If you are planning a family vacation to Southern Delaware, here are the best things to do in Rehoboth Beach and surrounding towns in Delaware.
Our trip to Southern Delaware was full of joyful surprises. If you live in Maryland or Washington D.C., then the wide, flat sand Delaware beaches that stretch for miles are likely no surprise. Similarly, you won’t be shocked by the cute boutiques, good restaurants, and gorgeous summer homes that line the streets of Rehoboth Beach. But, those that live outside of that 200 mile radius may have overlooked this little gem in favor of some of its more famous neighbors to the North or South.
Well I hope they don’t mind too much if I let you in on that little secret, because this is one stretch of beach that should not be overlooked and there are so many things to do in Rehoboth Beach and the surrounding area.
Southern Delaware beaches
First, let me give you the lay of the land. Southern Delaware has five major beach towns: Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island. Each has its own distinct character so first you want to pick the one that best matches your style.
Lewes (pronounced Lewis, as I was corrected), holds the honor of being the first town in the first state. This history is evident from its quaint downtown streets lined with leafy trees and historic homes with their colorful flower boxes overflowing with blooms. Connected by ferry to Cape May, New Jersey, there is also plenty to do for families from kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and more.
South of Lewes is the upscale beach town of Rehoboth Beach. While it still sports a family-friendly boardwalk with arcades, rides, and plenty of junk food, it is quite different from Ocean City, Maryland, its larger southern neighbor.
The main street offers a good selection of stylish eateries and cute boutiques. There are a few motels but this is primarily a beach rental community, with some enormous homes along the beach road that are clearly executive summer homes.
The next town down is Dewey Beach, which has an entirely different vibe from the other beach towns in Southern Delaware. This is clearly the party town, with basic surf shops, motels, and beach bars. But it also has the gorgeous Delaware Seashore State Park, with access to both Rehoboth Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
Bethany Beach / Fenwick Island
Known as the “Quiet Resorts,” Bethany and Fenwick are the last stop before crossing into Ocean City, Maryland. Bethany is similar to Rehoboth, just smaller and with a less commercial boardwalk. Also more of a vacation rental town, there is now one nice-looking hotel, the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites.
We visited Southern Delaware in early June and, except for some windy days, the weather was perfect and, since the local kids were still in school, there were no crowds! It really made it the ideal time to be there and explore all the things to do in Rehoboth Beach.
Where to Stay in Rehoboth Beach
Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.
If you are staying for a week, a vacation rental is probably the way to go. Since we were in town for only four days, and it was just the two of us, it made more sense for us to get a hotel room. We stayed at the Crosswinds Motel right on Rehoboth Avenue, the main strip in Rehoboth Beach. Our double room on the second floor was surprisingly quiet.
I’m usually not a fan of motels for safety and comfort reasons, but the Crosswinds’ rooms face the interior parking lot, versus the street, and they were surprisingly comfortable. Clearly the property has been recently renovated in a modern style with all your basic comforts including a flat screen TV and large vanity area. The air-conditioning unit blocked out any exterior noise and the wood laminate floors were perfect for a beach motel. The best thing about the Crosswinds was the location. It was a five to ten minute walk to the beach and boardwalk and just steps to some great restaurants.
Find accommodations in Rehoboth Beach:
We loved our time in Rehoboth Beach and, just like our other mother-daughter trips, we found spending quality time together and engaged in activities side-by-side a wonderful bonding experience, can’t you tell?
Things to do in Rehoboth Beach Delaware
Note: Our visit was hosted by Southern Delaware Tourism. Our accommodations and many of our meals and activities were complimentary for purposes of review. All opinions are my own.
Since we were there to see what the region has to offer families, we packed in more than your average family might, but it was also too windy for us to spend long, lazy days at the beach. Even so, it ended up being one of those perfectly balanced trips where we moved from one activity to the next without feeling rushed or overtired. Here is a sample of some of our favorite things to do in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware:
Biking in Cape Henlopen State Park
We rented bikes from Atlantic Cycles right in downtown Rehoboth and then biked over to nearby Cape Henlopen State Park. There are a couple of different loops that you can take through the park and we took the shorter Gordon’s Pond Trail to avoid as many busy roads as possible.
