7 Best Beaches in Delaware
If we're talking about East Coast Beaches, we can't start without mentioning Delaware.
The tiny but mighty State of Delaware has 28 miles of coastline dotted with small, dreamy beach towns on the Delaware River and Delaware Bay in the north, and the Atlantic Ocean in the south.
Delaware’s beaches are also within driving distance from Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Philadelphia, making them popular tourist destinations in the summer for east coast Beachgoers.
A bonus is that Delaware does not have a state tax, which means a beach vacation in Delaware does not have to break the bank.
So let's dive in to some of the best beaches in Delaware, and help you figure out your next beach destination!
Why Pick Delaware for Your Next Beach Vacation?
Delaware’s beaches have something for everyone, including:
- History buffs
- Ecotourists wanting to reconnect with nature
- Families in search of some fun in the sun
- Water sports lovers seeking some thrills
- The young at heart looking to party
We understand that so many great options may make it difficult to pick just one beach to visit.
To take out the guesswork in planning your next vacation, we've created a list of the top seven beaches in Delaware to help you choose the perfect beach town.
Or, if you're feeling adventurous, you can do a little beach hopping!
Visit several to sample the different vibes Delaware’s beaches have to offer. Due to Delaware's size, everything's just an hour or two apart!
Best Beaches in Delaware - Our Top 7 Picks
1. Rehoboth Beach
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware is probably the most popular beach in the state with tourists from nearby major cities.
Those from Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, and Baltimore flock to Rehoboth's shores during the summer season, so it gets pretty busy and crowded during this time.
Rehoboth dubs itself as the Nation’s Summer Capital because it is so popular with Washington, DC residents, including famous politicians.
Rehoboth Beach is vibrant and offers a little something for everyone.
If you want to catch some waves, you're in luck! Rehoboth is on the Atlantic Ocean, and you can find good swell.
Surfing is allowed, and you can even take surfing classes.
Rehoboth Beach Accessibility
There's no fee to use the beach, and there's a public beach bus service from Memorial Day to mid-September to save you the headache of looking for parking.
This is super helpful, as parking can be hard to come by during peak season.
Quick Tip: Pay for parking a few blocks away from a public beach access. With a bit of luck, you'll find a few meters.
Rehoboth Beach Amenities
When you get bored, you can take a break on Rehoboth’s mile-long boardwalk, which is lined with hotels, restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and other entertainment venues, including an amusement park, arcade, and a mini-golf spot.
Rehoboth is widely known for being LGBTQ friendly, with many LGBTQ-owned businesses and bars in the area.
For the kids, Rehoboth Pier has some of the best beach arcades, including our personal favorite, Funland. If you're taking the kids, it's a must-visit.
The beach is patrolled from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and some restrictions are enforced, including:
- No alcohol on the beach or boardwalk
- No dogs on the beach or boardwalk from 1 May to 30 September
If you're looking for amenities and entertainment, and don't really mind the crowds, Rehoboth is one of the best beach destinations.
2. Dewey Beach
Dewey Beach is located just to the south of Rehoboth on the Atlantic Ocean.
It's smaller than its neighbor and is the youngest of the surrounding beach towns.
Despite its size, Dewey Beach has a big reputation as a party town, especially for college kids looking to bar hop.
Dewey is known for its nightlife and gets pretty crowded during the summer tourist season.
Dewey Beach Attractions and Amenities
There is no boardwalk, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars to keep visitors entertained.
Even if you're not looking to party, the beach is worth checking out.
Dewey does a great job of maintaining the beach, which has clean, soft sand.
There's plenty of shops and local restaurants to choose. If pizza is your thing, Grotto Pizza is a must-visit.
Dewey is protected and monitored by beach patrol and a dedicated beach police department, ensuring that things don’t get too out of hand.
Dewey Beach Restrictions
There are some beach restrictions, including:
- Bonfires allowed only with a permit
- Alcohol is not permitted on the beach between 15 May and 15 September
- During the summer season, dogs are only allowed on the beach early in the morning and in the evening
Of note, Dewey Beach does not have public restrooms at the beach, so plan ahead.
