It might be the second smallest state in the country, but Delaware has a ton to offer visitors—particularly if a mellow beach retreat is what you’re after. From quaint riverside villages and coastal communities to historic colonial destinations, here are the most charming small towns in Delaware. Read on and start planning your trip for when the forecast is warm and sunny.
13 Charming Small Towns in Delaware
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- Why We Recommend It: beaches, historic, scenic
- Where to Stay: 829 Savannah
The oldest town in the first state, Lewes is known for its historic architecture and vibrant energy. Yep, this Delaware community might be small, but the town center—replete with restaurants and boutiques—is far from snoozy. Best of all, Lewes is located between the Great Marsh Preserve and Cape Henlopen State Park, which means you can take a stroll through scenic wetlands or lounge on pristine beaches when you’re done exploring the town.
- Why We Recommend It: shopping, historic, quiet getaway, water activities
- Where to Stay: The Charleston of Milton Inn
Located at the mouth of Broadkill River and just a stone’s throw from Delaware Bay, Milton is a picturesque riverside town with plenty to do. Aside from fishing, canoeing and other outdoor activities, Milton also boasts an impressive Historic District where the town’s Victorian past is impeccably preserved. Last but not least, Milton is home to Dogfish Head—a popular craft brewery that can’t be missed if you’re in the mood for a cold one.
- Why We Recommend It: galleries, restaurants and breweries, hiking
- Where to Stay: Suite Deal Comforts
This Northern Delaware gem, situated on the banks of both Lake Como and Duck Creek, is prized for its natural beauty. Nature lovers can take a scenic hike through Blackbird State Forest, which boasts 5,400 acres of gorgeous woodlands, and observe the incredible avian and wildlife at the nearby Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. If arts and culture is what you seek, be sure to take a tour of the historic artifacts and paintings at the Smyrna Museum and pay a visit to the Smyrna Opera House—a beautifully restored historic venue for the performing arts with an art gallery attached. Plus, Smyrna’s large number of distilleries and microbreweries promise to make happy hour dreams come true.
- Why We Recommend It: historic, beautiful natural scenery, wildlife, outdoor activities
- Where to Stay: Motley Home
Outdoor enthusiasts looking to escape city life will fall in love with Laurel, a small historic town surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery. The town itself is quiet (the population is about 3,000 people), but recreational activities abound—including hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, as well as fishing and kayaking at Broad Creek, or any of the region’s numerous lakes and ponds.
5. Dewey Beach
- Why We Recommend It: quiet beaches, vibrant nightlife, great restaurants
- Where to Stay: Beach House Dewey
In case you missed it, Delaware is an ideal destination for a beach vacation—and Dewey Beach is arguably the state’s best-kept secret. Both the ocean and the bay beaches here are immaculate and considerably less crowded than neighboring spots. Don’t be fooled by the calm and peaceful daytime atmosphere, though—this coastal town has plenty going on, and is known for its top-notch waterfront restaurants and vibrant nightlife scene.
- Why We Recommend It: lots of boutiques, quiet beaches, laid-back vibe
- Where to Stay: Steward’s Watch
Here, another option for a quiet beach getaway—this seaside town, a favorite among locals, has an intimate feel that’s just right for a laid-back vacation. Gourmet seafood is always on the menu at the many restaurants in town, and the streets and boardwalk are lined with boutiques where visitors can enjoy tax-free shopping. Plus, if you’re into surfing, you’ll be stoked to learn that Bethany Beach is just a quick drive away from Fenwick Island State Park where you can ride some of the best waves the Delaware coast has to offer.
- Why We Recommend It: water sports, family friendly
- Where to Stay: Sea Harbor Condo
Fenwick Island is an ideal destination for families that serves up a winning combination of outdoor excitement, family-friendly attractions and the beautiful sandy beaches of Fenwick Island State Park. Kids will have a blast playing mini golf, racing go-karts and speeding down water slides at Thunder Lagoon, and there’s ample opportunity for visitors of all ages to enjoy a wide range of water sports.
- Why We Recommend It: scenic, close to beaches, shopping
- Where to Stay: The Small Easy
Situated along the banks of the Indian River, Millsboro is a quaint riverside town that provides easy access to the neighboring coastal destinations on our list and enough charm to be a suitable home base. When you’re not busy lounging on one of the nearby beaches, carve out some time to explore downtown Millsboro, an eye-pleasing strip that boasts a boatload of boutiques, restaurants and antique shops. The town is also home to Cupola Park—a tree-lined public space on the river where visitors can picnic, fish in the ponds or simply go for a leisurely stroll. Another lovely place to spend the day is the modestly-sized but oh-so idyllic Edward H. McCabe Nature Preserve, where hiking trails weave through both swamp and upland forests and wildlife abounds.
- Why We Recommend It: natural scenery, good for fishing, laid-back vibes
- Where to Stay: Frederica Family Home
Dubbed “Frogtown” because of its proximity to the wetlands, this Kent River County village is a former port town with a quiet, old-timey feel. You’ll find excellent seafood on the wharf of this scenic fishing village and plenty of natural beauty, to boot. If you’re looking for a low-key place to enjoy a serene retreat, Frederica fits the bill.
- Why We Recommend It: hiking, natural scenery
- Where to Stay: Cozy Cottage
Beloved by nature enthusiasts, the New Castle County town of Hockessin is home to the Ashland Nature Center, which features a truly magical butterfly house, as well as numerous walking trails and birdwatching spots. There’s also Mt. Cuba Center, a fairytale-esque sanctuary with acres of scenic gardens and breathtaking landscaping. And with Wilmington, Maryland just a short drive away, big city attractions are within reach too.
11. New Castle
- Why We Recommend It: historic, quiet, close proximity to a city
- Where to Stay: Apartment Wilmington
Attention history buffs: New Castle is the place to visit if you want a colonial education. Not only is this small town chock full of historic homes and gardens, but it also has multiple museums and landmarks—the Old Court House Museum and First State National Historical Park, among others—that are dedicated to Delaware’s rich past. Indeed, despite being mere miles away from the bustling city of Wilmington, a stay in New Castle promises little hubbub and loads of history.
- Why We Recommend It: quirky, historic
- Where to Stay: Rustic Getaway
Arden, a tight-knit community of less than 500 people, can be found on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also pretty offbeat in that village life is shaped by a variety of guilds (or “gilds” as the folks of Arden spell it) that members of the community participate in. The main attraction here is the Labyrinth of the Ardens—a sprawling labyrinth designed by the community to be a meditative space, though if you’re lucky enough to be in town when the Shakespeare Gild performs at their outdoor theater, we highly recommend sticking around for the show.
13. Rehoboth Beach
- Why We Recommend It: family friendly, great shopping and restaurants
- Where to Stay: Eagles Landing Retreat
Here, one of the most popular beach destinations in Delaware, and for good reason. Rehoboth Beach is equal parts sophisticated and family friendly, with a famously welcoming laid-back community of locals. Aside from the gentle waves and miles of sandy beach, this spot also has a particularly active boardwalk and town center—both of which feature numerous boutiques, quirky shops and excellent casual dining options, to boot. In other words, when it comes to coastal town destinations, this one checks all the boxes.