Nothing says “summer” quite like a weekend at the beach, no matter whether you’re a tourist, a second-home owner or a resident. There’s a celebratory feel and a sense of leisure that seems to diminish the farther you get from the coast.
Investing in some beach time is the perfect way to spend a sunny day. Yet the Delaware coast has much more to offer, and despite their proximity to each other, the towns each have their own appeal and distinct attractions. Here are some suggested weekend itineraries to help spark ideas.
The state’s first town oozes historic charm and packs a lot to do into one place.
Get a jump on romance by sharing dinner on the porch at The Buttery Restaurant (102 Second St., 645-7755, butteryrestaurant.com). There’s a reason this restaurant remains popular, and it’s not just the Victorian ambience. You’ll find the answer in The Buttery seafood chowder, blue cheese salad and the crab cakes.
Take a morning stroll on Lewes Beach. (Dogs are allowed before 8 a.m.) Then head to the Historic Lewes Farmers Market (110 Shipcarpenter Square, 644-1436, historiclewesfarmersmarket.org) on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society (645-7670, historiclewes.org) for coffee and a pastry. Items are all local—it’s a requirement—and mostly perishable, but you can find lavender goodies, jams, honey, bread and other items that will hold until you get home.
This is a good time to check out the historical society’s buildings, clustered around the market. To see more, stroll down Second Street and stop by the Ryves Holt House (218 Second St.), built in 1665, which houses the historical society’s shop. Continue to the Cannonball House Marine Museum (118 Front St.), where the city’s maritime past is celebrated. For background on the town itself, visit the Zwaanendael Museum (102 Kings Highway, 645-1148, history.delaware.gov/museums/zm/zm_main.shtml).
At either the Lewes Historical Society or the Lewes Chamber of Commerce (120 Kings Hwy., 645-8073, leweschamber.com), pick up a brochure detailing the Lewes Maritime History Trail, a 4.3-mile, self-guided route that covers 10 sites. The trail runs from the U.S. Life-Saving Station boathouse and the Lightship Overfalls to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry area, once home to the Delaware Breakwater Quarantine Station. You can hoof it, bike it or drive it. You can also split the tour into one or more days.
Back in town, it’s time for lunch. For al fresco seating with a view, there’s nothing like Gilligan’s Waterfront Restaurant (134 Market St., 644-7230, gilliganswaterfront.com), which counts crab cakes as its specialty. Indeed, every second or third plate that passes usually has a crab cake sandwich or platter on it.
Afterward, stop by King’s Homemade Ice Cream Shop (201 Second St., 645-9425, kings-icecream.com) for dessert. Work off some of the butterfat by crossing the street and exploring the cemetery at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church (Second and Market streets, 645-8479, stpeters.episcopaldelaware.org), where Capt. James Drew of the ill-fated HMS DeBraak now rests.
Now it’s time to shop. Shoes, clothes, art, books, British tea biscuits, puzzles, yarn, jewelry—you’ll find it all within a couple blocks of each other.
For dinner, it’s a short stroll to Striper Bites (107 Savannah Road, 645-4657, striperbites.com). The blackened tuna pasta, tossed with a fennel-cream sauce, has been a menu staple, but the fish and chips are also strong sellers.
Fuel up at J.D.’s Filling Station (329 Savannah Road, 644-8400, jdsfillingstation.com), where fluffy three-egg omelets occupy an entire plate and eggs Benedict comes eight ways. The California version has turkey and sliced avocado. Lobster, however, may be more to your liking at the beach.
Then it’s off to Cape Henlopen State Park (destateparks.com/park/cape-henlopen). Nature buffs can stop by the Seaside Nature Center (15099 Cape Henlopen Drive, 645-6852), which sports five 1,000-gallon fish tanks. At the center, you can borrow a bike to tool around the park on. There’s much to see, including the Fort Miles Historic Area, which offers guided tours through a World War II-era battery.
You can hike as well as bike one of the many trails. The new Junction and Breakwater Trail travels from Lewes, behind the outlets, toward Rehoboth. After your hike, consider a swim in the ocean or a rest on the wide expanse of beach. There is a food concession in case you get hungry or thirsty.
Page 2: Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach
These adjoining towns are the coast’s “big city” as far as nightlife, restaurants and shopping are concerned. But they still possess small-town charm and, compared to Ocean City, Md., development has yet to take to the sky.
Your choice will depend on your lifestyle. Some may start the weekend with a bang at The Starboard (2009 Highway One, Dewey Beach, 227-4600, thestarboard.com). Others may elect for a more relaxed evening on the outdoor upstairs deck of the Cultured Pearl (301 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-8493, culturedpearl.us).
For many, breakfast at the beach just isn’t breakfast unless it’s enjoyed at The Crystal Restaurant (620 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1088), which serves breakfast from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.
From there, it’s a short walk or drive to the Rehoboth Beach Museum (511 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7310, rehobothbeachmuseum.org), which this summer is saluting the coast’s surfing and skimboarding history in its main gallery.
Head around the circle and down Columbia Avenue to Henlopen Acres and the Rehoboth Art League (12 Dodds Lane, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8408, rehobothartleague.org), where you can view the current exhibition, shop for art in the member sales gallery, tour the 18th-century Homestead, the home of RAL founder Louise Chambers Corkran and her husband, or simply savor the gardens.
