Delaware : Safety by CityUnited States - safety as a country Delaware - state review
For such a charming beach town, Lewes, Delaware, sure has a volatile history.
I’m surprised it’s even here today!
It’s called the First Town in the First State since it was settled in 1631, a Dutch settlement that was short-lived when Indigenous people wiped out the 32 people who lived there.
About 25 years later, more Dutch settlers put down roots, but that town was quickly wiped out by the English down to the last piece of wood.
Another decade goes by, and the Dutch once again settle in.
They didn’t even last a year before the English burned it to the ground.
Finally, the English kept control, and William Penn was gifted what we now know as Delaware by the King of England.
Now, it’s an idyllic beach tow…. oh wait, there are also the pirates that pillaged and (allegedly) buried treasure, and there’s a cannonball from the War of 1812 still lodged in a building.
Well, it *was there for more than 200 years before the crime wave of 2023 happened, but we’ll jump into that topic a little later on.
You’ll also be dodging several ghosts (stories).
NOW, aside from the abundant historical attractions of Lewes (“Lewis”), you have a beachfront that’s much less crowded than Rehoboth Beach on the other side of the cape.
Warnings & Dangers in Lewes
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here with a family-friendly destination waiting that's packed with history. I love writing about historical places because I can encourage you to take the kids out of school for a trip since they'll be getting great history lessons.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a seasonal trolley in town available, and the DART bus system can take you around the region. There's a special bus for beach towns. Taxis and rideshares are available, but having your own car will offer the most flexibility. All options are low risk.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
With just one purse snatching in the past five years, this is a low risk statistically. The potential is always there in a tourist town. If someone can steal a cannonball stuck in a building, they can certainly figure out a way to get your wallet.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
This is a medium risk, as every month is either in hurricane season or nor'easter season. Storm surge is a dangerous and potentially deadly impact when heavy rain falls. Winter can be bitterly cold. All the information you need is on the Emergency Management section of the city's website.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
No armed robberies of tourists have been reported in the past five years. There was a knife fight at a convenience store, but this is another low risk. I'd use extra caution anywhere on Route 1.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
Dover Air Force base is less than 40 miles away, which would be a potential target. It also has some of the best security in America. There's a low risk that Lewes would be a terror target. I think the town has been through enough attacks from foreign entities over the past 400 years.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
You always want to use caution when you're renting a home. The short-term rental rules are posted on the city's website. Don't look for the lowest price. Look for the most legitimate value. The local Chamber of Commerce or tourism bureau can help with the best rental companies. Never wire money to secure a rental, and always confirm the person has a rental permit.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
There's a low risk here, but you still need to use basic security steps as you would in any tourist community.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
The Lewes Board of Public Works offers an email signup if you want to stay involved in water quality updates. The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. After any kind of flooding, please check the city websites for potential water contamination.
Safest Places to Visit in Lewes
The Lewes city website will have practical travel information and basic about the beaches.
The Visit Delaware website has a list of all the beaches with things to do at each.
Historic Lewis is the organization that provides information on all the monuments, museums and preserved homes.
The ferry in Lewes takes you to Cape May, New Jersey.
You can learn more about that city at CapeMay.com.
It touts itself as “America’s Original Seaside Resort.”
Cape Henlopen State Park is right next to Lewes, with Rehoboth Beach on the other side.
With 5T200 acres of natural beauty, it boasts pristine beaches, dunes, and historical landmarks like Fort Miles.
The Fort Miles Museum details the purpose of the fort from World War II through the 1970s.
TRAVEL TIP: Along the beach and Fort Miles forested areas, there are “Ghost Towers” left behind.
Legend has it that if you go to Ghost Tower 12 and take photos near the dunes or bicycle trail, you just might capture the ghost of a soldier photobombing you.
The iconic Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse is a great Instagram moment.
You can also take a water tour around the lighthouse.
Eco-tours, dolphin tours, and sunrise/sunset boat rides are also available.
Cape Henlopen has its own public beach, which then spans into Lewes Beach.
The beach goes until Roosevelt Inlet, but on the other side is Beach Plum Island State Park.
Check the schedule of events through the city and historical society because this small beach town really celebrates its history with walking tours with several events each week.
Historic places to tour include:
- The Lewes Maritime Museum at the Cannonball House
- Ryves Holt House Museum
- Lewes Life-Saving Station
- Historic Shipcarpenter Street Campus
- Lewes History Museum & Archives
- LHS Antique Shop
The Zwaanendael Museum (“ZWAN-en-dale”) celebrates the Dutch roots of the coastal land.
While all the Dutch artifacts and clothing are impressive, the finite details of the Dutch attempts and re-attempts to settle here will feed the appetite of any history buff.
From beheadings and stolen coats of armor to previous names for the town.
You could be visiting Whorekill, Delaware if history hadn’t intervened.
Places to Avoid in Lewes
You won’t have a lot to worry about in this area.
As long as you stay off private property and know your way around ocean safety, like not going in the water when there’s a red or purple flag.
The first means dangerous currents, and the second means “Marine Life,” which can be anything from jellyfish to sharks.
