If you have 72 hours to spare and a craving to flop on the sand somewhere, you’ve got the makings of a mini beach vacation. Consider the possibilities. Get away with old chums to wine, dine, and ride the Slingshot in Ocean City. Treat the family to kayak trips at twilight and stories around the bonfire. Surprise your soul mate with a weekend of sun, spa treatments, and candlelight dinners.
If you do plan a long weekend at the Maryland-Delaware shore this summer, our proposed itineraries will help maximize your finite retreat without exhausting you in the process. Off you go . . .
OCEAN CITY FOR FRIENDS
Ocean City encompasses 10 miles of beautiful beach and is chock full of bars, an improving ratio of fine dining to all-you-can-eat buffets, and numerous lodging options. Beach-pal groups may like the bayside Coconut Malorie Resort (200 59th St., 800-767-6060, coconutmalorie.com), a luxury, all-suite hotel so close to the popular nightspot Fager’s Island that a footbridge connects the two.
There’s nothing quite like nightfall set to the “1812 Overture.” Does this tradition ever get old? Nah. Join the revelers at Fager’s Island, Ocean City’s iconic bayside restaurant/bar/party scene (201 60th St., 410-524-5500). After toasting sunset on the deck, tell Tchaikovsky to snooze as you rev up with steamed shrimp, a DJ, and dancing.
Later, find your uptown vibe at Jive, (8203 Coastal Hwy., 410-524-1111), a bayside lounge noted for martinis and live music that’s mellower than those O.C. clubs whose names you dare not explain to children.
Rise, shine, and bicycle the boards (the city has extended cycling hours on the boardwalk), or sign up your gang for morning surfing lessons at Malibu’s Surf Shop (8th St. and Boardwalk, 410-289-3000).
Regroup at Bayside Skillet (77th St. and the bay, 410-524-7950) for a healthy (by beach standards) breakfast of crêpes filled with house-made Chantilly cream and piled with just-picked fresh fruit like peaches, blackberries, and blueberries.
When you hit the beach, you’ll find more blanket-spreading space north of the boardwalk, but greater amusement opportunities closer to Route 50. Team up at Dorchester Beach Volleyball Park—10 sand courts between Dorchester and Talbot streets off the boardwalk—for a gals-versus-guys spike down.
For lunch, cool off beside Isle of Wight Bay (a Montego Bay wannabe) at Seacrets (117 W. 49th St., 410-524-4900), O.C.’s admittedly touristy outpost of Jamaicatude. Tame your hunger with fish tacos and jerk chicken cheese steaks. But beware: A couple coconuty, rum-drenched “Pain in de Asses” will torpedo your afternoon.
Dinner at Capt. Bill Bunting’s Angler Restaurant (Talbot St. and the bay, 410-289-7424) includes a free cruise. (Failure to heed the previous rum-drinks warning could be a problem.) This popular seafood emporium’s setting, adjacent to the bustling fishing-boat docks, is a nice bonus, too.
Park at the inlet lot and spend the rest of your night wandering the whirling, blinking, raucous, neon-lit funfest that is the boardwalk. Ride the Tidal Wave roller coaster, crash bumper cars, and bop Whac-A-Moles at Trimper’s (S. 1st St. and Boardwalk, 410-289-8617). Shoot Skee-Ball and virtual street race, The Fast and the Furious-style, at Marty’s Playland (Worcester St. and Boardwalk, 410-289-7271). Eat and shop your way northward. If you’re logy from OD’ing on Fisher’s caramel corn, Thrasher’s fries, and Alaska Stand funnel cakes, hop the tram back to your car.
You have a big day ahead, so dig into a hefty helping of pancakes and scrapple at Layton’s Family Restaurant (16th St. and Philadelphia Ave., 410-289-6635, and 92nd St. and Coastal Hwy., 410-524-4200). Then, drive west over the Route 50 bridge, where your group may prefer to part ways.
