Coastal Delaware - Fenwick, Bethany, Dewey, Rehoboth & Lewes - Vacation Travel Guide

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Coastal Delaware Area Features

Escape to the Southern Delaware Coast

  By: Jacquelyn Eurice

Among the three counties in Delaware, only one is renowned as a perfect seaside escape—the southernmost county of Sussex. This is home to rich farmland, bustling towns and the beaches of Rehoboth, Lewes, Dewey, Bethany and Fenwick Island. Every year, hundreds of families visit the southern Delaware coast to relax and unwind. They indulge in exceptional chef-inspired cuisine and participate in exciting activities that promote family unity. There are many cultural and historic places to explore as well as hundreds of shops with unique items for sale. With your Sunny Day Guide, you’ll be able to learn about these enchanting areas while saving money along the way. Southern Delaware is steeped in charm and delightful activities. We invite you to explore the region and hope you have a marvelous vacation on the Delaware coast!

Rehoboth Beach

Rehoboth Beach is the largest beach city in the state. Because of its wonderful seaside community that blends the tranquility of living by the water with the conveniences of urban living, many find the city to be an ideal place to live or vacation. Its location near Washington D.C. has made this beach town a hotspot for over 100 years. Rehoboth has even been dubbed the “Nation’s Summer Capital” due to its loyal sand-seekers from the mid-Atlantic region. Today, new attractions and activities such as paddleboarding, outlet malls and tasting trails continue to attract visitors from around the nation.

In Downtown Rehoboth, visitors can park their cars and explore on foot, pausing to stop in stores along the way. As they approach the beach, they’ll see one of the area’s top attractions—the boardwalk. This mile-long, award-winning promenade takes those who stroll its wooden planks on a nostalgic journey. Try some fruity saltwater taffy, a refreshing ice cream cone, or a slice of pizza from vendors who have been prominently located here for many decades. Even some of the arcade games might remind older guests of their childhoods and when they visited with their parents.

More recently, the food scene in Rehoboth has been making a lot of noise and for good reason… With locally sourced ingredients and creative chefs behind the recipes, the food is unbelievably delicious. Craft brewers and distillers are also popping up around the city and usually supply neighborhood restaurants with their wares for excellent food pairings. After enjoying dinner in Rehoboth, meander over to the bandstand on the oceanfront for an evening performance featuring talented resident musicians. And Rehoboth is not just a summer destination. Events, festivals, farmers markets and more make this city a place that attracts visitors throughout the year.

Lewes

There’s a lot to love in Lewes—Rehoboth’s neighbor to the north—and it is so much more than just the famous Lewes-Cape May Ferry. Historic buildings, quaint streets, and eclectic shops and restaurants make this gem of a town worth discovering.

In 1631, settlers on behalf of the Dutch West India Company arrived in Lewes to establish trades such as whaling and farming. Originally, the settlement was named “Swaanendael” —the Dutch translation of “Swan Valley.” And even though colonization efforts failed after a handful of years, the colony was ultimately the first settlement in what would later become the nation’s first state. Evidence of the town’s rich colonial history can be seen at the Zwaanendael Museum, where exhibits and artifacts from its earliest days can be observed. Adhering to traditional Dutch architecture, this interesting museum is a must-see in order to truly understand the colorful history of the region. Nearby, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church reflects the British influence on the town by English settlers here in the early 1700s. It was actually William Penn who officially named the town Lewes (pronounced loo-is) and St. Peter’s was the meeting site of the first Church of England congregation in Delaware. Other historic structures include the Captain Johnston Home, the Trader Home, and the Cannonball House that is appropriately named for the ammunition scar from the War of 1812 lodged in the foundation of the building. A block away from the Cannonball House is the Life-Saving Station and the Lightship Overfalls. This lightship is one of the few that remain in the United States—and even fewer, like this one, are open to the public. Built in 1938, this floating lighthouse was one of the last of its kind to be constructed. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and was painstakingly refurbished in recent years. For guided tours around Lewes, visit www.historiclewes.org for tickets and more information.

