By Jeff and Stephanie Sylva
One thing we have discovered about Pennsylvania, and the Pocono Mountains region in particular, is the great variety of small, rural towns which offer great opportunities to escape a hectic schedule and enjoy some fascinating history, wonderful cultural experiences, or the beautiful outdoors – and all within an easy drive of a number of the East’s major cities. One such town that we have come to love visiting – even for just a day trip – is Milford, a delightful town situated on the upper Delaware River.
Historic Milford was named one of the ”ten coolest towns in America” by Arthur Frommer’s Budget Travel and the “prettiest county seat in America” by Atlantic magazine. So what’s so special about Milford? Well, the fact that it is the north gate to the 70,000-acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area will interest outdoor enthusiasts. Lovers of Victorian architecture will enjoy exploring the town’s National Historic District, which covers three-quarters of the town. And history buffs will find some fascinating exhibits and mansions to roam.
A river runs through it
Begin your visit to the Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area with a stop at the Dingmans Falls Visitor Center, just a few miles south of Milford. Park staff can answer questions and point you in the right direction to explore some of the park’s more scenic spots. If waterfalls interest you, there are a number of outstanding ones to view, some within easy walking of parking. Raymondskill Falls is a short, although steep, walk to the different levels of viewing areas, which provide some great views of the falls. Other falls worth viewing include Dingmans Falls and the falls at Childs Recreation Site.
Being one of the cleanest and most scenic rivers in the East, the Delaware River is great for boating, fishing, and swimming. Milford Beach has a bathhouse, picnic area, and a beach with lifeguards.
A great way to experience the Water Gap Area is by taking a journey down the Delaware River by canoe, kayak, raft or even tube. The most experienced outfitter in the region is Kittatinny Canoes. Operating river trips for more than 70 years, this family-owned and operated outfitter has everything you need to get on the water. In addition to a variety of river trips, Kittatinny also has well-equipped campgrounds for those seeking to “rough it” a bit and its Adventure Sports Center featuring paintball and dual racing zip lines.
We took a leisurely canoe trip and enjoyed spotting a couple of bald eagles in flight. Before setting out on the river, we spoke with one owner, Ruth Jones, who “grew up on the river,” and her enthusiasm for the river and the need to preserve its beauty was infectious. Visit their website or call 1-800-356-2852 for more information.
Other ways to explore the natural surroundings include hiking or biking. The 37-mile McDade Trail is relatively flat and great for biking or hiking along the river. We also enjoyed an invigorating hike to the top of the Knob for a great view of Milford and the river. Bear sightings in this area are common, and we weren’t disappointed, as we came across a healthy looking male during our hike.
History and heritage
Those looking for a little less nature will find some interesting attractions in the Milford area. The Columns Museum in Milford
houses the famous blood-stained “Lincoln flag”upon which the slain president’s head rested moments after he was assassinated.
The Columns, a 1904 Neo-classical building, is home to The Museum of the Pike County Historical Society. With an eclectic mix of artifacts, maps, artwork and memorabilia, the 11 rooms of exhibits present the diverse history of Pike County including some of the county’s notable residents, its association with the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad, and even some of the more macabre events of Milford.
Grey Towers, a National Historic Site, is the ancestral home of Gifford Pinchot, first chief of the U.S. Forest Service and twice governor of Pennsylvania. Public programs and guided house and garden tours introduce visitors to the Pinchot family and the many ways they helped shape conservation in America. Grey Towers is
a magnificent mansion with beautifully landscaped grounds and a rich history.
Visit www.fs.fed.us/gt or call 570-296-9630 to get more information about the many public programs at Grey Towers including the re-creation of Gifford Pinchot’s popular ice cream social, the re-enactment of Pinchot and Theodore Roosevelt’s introduction of conservation to America and the beginning of the USDA Forest Service, and the Festival of Wood which draws 3,000 visitors every summer.
Literature buffs will love the Zane Grey Museum in nearby Lackawaxen, where the famous writer lived and worked. Eagle-spotting is outstanding in Lackawaxen, especially in the winter months. The annual Eaglefest is held in January. Other festivals include the Milford Music Festival in July and Milford’s Black Bear Film Festival, popular with independent film fans, in October.
A cosmopolitan retreat on the upper Delaware
After a day on the trails, walking the historic streets, or paddling the river, visitors to Milford can reward themselves with a stay at
a recently-restored gem of a historic hotel, The Hotel Fauchere. Following a 125-year history of sophisticated hospitality by the Fauchere family, which included visits by a veritable “Who’s Who” of the 19th and early 20th centuries (notable names such as Bernhardt, Barrymore, Chaplin; Roosevelt and Kennedy; Crane, Frost and Nash, and the immortal Ruth), the hotel closed in 1976, becoming nothing but a sad remnant of a glorious era.
The current owners envisioned a level of luxury befitting the hotel’s history, yet were determined to maintain a clean and fresh interior required of a cosmopolitan boutique hotel. What resulted was a magnificent blending of the hotel’s historic legacy with a modern edge. So, with its opening in 2006 following a five-year restoration, Hotel Fauchere has been able to continue its rich history of chic country style, offering a sophisticated escape from urban pressures.
Hotel Fauchere is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is a member of Relais & Chateaux. In addition to the many features and amenities offered, the hotel’s Badea & Soul Day Spa offers a wide array of treatments and therapies.
A host of culinary treats
The hotel’s fine dining restaurant, the Delmonico Room, is a tribute to original owner, Louis Fauchere, the famed chef at New York’s world-renowned Delmonico’s restaurant. With contemporary interpretations of classic cuisine, the menu incorporates the freshest ingredients from the owners’ organic farm as well local and regional producers.
The exquisite, fine dining of the Delmonico Room is interestingly contrasted by the hotel’s sleek, hip downstairs bar and bistro, Bar Louis. An eye-catching feature located above the bar is the huge Christopher Makos photograph of Andy Warhol kissing John Lennon. (Warhol said of Makos, “He is the most modern photographer in America.”) Bar Louis’ menu offers a variety of innovative items and small plates, including its signature Sushi Pizza, which we found to be quite unique.
The hotel recently made an acquisition that simply completes its culinary options. Patisserie Fauchere, located next door to the hotel, offers some wonderful pastries, baked goods, and sandwiches, along with a variety of teas and coffees. The Patisserie also plans to offer a variety of Pennsylvania microbrews, which will be a perfect complement to their sandwiches and hearty soups.
Milford has a number of other great dining choices. We recommend The Water Wheel Café, Bakery & Bar, which serves wonderful breakfasts and lunches daily, and dinner Thursday through Saturday. Live music in the bar is highlighted by the Thursday Night Blues Jam. The menu is an interesting blend of contemporary and Vietnamese cuisine. We enjoyed views of the Sawkill Creek while having lunch following our canoe trip.
The Water Wheel Cafe is so-named because it houses a restored 19th century water-powered mill, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A self-guided tour allows visitors to view the working three-story water wheel. The newly re-opened Tom Quick Inn, which also offers reasonably-priced, nicely-appointed accommodations, also offers good lunch and dinner options.
Milford is just 75 miles from New York City and 125 miles from Philadelphia, but it can seem worlds away when you explore its beautiful natural surroundings or walk its streets lined with “historically significant” Victorian homes. For more information about the Milford area and nearby locations in the Pocono Mountains visit or call the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau at 800-762-6667.