Golfers who’ve reserved tee times can head to GlenRiddle Golf Club (11501 Maid at Arms Ln., Berlin, 866-441-4536) to play its 18-hole public course (Man O’War, the champion racehorse, was raised on a farm here). Other folks can rent kayaks and paddle where wild horses still reside along the shores of Assateague State Park. Island Adventure Kayaking (6905 Stephen Decatur Hwy., Berlin, 443-365-3967) offers rental kayaks and advice about exploring the wonders of Sinepuxent Bay.
Later, swap tales of birdies and bird-watching over dinner at Liquid Assets (9301 Coastal Hwy., Ocean City, 410-524-7037), a wine bar, shop, and bistro that takes its potables seriously. Buy a bottle of wine in the large, well-stocked shop and pair it with fried calamari or tuna burgers in the restaurant’s dining area.
It’s your last day so, what the hey, let your waistlines go at O.C.’s famous design-it-yourself doughnut shop, Fractured Prune. Pick a glaze, add a topping or two, and, voila, you’ve created your own Carmen Miranda of cake doughnuts—banana-glazed with coconut flakes and rainbow sprinkles. There are several locations, including 127th Street and Coastal Highway, 2808 Philadelphia Avenue, and Route 611 and Sunset Avenue.
After grabbing more rays, bid the beach adieu at Harrison’s Harbor Watch (boardwalk at the inlet, 410-289-5121), a restaurant and raw bar with windows aplenty for gazing fondly at one of Ocean City’s scenic views.
MORE BEACH FUN (FOR FRIENDS)
At Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Lewes
Duffers and volleyball weenies take heart. Your forte could be disc (Frisbee) golf (Cape Henlopen State Park, 15099 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes), outdoor oversized chess (First Street Station, 70 Rehoboth Ave.), or English darts (Rehoboth Ale House, 15 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-2337).
Gals’ getaway? The Diva du Jour package at Bling Salon and Spa (17644 Coastal Hwy., Lewes, 302-644-2580) includes a facial, massage, nail care, and hair styling.
The 100-plus outposts of tax-free shopping in Tanger Outlets (36470 Seaside Outlet Dr., Rehoboth Beach) include a Bose Factory Store (302-226-1390) and a Sony outlet (302-644-8605).
Let the savvy staff at cozy Vine Wine Bar (211 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-226-8463) suggest perfect pairings for your tapas. Don’t miss Saturday night jam sessions at Dewey Beach landmark Bottle & Cork (1807 Coastal Hwy., 302-227-7272).
Brunch at The Starboard (2009 Coastal Hwy., Dewey Beach, 302-227-4600) boasts a bounteous Bloody Mary bar and a generous spread of pancakes, waffles, eggscetera.
Enjoy big sandwiches, myriad microbrews, and nachos at Arena’s deli/sports bar (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-1272).
It’s musical bar stools once the doors open at Fin’s (234 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-226-FINS), such is this retro fish house’s reputation. There’s a large dining room upstairs.
Pickled Pig Pub (18756 Coastal Hwy., Harbor Square, Rehoboth Beach, 302-645-5444) raises pub grub to new heights (herb-roasted pork shoulder with bacon-garlic fingerling potatoes). Dewey Dogs (1707 Coastal Hwy., 302-227-1104) serves chili dogs, corned beef sandwiches, and more till 2 a.m.
From 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., the low-fare Jolly Trolley (302-227-1197) shuttles between the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand and the Ruddertowne restaurant/nightlife complex in Dewey Beach. Just in case you overindulge!
At Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island
Get in the swing of things at one of Delaware’s most lovingly landscaped golf courses, the 18 holes (nine wooded, nine waterside) at Baywood Greens (32267 Clubhouse
Way, Long Neck, 888-844-2254).
Catch a wave or a bluefish at Fenwick Island State Park (Coastal Hwy., Fenwick, 302-227-2800), which offers several surf fishing areas and one of Delaware’s few designated surfing beaches. (FYI, surf anglers now need a fishing license.)
Ready, swirl, and sip at Fenwick Wine Cellars, a new winery, tasting room, and gift shop (38016 Fenwick Shoals Blvd., West Fenwick Island, 302-436-1500).
