Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Keri Stooksbury
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Delaware is too often overlooked for its flashier neighbor New Jersey when it comes to coastal getaways. However, this little state is a hidden gem that’s recently gained popularity among out-of-state visitors on the hunt for a day in the sun.
Though Delaware’s coastline is relatively short compared to some other states, it still has plenty of options to choose from. We did the research you need to help you determine where in “The Diamond State” you should go to spend time by the water. Get ready to start planning your beach vacation at one of the best beaches in Delaware.
Bethany Beach is a premier destination spot for beachgoers on the hunt for some relaxation. The small town that gets its name from this stretch of coastline is known for its friendly residents and quiet, family-friendly atmosphere.
The beach is wide and backed by a boardwalk that’s lined with shops and restaurants. During the summer, the sand can get crowded, but with a little walking, it usually isn’t too hard to find a place to lay out a towel.
Part of this area’s charm is the pristine water. The waves near town are gentle, and the water is clear and clean for safe swimming. Visit between October and early May if you’re a shell hunter at heart. The water at this time of year is too cold for swimming, but the lack of visitors means there are more ocean treasures to find.
If you’re looking for a place to enjoy Delaware’s coast in its natural state, Broadkill Beach is the place for you. This municipal beach has no amenities like snack bars or shops, so it’s peaceful all year — and there’s no admittance fee.
Its slightly more secluded environment also makes this beach a great place to go if you want to try out multiple water activities. In addition to swimming, sunbathing, and walking along the sand, you can also try your hand at kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing, and more.
While the water here is generally safe for swimmers of all ages, there are no lifeguard posts at this beach at any time of year. Make sure to swim carefully and keep an eye on any young children you have with you.
There’s very little natural shade to rely on here. If you visit between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., bring a sunhat or umbrella and plenty of sunscreen so you don’t burn.
Hot Tip: Parking can be scarce in the summer, so come early.
Cape Henlopen State Park offers numerous ways for visitors to enjoy the local wildlife. From its nature trails to its beach, Delaware’s pristine beauty is on full display at this park. The park is worth visiting all year. However, coming in the spring or summer means you’ll be able to enjoy the nice weather by the water.
Between Memorial Day in May and Labor Day in early September, lifeguards are on duty most days to ensure visitors can swim safely. Rangers are also around the park to keep an eye on the trails.
There’s a small admission fee to access the area. This fee goes towards ensuring this part of the coast can be kept pristine for future visitors. Fishing, kayaking, and other activities are permitted, but remember that the park can be busy on summer weekends.
Delaware Seashore State Park is an open beach with few trees, leaving a shoreline that stretches clearly as far as the eye can see. Even on hot summer days, there’s usually a breeze to help visitors stay cool.
There are 2 entrances into the park. The north entrance lets tourists and locals explore more of the park and is preferred by people spending a weekend or longer in the area. The south entrance, instead, is closer to the beach and is perfect for people who can’t wait to start swimming.
There are lifeguards on duty, and flags are posted to let visitors know the conditions of the water and whether it’s safe to swim.
During the fall and winter, Dewey Beach is a quiet beach town with a tranquil shoreline that’s perfect for calm walks throughout the day.
Between April and the end of August, however, it becomes more lively with restaurants, beach parties, and a popular boardwalk. The water is gentle here and perfect for swimming, though its temperature is on the cooler side until around June.
The beach is open all day for walks, but beach chairs, umbrellas, and towels can’t be laid out until 10 a.m., and they have to be removed at 5 p.m. Outside of these hours, pets are allowed on the beach as well. Dewey Beach is a great picnic spot as well. Food is permitted on the sand all year, but no glass containers are allowed on the beach.
Fenwick Island is a barrier island shared by both Delaware and Maryland, but the island’s state park falls squarely in Delaware’s territory. The park has 3 miles of uninterrupted and virtually untouched coastline with golden sand and lush greenery.
Lifeguards are on duty in the summer months to keep an eye on swimmers and warn any beachgoers of adverse conditions. The park also has all the basic amenities you might need, like access to showers, restrooms, nearby parking, and even food options.
You’re even allowed to have bonfires on the beach if you request a permit before you head out to the sand. Remember, though, only island residents, property owners, or short and long-term renters in town are able to apply for a permit. Dogs are also allowed, but they have to stay in the dog-friendly section of the beach during the summer months.
Holts Landing is a 203-acre park that features all types of landscapes, from green forests to sandy beaches.
There are numerous activities offered in the park, making it a great stop for a summer weekend getaway. If you prefer to stay dry, you can go for hikes on the area’s nature trails, but if you prefer spending time in the water, you can swim, fish, or try your hand at crabbing.
The park is very accommodating for whatever sort of coastal day you want to have. Food and drinks are allowed on the sand as long as you make sure to leave the area as pristine as you found it.
You can even bring dogs into the park, though it’s recommended they stay on their leash, especially in high-traffic areas. Since this is a protected area, the water is clean and free of pollution.
Lewes Beach is a favorite vacation destination among East Coasters. The town is quaint and friendly, and the beach itself is perfect for families. The water near the coast is shallow for wading and swimming, and it gradually gets deeper. If you want to get a little further away from the sand, you can even try paddle boarding.
Boats are also available to rent if you want to go sailing or fishing. There are restrooms and showers near the beach, and any other amenities you might need are just a short distance away.
Parking can be limited, especially during the summer when it’s the peak season. If you want to make sure you get a spot, make sure to head out early — it’s open from 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.
Rehoboth Beach is an exciting coastal town for people up and down the East Coast. It’s earned the nickname “The Nation’s Summer Capital,” thanks to the abundance of parties, concerts, and other lively events that go on daily for visitors of any age.
If you’re a night owl, this is the beach spot for you. While most of Delaware’s beach towns quiet down in the evening, Rehoboth is open for business late into the evening, and you can keep your beach chairs on the sand until 10 p.m.
If you prefer to have some peace and quiet while you’re near the water, plan to visit in April, early May, or late September. Most seasonal businesses will still be open, and the water will be warm, but crowds will be thinner.
In the winter, Slaughter Beach seems like a quiet town. With just over 200 full-time residents, it can be hard to believe that it draws visitors from all over the East Coast to its shoreline in the summer.
While amenities aren’t too far away, the beach itself is more natural without businesses along the shore. However, there also aren’t any lifeguards, so feel free to ask the locals whether the water is safe for swimming during your visit.
In general, it’s best to avoid going in the water after heavy rainfall as runoff can affect the water quality, and the current can be stronger at that time.
Hot Tip: The beach is dog-friendly, but only in the offseason between September and May.
Delaware, the nation’s first state, is also an idyllic beach destination. From fun parties to relaxing days on the sand, there’s a coastal stretch in Delaware to suit your needs. Bookmark this list to help you narrow down your options for your Delaware beach vacation.
Delaware has numerous swimmable beaches. Most of these beaches have lifeguards posted during the summer and have gentle currents and clean water for all sorts of swimmers. However, the water can be uncomfortably cold between October and May if you don’t have a wetsuit.
Delaware has a mix of free and paid beaches. The state’s municipal beaches are free of charge all year. However, private beaches will often require a day pass or a reservation at an associated hotel or restaurant. The state parks also require day passes.
Delaware’s beaches are known for their spectacular sunrises. As a state on the Eastern Seaboard, you can see the sun come up over the horizon from nearly any beach. Sunsets are also dramatic and popular among many beachgoers.
If you want to swim in the warmest water, the best month to visit Delaware’s beaches is August, however, it can be crowded. The water is typically still comfortably warm in September, but fewer out-of-towners will be around.
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