As America’s “first state,” Delaware has a rich history told through architecture, breathtaking scenery, and the roads that horse and buggy once traveled. Today, these Delaware scenic drives and byways tell stories of the past, present, and future.
Whether your interest lies in exploring the outdoors, touring historic mansions, or taking in the beauty of Delaware’s coastlines, you’ll find a scenic drive to both captivate and entertain.
Wherever you roam, you’ll find hidden treasures in Delaware’s rushing river waters, rolling woodlands, and small-town charm. And, as many people have said before, you’ll have to see it to believe it.
Join us as we review the best scenic drives in Delaware that you can experience in a day or less.
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway – Wilmington to Delaware-Pennsylvania State Line (Routes 52 and 100)
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway – New Castle County (Between Route 52 and Route 48)
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Route 9 Coastal Heritage Scenic Byway – New Castle to Dover (Route 9)
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Nanticoke Heritage Byway – Seaford to Laurel
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway – Various Locations in Kent and New Castle County (US 13, Route 15, Route 9, Kennett Pike)
- Delaware Scenic Drives: Historic Lewes Byway – Sussex County
6 Scenic Drives in Delaware
Delaware Scenic Drives: Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway – Wilmington to Delaware-Pennsylvania State Line (Routes 52 and 100)
- Distance: 12.25 miles
- Time needed: 1 hour/1 day
Driving along Delaware’s Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway is the perfect way to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. You only need about an hour to travel from Rodney Square in Wilmington to the Delaware-Pennsylvania State Line. You’ll find plenty of opportunities to take in the breathtaking Delaware scenery along the way.
Your route is split into two historic roads, Kennett Pike and Montchanin Road. This scenic Delaware byway takes you through 300 years of America’s industrial history, including picturesque landscapes and several country estates you can stop and tour along your drive. These include the du Pont family estates and gardens, Mt. Cuba, and Gibraltar, which feature beautiful formal gardens.
There are also diverse cultural experiences along the Brandywine Valley Scenic Byway for all to experience. Go shopping in Rodney Square, stroll through Brandywine Park, or visit the Delaware Children’s Theater. The Delaware Art and History museums are also must-see destinations.
When to go: This drive has something to offer year-round, so be sure to check for local festivals and activities in advance.
Delaware Scenic Drives: Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway – New Castle County (Between Route 52 and Route 48)
- Distance: 27 miles
- Time needed: 1 hour/1 to 2 days
Although you could travel this Delaware scenic byway in about an hour, we recommend taking at least a day to explore everything this fascinating network of 28 roads offers. This route is filled with picturesque natural areas, historic farmlands, and plenty of photo opportunities!
Pro Tip: There are many fascinating homesteads along your route, but be mindful that most of these properties are privately owned and can only be viewed from a distance.
Nature lovers will jump at the chance to visit the Ashlands Nature Center, which sits on over 242 acres of some of the state’s oldest woodlands. There are plenty of activities throughout the year, including self-guided trails, a seasonal butterfly house, and an overnight lodge.
Coverdale Farm Preserve is also a fascinating place to stop along your route. This 177-acre working farm has several events throughout the year, which is perfect if you’re traveling with children. History buffs and kids alike will also love exploring the historic Wilmington & Western Railroad aboard its vintage train. It’s one of the East Coast’s premier scenic tourist railroads and hosts many special events for individuals and families.
When to go: While you can drive the Red Clay Valley Scenic Byway year-round, we think it’s particularly captivating in late summer/early autumn.
Delaware Scenic Drives: Route 9 Coastal Heritage Scenic Byway – New Castle to Dover (Route 9)
- Distance: 52 miles
- Time needed: 1 hour 51 minutes/1 to 2 days
Experience the magic of the coast on this upper Delaware scenic byway. Route 9 begins in historic New Castle and ends near the entrance of the John Dickinson Plantation in Dover. There is much to see and do along the way, so we suggest taking at least a half day for your trip.
Natural wonders abound along the Route 9 Coastal Heritage Byway, offering breathtaking views of the coast and charming seaside towns throughout. The byway runs parallel to the Delaware River and Bay Estuary and is also entirely within the Atlantic Flyway.
If you’re traveling in the spring, you’ll encounter hundreds of thousands of migratory shorebirds, including the Red Knot. This uniquely colored sandpiper feeds on horseshoe crab eggs along the shore. Likewise, the same shoreline hosts thousands of geese and other waterfowl in the fall.
