By Laura Kolnoski
Beach season is finally here! Along New Jersey’s 127 miles of coastline, each ‘burb has its own character, allure, attractions, and favorite haunts. When venturing to other beach states, we enjoy discovering new places, comparing similarities and reveling in the differences. That spirit of adventure led us southward to Rehoboth, Delaware, where a wealth of new discoveries and free beaches awaited.
A three-hour drive, Rehoboth is located on a strip of land along Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay, similar to Long Beach Island. We took the Cape May Lewes Ferry from the tip of New Jersey across, an interesting and enjoyable 85-minute cruise. Rehoboth is only one mile square, but it’s a quick ride to other interesting Delaware beach towns, including Dewey, Bethany, and Fenwick Island. Dewey and Rehoboth beaches have been recognized as two of the nation’s cleanest by the Natural Resources Defense council. The entire 30 miles of coastline have won a variety of awards by organizations and magazines for their natural beauty and myriad of recreational offerings.
Part of the original 13 colonies, Delaware is known as “The First State” and therefore steeped in history. Explore more at the DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum, Pirates of Lewes Expeditions, Treasures of the Sea Exhibit, and the Zwaanendael Museum. The Lewes Historical Society offers eight different types of tours, some via trolley.
Rehoboth’s mile-long boardwalk was originally built in 1873. Storms have changed its configuration over the years. In 1879, the original Henlopen Hotel was built on the same site where its newer version now stands. There are all types of hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and rentals available. “Captain Vacation,” a.k.a. Hubby, found a true gem. The Bellmoor Inn, Spa and Gardens, a short walkable distance from the beach, is one of the most unique places we’ve ever stayed. Once a famous restaurant, it has been added to over time with a variety of room types, including one small house, all arranged around beautiful and comfortable private outdoor gardens in the center. Everything about it, including the food and service, was so wonderful, we doubt we’d stay anywhere else when we return. A close second was the pink Victorian Boardwalk Plaza Hotel on the boardwalk, where a friendly clerk offered to show us a well-appointed room. The lobby, restaurant, and indoor hot tub on the ground floor vied with the antique furniture, artwork, collectibles, and live tropical bird for our admiring attention. A very cool place among an entire town of cool places.
The walkable downtown has a quaint small-town feel. Rehoboth has over 200 boutique shops, galleries, and spas, 40 hotels and bed and breakfasts, and over 100 restaurants, as well as the usual water sports, arcades, and tax free shopping! Shopper havens include Penny Lane Mall, Rehoboth Mews, and Village by the Sea. Browsing both sides of the main Rehoboth Avenue can take a day or more, especially if you stop and read the menus at all the fabulously interesting restaurants. Almost every street offers places you “just have to try.” Focusing on happy hours allowed us to enjoy small plates at more than one spot per evening. We checked out quite a few and were awed, but never disappointed. Imaginative décor, creative themes, unusual menu options, and bountiful seafood can be found on every Rehoboth block. Live music of all kinds wafts from many establishments, beckoning you to enter.
Clearly, Rehoboth can be enjoyed year ‘round. Festivals and special events include a Chocolate Festival in March, Restaurant Week in June, “Polka-motion by the Ocean” in September, the Sea Witch Festival in October, Christmas celebrations in December, and popular activities like concerts, craft and antique shows, fairs, tours, and more all year long.