Cape May Lewes Ferry: Fun for Kids and Adults
The Ferry Terminal in Lewes, Delaware
Cape May Lewes Ferry
Cape May Lewes Ferry: More Than Just a Way to Cross the DE Bay
For years my family took the Cape May Lewes Ferry whenever we traveled from New York State to our Outer Banks, NC vacation destination. The 17 mile ferry ride cut 90 miles off the land route trip, but more than that it was the first shift into "vacation mode" for all of us, something we eagerly looked forward to. One whiff of the salty air blowing against our faces and hubby and I would smile and say, "Ah....vacation has started. We can relax now." Seagulls always followed the ferry hoping for scraps of food and dolphin leaped through the air as if they too, were glad we were riding on the ferry. When our son was little he loved being held in his Dad's arms and would gleefully point to the birds, dolphin and 3 lighthouses that we passed on our 80 minute boat ride (Cape May Light in NJ and Harbor of Refuge Light and Delaware Breakwater East End Light in DE). If we'd gotten off to a late start, we were sometimes treated to a magnificent sunset over the bay and my son would cuddle up with me on a bench with a blanket wrapped around his bare legs as we watched the orange and yellow sky gradually fade away. When he got older he loved wandering around the ship himself, playing the video games on-board and getting cafeteria style food from the snack bar.
But it was only when we moved to Delaware a decade ago that I began looking at the ferry as more than just a means of transportation and started taking advantage of the Lewes Terminal activities and the foot passenger service. Whether it's drizzling outside or a bright sunny day, a round-trip ferry ride is perfect for relaxing and getting away from life's strains and stresses for a few hours.
Play Miniature Golf and Watch Ferry Boats
Lewes Terminal Photos
Fun Activities at the Lewes and Cape May Terminals
Though the ferry was constructed with transportation as its chief goal, the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) gradually began to recognize its potential as a tourist attraction and have done many things to draw tourists including substantially overhauling its two terminal facilities in 2000-2001. Cape May received a brand new terminal while the Lewes terminal was expanded and renovated. Both now feature unique "towers" which have elevators and staircases that connect the buildings to glass-enclosed walkways which have panoramic air-conditioned views of the bay. The walk-ways allow foot passengers to board vessels directly on the second deck avoiding vehicles that are driving onto the ferry.
Both terminals feature nautical themed gift shops and indoor food courts which are open year-round. They also have ticket and information booths and lots of brochures. In addition, history and art exhibits are sometimes on display.
From Memorial Day through July 3rd, the On the Rocks Bar and Grill located outside the Lewes terminal is open on weekends and through July 4 through Labor Day its open daily. The grill has a reputation for serving the best burgers in the area and the view is stunning whether you sit outside under the umbrella protected tables or inside in the air conditioned cafeteria. Young children love playing in the nautical style playground and older children enjoy playing miniature golf on the terminal grounds.
Visitors at both terminals can park for free in well-lit and security patrolled lots.
In Delaware, shuttles loop from the terminal to downtown Lewes, Tanger Outlets, and the Park & Ride lot where you may connect with the DART bus system to go to Rehoboth Beach or Ocean City, MD. during the summer months.
In New Jersey, the shuttle continuously loops between downtown Cape May and the ferry terminal during the summer months. Weekend shuttle service is offered in May and early June. Starting mid June, the shuttle service operates seven days a week through the end of Sept. In October the shuttle runs on weekends only. It's important to note that although pets are allowed on the ferries, they are not allowed onto the shuttle buses.
Pirate Pete Looking for Sailors
Kids Play While Waiting for Cruise
Lighthouse Pete's Family Fun Cruise
This cruise is a great way to introduce kids to a ferry boat ride and are available on select days during the summer season. Kids love being on board with Lighthouse Pete, an adorable mascot in pirate uniform who will help make the trip a fun-filled adventure for them. Kids will also learn tips on how to be safe sailors including:
- Hold handrails when on stairs
- Never run
- Be extra careful when decks are wet
- Be careful when going through doorways.
Pirate Pete cruises also have entertainment and music.There is no additional charge for Pirate Pete cruises beyond the usual price of ferry passage.