Once you reach Dover, you simply must explore First State Heritage Park, Delaware’s first urban park without boundaries. Take a walking tour with interpreters dressed in 18th-century clothing, visit Legislative Hall, and stamp your National Park Service passport at the Old State House, Delaware’s first permanent capital building.
Pro Tip: If you visit the park in November, be sure to attend the Market Fair, where Dover’s artisans gather on the Green to showcase their skills.
When to go: You can make this Delaware drive at any time of year.
Delaware Scenic Drives: Nanticoke Heritage Byway – Seaford to Laurel
- Distance: 40 miles
- Time needed: 45 minutes/1 day
Savor all that historic Sussex County has to offer by driving along the Nanticoke Heritage Byway, a delightful mixture of small towns, woodlands, and farmlands. This 40-mile route is the perfect way to spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life, and there are many recreational and sightseeing opportunities to fill your itinerary many times over.
Begin your journey by visiting the Hearn & Rawlins Mill on Hearns Pond. This 19th-century gristmill is an example of the mills that were once common in all Delaware streams. The route winds through several historic towns, including Concord, Laurel, and Seaford. There, you’ll find many opportunities to hike, bike, and fish along the byway’s five “discovery zones.”
Conclude your trip by exploring Trap Pond State Park near Laurel. This 2000-acre park is full of opportunities to enjoy the breathtaking Delaware scenery and many recreational activities to suit everyone’s interests. The area is also a birdwatcher’s paradise, home to bald eagles, great blue herons, and many other species.
When to go: You can travel this route year-round, but it’s lovely during late summer/early autumn.
Delaware Scenic Drives: Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway – Various Locations in Kent and New Castle County (US 13, Route 15, Route 9, Kennett Pike)
- Distance: 95 miles
- Time needed: 3 hours/2 to 3 days
History buffs will want to savor every mile of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway, a series of interconnected Underground Railroad sites in Kent and New Castle County. As Delaware was the last slave state on the East Coast, the Underground Railroad played an essential role in a slave’s journey to freedom.
There are several meetinghouses along the route, such as Camden Friends Meeting House in Camden. These meeting houses served as both Quaker houses of worship and essential stops along the Underground Railroad. You’ll also find designated Network to Freedom sites, including the Corbit-Sharp House and the Appoquinimink Friends Meeting House.
Outdoor enthusiasts will love hiking through Blackbird State Forest, which contains over 40 miles of trails, five primitive campsites, and four picnic sites. Catch-and-release fishing is also permitted on the grounds. The New Castle Courthouse Museum in historic New Castle is also worth a visit, as it contains several Underground Railroad exhibits.
When to go: Access the sites along the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway all year long.
Delaware Scenic Drives: Historic Lewes Byway – Sussex County
- Distance: 13.1 miles
- Time needed: 1 hours/1 day
Also known as the “Gateway to the Bayshore,” Historic Lewes Byway is a continuous network of roads that have played essential roles in the area’s development and history. You can spend an hour or two (or a few days) learning more about the legacy of the First Town in the First State.
The Lewes downtown and historic district offers unique shopping and dining opportunities along with its stunning natural views of both land and sea. The citizens of Lewes describe it as a walking town, so we recommend finding a trusty pair of sneakers to explore the town’s many museums, inns, and recreational activities. The Lewes Historical Society also offers walking and water tours, where you can learn more about the area’s maritime history.
There is so much to see and do along the Historic Lewes Byway that you might have to make several trips to get the whole experience! Cape Henlopen State Park features its famous walking dunes, Great Dune, and WWII Observation Towers.
The Junction Breakwater Trail takes you to nearby Rehoboth Beach (one of the best hidden beaches on the east coast!), and Zwaanedael Museum pays homage to Delaware’s first European colony, Swanendael, founded by the Dutch in 1631. If you’re interested in maritime history, be sure to visit the Lightship Overfalls, a historic ship that sits in Canal Front Park.
Pro Tip: Several tours are offered seasonally, so it’s best to verify availability ahead of time.
When to go: We recommend driving this route in late spring, summer, or fall.
Where to Next?
Looking for more road trip inspiration on the US East Coast? You may also want to read:
- 5 Most Interesting Scenic Drives in New Jersey
- 5 Spectacular Scenic Drives in PA
- Easy Road Trips From DC
- New York to Florida By Road – A family road trip itinerary
- Plan a complete US East Coast road trip following the country’s national parks
© Family Road Trip