No matter what kind of vacation or hometown you’re looking for, Delaware’s 28 miles of coastline (381 miles using NOAA) of beachfront is sure to provide a terrific time. The top beach towns in the state each have something unique to offer for those looking to move in or just visit for a holiday.
Perks of living on the Delaware coast include tax-free shopping, quaint cobblestone streets, and the highest concentration of horseshoe crabs on the planet, among other things. The following waterside communities are some of The First State’s finest beach stops.
Here’s a look at the top beach towns in Delaware to live and visit, in no particular order:
Rehoboth Beach, DE
Rehoboth Beach, situated on the Delaware shores, is well-known for its unique shops, family-friendly attractions, stunning hotels and residences, and restaurants that are among the best around. The town of about 1,108 (2020 Census) often refers to itself as “The Nation’s Summer Capital” because it is a popular summer vacation destination for residents of D.C. as well as tourists from the neighboring states of Maryland, Virginia, and Pennsylvania.
The first boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach was built in 1873, but weather and storms have caused it to change shape many times over the years. The modern version is one of the city’s most popular places.
It’s small and beautiful, and both locals and tourists enjoy it. This boardwalk, which is surrounded by stores, restaurants, and other businesses, is one of the reasons why Rehoboth Beach is often ranked as having one of the best beaches on the East Coast.
Rehoboth Beach is busy all year long. The beachfront is used for many different festivals, events, daily walks, and fitness contests all through the year. Ferry excursions, kayaking, walking paths, skimboarding, paddleboarding, surfing, or exploring the coast are examples of activities that people of all ages can enjoy by the water.
Since Lewes was established in 1631, its residents have taken great interest in their recorded history and relish the chance to share it with tourists. The town is next to Cape Henlopen, where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet, and it offers a ton of fun in the sun, sand, and surf, thanks to its location.
A Dutch whaling and trade station was established in Lewes on June 3, 1631, making it the earliest European colony in Delaware. Over many centuries, the town was the scene of a great deal of conflict and had a role in significant historical events such as the War of 1812 and the American Civil War.
These days, the town with a population of 3,303 (according to the 2020 Census) is a crowd favorite for tourists who enjoy strolls through streets lined with boutiques or pleasant meals by the shore. This historically significant and culturally diverse village is a gem waiting to be unearthed.
Within this protected area are miles of stunning beaches, walking paths, and sanctuaries for several species of birds. The Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve, Lewes Beach, and Cape Henlopen Beach are the best spots in town to swim, sunbathe, fish, or go boating, and the Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve is one of the best sites to watch the sunset.
Bethany Beach, DE
The little businesses that welcome you as you enter Bethany Beach will give you a serene feeling of tranquility. The town is an excellent place for families to get together and find out that there are many things to do on the coast while on vacation.
According to the 2020 census completed in 2020, the population of Bethany Beach is a small 954, although, during the summer months, the town may have as many as 15,000 guests visiting. The city was founded in 1901 and quickly became a popular beach destination.
On July 12 of that year, Bethany Beach’s first summer season began with a crowd singing a song written for the celebration and being serenaded to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia” at the Tabernacle, which wasn’t finished yet.
Tourists like to lay out in the sun and run on long beaches. They shop tax-free in the stores around town and on the Boardwalk and take their time eating a gourmet lunch on the beach. There are free public beaches to the east of the town.
During the summer, these beaches are all watched over by the Bethany Beach Patrol, a group of trained lifeguards. Thirty people make up the beach patrol, and they are on duty every day from the weekend of Memorial Day through the weekend of Labor Day and on weekends in September.
Dewey Beach, DE
Between the Atlantic and Rehoboth Bay is where you’ll find the town of Dewey Beach, located on a narrow strip of land that’s no wider than a couple of city blocks. This coastal town is known for where people go to party in the summer, but it’s also a popular place for family vacations because of its vast, sandy beaches and many accommodations.
During the summer, there are many events at Dewey Beach, such as community bonfires and movies shown under the stars. Visit the region at the end of September for the Dewey Beach Music Conference, which hosts a series of concerts throughout the weekend.
Not only are there beach villages nearby, but there are also a lot of shopping districts. This hamlet is also home to several locally owned souvenir shops, making it a great place to go shopping if you want to find something unique.
According to the census completed in 2020, there are around 353 people who call this town their permanent home. The beach is always a few minutes away from any town location. The town’s motto is “Dewey Beach, A Way of Life”.
The Delaware Seashore State Park is located only a few minutes south of Dewey Beach and includes six miles of gorgeous beaches. On these quieter beaches, some of the most popular things to do are swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and walking along the coast.
Fenwick Island, DE
Fenwick Island, Delaware, is a laid-back coastal community that offers a wide variety of real estate possibilities, and its beaches are known for their hued beach huts on the white sands. Locals and visitors can enjoy some of the best things the East Coast offers without giving up many modern conveniences.
The town of 343 (according to the 2020 Census) was formed in July 1953. It was named after Thomas Fenwick, an English landowner who immigrated to Maryland. It’s located in the section of Delaware that Lord Baltimore and his successors contested during the Penn-Baltimore boundary dispute.
Aside from lounging on the sand, the Fenwick Boardwalk is another favorite place to spend time in the area. It’s near restaurants, ice cream shops, and gift shops that are good for families.
Fenwick Island is a barrier island that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean. It’s close to Ocean City, Maryland, and only 36 miles away from Salisbury, MD. It has become a popular place for high-adrenaline water sports like windsurfing, surf fishing, and other activities.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, there is a lifeguard on duty, and during that time, there is also a bathhouse with showers and changing rooms, a beach chair and umbrella rental service, and a snack bar.
Slaughter Beach, DE
Because of its relative isolation and lack of publicity, some consider Slaughter Beach in Delaware a well-kept secret. According to the census from 2020, there are around 218 permanent inhabitants in the town, although, at any one point, there may be as many as 800–900 tourists since the area has seen more day-trippers recently.
Slaughter Beach is the destination for the annual spawning of hundreds of thousands of horseshoe crabs during May and June. These animals have become a local landmark, and it’s pleasurable for wildlife enthusiasts to watch them. Although it was officially incorporated in 1931, Slaughter Beach was established in 1681.
No one really knows how the town received its peculiar name, but some of the possible explanations include horseshoe crabs being killed by the sun, a little creek called Slaughter Creek that was discovered on primitive maps, or a postal worker named William Slaughter who worked in the area.
The Mispillion Lighthouse, Delaware’s only remaining wooden-framed lighthouse, was also built in this small town. Slaughter Beach has expansive sections of sand that are perfect for playing in the surf, casting a line, or just taking in the sea breeze with fewer people around.
Be sure to consider these top Delaware beach towns when you’re ready to start planning your next beach vacation on the East Coast. Safe travels in “The Blue Hen State”!