Where the heck is Delmarva? (and 11 great things to do there)

categories: USA Travel

delmarvaI wrote a blog post recently titled Host Our Coast – Win $15k and Live Free for 3 Months about a great contest that is going on in Delmarva where you can work as a blogger for the Summer, get a place to stay and get paid. But the first question I had when I received the email about the contest was “Where the heck is Delmarva?”

Delmarva is not in any one state but in three. The peninsula to the east of the Chesapeake Bay which is part of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia has apparently is “Delmarva”. I got in touch with Jim Rapp from the organization Delmarva Low-Impact Tourism Experiences (DLITE) to learn more about this region. Jim told me:

Delmarva has been in use locally and regionally for years. Off the Peninsula, the name means little. We wish we had a better, more exotic regional term – something along the lines of “Denali” or “Serengeti” or “Everglades”. We do have great names for our natural areas – Chesapeake, Chincoteague, Blackwater – but “Delmarva” doesn’t really grab you.

As a region and Peninsula, we are odd in that we are carved up so many ways – 3 states, 14 counties. This dates back to early colonial claims.

Today, each of our states & counties promote themselves, and they don’t do much together. Yet – for the nature & heritage traveler – we are just hours from millions (NYC, Philly, Balt/Wash are all within 2-4 hour drive), and LOADED with miles of scenic (& flat!) rural roads for the cyclist, miles of coastline & rivers on both sides for the kayaker, hundreds of migratory birds for the birder, and great local produce & seafood for the culinary explorer. Add in superb beaches, remote barrier islands, and some great history (John Smith explored the region in 1607-1608, birthplace of both Harriet Tubman & Frederick Douglass). You get the idea.

Here is Jim’s list of some of the best things in or about Delmarva:

  1. Beach: Assateague Island National Seashore has white Atlantic sands and wild horses on the beach.
  2. Beer: Dogfish Head – Sam Calagione is the king of the craft brew, based in Milton, DE. They have a killer brewery tour.
  3. Kayak Tour: SouthEast Expeditions – Dave Burden & crew are master guides through the tidal creeks behind VA’s barrier islands.
  4. Best-kept secret restaurant: Drum Point Market – in Tylerton, Smith Island has the best crab cake in the world, home to Maryland’s official state dessert (Smith Island cake), and… the only way to get there is on the ferry from Crisfield, MD!
  5. Historically significant Delmarvan: Harriet Ross Tubman – the Moses of Her People was born in Bucktown, MD. Follow her historic route by bike along the HT Underground Railroad Scenic Byway.
  6. Spring Shorebird Migration: Horseshoe crab spawning/shorebird migration – Delaware Bay has been host to this spring spectacle for centuries. The best time to see them is after full moon in May at Slaughter Beach. See more information at the Dupont Nature Center.
  7. geeseWinter Waterfowl Migration: Snow geese – Hundreds of thousands of snow geese winter at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge near Dover, DE . Some days they block out the sun.
  8. Fall Raptor Migration: Thousands of peregrine falcons, Cooper’s hawks, sharp-shinned hawks and more can be seen at the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory. Banders catch and release birds for migration research, but you can take awesome photographs up-close before they fly south.
  9. Authentic Event: Pony Penning at Chincoteague – On the fourth Wednesday in July, thousands gather to watch Saltwater Cowboys round up the young from the wild herds on Assateague Island – the ponies swim the channel, and are auctioned off at the carnival grounds.
  10. Bike Ride: Cross Island Trail – Start on Kent Island, but continue on throughout the entire Peninsula. Thousands of miles of scenic, flat rural roads connect cyclists to bay-side villages and small farm towns.
  11. Tradition: Waterfowl carving – This has been a waterfowl-hunting tradition for years, but was elevated to international art form by Lem and Steve Ward from Crisfield, MD. To learn more visit the Ward Museum.

Now seriously… isn’t that offer of living at Delmarva for the Summer sounding a little more intriguing?

Where the heck is Delmarva? (and 11 great things to do there)

Share this:

by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

6 Responses to “Where the heck is Delmarva? (and 11 great things to do there)”

Jim Rapp


Chris – thanks for telling our story! I think your readers will find that Delmarva (now that they know where we are) is an incredibly rich destination for the nature & heritage traveler. We have worked hard to conserve our open spaces, waterways & heritage sites. As conservation and historic preservation gets tougher & tougher, we need low-impact travelers to spend time with us (and a little $) to help us convince our elected leaders that sustainable tourism IS an economic generator, and we don’t squander our natural & historical treasures in the name of short-term profit.

Please visit us when you are East Coast U.S.!

Steve Atkinson


The peninsula has a long history with early settlements by the Dutch, the Swedes as well as the English. It’s even possible that the Spanish may have had a small settlement on the peninsula in the 16th Century.

The name Delmarva is fairly new. It was first used in the early 20th Century by a couple of business out of the Southern Eastern Shore of Maryland that also did business north in Delaware and south to Virginia. From what I have been able to discover prior to this it was called the Chesapeake Peninsula.

It’s a great place to visit and a better place to live.

Sandra Johnson


The Eastern Shore of Virginia peninsula has great history and quaint towns with all kinds of speciality shops. Our history dates back to the 1600’s. The shore is outlined with beaches, barrier islands, marshes and great restaurant. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Come visit our shores.

Cindy Byrd


A wonderful list of some of the area’s best offerings! As a relative newcomer, I discover more amazing things to do all the time. The people are warm, the food is delicious, the views are breathtaking, and there are many local traditions that have kept their original flavor. If I didn’t already live and work here, I’d enter this contest myself!

Jonathan Bess


And when you venture down to the VA part of DELMARVA you can also visit our nationally recognized wineries producing a host of varietal wines guaranteed to please any palate!

Bernd Ringwald


We’ve been planning to vacation on Assateague Island and when I looked at the map of the area, my first thought was that the area you call Delmarva, looks like a turtle. I started calling it Turtle Island and thinking it would be nice to spend some time in all three states.
I then began thinking of it as the “Turtle Island Empire”, which kinda “ties” the area together.

Leave a Reply

Tags: , , ,