Now that it’s fall, travelers to the Delaware beaches should discover what the locals already know: There is life below the Indian River Inlet Bridge. In fact, now that the traffic has thinned considerably, it’s a good time to explore the Bethany Beach area, one of the Quiet Resorts. Here are a few activities to consider.
Bethany has received numerous accolades over the years, including recognition from National Geographic Traveler, which named Bethany Beach one of seven beaches in the country where “the essential beach experience endures.” The boardwalk, which is over a quarter-mile long and 12 feet wide, is lined with shops and eateries.
On Saturday, Sept. 23, sample some regional suds by the sea when Big Chill Beach Club hosts Brews by the Bay, which features local breweries and more than 16 beers, along with Rosenfeld’s Jewish Deli truck and Taco Reho. The event is from noon to 4 p.m. Tickets are $10-$50, depending on whether you’re a designated driver or the driver.
You’ll find some local artists’ work on display at Bethany Sea Crest, along with clothing, home décor and gifts.
But you’re sure to fine local artists’ work at Gallery One, which is owned by 15 mostly area artists who work in a variety of mediums. The October theme for an exhibition is “Inspired by Music.” No doubt the beach will figure into a few works.
At the Ellen Rice Gallery, artist Ellen Rice offers paintings that are often inspired by the sea. She’s lived the majority of her life near the Atlantic Ocean.
The Café on 26, a Best of Delaware winner, is a gallery of sorts with a menu. The walls showcase local artists. (The potato-romano-encrusted salmon, topped with crab, is the house dish.)
Coastal Kayak is headquartered in Fenwick Island but takes a have-kayak-will-travel approach to tours. One features the Assawoman Wildlife Area, where you may spot bald eagles. Guides also offer a paddleboard tour in the refuge.
You don’t need to be on the water to appreciate the Assawoman Wildlife Area, which is just south of Bethany Beach. Brimming with loblolly pine, sweet gum trees and sweet-bay magnolia, the area was created from nine farms, ranging in size from 30 to 325 acres. The Hickman Tract is reportedly home to the endangered Delmarva fox squirrel.
The 3,100-acre property, which stretches into Little Assawoman Bay, area boasts fields, ponds, forests and wetlands. There are bald eagle nests, waterfowl, shorebirds and wading birds. Birders can keep an eye out for bluebirds, tree swallows, Carolina chickadees and house wrens. In season, there is deer, duck, goose, quail, rabbit and dove hunting. (PSA: Check this out first.)
Holts Landing State Park near Millville features the only pier on Delaware’s Inland Bay that was built for crabbing. The 203-acre park also has a 1.7-mile trail that runs from the bay, up into meadows and into a mature pine forest. You can fish and sail.
Like any town along the Delaware coast, Bethany has its fair share of celebrated restaurants. Try the original Bethany Blues for barbecue, bourbon and beer (there are NFL specials during football season at the bar).
For small-to-large plates with style, visit 14 Global, where you might find white miso-glazed duck confit or Spanish pork belly. There’s a category just for gluten-free items and a code for vegetarian selections.
Heading toward Ocean View on Route 26, don’t miss Off the Hook Seafood Grill in a tiny strip center facing the street. I can vouch for the roasted corn-and-jalapeno crab bisque.
Families will love The Cottage Café and its sister restaurant Bethany Boathouse. You’ll find plenty of seafood selections at the café, but interestingly, the restaurant is known for its pot roast, which simmers overnight.
Bethany Boathouse is a place where children can play (there’s a playground out front), while parents can enjoy a pineapple crush—or the adult beverage of their choice. There’s something for all ages.