Autumn energizes us with cooler weather — perfect for festivals, crabs that are at their largest, and a harvest that provides a cornucopia of fresh food. Many people go to the Delaware beaches in the summer for the whole “toes in the sand” experience, but autumn is a favorite time of year there, too. In fact, agriculture is the biggest economic driver in Southern Delaware, where small towns and farms remind visitors of the region’s rural heritage.
The website visitsoutherndelaware.com lists more than 25 agricultural destinations and a dozen farmers markets, so it’s a great tool for families to use to plan a farm adventure. Choose from a pick-your-own experience or a visit to something different, such as a lavender or alpaca farm.
“Small family farms are part of the fabric and appeal of Southern Delaware. Those providing visitor activities put more education in a vacation and more stimulation in a side trip,” said Scott Thomas, who promotes the area.
Take in the Apple Scrapple festival, Oct. 10-11 in Bridgeville, where the local food choices range from apple dumplings to scrapple sandwiches, oyster sandwiches, crab cakes, and the usual festival fare.
There’s also a car show, the Little Miss Apple Scrapple pageant, a carnival, a craft show, and a whole host of entertainment and events. You experience the joys of small town rural life at its best. (applescrapple.com)
If you’re looking for a more active way to check out the rural/agricultural side of Southern Delaware, check out the Broad Creek Bike and Brew Tour. This has been a huge success and is growing every year. Plan ahead for June 13, 2015, when you can enjoy the sites of Laurel, Del., Trap Pond, and other parts of the region as you pedal your choice of 5-, 15-, 25-, 50-, or 62-mile (metric century) routes. There’s so much to see, and the land is flat, so aim high. Afterward, enjoy the fantastic after party with microbrews, barbeque chicken, and music. (broadcreekbikeandbrew.com)
State parks packages
Delaware State Parks offer getaway packages to consider as well. A fall fishing package being held Oct.17-19 teaches you to prepare and cook your own fish as well as the basics of surf fishing and fly casting.
You also enjoy a trip on a head boat and stay at the beautiful new cottages located near the Indian River inlet. The cost is $165 per person and includes a discounted two-night stay, all activities, one dinner, two lunches, and two breakfasts.
The Autumn Shores Getaway is offered Oct. 31-Nov. 2 and includes a night hike through the Burton Island Nature Preserve and a daytime hike through the Thompson Island nature preserve led by a park naturalist.
Afterwards, a trip to Oceanview for an organic lunch is followed by a stop at the James Farm ecological preserve, a relaxing campfire, and stargazing on the beach. The cost is only $75 per person and includes a discounted two-night stay, all outdoor activities, a lunch, and two breakfasts. (destateparks.com/camping/cottages)
Wineries and breweries
The area’s wineries and breweries are a growing part of the agricultural scene in Southern Delaware. Recently, Delaware became part of the four-state Vintage Atlantic Wine Region.
A French wine magazine recently noted that the Southern Delaware region has geographical, climate, and growing conditions similar to the Bordeaux.
Autumn is a great time to sip the wines, sample the beers and ales, and explore the region. There are two wineries and two breweries in Southern Delaware.
Nassau Valley Vineyards in Lewes is Delaware’s only award-winning winery and is open for tours and tastings year round. (nassauvalley.com) Fenwick Wine Cellars in Fenwick Island offers a wide variety of red, white, blush, and fruit wines, as well as wine tasting events and wine tours. (fenwickwinecellars.com)
Dogfish Head Brewery has a brewery in Milton where you can take a brewery tour and sample its popular brews.
There is also a location in Rehoboth Beach, the very popular Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats brewpub/distillery. There, you can get samples of “off-centered ales” and enjoy delicious wood-grilled eats. There is live music every weekend, too. (dogfish.com)
While enjoying autumn in Southern Delaware, spend some time in Lewes. Founded in 1631, the town is rich in history. Lewes is known for paranormal and house hauntings, making it an ideal October venue.
Take the 90-minute walking tour available each Wednesday at 7:30pm and hear stories of the Cannonball House, the unknown sailors’ cemetery, and other sites.
The cost is $10, and children and students are free. The haunted Lewes tours leave from the Ryves Holt House Museum Gift Shop. Remember to bring your flashlight. (302-645-7670)
Southern Delaware is convenient to the Baltimore-Washington region and fall means there aren’t any summertime traffic jams to endure.
For more information: Southern Delaware Tourism: 302-856-1818, visitsoutherndelaware.com