Historic Lewes Tours Available in Summer
Special Excursions for Foot Passengers
The ferry offers many popular programs and events. My personal favorites are:
- The Historic Lewes Tour which includes a round-trip ferry ride departing from Cape May, NJ, shuttle service into Lewes, DE and admission into the Lewes Historical Society Complex, Cannonball House Maritime Museum and the Zwaanendael Museum. Cost is $25 per adult and $18 for kids between the ages of 6 to 13. A half hour trolley tour of Lewes can be added for an additional $3 per person.
- The Cape May Guided Trolley Tour which includes a round-trip ferry ride from Lewes , DE and shuttle service into Cape May where you will enjoy a guided, 45-minute trolley tour of the town Historic District. Cost is $25 per adult and $18 for kids between the ages of 6 to 13.
- Rock the Boat cruises which run most Friday nights during the summer and are free with the price of ferry passage. These cruises have great music onboard and depart from both terminals.
- The Marine Naturalist Program which is hosted by the Wetlands Institute and is a live animal program onboard the ferry. Kids can see and learn about marine critters such as diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs and northern sea stars. An Institute Naturalist will also talk about local birds, fish and marine life. These cruises are also free with the price of ferry passage. They sail on select days during the summer months.
Take a Tall Ship Adventure on Kalmar Nyckel
Close-up of Kalmar Nyckel
The Kalmar Nyckel is an authentic replica of the tall ship of Delaware which brought the first European settlers to the Delaware Valley in 1638. The recreated vessel was launched in 1997 and its crew conducts day sales for schools, groups and individuals from New England to Virginia, providing participants with a unique opportunity to experience a 17th century sailing.
When in Southern Delaware, the tall ship docks at the Lewes terminal and offers tours and sails to the public. During some sailings crew members dress up as pirates and all sailings allow willing and able guests to participate in raising the sails. For more info and to purchase tickets call 302-429-7447 or 800-659-7447 or visit www.kalmarnyckel.org.
Authentic Carvings on Kalmar Nyckel
Bike Rentals Available at Lewes Cycle Sports
Take Your Own Bike on the Ferry or Rent Bikes at Lewes, DE Terminal
Foot passengers can rent bicycles from Lewes Cycle Sports and pick the bicycles up at the Lewes, DE Terminal. Bicycle child seats are also available. Call Lewes Cycle Sports at 888-800-BIKE or 302-646-4544 to make the rental arrangements.
The ferry also encourages bicyclists to take their own bikes on the ferry for no additional charge beyond the $18 round-trip passenger ticket fee. Bikers can explore the surrounding area on their own. If you make a left hand turn out of the Lewes, DE ferry parking lot it is approximately 1 mile to the Cape Henlopen State Park and bicyclists can enter and use all Cape Henlopen Park facilities for free. This outstanding park has a seaside nature center, fishing pier, two ocean swimming beaches, a bath house, snack bars, disc golf, a concrete observation tower and miles of paved multipurpose trails. For more info about this park view my hub titled, Fun Summer Activities in Cape Henlopen State Park at http://happyboomernurse.hubpages.com/hub/Five-Fun-Summer-Activities-to-do-in-Cape-Henlopen-State-Park-in-Delaware.
To get to the historic section of Lewes, DE make a right hand turn out of the ferry lot and ride approximately 1 mile to the Lewes Town Beach which fronts the Delaware Bay. Biking another few miles along Savannah Road will take you to the historic section of Lewes which has many shops and restaurants.
Remember to bring water bottles when taking bike rides to keep yourself and the kids well hydrated while en route to your destination.
Cape May Lewes Ferry Official Website
- Cape May Lewes Ferry Website
Up to date information on all ferry schedules, prices, programs, special events and excursions can be found on this website. The website also has online booking information and a wonderful video.
AAA Card Holders Eligible for Discounts
Delaware River and Bay Authority officials recently announced that the Cape May- Lewes Ferry will offer discounts to riders that show their AAA card starting Sept. 1, 2012 through December 31, 2013. AAA members are eligible for a $2 round-trip discount for adults, and a $1 discount for children ages 6 to 13.
Phone Number for Ferry Reservations & Schedules
You may also find out up to the minute information about all ferry schedules and book reservations by calling 1-800-643-3779.
Cape May, New Jersey, Ferry Terminal
Cape May, NJ ferry terminal.