Outdoor Activities Worth Trying

Sun’s out (occasionally), so grab your swimsuits, tennis racquets, hiking boots and other outdoor gear and take advantage of all the summer fun our area has to offer. Here are some suggestions from our staff and contributors.

Throw a Disc

While most people still don’t understand the concept of disc golf, the recent rise in the sport’s popularity is undeniable.

The phenomenon has drawn the attention of Joshua Woods, a writer and associate professor of Sociology at West Virginia University. Woods points out that from 2011 to 2016, the number of U.S. disc golf courses nearly doubled, from 2,982 to 5,467.

Delaware is home to more than a dozen public courses as well as a few private ones. Our state park system has done a terrific job of developing and maintaining seven of these courses, and most earn high marks from experts.

My favorite course is Brandywine Creek State Park. It offers plenty of wide-open spaces for both beginners to learn and lapsed players to refresh their techniques. Even if you play poorly, it’s a wonderful walk through nature. The rolling hills offer some of the most vibrant vistas a player could ask for. Some days it feels like you’re playing in a Pyle or Wyeth illustration.

  — Jim Miller, Director of Publications

Enjoy First State Wildlife

I spent a lot of time as a kid in my backyard creek catching frogs. Now, as a photographer, I spend a lot of my outdoor fun time tracking down owls and foxes and other interesting wildlife that might surprise people who live in Delaware. Bombay Hook, Prime Hook and even the Arden forest always have something interesting to offer, especially if you can catch them first thing in the morning or just after sunset. Next on my list is an otter who hangs out near the DuPont Environmental Center on the Riverfront.

— Joe del Tufo, Contributing Photographer

Hike White Clay Creek State Park

It’s tucked away as a refuge from the hustle and bustle of New Castle County, and even though it’s not exactly Yellowstone, you can get exercise while enjoying nature at White Clay Creek Park. There are nine trails, totaling 37 miles, that range from easy to moderate. In-state entry fee is $4 and out-of-state is $8, and park hours are 8 a.m. to sunset all year round. For more information, call 368-6900 or go to destateparks.com/FieldsStreams/WhiteClayCreek.

— Kevin Noonan, Contributing Writer

Sail Away!

The New Castle Sailing Club invites you to sail with us, whether you are an experienced sailor or a complete novice. We supply the boats and the clubhouse, you supply the enthusiasm for sailing. You can sail immediately regardless of your experience, and you can join at any time during the season. We have a fleet of club-owned boats that during sailing season are moored in the Delaware River, off New Castle. These include a fleet of 13 sailboats in two classes: the 17-foot Thistle (a great racing boat) and the 19-foot Flying Scot (a great cruising boat).

During the early spring, we have classroom instruction on Saturday mornings at our clubhouse. Once the boats launch in late April, we have on-the-water instruction and races each week. Individual instruction is also available by appointment during the week. Membership in the club is limited to 130 families so that demand does not exceed boat availability. So if you plan to join, don’t wait.

After demonstrating satisfactory sailing skills, a member becomes “keyed” and can take out a boat at any time, including inviting friends to sail with them. The club offers many opportunities to connect with your fellow sailors such as spring lunches, when we gather for boat maintenance, and social cruises throughout the sailing season. Visit our Facebook page as well as our website at newcastlesailingclub.org. Reach us via the “Contact Us!” button, or call 275-5783.

— John Harder, Membership Director, New Castle Sailing Club

Tee It Up

For someone of my skill level, swinging golf clubs can be torture, but luckily for me it’s more about enjoying the outdoors and clearing my mind. My favorite “therapy sessions” take place at Deerfield in Newark. This extraordinary 145-acre natural treasure is a one-of-a-kind championship course and the best public course in the state, in my opinion. It’s surrounded by the scenic forest of White Clay Creek State Park, making the views from every hole spectacular. I only wish I could get there more often.

