where roads once traveled only by horse and buggy can be viewed.

No. 1 – Route 9 Coastal Heritage Byway

Route 9 Coastal Heritage Byway Delaware
Flickr user: Mike Mahaffie

Starting Location: New Castle, DE
Ending Location: Dover DE
Length: 52 miles
Best Season to Drive: All
See this drive on Google Maps

This two-lane road travels beside the Delaware River and Bay Estuary, affording stunning views of the water and passing through historic towns. Travelers along this route will be treated to seeing the largest coastal marshland that has been preserved along the eastern United States coast, and this reflects in the thriving wildlife in the area. In Dover, the John Dickinson Plantation, also known as Poplar Hall, is a favorite stopover to see its Early Georgian architecture and sweeping grounds.

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