Upon further exploration of this beautiful town, visitors will undoubtedly wish to walk along the scenic Lewes and Rehoboth canal and visit the nearby parks. And of course—if you’re heading to New Jersey—take the ferry! You’ll see the Cape Henlopen lighthouse, gorgeous waterfront scenery, and maybe even a pod of dolphins escorting the ship along the way.

Find out more about the historic Lewes complex tour.

Dewey Beach

Situated on a thin strip of land that is predominately bordered by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and Rehoboth Bay on the west is Dewey Beach. This small community is perfect for vacationers who are looking for a more energetic beach scene. Geared more towards couples or groups of friends, this lively town is the place to be for those who like a little revelry at the beach. Watersports are hugely popular, and businesses that rent paddleboards, kayaks, jet skis and even beach equipment are found throughout. Adventure seekers can take to the air and go parasailing to see Dewey Beach from a bird’s-eye view. After a full day of playing in the water, stop into the bars and restaurants as they come alive with a party-like atmosphere. Watch the sun set over the bay while enjoying an entree of fresh fish to start off your evening. Afterwards, sit on a deck overlooking the water while listening to some great local music, or get up and dance to favorite rock and roll or country songs. In the summer, the party always continues late into the night.

Bethany Beach

Bethany Beach was made for family retreats. Established in 1901, this small town was founded by members of the Christian Church as a resort destination of “rest for quiet people.” As visitors approach the town, a locally created totem pole remembering indigenous people welcomes their arrival. Floral gardens add vibrant colors to the beauty along sidewalks and to the natural landscape. The town has a fantastic boardwalk that edges the large sand dunes and is not far from the water. In the center of the boardwalk is a large square with a band shell. There is ample seating on long white benches so that many of Bethany Beach’s guests can take in a cool performance on a hot summer’s night. Great places to get some food surround this square and serve everything from breakfast dishes to fried clams, pizza, gyros, fudge and ice cream. As in Rehoboth, it is easy to walk around the town, exploring the little shops along the way. During the warmer months, you’ll likely come upon farmers markets and other events near the downtown area. With its clean, safe beaches and a quieter lifestyle, it’s no wonder that Bethany Beach is loved by so many and is thought to be the most family-friendly beach in Delaware.

Fenwick Island

Located on the border between Maryland and Delaware, Fenwick Island is (in comparison to Ocean City, MD) a quiet, relaxing beach. Though it is not truly an island—it’s more of a peninsula—it does have some wonderful water views! There are so many places such as Twinings Lobster Shanty and Harpoon Hanna’s where you can sit on the bay and watch the sun set as you dine on fresh, local seafood. Plus, the calmer, protected waters are fantastic spots to learn new watersports. Try kayaking around Lighthouse Cove, paddleboarding in Little Assawoman Bay, or for a more thrilling ride, rent a jet ski and race across the water! Those who enjoy surf-fishing might want to visit Fenwick Island State Park, where vehicle access is allowed to permitted vehicles. The park has gorgeous beaches that are typically not very crowded. Visitors can sunbathe, walk the shoreline and play in the ocean at this natural retreat. Places of historic significance can also be found on Fenwick Island. The DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum offers an interesting look at some of the artifacts that have washed up onto the Delaware coast. Plus, it sheds light on past rescue operations and stories of survival or loss. It’s an amazing place to visit, especially on a rainy day—and it’s free! On the southern border between the states lies the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. The public can’t often climb it due to safety concerns—it can get quite hot inside—but the volunteers who work there are happy to share the history of the structure and maybe even a few stories. On the grounds of the lighthouse, visitors will find the Transpeninsular marker that was erected in 1751 and shows where Maryland ends and Delaware begins. The coats of arms for the two families, the Calverts and the Penns, who first ruled over the states of Maryland and Pennsylvania (at that time Delaware was part of Pennsylvania colony) can be seen on the marker. Take a picture of the kids with a foot in each state for a memorable souvenir.

Venture away from the beaches and discover their small towns with exceptional places to lodge, dine and shop. Sussex County, Delaware is among the fastest growing areas in the nation because of the natural beauty of the area, the large amount of interesting and fun things to do, the ability to discover the region’s early history, and the friendly people who welcome visitors to their towns. Explore the area and discover the charm of the coastal communities in southern Delaware.

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