Boating up the Broadkill River

The Broadkill River flows for its entire length in eastern Sussex County, DE. From Milton, the Broadkill River flows generally eastward, although it snakes through the landscape with lazy S curves that change the view constantly.

The river passes through the wetlands and salt marshes of the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and skirts the Great Marsh Preserve, where you can see numerous waterfowl, herons and egrets.

Periodically, but usually in the fall, you can find boat cruises out of Lewes, that take you up the Broadkill River to Milton.

It’s a 15-minute drive between Lewes and Milton, but by boat, it’s a relaxing 90 minute journey, evoking a slower-paced, idealized past in which the river was used less for recreation and more for industry.

From Lewes, you travel through the canal to the Broadkill River. To the right as you head out of Lewes along the canal, beach homes indicate where land ends and the ocean starts, not far away.

But soon we entered the wetlands, where it wasn’t hard to spot the graceful heron and egrets searching the marshes for their lunches.

Then, slowly the marsh and swamp landscape gives way to scrub bush as you journey through the s-bends and begin to near Milton. We had to laugh — the captain brought along a power saw, an unusual item for a boat tour, but he explained that trees often come down unexpectedly, blocking passage. Although the state of Delaware is responsible for ensuring the river remains passable, he admitted that more often than not, he and his crew are the ones clearing the way.

Milton is a very small, quaint town — a few restaurants and boutiques downtown. It’s heyday occurred in the 1800s, when the town prospered through shipbuilding and shipping.

The shipyards have long ago disappeared, though. Boating activity in the Broadkill, still important today, has reoriented itself to fishing and recreation over the years. There’s a cute little historical museum in an old church building — go in for both the history and to see the gorgeous stained glass windows!

After a 45-minute layover, you’ll again board the boat for the journey back to Lewes. All told, you’ll spend about four hours on the river, a relaxing journey.

Did I say to bring your binoculars already? Because you really should. We saw bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, and a Coopers hawk (the latter identified by someone who knows their birds).

Know before you go: Pack a picnic lunch to bring with you, including snacks and drinks. The boat tour stops for 45 minutes in Milton, offering opportunities to pick up food if you didn’t pack your own, but you’ll also want to take that time to walk the few blocks that make up the village of Milton and browse some of the boutiques.

Getting there: The confirmation emails will provide you the location and address of the dock.

When: Check the Cape Water Tours website for upcoming tours.


Follow the MidAtlantic DayTrips on FacebookTwitterInstagramPinterest, and LinkedIn.