East Coast US, Travels

Ferry to the First State – Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware

Mid-June of 2016 meant only one thing: summer vacation was upon us!

As had become an (almost) annual tradition since my move to Connecticut, my mom hopped on a plane and headed east. But unlike previous years, where we traveled north, this year we would be driving south. Our ultimate destination was the Carolinas to visit some of her siblings. But we weren’t about to drive all the way down the coast without making some stops along the way.

The first day of our road trip was a day of firsts:

  • Pat’s first time driving onto a ferry
  • Pat and my mom’s first time in Delaware (to be honest, my previous experience in Delaware involved me stepping off the train so I could put my feet on the ground in Delaware – and then getting yelled at for stepping off the train – so I guess maybe it was my first time in Delaware too)
  • Visiting Lewes, Delaware – the first town in the first state
  • Mom and my first visit to Maryland

From Connecticut, we headed south, skirting around New York City (and, thankfully, most of the traffic) on our way to Cape May, New Jersey. Cape May is the southernmost tip of the state off of Highway 9.

We arrived right around lunchtime but our ferry didn’t depart until 3:30pm, which left us with an hour and a half to explore Cape May Point State Park. We ate lunch, saw the lighthouse (though we skipped out on the outrageous $8/person fee to go up to the top), walked the beach, and dipped our toes in the ocean.

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Cape May State Park, New Jersey
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Cape May State Park, New Jersey
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Cape May State Park, New Jersey

From the state park, the terminal for the Cape May-Lewes Ferry is just a 15-minute drive. The cost of the ferry for the 3 of us plus my car was about $70. But it saved us the time and trouble of driving through the greater Philadelphia, Trenton, Wilmington, Baltimore, and DC metro areas. Plus, as of 2012, we’ve (accidentally) started a tradition of always including a boat trip in our summer vacation. It was a win-win!

We spent the 85-minute ferry ride out on the bow gazing across the Delaware Bay to the west and open ocean to the east. We caught our first ever glimpses of dolphins, and really enjoyed the ride!

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Cape May Ferry terminal – New Jersey

The ferry docks in Lewes, Delaware (pronounced Looz or LOO-wes, depending on who you ask), which has the distinction of being the first town in the first state. There’s even a tiny lighthouse in the middle of town to commemorate this fact.

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Since this was our only time spent in Delaware, we wanted to actually stop and see something. After a few random turns through the downtown area, we stumbled upon the Lightship Overfalls.

A lightship is a mobile lighthouse for use in areas unsuitable for construction of a fixed lighthouse. They were used off the US coasts and on the Great Lakes from 1820-1983; as building technology has advanced, most have been replaced with lighthouses or large buoys.

The crew of a lightship had an extremely dangerous job, as they had to be out on the water during all manner of inclement weather. Over the years, many lightships were destroyed by hurricanes and other weather events. In 1938, Lightship Overfalls was the 179th and final one ever built, and is one of only 17 remaining. It’s on the National Register of Historic Places and – although this particular vessel served off the coast of New England – is permanently docked in Lewes.

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Lightship Overfalls – Lewes, DE
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Lightship Overfalls – Lewes, DE
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Lewes, DE

From Lewes, we continued down the coast of Delaware into Maryland via Highway 1. The worst traffic of our entire trip was here, as it was rush hour on a Friday and the entire stretch of coastline seemed to be one never-ending beach resort.

We finally arrived at Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland around 7pm, leaving us enough time to eat, set up camp, and watch the sunset. Due to recent rainfall, our campsite was extremely soggy; we had to move the picnic table onto the driveway so we could use the one dry section of ground to set up our tent.

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Our site at Bayside Campground – Assateague Island, MD
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Sunset over Assateague Island National Seashore, MD

Stay tuned for our adventures on Assateague Island!


The Important Stuff:

  • Getting there: Cape May is the southernmost tip of New Jersey off Highway 9; Lewes is located on the central coast of Delaware, directly across the Delaware Bay from Cape May
  • Fees and Passes: Cape May-Lewes Ferry was $67 for my car + 3 people. Cape May Point State Park and Lightship Overfalls were both free. Also, tolls. Lots of tolls.
  • Other: be prepared for any type of weather on the ferry… we got rained on. But if you’re willing to brave the rain and stand on the bow, you might get lucky and glimpse some dolphins!

2 thoughts on “Ferry to the First State – Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware”

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