WASHINGTON — Those looking for a break from Beltway commutes and the commotion of the city retreat to Bethany Beach, where bike cruisers dominate the roads and the chime of emails are drowned out by the sound of crashing waves.
“I always like to say that Bethany Beach is really that quintessential beach town that you see in the movies, with ice cream shops and candy stores,” said Kristie Maravalli, executive director of the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce.
“We are known and branded as the quiet resort. … If you’re looking for that hometown experience type of vacation, Bethany Beach is definitely that place.”
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 — to navigate the area’s best activities and can’t-miss dining destinations.
An Entertaining and Active Summer
- Workout on the water: Early risers have plenty to look forward to at Bethany Beach. The town hosts daily yoga classes on the bandstand, as well as yoga on the beach Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays through Sept. 12. Bootcamp, Pilates and ninja warrior classes also take place on the beach throughout the summer. Costs range from $10 to $15 per person.
- Workout in the water: 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: June 12 through Aug. 28, end your days with a movie on the beach off Garfield Parkway. This summer’s screenings include everything from “Moana” to “Finding Dory” to “Beauty and the Beast.” Friday nights in September, the movies move to the bandstand.
- Entertainment for all ages: Whether it’s a rock concert with The Wallflowers or a comedy show with Jay Leno, you’ll be sure to find it at The Freeman Stage at Bayside. Free kids shows take place Saturday mornings. 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. Catch free concerts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in the summer at 7:30 p.m. Kids’ nights are every Wednesday in July, plus there are a handful of special performances throughout the season.
- 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. Read more: Experts help beachgoers find the perfect bathing suit.
Maravalli says 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.
“[Sedona] keeps a little bit of a low profile. It borders on being one of the best restaurants in the state,” said Yesbeck, who also recommends Patsy’s across the street.
Those who prefer to picnic or cook have plenty of options for fresh, gourmet ingredients.
“As people drive in, there are a lot of markets and [farm] stands open throughout the summer, and the food is awesome,” Maravalli said about the farmland that surrounds the beach towns.
She also points out that every day of the week, with the exception of Saturday, there’s a farmers market somewhere within a 10-mile radius of Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. The Bethany Beach farmers market runs Sundays from 8 a.m. to noon June 11 through Sept. 10.
- 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. Day-passes (which include parking) are $8.
- 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.
- Free festivals: Catch live music, fresh seafood and local artisans at the 9th annual Seafood and Art Festival July 22; the 39th annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival takes place Sept. 9; and the summer season kicks off with a Caribbean carnival.
- Bethany Beach Nature Center: The Bethany Beach Nature Center offers children’s programming, indoor exhibits and outdoor education.
Where to Stay, How to Get Around
According to Maravalli, the majority of the lodging at Bethany Beach consists of condos and homes — there are only nine hotels in the area. Local real estate companies and web-based businesses, such as Home Away and VRBO, facilitate visitors with securing rental properties in the area.
Getting around Bethany Beach is pretty easy.
“Not everybody knows this, but Bethany Beach is only 1 square mile,” Maravalli said.
Biking and walking are the preferred modes of transportation. If you’re driving into town for the day, there is metered parking along the main streets, and Maravalli recommends feeding the meter with 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.