In 1964, Lyndon B. Johnson was president; the Beatles first appeared on the Billboard charts with "I Want to Hold Your Hand"; the World’s Fair opened in New York, and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry made its grand debut. On July 1, 1964, the very first ferry vessel departed the Lewes terminal at 6:47 a.m. The ferry carried eight vehicles and 15 passengers.
Since then, more than 43 million passengers and over 14 million vehicles have made the scenic, 17-mile, 85-minute trip across Delaware Bay to and from Victorian Cape May, N.J., and historic Lewes, Delaware. A favorite of snowbirds and family vacationers, it has served as a major transportation link in the crowded Northeast corridor, connecting north-south traffic from Boston and New York to Washington, D.C. and Florida.
“The Cape May-Lewes Ferry has truly stood the test of time,” said Heath Gehrke, director of operations for the ferry. “While we have been around for 50 years, our ferries are state-of-the-art vessels equipped with fresh interiors and all the latest technology to ensure the comfort, convenience and safety of our passengers. We hope that people who haven’t had the opportunity to take advantage of all the Cape May-Lewes Ferry has to offer will do so in 2014 and help us celebrate this great milestone.”
The ferry hosts a variety of seasonal events and fun happenings both onboard and at both terminal locations. The ferry’s furry mascot, Lighthouse Pete the Pirate, offers fun children’s entertainment. Travelers seeking the ultimate in relaxation will find themed evening cruises complete with live music and drink specials ranging from tropical to rock 'n' roll themes. Passengers can order up tasty refreshments or sip cocktails at the Lido Bar. Others prefer to stake out a spot at the rail and enjoy the fresh bay breeze and spectacular views, which include frequent dolphin sightings and stunning sunsets.
Operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry welcomes foot and vehicle passengers 365 days a year. Because getting there is half the fun, all vessels are equipped with modern amenities, including outdoor deck chairs, air-conditioned lounges, cafes, comfortable reclining seats, Wi-Fi, lively deck bars and flat-screen televisions.
The ride between the Cape May Terminal in New Jersey and the Lewes Terminal in Delaware offers a relaxing and picturesque way to cut miles off a road trip, or simply get away for a day of sight-seeing, shopping, beach time, ecotourism activities, dining or recreation. Both bird watchers and bicyclists use the ferry to spot nature from unique vantage points at the numerous trails on both sides of the bay.
About the first crossing 50 years ago
The entire region came together in preparation for the ferry’s first official crossing in 1964. Dedication-week activities included preopening inaugural Hands Across the Bay ferry crossings to raise funds for the community celebrations and parades with prizes for outstanding floats. Celebrations also included a flyover by a squadron of jet fighter planes, 25 sky divers, receptions and dinners, and public concerts by a bagpipe band, the Air Force Band and the U.S. Coast Guard Band. Tens of thousands of people were involved in the weeklong dedication celebrations, all because of the expected positive impact that the new Cape May-Lewes Ferry would have on the economies of southern Delaware and southern New Jersey.
The governors of New Jersey and Delaware, along with officials of the U.S. Department of Commerce, state, county, and local governments, DRBA, and many private organizations and individuals participated in formal dedication ceremonies, first at Lewes Terminal, then at Cape May Terminal June 30, 1964.
A fleet of an estimated 2,200 private boats of all sizes assembled to greet and escort the first ferry crossing at Cape May. An ocean power boat race from Ocean City, N.J. to Lewes was scheduled during the week after the ferry opening, and a 30-mile sailboat race from Ocean City to Cape May was sponsored by area yacht clubs. Coincidentally, the first vehicle was a Ford Mustang, which is also celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2014. That first paying customer, Andrea Lippi, drove his black 1964 Mustang aboard the first vessel.
About the 50th Anniversary Celebration
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminals will host festivals Saturday and Sunday, June 28 and 29, to celebrate the service’s highly anticipated 50th Anniversary – the 28th in Cape May and 29th in Lewes. In addition to a classic 1960s car show, live entertainment, carnival games, children’s activities, and food and drink, the events at each terminal will also feature a videographer onsite to capture video clip mementos of the public wishing the ferry well. A time capsule will be placed under a capstone in a patio of commemorative bricks, and there will be an outdoor screening of WHYY-TV’s new documentary on the ferry.
