This historic maritime site located closer to Dewey Beach rather than Rehoboth, despite having a Rehoboth address, features guided and self-guided tours of the life-saving station. Life-saving stations and surfman were used for water rescues prior to the U.S. Coast Guard. The Indian River Life-Saving Station was built in 1876 and painted pumpkin (or orange) to signify the state and cranberry (or dark red) to signify the specific station. Each station was assigned distinct colors so it could be identified from the ocean.
The surfman, who were often times farmers in the winter months, were considered the heroes of their time, rescuing countless people from shipwrecks along the coastline with equipment that doesn’t even come close to the standards that are used today. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Indian River Station, which had the state’s first telephone, is much like the modern day fire house. The surfman worked, ate and lived at the station while on shift.
Families will enjoy touring the living quarters, kitchen and one-ton surfboat used to paddle out to rescues. Numerous summer eco programs and events take place at the Indian River Life-Saving Station throughout the summer. There are kayak eco-tours, lantern (ghost-ish) tours that takes place in the evening, horseshoe crabs, shipwrecks, jelly fish, sea glass jewelry, surf fishing, nautical knots and numerous other programs for kids and families held at various times and days.
The big annual event, the Maritime Heritage Festival, is held in July and features crafts, storytelling, a pirate photo booth, face painting, live music and the highlight may be the live demonstration of a Breeches Buoy Rescue Drill. During the drill, a live rescue cannon is shot off to run a pulley to the faux ship mast. Then a lucky participant is lowered into a breeches buoy (a container-like contraption that a person’s legs slide through like pants) and then is hoisted by a pulley system to rescue. Kids will love this demonstration and will love it even more if chosen to participate.
November through March: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Sunday. From April through October the hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily.
Pre-registration for the eco-programs is required and costs vary. No registration is needed just to tour the facility.
A large parking lot is available.