If you’re visiting Rehoboth Beach in Delaware or Ocean City in Maryland and want an attraction that doesn’t involve a suntan, check out the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum for a new kind of experience. Located at Fenwick Island in Delaware, the museum is home to pirate lore, shipwreck treasures, fantastic artifacts, and an expansive gift shop. This is the perfect place for an ocean lover or pirate enthusiast, whether you choose to visit for a field trip, a family vacation, or a stop-off on a bigger excursion. DiscoverSea offers group tours as well. The museum can be found at 708 Ocean Highway. Visitors should have very little trouble finding it; I have visited the museum twice as a sidetrip from Ocean City and was very glad I took the time to explore.
Another great aspect of DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum is that you don’t have to pay to get in. You can browse the collection as long as you wish; of special interest are the glass cases that pay tribute to various shipwrecks along the East Coast. Spanish galleons such as the Nuestra Senora de Atocha, a royal ship that sunk violently during a storm in 1622, are showcased. You may have never heard of some of the vessels whose artifacts are on display here, but two are on the celebrity list: The Edmund Fitzgerald and the hugely popular R.M.S. Titanic. One of the most tragic stories involves the ships of the 1715 fleet, almost all of which were destroyed in a twist of fate. I was particularly fascinated with the story of the Atocha; luckily, when I got back home and wanted to study it, I found that DiscoverSea’s website was very informative as well and helped me continue my research.
Part of what makes DiscoverSea so interesting is its location; New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland are well known for their connection with shipwrecks and treasure. When you walk out the door of the museum you will find that the ocean is not far away, and you have the knowledge that some of the treasure you just read about could be buried in those waves. DiscoverSea’s pirate exhibits aren’t extensive, but if you like learning about swashbucklers you will find enough to satisfy you. If you place a coin in a machine in the museum’s second story you can hear pirates singing a rowdy tune. Downstairs (at least a few years ago when I visited) a life-size pirate in full regalia sits in a glass case.
The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum’s gift shop, known appropriately as Sea Shell City, is a huge store offering everything from ship models to hermit crabs. If you’re going for a nautical theme you will probably be able to decorate your whole house here. The lighthouse collectibles and jewelry are of particular interest. Of course, you can buy sea shells (what good would an ocean-oriented gift shop be without sea shells?) and other shelled denizens of the ocean no longer inhabiting their former homes. The casual jewelry is very nice and features shell ornaments of various shapes and colors. One of my nicest ship models, the H.M.S. Bounty, was purchased at Sea Shell City. I can definitely vouch for the selection and only wish I could visit the store again.
If your visit to DiscoverSea and their gift shop has only heightened your interest in the sea, there are a few things you can do: First of all, find the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Though the current white lighthouse was constructed in the mid-1800s, a lighthouse stood on this site throughout the 1700s as well. You can’t climb to the top, but you can tour the exhibits inside the bottom of the lighthouse and walk around the grounds to appreciate its sheer size. You don’t need to pay an admission to see Fenwick Island Lighthouse.
If you’re staying in Ocean City, find out if you can take a metal detector out and maybe discover some “treasure” for yourself. Although the chances of finding a colonial ship’s cache aren’t terrific, it will enhance the ambiance of treasure-seeking. DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum actually lights a fire in the mind; before I visited I was more the type of person who would just sit on the balcony and stare at the water, but afterwards, I thought of pirates and ships and I actually looked over the ocean and wondered what was out there.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer