Delaware Beach Guide: Info on when and where to visit, from Rehoboth to Bethany
2022 will likely be a busy year for Delaware beaches, according to Tina Coleman, communications manager for Southern Delaware Tourism.
“Everything I’ve heard tells me it’s going to be another banner year,” Coleman said. “Last year was actually a lot better than people expected, maybe, with everything that was going on. It was a good year. And this year, they expect it’s even better.
So if you want to be one of the many hitting one of Delaware’s many beaches this summer, the sooner you start planning, the better. And we’re here to help with some tips, straight from the Delaware vacation and tourism authorities.
Choose a time
The uncertainty of the past two years has actually led to increased demand even during the so-called “shoulder seasons” of spring and early fall, Keller said. But these are still ideal times for those looking to avoid the crowds and get great rates on accommodation.
“Historically, Delaware beaches are the busiest after July 4,” Keller said. “In 2019, my recommendation would have been that May or June would be great times to visit. We’re not quite sure yet [for this year] because it is still an unprecedented time for us. But I would recommend mid-May to late May, early June as one time to book.”
Keller’s favorite time to visit is “mid-September through late October and early October. The weather is so hot. The water temperature is really hot. And you get good deals. And plenty of special events and businesses stay open past Labor Day. In fact, most businesses, if seasonal, stay open until after Halloween.
Additionally, weekends will be the busiest and most expensive time, with peaks in demand driving up prices.
“Mid-week is always the perfect time to get the best deal on anything,” she said.
It’s certainly not too early to make phone calls for reservations either.
“Anecdotally, everyone’s reservations are great,” Coleman said. “I spoke to a hotel manager this morning who told me that his bookings for April looked like those for May, for example. People are already booking, so it’s not a good year to wait.
Websites like Vrbo or Airbnb can help you find options on where you could stay. If you are flexible about the timing of your visit, it may be possible to find a lot by looking around. But of course, the sooner the better.
Choose a beach
Delaware’s beaches are all very distinct, and choosing which ones to visit will flavor the whole trip.
“The cool thing about Delaware beaches is that in a car trip that you can do in about 20 minutes, every beach is completely different,” Keller said. “You can spend so much time in each one.”
The first is Lewes Beach, which Keller described as “a quaint historic town” with plenty of tours available.
“Lewes is a beach in Delaware Bay, on Delaware Bay and the Lewis and Rehoboth Channel,” Coleman said. “It is very reminiscent of a New England fishing village. Beautiful, very historic, settled in 1631. It’s a wonderful town with fabulous restaurants, great accommodations and great retail.”
Among its other historic activities and attractions, it is also home to Cape Henlopen State Park, which spans over 5,000 acres.
“Rehoboth Beach is kind of more your go-to beach town,” Coleman said. “It’s a year-round, lively and beautiful community. It’s not like some beach towns that are just houses, a block away, that are mostly empty all winter.
Visitors to Rehoboth can enjoy concerts and shows, retail shopping, walkable neighborhoods, and a mile-long boardwalk with Funland amusement park.
“It’s known as the family destination,” Keller said. “It’s very well known as an LGBTQ+ destination, and it’s kind of more your boardwalk feel, your family beach.”
“Bethany Beach is a bit more residential,” Coleman said. “They have nice hotels in Bethany Beach, but it’s a little more residential, a little quieter. Bethany and Fenton would mark themselves as quiet resorts together, because they are a bit more residential. But again, there is an excellent dinner. There are very good retailers. Beautiful beaches.
Visitors who don’t want to deal with the same level of hustle and bustle found at beaches like Rehoboth can enjoy the feel of Bethany Beach a bit more.
“There are a lot of larger vacation homes, and they have a smaller boardwalk,” Keller said. “That’s where we have a lot of generational tourism, where people came with their grandparents, and now they’re bringing their grandkids.”
“Dewey Beach, which is just south of Rehoboth, has both a family and a party vibe,” Coleman said. “Between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach is the Delaware Seashore State Park. Between these two beaches. It’s a thin strip between the Atlantic and Rehoboth Bay.
“Dewey is known for its nightlife,” Keller said. “And what’s cool at the point where you get to Dewey is you literally look to your left and see the ocean, and look to your right and see the bay.”
Touted as a “quiet resort” on their website, South Bethany Beach also offers the “best of both worlds.”
Bethany offers both “the oceanfront with wide, clean, well-kept wide beaches for sunbathing, swimming, surfing and other fun beach activities like volleyball – and the bayside with a 5 mile network of canals for boating, fishing, crabbing, canoeing, kayaking and paddle boarding,” the website reads.
These canals also give the city the title of “Venice of Delaware”. And visitors can also take a short trip to nearby Assawoman Wildlife Refuge to take in the wetland views.
“Fenwick Island has a lot of really great bayside activities,” Keller said. “There’s lots of boating and fishing.”
Fenwick would then be the perfect location for those looking to get out on the water or have other outdoor adventures. In addition to kayaking or paddle boarding at Fenwick Island State Park, visitors can also enjoy the Thunder Lagoon Water Park.
Take advantage of throwback events
Many local events and activities have been paused in 2020 and 2021. But with COVID-19 currently more under control, many options are returning. And those activities tend to really pick up around Memorial Day.
“We have a really busy spring every year,” Coleman said. “We have festivals going on. We have events going on. A lot of them are coming back, which may not have happened in 2020 and 2021. So there’s a lot going on. We have shoulder seasons, but they are not really slow more seasons.
To get an idea of what’s going on, check the schedule on the Southern Delaware Tourism website. Visitors can sort events by type or by the dates they plan to visit, as well as by location in southern Delaware, including the six beaches.
Be prepared for some crowds
The beaches are popular in the summer. Shocking news, I know.
But it is more true than ever. When the pandemic forced people out of their usual routines, they often looked for options to escape outdoors. And that means more people than ever are looking to get away to mid-Atlantic beaches.
“Delaware’s beaches are an hour and a half drive from Washington DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and a short drive from New York City,” said Liz Keller, director of the Delaware Office of Tourism. “And what’s really interesting is that over the last year we’ve seen a secondary market start to emerge that we haven’t seen before,”
Keller said visitors to Delaware beaches have increased since the pandemic — not only are people visiting in increasing numbers from Harrisburg or even Pittsburgh, but even from as far away as Chicago, Detroit or Boston.
So a little smart planning will go a long way, especially this year.
Want more holiday help?
Don’t forget to check out options in another state and read our tips if you’re heading to New Jersey this summer:
Jersey Shore for summer 2022: when to go and when to book your stay (hint: soon)