As a grand finale to the schedule of events, on Sunday in Lewes, the ferry is collaborating with Cape Henlopen State Park - also celebrating its 50 anniversary - on a fireworks show over the bay.
Historic exhibits are currently on display in both the Cape May and Lewes terminals that feature photographs, newspaper articles and other memorabilia from the ferry’s early days. Ferry employees will be working with the Lewes Historical Society to produce traveling versions of these exhibits. The ferry also plans to offer special vehicle and passenger rates during this period to celebrate the milestone with its customers.
For a complete history of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry and more information about events and activities planned for the 50th anniversary celebration, go to www.CMLF.com/50th.
About the Cape May-Lewes Ferry
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is owned and operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, a bi-state governmental agency created by compact in 1962. The ferry is open year-round and has carried more than 43 million passengers since its inception July 1, 1964. In 2013, the ferry service transported approximately 275,000 vehicles and nearly 1 million passengers. For schedule, rates and other program information, go to www.CMLF.com, or call toll free, 800-643-3779. Like on Facebook or follow on Twitter @CMLFerry.
What to Do and See in New Jersey and Delaware
By car, by foot or by bicycle, discover endless ways to have fun on both sides of the Delaware Bay.
IN NEW JERSEY
CAPE MAY COUNTY ZOO: Go wild! More than 250 animal residents are awaiting your visit.
VICTORIAN CAPE MAY: Step back in time! Cape May is a National Historic Landmark. Explore the quaint neighborhoods and Historic Cold Spring Village on your own or book a trolley tour.
BEAUTIFUL BEACHES: Shore up a great day! Sun, sand and rolling waves beckon you to the beaches of Atlantic City, Avalon, Cape May, Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Stone Harbor and The Wildwoods.
ATLANTIC CITY CASINOS: Superstar shows, lively nightlife and nonstop gaming action make every visit a winner.
ECOTOURISM: Answer nature’s call! You can discover it all at The Nature Center of Cape May, Leaming’s Run Gardens, The Wetlands Institute, the Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary and the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.
DINING & SHOPPING: Enjoy me time! Cape May and other neighboring shore communities boast an extraordinary variety of dining and shopping destinations.
HISTORIC LEWES: Dabble in history! You can stroll historic Lewes and Milton or take in the sights at Fort Miles in Cape Henlopen State Park.
SURF’S UP: Sport a swimsuit! Delaware makes the most of its 25 miles of coastline with family fun at Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park, Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach.
AMUSEMENT PARKS: Ride like the wind! Amusement and water parks deliver thrills in Fenwick Island and Rehoboth Beach.
DELAWARE CASINOS: Get gaming! Adults can find their own amusements at Harrington Raceway & Casino and Dover Downs Hotel & Casino.
OUTLET SHOPPING: Discover deals! Tanger Outlets in Rehoboth Beach offers tax-free shopping on more than 130 of your favorite brands at discounted prices
SAIL & GO TRAVEL PACKAGES AND DEALS
Foot passengers can take advantage of many cruise/tour packages available through the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. In most cases, a ticket includes a round-trip ferry ride, free shuttle to an attraction and admission to the attraction. Browse all the exciting package options at CMLF.com/EventsandTravelPackages.
SHUTTLE BUS SERVICE
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry offers convenient, round-trip foot passenger service to exciting destinations in Delaware and New Jersey. Simply park in our free lot, purchase a round-trip foot passenger/shuttle service combo ticket, and we'll transport you to many of the places you want to be.
FROM THE LEWES TERMINAL: Shuttles loop from the terminal to downtown Lewes, Tanger Outlets, and the Park & Ride lot where you may connect with the DART bus system to go to Rehoboth Beach or Ocean City, Md.
FROM THE CAPE MAY TERMINAL SHUTTLE: The Cape May shuttle continuously loops between downtown Cape May and the ferry terminal.