Why Kent County's Beaches Are Hidden Gems
These lesser-known treasures along the Delaware Bay offer everything from fishing and bird-watching to food and festivals.
Locals say fishing is as good in Bowers Beach as any other spot on the Delaware bay.//photo courtesy of Captain's Lady Charters
Delaware highways are crowded every summer weekend with people speeding to First State resorts for sun, sand and saltwater.
While most people think of Rehoboth, Dewey or Bethany when discussing Delaware beaches, they are missing hidden gems with names like Bowers, Kitts Hummock, Pickering and Woodland—the beaches of Kent County.
Bowers Beach is a small, quiet town with a permanent population of less than 400. The bay is shallow and perfect for swimming or wading. While it doesn’t have a boardwalk or amusement parks—and the crowds that go with them—Bowers still boasts some of the amenities of larger beaches (restaurants, bars and boat rentals). It also has three parks and a museum.
But fishing is what Bowers is really about. And locals will tell you that the fishing here is as good as any other spot on the Delaware Bay—even coastal Sussex.
“People don’t understand,” says Bob Trowbridge, owner of the Captain’s Lady charter boat in Bowers Beach. “We are the first stop, 30 miles closer to some of the same fishing.”
When Trowbridge isn’t taking people out for charter excursions, pirate cruises or fishing trips, he likes to sit on the deck at JP’s Wharf restaurant, drink a beer, eat crabs and enjoy the view of the bay. He also enjoys catching one of the bands playing at The Bay View Tavern down the street.
“We used to call it the busiest dead end in Delaware,” he says. “There’s definitely good times to be had.”
Especially for aspiring pirates, who flock to the annual pirate festival—this year called “The Golden Age of Piracy”—on Memorial Day weekend. Festival-goers often come dressed for the occasion, but people from the 21st century are certainly allowed as well. They might all, however, be asked to choose sides between notorious pirates like Blackbeard, Bluebeard, Anne Bonny and Charles Vane in a search for buried treasure. Otherwise there’s music, sword fights, trading cards, pirate cruises and lessons on how to be a pirate.
Bowers Beach might have a pirate-themed event, but Kitts Hummock once had the pirates. The tiny beach is just east of Dover Air Force Base off Del. 9 south of Dover. It was originally named “Kidds Hammock” after legendary pirate Capt. William Kidd. Rumor has it, Kitts Hummock was one of his regular stops where he buried treasure.
Today, the treasure to be found is some lovely beachcombing and wildlife watching. While the bay here can sometimes be a bit muddy, there is a complimentary hand-, foot- and dog-rinsing station near the public access entrance.
Kitts Hummock doesn’t hold the lock on nature though. Behind Dover Air Force Base, down a long, winding road rests Pickering Beach, home to roughly 30 houses and a handful of public parking spots. The beach here, though small, is where folks come for quiet and vacation.
If the beach isn’t enough, then take a walk through the Little Creek Wildlife Area with entrances just before the beach. The wildlife area consists of more 4,700 acres of tidal marsh, forest and agricultural fields dedicated to wildlife management.
Since the primary objective of the wildlife area is to provide public hunting and fishing, be knowledgeable about the hunting seasons before you take a walk.
If studying a hunting schedule doesn’t sound like fun, a visit to the Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge might be a better-suited nature experience. The refuge features 15,978 acres east of Smyrna. It was established as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory and wintering waterfowl along the Atlantic Flyway and offers a 12-mile wildlife drive, five walking trails (two of them handicapped accessible), three observation towers and different programing, interpretive displays and videos in the visitors center.
If the hunt is for sea glass more than sea birds, Woodland Beach, just east of Smyrna at the end of Del. 6, might be the place to go. A vacation spot in the 1700s, the area has been pretty quiet since. There is a fishing pier, free parking and usually a port-a-potty. What more could one want?