Head toward the state border to sample fajitas and “tres-a-ritas” at Matteo’s Salsa Loco. The popular Bethany Beach restaurant/tequila bar has relocated to Fenwick Island (Lighthouse Plaza, 305 Coastal Hwy., 302-541-4911).
You can’t go wrong with brick-oven pizza. Classic or creative (like crab and wild mushroom with Brie), you can count on crispy-crust pies at DiFebo’s Bistro on the Green (Bear Trap Dunes, 7 Clubhouse Dr., Ocean View, 302-537-5600).
True friendship is sharing a mound of cheese-smothered Dune Fries at The Cottage Café (Coastal Hwy., Bethany Beach, 302-539-8710). Serving till 1 a.m.
Bring a mat and towel for sunrise yoga sessions Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays (Bethany Beach boardwalk, 302-537-7838).
BETHANY BEACH, SOUTH BETHANY, OCEAN VIEW, AND FENWICK ISLAND FOR FAMILIES
Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Ocean View (aka West Bethany), and Fenwick Island comprise the less commercial “Quiet Resorts,” sort of Ocean City unplugged. Hotel/motel options are slim here compared to O.C., so families might consider a three-night “mini-vacation” rental in Sea Colony’s Oceanfront or Tennis Community properties (ResortQuest Delaware, 888-500-4254, resortquestdelaware.com).
Join the party upstairs at Mango’s (97 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 302-537-6621). This tropically themed boardwalk restaurant boasts unsurpassed ocean views, a big bar, kid-friendly food, and ample cool cred for teens. Dine early to claim prime seats for the 7:30 p.m. concert at the adjacent town bandstand.
You won’t be the only ones eager for breakfast at The Cottage Cafe (Coastal Hwy., Bethany Beach, 302-539-8710), a Route 1 dining landmark, and you won’t be sorry either. Its weekend buffet is legendary, a satisfying mix of hearty, healthy, and sweetly sinful choices. Try the crunchy French toast.
Downtown, browse Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach’s broad-but-brief main drag. Need some SPF50? Rhodes 5 & 10 (118 Garfield Pkwy., 302-539-9191) stocks sunscreen, beach chairs, newspapers, and other sundries that spill onto the sidewalk. Redecorating a teen’s room? Blue Room Gallery (123 Garfield Pkwy., 302-537-6617) sells retro beach posters plus kitschy nightlights and handcrafted furniture.
Bethany Beach’s municipal beach is convenient and clean, but can lack for elbowroom on weekends. An option: Head to nearby Fenwick Island State Park, a three-mile-long stretch of barrier island—with its own guarded beach—between South Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island (Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 302-227-2800). En route, buy takeout sandwiches and other provisions at McCabe’s Gourmet Market (Coastal Hwy., York Beach Mall, South Bethany Beach, 302-539-8550). Eat at park picnic tables overlooking the ocean or bay.
Make a day of it by arranging a family eco-paddle through the shallow salt marshes of Little Assawoman Bay with Coastal Kayak (Coastal Hwy., across from the state park entrance, 302-539-7999). You may spy osprey, herons, and Delaware’s tiny armored army, horseshoe crabs, on your two-hour guided tour. (Advance reservations required, 877-44-KAYAK.)
By dinnertime, you’ll be ready to dig into a heap o’ steamed blue crabs (no relation to the horseshoes, which aren’t really crabs) or a hefty crab cake at Mickey’s Family Crab House (222 Jefferson Bridge Rd., Bethany Beach, 302-539-5384), a longtime local favorite for seafood and brewskies.
Coastal Delaware’s stormy past begs exploring. Begin with mid-morning breakfast in Fenwick Island at Warren’s Station (1406 Coastal Hwy., 302-539-7156), housed in a replica of an old lifesaving station. This knotty-pine-paneled family restaurant has been dishing up eggs, chipped beef, biscuits, and home fries since 1960 (lunches and dinners, too).
