May 21, 2016

Delaware, the second-smallest state, has a big beach presence


Delaware might be the second-smallest state in the U.S., but when it comes to beaches, our neighbor to the south casts a large shadow. Stretching along 25 miles of ocean and bay shoreline on a peninsula bordering the Atlantic, Delaware’s down-the-shore delivers an impressive variety of beach experiences just a few hours drive of Philly, always depending on traffic. And you don’t have to buy a beach tag to claim your spot in the sand; Public beaches in the First State are free.


Hungry for artsy action? Or just hungry? This cultured pearl of a downtown has wide swathes of sand along with funky shopping, dining, and an arts landscape that draws a lively mix. Rehoboth, named among the top 20 LGBT-friendly towns in America, is unabashedly diverse, the kind of place you can take in a drag show, eat a fancy dinner, shop for bling, get a massage, and visit an artist’s studio. And that’s just the first day.

There’s a great overall restaurant scene, with a few notables. Try surprisingly good canned wine with farm-to-fork eats at Salt Air downtown. For a big night out, think Eden, Bramble, and Brine. Oyster lovers won’t do better than happy hour at Henlopen Oyster House, and for more wine, Jam Bistro by Eden has an impressive list with 40 bottles under $40.

If you’re cooking in, the downtown farmers’ market is from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, rain or shine.

Rehoboth’s beachfront includes a boardwalk with the requisite saltwater-taffy parlors, arcades, and souvenir shops. The largely gay-male section of sand known as Poodle Beach runs from about St. Lawrence to Penn Streets at the southern tip of the boardwalk. Although women come here, many lesbians and a fair share of gay men head to North Shores, a mile north of the boardwalk.

Dewey Beach

Family fun and party action sum up the scene here. Dewey’s bayside clubs are packed with just-off-the-beach dudes and dudettes. It’s all about music, dancing, and cold adult beverages at spots like the Rusty Rudder and Bottle & Cork, the self-proclaimed “Greatest Rock and Roll Bar in the World.”

Dewey attracts an even-younger set to the beach at 8:30 Monday nights during the season for family movie night under the stars. From 7 to 9 Tuesday and Wednesday nights June 14 through Aug. 31, it’s s’mores all around if you bring the fixings to the beach bonfires at Dagsworthy Street. Free parking from 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Wednesday sweetens the deal.

Bethany Beach

Here it’s all chilling – renting beach houses with private slices of sand and enjoying a laid-back time with friends and family. Good restaurants abound, from Bethany Blues BBQ to Bluecoast Seafood Grill, or Italian comfort food at DiFebo’s. For local seafood, head to Matt’s Fish Camp, Off the Hook, and Blue Crab.

Bethany Beach Ocean Suites is new, offering a day spa and oceanfront real estate along the Bethany Beach Boardwalk.


This quaint town has a nautical past that dates to its whaling days in the early 1600s. It’s also a place for R&R, with good dining, a bit of shopping, and wide beaches.

Take a break from the sun with a visit to the Zwaanendael Museum, which focuses on the history of the early Dutch settlement in Lewes. Tipplers will appreciate the exhibit “Wine and Spirits in Delaware” currently on display.

New this season is Crooked Hammock Brewery, a beer garden with outdoor hammocks and a playground for the kids. The menu is kid-friendly, and there’s live acoustic music most evenings.

Beach Time Distilling, which opened its tasting room late last summer, makes small-batch spirits that don’t “rush or stress the yeast during the fermentation process.” It’s a fun stop, with sips of handcrafted rum, vodka, gin, and specialty spirits on the menu.

Fenwick Island

Fenwick equals family in this town tucked along the southern border of the state across from Ocean City, Md. Bordered by the fun-to-say Little Assawoman Bay, Fenwick is all about the great outdoors, with sunbathing, fishing, windsurfing, and boating at Fenwick Island State Park.

In town, there’s tons of stuff for the kiddos, from go-carts to wet waterslide fun at Viking Golf & Go-Karts and Thunder Lagoon Water Park.

Delaware Seashore State Park and Cape Henlopen State Park

If you like your beach experience au natural, Delaware Seashore State Park and Cape Henlopen State Park deliver.

Situated on a narrow strip of land between the ocean and Rehoboth and Indian River bays, the Seashore Park offers peace and quiet, six miles of beach, ocean waves, and quiet bay waters. There’s also a surfing beach, RV park, and a marina.

Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes is geared to the day tripper, with all the services you’ll need, from food to showers. There are miles of bike and walking paths, a World War II observation tower to climb, and an 18-hole disc golf course for the sporty-minded. Open from 8 a.m. to sunset, the state parks charge $5 per day for Delaware-plated vehicles, $10 for out-of-state cars. Entrance fees will be waived June 5 when the park system celebrates its 65th birthday.


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