To burn calories before lunch, take to the boardwalk. Families can spend time at Funland (6 Delaware Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-1921, funlandrehoboth.com), and break for lunch at Grotto Pizza (15 Boardwalk at Baltimore Ave, Rehoboth Beach, 227-4588 or 17 Surf Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3601, grottopizza.com).
If kids aren’t part of the picture, explore the shops on Rehoboth Avenue, and either walk or drive up to Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (320 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226- 2739, dogfish.com) for a cold one and a burger, salad or pizza.
Now it’s your choice: outlet shopping or beach time. If you choose the latter, enter Cape Henlopen State Park from the Rehoboth Beach side and park in the Gordons Pond lot. Here you have a spacious beach, trails and parking.
Rehoboth and Dewey are your oyster. And they offer plenty of them, too. Henlopen City Oyster House (50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 260-9193, hcoysterhouse.com) offers a bivalve smorgasbord that includes Belon, Blue Point and Mashpee.
For oysters and a view, sample Stoli-spritzed Beau Soleil oysters at Venus on theHalf Shell (Dagsworthy Street and the Bay, Dewey Beach, 227-9292, deweybeachlife.com).
Or, begin with a drink at the Summer House (228 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3895, summerhousesaloon.com), where you can dine, as well. Those seeking upscale fare with an innovative twist can tempt their taste buds at Eden (23 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-3330, edenrestaurant.com).
A beach stroll might end the evening for most. Theater fans may take in a performance by Clear Space Productions (20 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-2270, clearspacetheatre.org).
Rather witness real life drama? Dewey Beach is always entertaining when it comes to nightlife. Take your pick of hot spots.
Blue Moon (35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-6515, bluemoonrehoboth.com) is the place to share a mimosa and see and be seen. Many people get a hair of the dog at The Starboard, which often wins readers’ choice awards for best brunch.
If the exhibit at the Rehoboth Beach Museum inspired you, visit Alley-Oop (2000 Coastal Highway, Unit 106, Dewey Beach, 227-7087, alleyoopskim.com) to learn about skimboarding. Of course, you can always just watch the action from the Dewey Beach shore.
Page 3: Bethany Beach/Fenwick Island
Collectively called the “quiet resorts,” these laid-back towns are great for families or those who want a peaceful yet classic beach experience.
Bandstand concerts (townofbethanybeach.com) are a tradition for Bethany Beach residents and visitors. The town posts a schedule on its Web site. Or try The Freeman Stage at Bayside (31570 Lake View Drive, Selbyville, freemanstage.org) for myriad live music offerings. Afterward, take the family for some mouthwatering ribs at Bethany Blues BBQ (6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 537-1500, bethanyblues.com). Going kid-free? Nantuckets (Del. 1 and Atlantic Ave., 539-2607, nantucketsrestaurant.com) is the place for fresh seafood and dry-aged steaks.
Breakfast is served all day at the Penguin Diner (105 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 541-8017, penguindiner.com), where French toast is made with your choice of challah bread or whole wheat bread.
Since Bethany and Fenwick are blessed with waterways, take an eco-tour sponsored by Coastal Kayak (Fenwick Island State Park, bayside, 539-7999, c-kayak.com), or rent a kayak and explore such jewels as Assawoman Wildlife Area.
Just north of Bethany, in Delaware Seashore State Park, is the Indian River Life-Saving Station (25039 Coastal Highway, Rehoboth Beach, 227-6991, destateparks.com), built in 1876 in response to the alarming incidence of shipwrecks. After your visit here, have lunch at Warren’s Station (1406 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 539-7156, warrensstation.com), remodeled to resemble a U.S. Lifesaving Station.
Continue the theme with a tour of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse (fenwickislandlighthouse.org) and a visit to the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum (708 Coastal Highway, Fenwick Island, 539-9366, discoversea.com), where director Dale Clifton has amassed an impressive collection of shipwreck artifacts. You may be inspired to return to Delaware Seashore State Park to explore the stretch of sand near the inlet called Coin Beach, thanks to the number of old coins that wash up there.
Bluecoast Seafood Grill (1111 Highway One, Bethany Beach, 539-7111, bluecoastseafoodgrill.com) this year has a new raw bar. Menu items include lobster deviled eggs, seared day boat scallops, blackened jumbo shrimp and seafood stew. In the mood for modern Italian? DiFebo’s (789 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 539-4550, difebos.com) has been a favorite since 1989.
Harpoon Hanna’s (Del. 54 on the bay, Fenwick Island, 539-3095, harpoonhannasrestaurant.com) offers a bayside view with its Sunday brunch, which is served until 3 p.m. in case you want to do nothing else but sip “bloodies” and watch the boats go by.
But if you’re feeling peppy, finish the blueberry pancakes and try stand-up paddle-boarding. DelMarVa Board Sports Adventures (39084 Harpoon Road, Fenwick Island, 301-651-0542, delmarvaboardsportadventures.com) is conveniently next door.
Once you’ve paddled around awhile, turn in your board and hop over to Catch 54 (Del. 54, Sharks Cove Marina, Fenwick Island, 436-8600, catch54.com) for a cool one. Relax, sit back and salute the weekend.