Before the Life Saving Service, foundered ships stood little chance in the Atlantic’s unforgiving seas. Unearth these doomed ships’ tales at DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum (708 Coastal Hwy., Fenwick Island, 302-539-9366), home to a stunning collection of centuries-old artifacts. Admire more maritime lore at Fenwick Island Lighthouse (Coastal Hwy. at Rte. 54; entrance on 146th St., Ocean City), an 1859 beacon and mini-museum at the Delaware-Maryland border.
Back in Bethany Beach, check out the Sunday night specials at Bethany Blues (6 N. Pennsylvania Ave., 302-537-1500), a rollicking, family-friendly barbecue joint noted for its authentic, hardwood-smoked ’cue. St. Louis-style pork ribs are a specialty.
All the better if a distant thunderstorm illuminates your eerie nighttime lantern visit to the circa-1876 Indian River Life-Saving Station north of Indian River Inlet (Delaware Seashore State Park, 25039 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-6991). Led by history-savvy guides dressed in traditional white uniforms and oilskins, the tours allow you to follow in the boot steps of the surf men who risked their lives. Registration required.
Plan your final beach day over a stack of buttermilk penguin cakes at The Penguin Diner (105 Garfield Pkwy., Bethany Beach, 302-541-8017), specializing in all-day breakfasts and all things penguin (not to eat!).
With fewer distractions, you can focus on the basics in Bethany Beach: sunbathing, swimming, and noshing beach food. Fall in line behind the bikini-and-baggy-shorts crowd lined up at Surf’s Up (302-539-5742), a beloved sub shop known for its cheese steaks, and D.B. Fries (302-537-0880), both in the brick-paved Bethany Town Center (Atlantic Ave. and Garfield Pkwy.).
MORE BEACH FUN (FOR FAMILIES)
In Ocean City
Turn the kids loose for fun and games, then kick back for a flick at O.C.’s free movie nights (7:30-10:30 p.m. Fridays and Mondays, beach at 27th St.).
Hips, bowls, vert ramps, hit walls. They’re a mystery to you but not to young skateboarders, who’ll find them at Ocean Bowl Skate Park (3rd St. and St. Louis Ave., 410-289-2695).
Aspiring Danicas and Dale Jrs. can make tracks at Baja Amusements stock car, go-kart, grand prix, and rookie ovals (12639 Ocean Gateway, West Ocean City, 410-213-2252).
Dish up dessert and listen to live tunes at Sundaes in the Park (Northside Park, 126th St. and the bay) from 6-8 p.m. on Sundays, of course.
Chicken nuggets for the kids, crab cake sliders for the grown-ups, corn for the ducks. Say what? Flock to B.J.’s on the Water (75th St. on the bay, 410-524-7575) at 1 p.m. daily and find out.
You and the kids can play in the sand at Fish Tales (21st and 22nd Sts. on the bay, 410-289-0990), a family-friendly marina-side restaurant/bar.
Ice cream mavens know that the go-to place for cones, shakes, and sundaes is Dumser’s (three Boardwalk locations; also Coastal Hwy. at 49th St. and 124th St.).
Order burgers and malted milk shakes at Rayne’s Reef in Berlin, an old-timey luncheonette featured in the movie Runaway Bride (10 N. Main St., 410-641-2131).
For stripers’ sake, this is the ocean fishing capital of Maryland! Board a charter boat at Ocean City Fishing Center (12940 Inlet Isle Ln., 800-322-3065) and go ocean or bay fishing. Tight budget? Oyster Bay Tackle (116th St. and Coastal Hwy., 410-524-3433) rents rods and reels for fishing from piers and bridges.
In and around Rehoboth Beach
Combine fun with a history lesson at Fort Miles, a World War II-era coastal defense outpost in Cape Henlopen State Park (15099 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes). Kids go wild for Cover and Concealment (capture the flag) and Code Breaking. Register at the park’s Seaside Nature Center (302-645-6852).
Learn to skimboard (for free) at Saturday morning sessions by Alley-Oop Skim (2000 Coastal Hwy., 302-227-7087) in Dewey Beach.
Let your tots storm the nautically-themed playground in Lewes’s beautiful new Canalfront Park.