I’d recommend going in the early morning, not just to beat the heat, but also to beat the traffic in town. It only took us a few minutes to get out of town and onto the crushed stone and boardwalk trails through the park. If you can bring along a backpack, you can also spend some time on the beach. Also note that there are bathrooms at multiple points as well as air refill stations.
Visit Cape Henlopen State Park
Even if you don’t bike through Cape Henlopen, I’d definitely recommend spending some time there. In addition to the beach there are forest trails and acres of rolling dunes.
You can climb a World War II observation tower and visit a WWII museum at Fort Miles. Fort Miles was originally built in 1941 to defend the Delaware Bay and River from German U-boats during World War II, but the fort was later decommissioned and became a state park in 1964.
Today, you can explore the fort’s history through guided tours, exhibits, and artifacts on display throughout the site. Some highlights include the Battery 519 Museum, which showcases the fort’s role in the war effort, and the Observation Tower, which offers stunning views of the park and surrounding area. Definitely take the time to go up to the cape and take a look at the lighthouse that sits at the tip.
Swimming at Delaware Seashore State Park
Located near Dewey Beach, the Delaware Seashore State Park is a gem worth paying the out-of-state day pass for. Even though there are gorgeous beaches in Rehoboth Beach, this park is a nice change of scene. This park stretches for six miles and covers both the bay and ocean side, with two full-service bathhouses on the ocean side. It was chilly and windy the day we visited, so we didn’t go swimming, but even then the surf didn’t look too rough and and the beach was so flat and wide.
While you are there, you can also stop by the Indian River Lifesaving Station, which dates back to 1876 and was built by the United States Life-saving Service, a pre-cursor to today’s Coast Guard. We learned about the heroic efforts made by the men stationed here to save those shipwrecked offshore and the physical effort it would take to perform these rescues.
If you go, be sure to look into any programs they might be running as they have a full compliment of free (with park admission), family-friendly offerings all summer long such as beach bonfires, sandcastle building demonstrations, summer concerts, sea creature talks, and other naturalist programs.
Paddle boarding in Dewey Beach
If you are staying in Rehoboth Beach, you are going to want to spend a little time exploring the neighboring towns. Dewey Beach is a great spot to try paddle boarding in the Bay.
When we visited Delaware Seashore State Park in Dewey Beach, we also set up a stand up paddle boarding lesson on the way. I’ve been wanting to try paddle boarding for a few years now and finally got the chance on our trip to Delaware.
We had to postpone our paddle due to rough seas and the day we finally went, it was still a bit choppy but we both managed to get up and learn the basics. DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures is located on the bay side of Dewey Beach, in a small inlet ideal for paddle boarding. Of course, watching those doing SUP yoga next to us, I felt fairly incompetent but at least I didn’t fall off!
DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures offers both kayak and paddle board rentals, as well as windsurfing and stand up paddle boarding yoga classes.
Kayaking in Lewes
If you are a long-term reader, you will know that we do a lot of kayaking on our trips and Southern Delaware was no exception. This time we headed up to Lewes for some kayaking with Quest Kayak & SUP Shack. The owner Matt is a local who knows everyone and everything in the area, making for a perfect tour guide for our paddle and a great resource for exploring the area.
The weather was too windy for us to go into the bay, but these guys have some really fun options including their Dolphin Quest paddle, sunset sessions, and they even set up beach parties.
They have floating party mats that they will anchor for your family and group, and then set up beach chairs, games, kayaks, and paddle boards and even a fire pit! If you are vacationing with extended family in the Rehoboth Beach area, this sounds like the perfect capstone event for your vacation.
Sunset Cruise in Lewes
I wasn’t sure whether to expect an eco tour or a booze cruise for our evening Delaware Bay Discovery Cruise with Cape Water Taxi & Tours, but what we got was a very pleasant surprise. The open air, yet covered vessel was set up with booths and tables, and guests were welcome to bring their own food and beverages (and yes, there is a small restroom on board.)
This 90-minute cruise on the 54-foot Discovery pontoon boat is not narrated, but you get to see some of the most popular attractions, including the East End Lighthouse, Cape Henlopen Point, the Cape May Lewes Ferry terminal, Lewes Beach, and Cape Henlopen State Park.
