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It’s that time of year — and if you’re anything like us here at WTOP, you need a break from the Beltway.
Those looking for an escape can retreat to Bethany Beach where bike cruisers dominate the roads and the chime of emails are drowned out by the sound of crashing waves.
Bethany Beach is known as the “quiet” beach, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to do.
The Bethany-Fenwick area of Delaware sits directly north of Ocean City, Maryland, and is sandwiched between the Little Assawoman Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. During the summer months, the two neighboring beach towns see hundreds of thousands of visitors.
If your summer plans include a tranquil trip to the Bethany-Fenwick beaches, use this guide — filled with tips from locals and those in-the-know — to navigate the area’s best activities and can’t-miss dining destinations.
Where should you go in Fenwick and Bethany, Del. this year?
Go to: Catch 54. One of the many SODEL restaurants up and down the coast. There’s a reason they keep opening new ones.
Take your kids to: The Cottage Cafe. They’ve been around forever, and the extensive menu leaves everyone happy.
Go here for the first time: The Heideaway is on the ocean block of Bethany. Farm-to-table freshness and an expansive list of wine and cocktails to unwind with.
Get breakfast at: Jimmy’s Kitchen on Fenwick Island.
Need a pizza? Pomodoro Pizza has you covered.
What is new in Bethany and Fenwick Island?
- Heidaway: Restaurant and bar located on the Bethany Boardwalk boasting a menu featuring fresh, local ingredients.
- Ropewalk Bethany Beach: A restaurant and bar on Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach. Features seafood and all-day happy hour. Open until 11:30 p.m.
- Tangerine Goods: A women’s clothing and accessories boutique located on Garfield Parkway in Bethany Beach.
- Mini-golf: Two new mini-golf courses are planned just outside of Bethany Beach — one in Ocean View (1.7 miles west of Bethany), and one in Millville (4 miles west of Bethany). Both hope to be open by midsummer. The Millville project will also include a “boardwalk” and creamery. Ocean View mini-golf | Millville mini-golf
- 3BB Café is opening its second location this summer in Fenwick Village (it also has a location in Bethany).
- CraftBOX: Located in Fenwick Village. S.T. E. A. M shop with workshops, activities, and take-home crafts.
What entertainment is on tap in Bethany and the surrounding area?
- Workout on the water: Early risers have plenty to look forward to at Bethany Beach. The town hosts daily yoga classes on the bandstand and the beach daily (except for Thursdays) through Sept. 10. Bootcamp, Pilates and ninja warrior classes also take place on the beach throughout the summer. Costs range from $10 to $15 per person.
- Surf’s up: Dream of catching a wave? Now is your chance. Take a surf lesson in Bethany with RB Surf School or join a paddle board tour with Bethany Surf Shop.
- Movies on the beach: On Mondays, June 17 through Aug. 26, end your days with a movie on the beach off Garfield Parkway.
- Entertainment for all ages: You’ll find all forms of entertainment at The Freeman Stage at Bayside. (There are also free kids shows, to be announced.) Dickens Parlour Theatre puts on live magic shows and is another favorite venue in the area — especially on rainy days.
- Meet me at the bandstand: The bandstand is the place to be in Bethany for live entertainment. Get a full list of planned performances on its website.
- Shopping: Bethany’s boardwalk is lined with ice cream parlors, candy stores and beach shops. The town is also home to several high-end boutiques and galleries.
What are the food options in Bethany and Fenwick Island?
Agriculture is one of the biggest industries in Delaware’s coastal region, and that bounty is obvious when it comes to eating in Fenwick and Bethany. Sure, the area has a handful of casual diners and grab-and-go pizza joints, but those who prefer white tablecloth establishments that focus on farm-to-fork (and sea-to-spoon) dining will not be disappointed.
Those who prefer to picnic or cook have plenty of options for fresh, gourmet ingredients.
Other than the beach, what’s there to do in lower Delaware?
- South Coastal Library – Located in Bethany Beach. Hosts tons of events, readings, etc. Non-Delaware residents can purchase a one-month library card for $10 or a yearlong card for $25.
- Dickens Parlor Theater – Hosts magicians and theatrical shows. It’s just outside of Bethany at 35715 Atlantic Ave. in Millville.
- Bethany Beach Town Museum – Located in the Bethany Beach Town Hall. It has memorabilia and photographs from the Bethany Beach area. Admission is free of charge, open weekdays 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Bethany Beach Nature Center – Offers hands-on activates for children while educating them about the area’s Inland Bays and Wetlands.
- Oceanova Spa – Located two miles west of Bethany Beach in Ocean View. Full-service spa.
- All About U Salon & Spa – Three miles west of Bethany in Millville. Full-service salon and spa.
- Studio 26 – Two miles west of Bethany in Ocean View. Full service salon and spa.
- Salted Vines Vineyard & Winery – Six miles west of Bethany Beach in Frankford. Tasting room, outdoor patio, live music and food trucks.
- Thunder Lagoon Water Park – Housed on Fenwick Island. Features water slides and pools. Connected to Viking mini-golf and go-karts.
- Coastal Kayak – Located on Fenwick Island. Kayak, stand-up paddle boarding and sailboat rentals. Lessons and group tours available.
- Back Bay Tours – For boating and fishing.
Exercise, arcades and golf:
- Shore Barre (Bethany)
- Beach Barre Body (Bethany)
- Ocean Vayu Yoga (Ocean View – 4 miles west of Bethany)
- hipAHA (Fenwick Island)
- Shore Fun Family Fun Center (Bethany Beach)
- Bear Trap Dunes golf (Ocean View – 5 miles west of Bethany)
- Bayside golf (Fenwick Island)
Are there any big events in Bethany?
- Poseidon Festival – Bethany Beach. May 24 – 27. Features sand sculpting, live music, mermaid tank, pirate shows, costume contest and luau. Daily activities start at 11 a.m.
- Seaside Craft Show – Bethany Beach. June 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Fenwick Island Storytime in the park – Wednesdays in July at 10 a.m.
What not to miss in Fenwick and Bethany
- Fenwick Island State Park: Visit this 344-acre state park between Ocean City and South Bethany for its quiet beaches and bay shoreline. There’s also hiking, kayaking and horseback riding in the offseason. Entry fee is $5 for in-state, $10 for out of state.
- Independence Day Celebration: Bethany celebrates the Fourth of July with a parade, concerts and fireworks. Activities take place on the boardwalk and at the bandstand.
- Seaside Craft Show: The 15th annual Seaside Craft Show will be held June 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Bethany. Vendors along the streets and the boardwalk will showcase their works. Find more details on the event’s website.
Where to stay, how to get around in Bethany and Fenwick
The majority of the lodging at Bethany Beach consists of condos, homes and bed-and-breakfasts. Visit thequietresorts.com to review and book all available accommodations.
Getting around Bethany Beach, which is 1-square-mile, is pretty easy.
Biking and walking are the preferred modes of transportation. (There are bike racks along the ocean entryways.) If you’re driving into town for the day, there is metered parking along the main streets, and you can use the Parkmobile app, so you don’t have to give up your spot on the beach.
A trolley also runs through Bethany Beach beginning the Friday before Memorial Day through mid-September from 9:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. The fare is just $0.25 each way.
WTOP’s Rachel Nania, John Domen and Will Vitka contributed to this report.