Special Features: Southern Delaware By Bicycle
Biking Southern Delaware : Crabs And Cranks
©March 2006 by Barbara Lynn. Updated 2016.
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Explore the world of Southern Delaware by bicycle. Bike paths and routes wind past gorgeous ocean beaches and resort towns, nature preserves, state parks and historic towns. Outdoor recreation opportunities abound only a short two hour drive from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, MD, Philadelphia, PA or just across the Delaware Bay via Cape May-Lewes ferry from New Jersey.
The Delaware Bay is a large estuarial inlet that opens into the Atlantic Ocean between Cape May on the New Jersey side and Cape Henlopen on the Delaware side. Teeming with life, estuaries are found where fresh water from a river mixes with salt ocean water. The Delaware Estuary is a seething biological soup, home to thousands of animal species, including the worlds largest population of "ancient living fossils"; the Horseshoe Crabs.
Southern Delaware is the perfect weekend get-away for for history and nature lovers. The milder temperatures along the southern coast make this a four season destination.
The most incredible spectacle comes every spring in May close to the time of the full moon when multitudes of Horseshoe crabs journey from the depths of the ocean to the beaches along the Delaware coast to lay their eggs. In the perfect synchronization of nature, hundreds of thousands of shorebirds traveling thousands of miles northward from South America en route to their breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic, arrive at half their body weight famished and just in time for a much needed feast of Horseshoe crab eggs and hatchlings. During peak time, clouds of birds can be seen swirling up and down the beaches for miles.
The Horseshoe crab and shorebird season is best seen along the coast starting mid-May and going through June. The season starts earlier the farther north you go. Bicycling is a great way to travel and view this phenomenon. Get those cranks turning and pedal along the backroads of southern Delaware in early Spring. The roads are especially nice for easy, scenic cycling on flat terrain. The traffic is sparse and most roads are wide with ample shoulders for biking.
During the summer, the area is transformed as people head to Southern Delaware's coast looking for fun, the surf and the sea at the popular beach resorts of Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. For an quieter off-season experience come in the Fall.
Some of the best bicycling routes in Southern Delaware are:
The Southern Delaware Heritage Trail
The Southern Delaware Heritage Trail is an adventure for history lovers and cyclists. In addition to an 70 mile auto-touring route along scenic country roads, 130 miles of connecting trails for bicyclists travel in a wide loop around Sussex County. The route connects several National Historic Register sites and towns filled with Victorian and Colonial architecture and antique shops including Millsboro, Greenwood, Bridgeville, Seaford and Laurel and the charming riverside villages of Milton, Bethel and Milford. Freshwater ponds, rivers and wildlife preserves along the route such as Trap Pond State Park and the Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge provide outstanding views of coastal wetlands and wildlife.
American Discovery Trail
A nationwide multi-use recreational trail system comprised of a combination of roads and trails stretching 6,800 miles, linking Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Point Reyes, California. Former First lady Hillary Rodham Clinton named it one of 16 National Millennium Trails. It begins at Cape Henlopen State Park and traverses 45 miles through Sussex County on mostly paved country roads. The route travels through the beach resort town of Lewes, historic Milton, past the Redden State Forest and through Bridgeville. It exits Delaware on Rural Road 113, which becomes Hobbs Road in Maryland.
For more information on The ADT: www.discoverytrail.org
Bicycle Route One
Delaware Bicycle Route 1 is a 150-mile North South bike route travelling the length of Delaware from the Delaware/Maryland border on the Atlantic Ocean in Sussex County north to Brandywine Creek State Park in New Castle County. At the Pennsylvania Border, Bicycle Route 1 connects with Bicycle PA Route 1 and continues north through the state of Pennsylvania.
Bicyclists will find easy, scenic cycling along terrain that is mostly level as it passes through Delaware's coastal resort towns, rural countryside and residential areas in Kent and Sussex counties. The bike route is signed with a green and white oval shaped bike route sign, enabling cyclists to follow it's length easily.
Because it is the major route to the beach resorts of Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, traffic during the summer in and around these areas, can result in major delays and unsafe conditions for bicyclists. Another option is to put your bike on the bus. DART First State buses are equipped with bike racks.
Although a Route 1 expansion project north of the Route 9/Five Points intersection near Lewes to Route 24 restored a dedicated third travel lane for motorists and a dedicated shared use lane on Route 1 southbound for cyclists, buses and vehicles making right turns, Bike Route 1/Plantations Road is a safer, alternate route through the area.
Pedaling south of Dewey Beach, the bustling beach resorts recede as cyclists enter the 2,825- acre Delaware Seashore State Park. Bounded on the west by the Rehoboth and Indian River Bays and the Atlantic Ocean on the east, no matter where you look, left or right, you will be treated to spectacular ocean and bay vistas. As you traverse this special barrier island you'll cross the Indian Bay Inlet and pedal past undeveloped landcapes of windswept dunes, wetlands, salt marsh and sea.
The Bike Route continues south through Fenwick Island, a mile long, half mile wide Peninsula nestled between Little Assawoman Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, passes through Fenwick State Park and ends at the southern tip of Lighthouse Cove at the Maryland border.
For more information about the entire route from north to south and detailed cycling maps, visit the Delaware Bicycle Council website at: www.deldot.net
Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park, situated just east of the historic beach resort town of Lewes, on Cape Henlopen where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean is perfect for a combination bike and nature oriented family spring weekend get-away. Paved recreation paths for bicyclists and pedestrians only wind through the park and offer outstanding views of the coastal wetlands. The Junction And Breakwater Rail Trail (pictured right) located in the southwestern side of the Park, takes you through scenic woods and tidal marshlands.
Participate in one of The Cape Henlopen Seaside Nature Center's special nature programs. Programs may include Horseshoe Crab and Shorebird Weekend Workshops, birding trips to Slaughter Beach and Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, kayak tours of the Delaware Breakwater, evening Horseshoe Crab surveys, seining the bay for fish and other marine life, and more.
These programs are popular and space is limited. Register early after January 1 for the Spring season: Cape Henlopen State Park - Seaside Nature Center: (302) 645-6852.
Cape May-Lewes Ferry
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry crosses the Delaware Bay from Cape May, New Jersey to Lewes, Delaware. (70 minutes). Visit www.capemaylewesferry.com for details and ferry schedules.
Fossils of Horseshoe crabs have been dated at 360 million years old. Youtube Video at Assateague Island National Seashore: Horseshoe Crabs: Living Fossils