Join the countless kids, adults (including our Vice President), and canines who love to visit Browseabout Books (113 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-226-BOOK). Shop for
bestsellers, beach reads, toys, games, gifts, and calendars while Rover slurps from the courtesy water bowl outside.
The pizza debate is usually Grotto versus Nicola in Rehoboth Beach, but many natives pledge allegiance to Louie’s (11 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-6002). Great cheese-steak grinders, too.
Crayons for the kids, trophy finfish on display for anglers, and fresh seafood for everyone at Big Fish Grill (20298 Coastal Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-FISH).
Cream (201 2nd St., Lewes, 302-645-9425) remains the hometown favorite, hands-down.
You can’t sleep on the Delaware beaches at night, but camping beside pillowy soft dunes at Cape Henlopen State Park (15099 Cape Henlopen Dr., Lewes) is a bargain for frugal families. Book your site months ahead, though, here or call 877-98-PARKS.
REHOBOTH BEACH, DEWEY BEACH, AND LEWES FOR COUPLES
Not all “lower, slower” southern Delaware beach towns—Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, and Lewes—are created equal. Each one packs a special allure: Rehoboth Beach for dining and shopping, Dewey Beach for water sports and nightlife, and Lewes for history and salty charm. As for lodging, cozy breakfasts in a shady courtyard, couple’s massages, and an adults-only pool, make The Bellmoor Inn & Spa (6 Christian St., Rehoboth Beach, 800-425-2355, thebellmoor.com) an appealing choice for you and your true love.
Slide into a cozy banquette at candle-lit Kindle (111 Bank St., Lewes, 302-645-7887), which has a winning nouvelle touch with comfort food. Toast with a romantic cocktail featuring St-Germain, a French spirit made with handpicked alpine elderflowers.
Puzzle together over a crossword and a French press of steamy rainbow java at Hobos (56 Baltimore Ave., 302-226-2226), a new Euro-Mex-Mediterranean bistro/bar serving peripatetic palates in Rehoboth Beach.
Rehoboth is known as SoDel’s most urbane melting pot, so get your tans on alongside sand-worshipping singles, couples (straight and gay), families, and BBFFs (best beach friends forever).
Pre- or post-sunning, savor the signature Cuban pork sandwich or a luscious Brie BLT at Rehoboth Beach’s Café Solé (44 Baltimore Ave., 302-227-7107), a cheery eatery a block-and-a-half from the beach.
Forgot to pack something special for date-night dinners? Rehoboth Beach’s chic shops can bail you out, be it a little black dress at White House Black Market (First Street Station, 70 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-6930) or a men’s shirt at South Moon Under (120 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3806).
Casually yet smartly attired, dine where the locals do on special occasions. Venerable, venerated Back Porch Café (59 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3674) serves upscale cuisine (veal sweetbreads, pan-seared halibut with whipped sweet potatoes) in a 19th-century cottagey setting (think Queen Victoria meets Key West). Love’s true light? The house liqueur-spiked coffee for two, flamed tableside.
After dinner, stroll Rehoboth Avenue, where shops remain open late, or join the merriment at the Purple Parrot (134 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-1139), a neon-lit karaoke bar.
Sleep in, then set your sights on Lewes and a post-noon brunch of sweet and savory crepes at Béseme (142 2nd St., in the Hotel Rodney, 302-645-8108), a bistro whose name means “kiss me” in Spanish. First, though, buy vino at the Nassau Valley Vineyards wine shop (32165 Winery Way, Lewes, 302-645-9463). In town, present said bottle (or another) to the folks at Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory (135 2nd St., 302-645-5528), and they’ll chocolate coat it for delivery that night to your lodgings. It sure trumps pillow mints. Feeling Adam and Eve-ish? The shop’s tart-sweet caramel apples are dipped in chocolate and drizzled with icing—not your granny’s county-fair fare.
