Delaware may only make up a short stretch of the East Coast, but this tiny state boasts three popular summer destinations: Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Bethany Beach. Though residents in neighboring states have discovered the joy of Delaware’s beach resorts, many active adults around the country may not be familiar with these lesser-known summer destinations.
All three of these coastal towns are found in Southern Delaware’s Sussex County, and they are only minutes apart. Bethany Beach is the furthest north, about 10 minutes from the state line. Dewey Beach is 10 to 15 minutes up the coast, and Rehoboth Beach is only another five minutes away. Yet, each of these beaches has its own distinct personality.
Bethany Beach is often considered the best choice for a relaxing summer vacation. This quaint seaside town is considered part of “The Quiet Resorts,” along with South Bethany and Fenwick Island, which lie just minutes to the south. Bethany Beach also adjoins the beautiful Delaware Seashore National Park, which is situated on a six-mile-long barrier island.
Though Bethany Beach’s population includes less than 1,000 year-round residents, around 15,000 tourists fill the town during the summer beach season. Tourists generally encompass all age groups, and Bethany Beach is known for having a family-friendly atmosphere. Area attractions include typical seaside amusements, such as a charming boardwalk, unique shops, a variety of restaurants, and, of course, the beach itself.
Driving through the scenic Delaware Seashore National Park brings visitors from Bethany Beach to the shores of Dewey Beach. Though separated by less than ten miles, there is a distinct difference between these two resort towns. While Bethany Beach is recommended for a quiet, family getaway, Dewey Beach is known as an East Coast party town.
Many visitors stay for a full week, but it’s common for Dewey Beach to truly explode with tourists during summer weekends. It’s not unusual for 30,000 weekend tourists to descend on this summer hot spot, despite the fact that its year-round population includes about 300 residents. Dewey Beach tourists are often college students and young adults, but the beach also attracts a fair share of families and active adults.
While Dewey Beach is known for its nightlife—which includes numerous bars and clubs—its wide, sandy beaches may be its biggest draw. In addition to the usual beach attractions, Dewey Beach hosts many popular annual events, including the East Coast Skimboarding Championships in mid-August and the Dewey Beach Music Conference during the last weekend in September. In October, "Greyhounds Reach the Beach" is a popular annual event for retired greyhound rescues and their owners.
Less than five minutes north of Dewey Beach, tourists can also choose to visit the friendly town of Rehoboth Beach. As with the other two beaches, Rehoboth Beach is a small town that swells with tourists during the summer months. The beach includes a mile-long boardwalk, eclectic restaurants, and quirky shops. The town’s charming, artistic sensibility welcomes a wide variety of visitors.
Though it does not have Dewey Beach’s reputation as a party town, Rehoboth Beach includes its own nightlife in the form of bars and music venues. The town is also known as a popular gay and lesbian getaway, due to its large number of LGBT-owned shops, bars, and restaurants. However, those of any sexual orientation will feel welcome throughout the town.
For active adults, the beaches of Delaware offer a diverse setting for a fun and relaxing getaway. Though summer is the peak tourist season, the region’s mild fall weather can make September or October a great, and less-crowded, time to plan a visit. The next time you are looking for a new coastal town to visit, consider the beaches of Delaware. Of course, for those who fall in love with Delaware, there are plenty of 55+ active adult communities to choose from.