REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. — Even if you’re only planning a day trip to the beach, there are still a lot of things you need to take into consideration, and a couple you probably don’t think about until you’re there.
For instance, in some towns along the Delmarva coast, parking can be a major hassle both in terms of cost and availability. And then what happens if you have to go to the bathroom or change a child’s diaper?
The good news is that there are options — ones you may not think of right away — though what’s described as “a hidden gem” today is becoming less of a secret.
More and more people are starting to find that the Delaware Seashore State Park has everything you’d want for a day trip, says Pat Cooper, regional administrator with the Delaware State Park system. He estimates that last year alone, attendance went up around 5 or 10 percent.
And it costs less than what you’d normally pay for parking at nearby Rehoboth Beach or neighboring Dewey Beach. The cost of admission for out of state vehicles is $10 per day, Cooper says, and that covers everyone in your car, whether it’s just yourself or a Volkswagen full of clowns. You get the idea.
The park is composed of the several miles of beach along Coastal Highway between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach. For families and those who live to swim, but want the watchful eye of a lifeguard nearby, the biggest beach is on the south side of the Indian River Inlet.
“We have a full service beach concession, with showers and everything,” Cooper said.
That includes bathrooms, which can be much fewer and far between when you visit some of the public beaches nearby. It also includes a concession stand offering all the beach food you’d normally find yourself buying during a swimming break. It’s also wheelchair accessible.
Another park just south of Dewey Beach near Towers Road also offers a guarded beach with lifeguards.
In recent years the state parks have also started offering more options to outdoor lovers as well.
The south side of the inlet is where you’ll find lots of swimmers.
“The north side of the inlet, people like to surf,” Cooper said. “It’s pretty good surfing and it attracts a lot of surfers to come there because of the break,” though he himself isn’t one of them.
And while trails in Cape Henlopen State Park have been enjoyed by hikers and bikers between Rehoboth Beach and Lewes, “this past year we opened up a walking trail along the Assawoman Canal,” Cooper said.
“It’s first phase, it’s a one-mile walking trail with a restroom facility. And we’re working on continuing that trail.”
Visitors can access that around the Bethany Beach area. Several other trails for hikers, bikers and even equestrians can be found nearby too.
Pets are allowed on most of those beaches, though the swimming beaches are exempted “for health department reasons.” Leashes are required. And fishing also is allowed on most of those beaches, too.
Of course, the one thing the state parks can’t replicate is the iconic offerings that helped you fall in love with some of the beach towns. No concession stand can match an authentic sub from Louie’s or a Nicoboli, and you won’t find any Fisher’s Popcorn or Dumser’s Ice Cream stand either.
But depending on the direction you drive out of town from, you’ll at most only be about 20 to 30 minutes away from everything else you associate a visit to the beach with, so it’s feasible to stop there on the way in or out as you’re passing by.
“Come to the state parks, enjoy it, enjoy nature, and you’ll save money,” Cooper said. “You don’t have to feed the meter all day.”
You won’t be hunting for a bathroom when you have to go, either.
Check WTOP.com each Thursday morning through Labor Day for a new “Beyond the Bay Bridge” feature, where WTOP will explore the goings-on at all the Delmarva beach towns. From new restaurants, events, to music and more, WTOP will bring you fun tips and information to make your trip to the beach more enjoyable. Be sure to bookmark the Summer Tips and News page as well as the Beach Traffic and Weather page to stay updated throughout the summer.