   — Matt Loeb, Production Manager

Explore Delaware’s Only Cave

There’s only one place in Delaware to go spelunking, and it takes only a moment to explore all 56 feet of that cave, in First State National Historical Park. The cave boasts an intriguing history (a Revolutionary War hideout), a scientific breakthrough (before 1958, some claimed Delaware was cave-free) and a modern secret (it’s not on park maps, for reasons of safety). Google calls it the Beaver Valley Rock Shelter Site, a bland contrast to the earlier Indian Cave and Wolf Rock Cave. It adds to the park’s panorama of old farmsteads, wooded hills, forgotten trails and rushing waterways, just 1.5 miles from the commercialization on Concord Pike. Best of all,  it channels Dead Poets Society, where the cave was immortalized as a place for experiencing the magic of poetry.

— Ken Mammarella, Contributing Writer

Make a Splash

The Arden Swim Club behind the Gild Hall is my favorite place for a day at a pool without paying for a membership. Surrounded by trees, it offers plenty of shade on a hot day, and there’s a picnic area, children’s pool, vending machines —and local pizza places deliver!

The daily fee is $15 for adults. And if you’re a member of any Delaware YMCA, the nearby Hanby pool, off Marsh Road, is free. Of course there are many local pools with member fees in the $350 range; most also require a bond.

— Bev Zimmermann, Special Projects

Grow a Garden

An understatement: My backyard vegetable and herb garden is not a paean to order. The onions may become lost in a sea of weeds, the tomatoes will almost surely expand well beyond their turf and the Brussels sprouts may again get chewed down by Groundy, our affectionately nicknamed groundhog. And I think it’s beautiful. The joy my garden brings me—from seeing a praying mantis hunt amid the cucumbers or finding a batch of black swallowtail caterpillars in the dill—isn’t contingent on a tidy space or even a bountiful crop.

Of course, your garden might be different. A garden isn’t about reaching a state of perfection. It’s about claiming a small patch of land to create something that delights you. The only wrong way to do it is not to get started.

Dan Linehan, Contributing Writer

Go Surf Fishing

Looking for something new to do with the family the next time you’re down at the beach? Surf fishing is a great way to spend time on the beach while trying your luck at catching a fish. From Fenwick Island to the banks of the Delaware River in Wilmington, surf fishing has been a popular pastime for many. During the summer months, the beaches are lined with four-wheel-drive vehicles and families fishing, barbecuing and enjoying the beach while trying their luck. The spring and fall produce the most sought-after fish for the true surf fisherman: bluefish, drum, flounder and stripers, aka striped bass. Water temperature, tides and moon positioning all affect the activity of the fish and provide a guide to the best times to break out your rods and reels. You can use fresh bunker, mullet and other fresh/frozen baits as well as artificial lures.

— Anthony Santoro, Contributing Photographer

See a Show – Outdoors

Summer combines two of my favorite pastimes: being outside and enjoying the arts. There are many options for entertainment al fresco in the area, and some are even free. There are free concerts every Thursday night in July and August at Dravo Plaza on Wilmington’s Riverfront. Bellevue State Park has a series of varied musical programs throughout the summer: destateparks.com/Concerts/Bellevue. Longwood Gardens outdoor shows are ticketed, but include admission to the garden itself: longwoodgardens.org/events-performances. Delaware Shakespeare will be performing July 12-28 in Rockwood Park; this summer’s production will be The Merry Wives of Windsor: delshakes.org/festival/festival-schedule. And, of course, there’s a seemingly endless parade of entertainment-oriented festivals: Clifford Brown, Riverfront Blues, Ladybug and the Peoples’ Festival celebrating the music of Bob Marley. More information on all summer arts events can be found at inwilmingtonde.com/events.

— Mark Fields, Contributing Writer and Movie Reviewer

Blaze A Trail

U.S. participation in bicycling has increased by nearly 10 million over the past decade. That number would no doubt increase by millions more if not for one barrier: being on roads with cars. That is why the proliferation of dedicated bike/pedestrian trails in New Castle County is such a positive development for those of us who like a good (and safe) bike ride. I highly recommend two trails in particular: the Markell Trail (7.9 miles from Wilmington’s Riverfront to Historic New Castle) and the Mike Castle Trail (12 miles from Delaware City to the Delaware-Maryland state line; 14 miles if you add in Maryland’s Ben Cardin Trail, which takes you to Chesapeake City). In fact, I regularly hop on the Markell Trail at the Riverfront, take it to Historic New Castle, then take the wide-shouldered, 8.5-mile trek along River Road to Delaware City. I then pick up the Castle Trail for as long as I care to ride. If one proceeds all the way to Chesapeake City, it’s approximately 30 miles. That’s a 60-mile roundtrip jaunt that is car-free for 44 miles.