I’ve written a lot up and down the New England coastline, and while tourist websites won’t dive into this next topic, I will.
Biting flies and horse flies.
No, not mosquitoes, though they are ever-present too.
These are biting bugs that can cut you with scissor-like appendages.
The pain is between a mosquito bite and a bee sting, only these sucks come in swarms.
They have ruined many beach days for people.
Bug spray won’t work against them.
There isn’t a beach immune to these bugs, though the hotter is it, and the closer you are to salt marshes, the more bugs you’ll find.
The only option to avoid them, aside from not going to the beach, is to wear long-sleeved shirts and full-legged pants.
They won’t sting through clothing.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Lewes
- Lewes has its own police department. You can find them on Facebook at @LewesPD. If you have specific questions about safety or crime rates closer to your visit, call them at (302)645-6264.
- Sussex County, where Lewes is located, uses Smart 911 to send emergency notifications. You can also set up an account where you give the medical, location, and contact information in case you need to call 911. It’s a great way to get ahead of an emergency while also being informed of approaching storms.
- Lewes uses the CodeRED notification system for hyper-local updates. You can sign up online and check to see what other Delaware cities are on the list of subscriptions. Between June and November, keep an eye on the tropics through the National Hurricane Center.
- Don’t listen to anyone who says, “Hurricanes don’t usually hit here.” Hurricane season gets more intense each year, and being blasé about the risks is setting you up for trouble. If there is an approaching storm, it doesn’t need to be a large hurricane to cause storm surge or spawn tornadoes onto the mainland. You can read the hurricane preparedness plan on the city’s website.
- You can use the ParkMobile app to find parking downtown and at the beach. Each area has different parking rules, limits, and prices. Pay close attention to the parking map because there are some free parking lots.
- Parking meters are used from May 1 through October 14 every year from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. From October 1 through April 30, parking at the beach is free.
- If you look at the layout of Lewes, it’s flanked by water—a canal on one side and the ocean on the other. This makes it a high risk of flooding during any rain event or high tide, but the rising ocean due to climate change is causing huge concerns. Plans are in place to build waterway controls, but until then, never drive through a flooded road and heed all coastal flood and flash flood advisories.
- Dogs are allowed on Lewes beaches before 8:00 am and after 6:00 pm. The animals must be leashed at all times.
- The Lewis Line is a great way to get around to the main attractions without having to keep parking a car. The route goes from the ferry to the beaches to downtown. Buy the bulk package of rides where you get 12 rides for $10. Otherwise, individual rides are $1.
- Fishing and crabbing require a license or permit. You can learn more through the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife. A recreational fishing license will cover crabbing, clamming, and fishing.
So... How Safe Is Lewes Really?
Lewes hasn’t had a year with more than ten violent crimes since 2015.
Most crimes here involved things like shoplifting or vandalism.
A shocking crime in 2023 rattled the Lewes community when a couple was accused of sex and labor trafficking.
Police are still asking for victims to come forward as the government is pressing federal charges.
Some of the most recent crimes were more hurtful to the community pride, like one of the ghost towers on the beach being vandalized, someone stealing the famed cannonball from the building, a brazen art theft where an elderly man walked out of a museum with a painting.
In a new move in 2023, Crimestoppers kiosks were added to the ferry dock.
“They can approach the kiosk, they can obviously look at the information that’s scrolling on the screen, so they learn a little bit about vacation safety tips, trick-or-treat, some of the wanted posters, the information we have for outstanding homicides,” Michael Gallagher of Delaware Crimestoppers said.
You can also anonymously submit a crime tip through the kiosk.
While Lewes isn’t immune to crime, it’s still one of the safest places to visit in Delaware.
Once you get on Route 1, you’ll be in a busy area with more crime along the businesses there and bigger risks of vehicle accidents.
Common sense goes a long way here, along with an awareness of ocean risks and safety steps.
How Does Lewes Compare?
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- Visas - International visitors need a passport and visa or visa waiver. Start the process on the right path by using the Visa Wizard on the U.S. State Department website. You can cross state lines in America without having to show ID, but you'll go through Customs and Border Patrol at the airport.
- Currency - The U.S. Dollar is the only currency accepted in America. You should exchange currency at your home bank to get the lowest fees. If you have a local branch of your bank in this region, you can call ahead to have the cash waiting for you.
- Weather - Temperatures in the summer get into the upper 80s (F), so bring clothing that is loose and light-colored. Don't forget the sunscreen. This might be Delaware, but you can still get a Florida sunburn! Water shoes and comfortable walking shoes will be needed to keep your feet safe. Winter usually has average highs in the 40s (F) with night temps at or below freezing, so you'll want a coat.
- Airports - Salisbury, Maryland's Regional Airport is the closest at 42 miles away. Philadelphia's airport is larger, but it's 112 miles away along one of the busiest roads in New England. You can also get to Baltimore's airport by driving 106 miles.
- Travel Insurance - Travel insurance gives you peace of mind against big travel troubles like hurricanes and nor'easters. Summer travelers might want to increase the rental car coverage due to the amount of traffic here.
Lewes Weather Averages (Temperatures)
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