The cruise can fit up to 65 people, but when we went there were only a couple of dozen, leaving us plenty of space to move around. Cape Water Taxi and Tours offers a wide variety of tours, including eco-tours, live music cruises, and a water taxi service. While many of those options sound enticing, it is hard to imagine beating the sunset cruise.
I can’t recommend the evening sunset sail highly enough. Captain Dave had it timed so perfectly that we pulled up in front of the lighthouse just as the sun was setting behind it, making for perfect pictures. If you get lucky, you may just spy a few dolphins along the way too. We did but they were too fast for my camera.
Bethany Beach Nature Center
If you are staying in Bethany Beach, you may want to plan a stop at their small but sweet nature center. Inside there are some fun hands on activities for younger kids, but everyone might enjoy watching the live Osprey Cam in nesting season.
Out back is a small nature trail and boardwalk overlooking a serene pond and salt marsh. You may spy ospreys, heron, eagles, and, unfortunately, snakes (one slithered across our path on the boardwalk.)
Go Beer Tasting
With an up and coming beer, wine and spirits region, it seemed only fitting to check out some local brews on our trip to Delaware, starting with probably the most well-known, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. I wish my husband could have come along as this is one of his favorite beers, but we still enjoyed our one-hour tour through the brewery and bottling facility.
It would be a little long for younger kids and they make it clear that the tour is rated PG-13, but our tour guide Tom made it very entertaining. Dogfish is such a fun place to visit even if you just stop by for a tasting and a bite to eat.
A few other breweries in the area include:
- Revelation Craft Brewing Company: This brewery is located in Rehoboth Beach itself and offers a variety of beers on tap, as well as a food menu. They also have live music and other events throughout the year.
- Big Oyster Brewery: This brewery is located in Lewes, Delaware, just a few miles north of Rehoboth Beach. They offer a variety of beers, including several award-winning brews, and have a tasting room and restaurant on site.
- Crooked Hammock Brewery: This brewery is located in Lewes, Delaware, just a few miles north of Rehoboth Beach. They offer a variety of beers, as well as a full food menu and outdoor seating.
Visit the Marvel Carriage Museum
If your family is into quirky roadside attractions, then you might love the Marvel Carriage Museum. Maintained by the Georgetown Historical Society, this museum is home to a very large collection of horse-drawn carriages.
But that’s not all. They also have a one-room schoolhouse, a church (which is still used today), a blacksmith shop, a telecommunication museum and more. What I found most fascinating was the carriage that is used every year for the Returns Day Parade.
Don’t know what Returns Day is? I didn’t either. Apparently in olden days, townspeople would gather in the town square on the day after Election Day to hear the returns and who won the election. Georgetown has kept this tradition going with a parade each year that even President Biden has participated in.
Play at Funland
Of course, you can’t spend time in Rehoboth Beach without enjoying a walk along the mile long boardwalk and playing some games in the Funland arcade. Funland is a family-owned and operated arcade and amusement park that has been a family-fun destination since 1962, offering attractions for all ages, including arcade games, carnival-style rides, and classic boardwalk games like skee-ball and whack-a-mole. There are also several iconic rides, including the Haunted Mansion, the Freefall, and the Superflip 360.
Eat Boardwalk Food
You can’t visit a boardwalk town without enjoying some of the delicious (if unhealthy) boardwalk foods like Thrasher Fries and, my favorite, Kohr’s Frozen Custard. I grew up enjoying Kohr’s as a special treat when we visited the New Jersey Shore and I was excited to share it with my daughter during our visit to Delaware. You can also indulge in classic boardwalk fare like funnel cakes, saltwater taffy, and fresh-made popcorn.
Attend the Sea Witch Festival
Held annually, the Sea Witch Festival is one of the largest events of the year and attracts visitors from all over the region. The festival is named after a character from a book by the same name, “Sea Witch,” by local author Dorothy J. Hall.
It features a variety of activities, including a costume parade, live music and entertainment, food vendors, and craft vendors. There are also several contests and competitions held during the festival, such as the best dressed dog contest, pumpkin carving, and sandcastle building. The Sea Witch Festival is typically held in late October.
Save this to Pinterest
Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.