   — Jerry duPhily, Publisher

Serve It Up!

Tennis, anyone? If you’re in downtown Wilmington, the Rodney Street tennis courts are well known to Trolley Square residents, as are the courts in Rockford Park. During the summer—when school is out—you can go to a local high school. Most have six courts, but no lights—so get your game in before dusk. Among the schools with courts are A.I. du Pont, Archmere, Brandywine, Concord, Glasgow, McKean, Mt. Pleasant, Salesianum and Tatnall high schools and Springer Middle School (two courts). Also check tenniscourts.com to find a court near you.

There are also plenty of courts in New Castle County parks. Those include Banning, Brandywine Mills, Canby, Bonsall, Bechtel, Battery and Conaty. Fairfield Park and Norma B. Handloff Park in Newark each have three courts with lights. Delcastle has eight courts, and Greenbank Park has four.

   — Bev Zimmermann, Special Projects

Paddle On

We have so many beautiful outdoor areas to explore that I don’t take advantage of often enough. One of my favorite pastimes (when all the parenting and work stars align) is spending a few hours kayaking down the Brandywine River. The scenery and experience make me forget that I’m only 20 minutes from home.

But don’t take my word for it; check out Wilderness Canoe Trips on Concord Pike. They drop you in and pick you up when you’re done. They also have canoe and tubing trips available. If you enjoy it as much as I do, you can find some great vessels to purchase at REI. Check them out at out rei.com/stores/christiana.html.

Matt Loeb, Production Manager

Walk Old New Castle

Step back in time, to the 17th and 18th centuries, when walking was the primary mode of moving around, and savor the well-preserved wonders of historic New Castle. You can walk for an hour—or several hours —enjoying fresh air while absorbing volumes of the First State’s history. Park near the foot of Delaware Street, by the historic marker designating William Penn’s first landing in North America. Stroll south along the Delaware River through Battery Park, then loop back and walk out on the newly reconstructed pier (where the Kalmar Nyckel sometimes docks) for an expansive view of the river. Walk north past the stunning Colonial homes along The Strand to Chestnut Street, near where Dutch settlers built Fort Casimir in 1651 and, in the first half of the 20th century, ferries transported cars and pedestrians across the river. Head back along Harmony Street to the northwest corner of The Green, site of 315-year-old Immanuel Episcopal Church, and look in its cemetery for the graves of three Delaware governors, two U.S. senators and George Read, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Then head south along the Green to the Arsenal, now the home of the New Castle Historical Society’s Visitor Center. Back on Delaware Street, you’ll approach the centerpiece of the First State National Historical Park, the Old Courthouse, and behind it, the Sheriff’s House. Next door is the Old Town Hall, built in the 1820s, with its arched arcade that once led to a wooden markethouse adjacent to The Green. If you’re not tired yet, there’s still more.

— Larry Nagengast, Contributing Writer

Fish Fresh, Friendly Streams

Why not try your hand at trout fishing on one of northern New Castle County’s streams? It’s cheap and relatively easy. The stocked streams – White Clay Creek, Mill Creek, Pike Creek, Christina River, Red Clay Creek, Beaver Run and Wilson Run – are generally gently flowing and easily accessible. For Delaware residents, a license is just $8.50 if you’re between the ages of 16 and 65. A trout stamp (allowing you to fish in the stocked streams) is only $4.20. Residents 12 through 15 years old are required to have a young angler trout stamp ($2.10). If you’re over 65, you can fish free. Limit is six trout per day, no size requirements. For information on out-of-state rates and more, go to the Delaware Trout Program web page: dnrec.delaware.gov/fw/Fisheries/Pages/FreshwaterTrout.aspx.

And if you’re not in the mood for trout, drop a line in Brandywine Creek. Bass and bluegill, along with some other species, are plentiful. You can fish off the bank or wade into the stream.

— Bob Yearick, Contributing Editor

So, what do you think? Please comment below.