East coast active adults, particularly snowbirds who split their time between New York and Florida, will recognize Delaware as one of the “pass through” states along the often traveled I-95 highway. Yet there is much more to Delaware than this short stretch between Maryland and New Jersey. The First State is home to several popular cities, such as Wilmington, Dover, Lewes and Rehoboth Beach. Its various cities and regions offer their own cultural and recreational attractions, and no sales tax makes the state a shopper’s paradise!
As the country’s second smallest state, Delaware is only 96 miles long, and its width varies from 9 miles to 35 miles across. Delaware has three counties, which, listed from north to south, are: New Castle, Kent and Sussex. New Castle encompasses the state’s more industrialized areas, including Wilmington, which is the largest city in Delaware. In contrast, Kent and Sussex have always been more focused on agriculture such as poultry, soybeans, corn and dairy products.
Geographically, Delaware is bordered to the south by Maryland and to the north by Pennsylvania. The eastern border falls along the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, which all flow together from the river out to the sea. Though the Delaware River lies between Delaware and New Jersey, there are a few small stretches where the two states share a land boundary. Ferries also allow easy transportation across the Delaware river, such as the popular run between Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware.
Active adults have begun to take notice of Delaware’s retirement appeal, which is enhanced by its prime location. While the state has its own moderately sized cities and towns, it is also within easy distance of many other popular east coast destinations, such as Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York City. With its eastern border falling along the Delaware River, the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, many types of water lovers can find an appealing waterfront, or water adjacent, community.
For those who prefer all four seasons, Delaware’s environment covers a transitional zone, which ranges from a humid subtropical climate to a continental climate. There is often a noticeable difference in temperatures and weather from the northern to southern portions of Delaware. The southernmost Sussex County generally enjoys more mild winters and hotter summers than the more northern areas of New Castle County.
Despite its small size, Delaware is one of the country’s more densely populated states. This is particularly true in New Castle County. As the state’s largest city, and New Castle’s county seat, Wilmington boasts many cultural and recreational attractions. It also embraces a rich history as the city was first settled in 1638 under the name Fort Christina. Today, Wilmington offers a variety of distinct neighborhoods including nine historic districts and the Wilmington Riverfront.
In addition to Wilmington, New Castle County contains several cities and towns that are popular with active adults, such as Townsend, Delaware City and Newark (pronounced “new ark” unlike the New Jersey city of the same name). The county is also home to new and currently developing active adult communities including The Village of Long Creek in Newark, and Milltown Village in Pike Creek. Both of these communities are being built by Benchmark Builders, one of the region’s premiere active adult community developers.
Further south, Delaware’s capital city of Dover is located in the lovely county of Kent. Dover is the second largest city in the state and a popular destination for visitors. The Dover International Speedway hosts two NASCAR weekend events each year, one in May or June and the other in September. Dover Downs, also contained within the Dover International Speedway, offers harness horse racing year-round. There are several golf courses in the area surrounding Dover, including the Maple Dale Country Club, the Wild Quail Country Club, and the Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course.
For those who prefer performing arts, history and other cultural attractions, Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts is home to the Dover Symphony Orchestra. Dover’s historical district is home to the Sewell C. Biggs Museum of American Art, and downtown Dover houses the Dover State Museum as well as the Dover State Archives, which are open to the public.
The Dover area also contains several active adult communities. Noble’s Pond, developed by Regal Builders, is designed to reflect the nostalgic charm of the 1950s and 1060s. Roesville, built by J.S. Hovnanian and Sons, is located in nearby Felton and offers lush, resort-style living.
Delaware’s southernmost county, Sussex, is the largest county in the state. It encompasses 938 square miles including an eastern border, which stretches along the Delaware Bay and Atlantic coast. Sussex county includes several popular coastal cities, such as Lewes and Rehoboth Beach.
Initially founded in 1631 under the name of Zwaanendael (Swan Valley), today’s current city of Lewes is considered to be the first city, in the first state of the United States. This coastal town sits at the southernmost edge of the Delaware Bay, just near the point where the bay turns into the Atlantic Ocean. Like Delaware’s other coastal towns, Lewes is a popular tourist spot; one that is made even more accessible by a ferry that runs from Lewes to Cape May, New Jersey.
A bit further south on Delaware’s Atlantic coast, Rehoboth Beach swarms with visitors during the hot summer months. Rehoboth’s beach boardwalk features an eclectic mix of quirky shops, fun restaurants, festive nightlife, and plenty of recreational activities. Rehoboth Beach has a welcoming atmosphere and is also known to be a popular gay and lesbian vacation spot. In addition to its boardwalk attractions, Rehoboth hosts annual festivals such as the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival and the Rehoboth Beach Autumn Jazz Festival.
In addition to Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware’s coastal beach resorts include the towns of Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany and Fenwick Island. This cluster of coastal resort towns is rapidly growing, and continues to attract new residents. The AARP has even listed Rehoboth Beach as one of the top five cities to retire to in the country.
Though Delaware may be small in size, its transitional climate and distinct regions make it an ideal location for a variety of people. From the industrialized north with its easy access to major urban centers, to the southern coast with its sunny beaches and artistic charm, Delaware is quickly becoming a popular retirement destination for active adults.
Noted Active Adult 55+ Communities
Champions Club at Jonathan’s Landing
Four Seasons at Silver Maple
Legacy at The Village of Fox Meadow
Village of Cinderberry