More compact than Rehoboth Beach’s shopping district and more relaxed than the Route 1 outlets, Lewes’s shops feature clothing, antiques, artworks, games, flags, pet paraphernalia, and more. At Just for You (112 Front St., 302-645-0576), lapidary artists will wire wrap a treasured beachcombing find—a seashell or a bit of sea glass—into keepsake jewelry and ship it to you. (Hint, hint, gentlemen.)
For dinner, head to Dewey Beach, where romance comes with a view times two at intimate Two Seas (1300 Coastal Hwy., 302-227-2610). When you’re not gazing dreamily at your S.O., soak up romantic vistas of the ocean and bay, whence came your delectable dinner.
Fuel up on Greek omelets at the Crystal Restaurant (620 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 302-227-1088) and proceed to Atlantic Cycles (18 Wilmington Ave., 302-226-2543). Rent a tandem bike, and you can pedal as one along the boardwalk, but only until 10 a.m. Alternatively, cruise Rehoboth Beach’s broad side streets to scenic Silver Lake. Feeling really energetic? Get road bikes and glide through the countryside on the Junction & Breakwater Rail Trail connecting Rehoboth Beach and Lewes (12 miles round trip).
Break for an afternoon treat at Annie’s Banannies (9 1st St. South, Rehoboth Beach, 302-260-9875), where the sinfully yummy house confection is a frozen banana processed through Annie’s industrial juicer, then covered in your pick of toppings (try Nutty Banana with Peanut Butter).
Stroll Rehoboth Beach’s (mostly) quiet old neighborhoods. Don’t miss Henlopen Acres at the north edge of town, a woodsy enclave encompassing the Rehoboth Art League (12 Dodds Ln., 302-227-8408). The peaceful, three-acre campus includes studios, galleries, and the Homestead, a historic farmhouse-turned-gallery that’s open daily. Secluded benches and arbors in its charming garden will tempt you to linger. Alas, so will the prospect of driving home.
MORE BEACH FUN (FOR COUPLES)
At Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island
Soar side by side as you get a gull’s eye view of the beach on a tandem parasail ride from Sharks Cove Marina (38931 Madison Ave., Selbyville, 302-436-8500).
Jonesing for Facebook? Order chocolate-caramel lattes and surf the Web at The Artful Bean coffeehouse and gallery (20 Pennsylvania Ave., Bethany Beach, 302-541-8160).
Wrap yourselves in coastal quietude. Pull up Adirondack chairs, order some wine, and watch the sunset from Catch 54’s bayside deck (Rte. 54 at Madison Ave., Fenwick Island, 302-436-8600).
From lobster BLTs to Portuguese-style seafood stew, NorthEast Seafood Kitchen sure-handedly tweaks tradition (29 F Atlantic Ave., Ocean View, 302-537-1785).
Grownups need gourmet escape. In Bethany Beach, try Sedona (26 Pennsylvania Ave.,
Patsy breaks out the cast-iron skillet once a week on Sundays to make her mama’s Southern fried chicken at Patsy’s Restaurant (121 Campbell Pl., Bethany Beach, 302-537-2433). Try it with waffles.
Take a walk on the wilder side at Bethany Beach Nature Center’s informative promenade through inland bay wetlands (807 Garfield Pkwy., 302-537-7680).
In Ocean City
Canoodle for the camera in an arcade photo booth or get giggly on the Ferris wheel at Trimper’s Rides (S. 1st St. and Boardwalk, 410-289-8617).
Enjoy the royal treatments at Robin Walter Salon and Day Spa (11007 Manklin Creek Rd., Berlin, 410-208-2576). The ultra-pampering spa packages include facials and Swedish massage.
Take a twilight stroll in Sunset Park on South Division Street. Enjoy each other’s company plus sweeping views of the ocean, bay, and harbor.
Fresco’s (82nd St. at the bay, 410-524-8202) reflects the décor, the cuisine (lobster fra diavolo, anyone?), and the ambiance of Italy—with idyllic bay vistas.
Decisions, decisions. Galaxy 66 Bar & Grille (6601 Coastal Hwy., 410-723-6762) makes dessert choices difficult with its decadent chocolate box for two and chocolate lust martinis.