Lewes was the site of the first European settlement in Delaware, a whaling and trading post named Zwaanendael (Swan Valley) founded by Dutch settlers in June 3 1631. Because Lewes was the earliest town founded in the state, and because Delaware was the first state to ratify the constitution, the town refers to itself as "The first town in the first state."
Lewes, together with the towns of Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, and Fenwick Island, comprises Delaware's beach resort area and is Sussex County's most densely-populated and fastest-growing area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.3 square miles (11.1 km²), of which, 3.7 square miles (9.5 km²) of it is land and 0.6 square miles (1.6 km²) of it (14.69%) is water.
There were 1,338 households out of which 15.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.3% were married couples living together, 8.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% were non-families. 35.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.99 and the average family size was 2.53.
In the city the population was spread out with 13.6% under the age of 18, 3.7% from 18 to 24, 18.0% from 25 to 44, 31.5% from 45 to 64, and 33.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 55 years. For every 100 females there were 78.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $48,707, and the median income for a family was $59,605. Males had a median income of $35,500 versus $35,227 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,685. About 3.4% of families and 6.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.5% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.
It serves as a vacation and resort spot popular with residents of northern Delaware, particularly New Castle County. Even though the city technically sits on the lower reach of the Delaware Bay, it is nonetheless considered an ocean resort, particularly as the ocean is only as far away as Cape Henlopen.
The town is also the home of the Zwaanendael Museum, which features exhibits about Delaware's history.
Second Street is the town's main street and has many shops, restaurants, and historical venues.
Fisherman's Wharf is a dock that stretches along the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal. It features multiple restaurants, bait shops, and the dock(in season) has hundreds of boats to look at from all over.
Also, the lightship Overfalls (LV-118-WAL-539) is moored here. It is owned by the Overfalls Maritime Museam Foundation (or OMMF).