3. Bethany Beach
If you're looking for some rest and relaxation without having to sacrifice amenities, Bethany Beach is a perfect spot for you.
Bethany Beach and its southern neighbors, South Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, are known as The Quiet Resorts.
Bethany Beach is one of the southernmost beaches in Delaware.
It's separated from Dewey Beach by the Delaware Seashore State Park.
And, unlike Dewey Beach, it's known for a more family-friendly, laid-back atmosphere.
Bethany Beach itself is fairly small, but the beach does get crowded in the summer.
Trolleys service the beach from Memorial Day to mid-September, making it easy to get around and eliminating the stress of finding a parking spot during peak tourist season.
Bethany Beach Activities
The beach offers something for everyone to enjoy.
In addition to lounging in the sun, there are options to stay active, such as surfing, as well as yoga and pilates on the beach.
There's also a boardwalk and amenities at your fingertips, including hotels, restaurants, and shopping.
Bethany Beach Restrictions
Similar to Rehoboth and Dewey, Bethany Beach has a beach patrol from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and there are some restrictions in place, including:
- Alcohol is not permitted on the beach or the boardwalk
- No dogs on the beach or boardwalk from 15 May to 30 September
- No fires
South Bethany Beach
If you'd prefer smaller crowds, or like to stay in a vacation rental, take a look into South Bethany.
Located between Fenwick Island and Bethany, this small town is located between the ocean and bay, and has a population of under 500.
This laid-back beach town offers some peace and solitude from the more crowded areas, while being close enough to visit them during the day.
4. Broadkill Beach
If you're looking for more peaceful waters and a more laid back, less crowded atmosphere, Broadkill Beach is the perfect spot for you.
Broadkill Beach is more remote and quieter than the more popular beaches to its south, like Dewey and Rehoboth.
The vibe on Broadkill has been compared to the Outer Banks by some visitors. (And, if you're not aware, the Outer Banks are well-known on the East Coast to be pristine, peaceful, relatively empty beaches.)
Unlike the beaches further south, Broadkill Beach is located on the Delaware Bay.
This means the water is much calmer, and the waves are gentler as a result.
Broadkill Beach Attractions
Nature lovers will also love Broadkill Beach.
It's a horseshoe crab sanctuary and it's surrounded by the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and Plum Island Nature Preserve.
Broadkill is unincorporated, so some of the restrictions enforced on the more popular beaches to the south do not apply on Broadkill Beach.
Dogs, alcohol, and bonfires are all allowed on Broadkill Beach.
There are also no fees to access the beach.
However, one of the downsides of this is that some of the conveniences that you will find on the more popular beaches are missing on Broadkill Beach, including:
- No public bathrooms or showers
- Limited parking
- No lifeguards
- No trash removal. As the beach has become more popular in recent years, trash has become more of a problem, especially during peak season.
- Only one general store in the vicinity – The Broadkill Store. You can buy sandwiches, snacks, and groceries here.
If having access to amenities is important to you, either visit a beach further south or plan ahead!
5. Lewes Beach
Lewes, known as the First Town in the First State is the perfect stop for history buffs.
Lewes became the first settlement in Delaware when Dutch colonists landed on its beaches in 1631.
You can add a little variety to your beach getaway with a historical walking tour of this noteworthy town.
Nature lovers won’t be disappointed either.
Lewes Beach is located south of Broadkill, just outside of Cape Henlopen State Park, where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet.
If you are looking for a quieter atmosphere, Lewes Beach is a great option.
The beach is a bit off-the-beaten-path, which helps with crowds.
However, the town still offers great amenities, like waterside restaurants and local shopping.
Lewes Beach is divided into Beach 1 and Beach 2.
Both beaches are patrolled from Memorial Day to Labor Day and offer public bathrooms and showers.
Lewes Beach Restrictions
Beach 1 also has a facility where you can rent beach umbrellas and chairs. Beach rules include:
- No alcohol
- No dogs during the day from 1 May to 30 September
- Permits are required for beach activities, such as bonfires and events
Cape Henlopen State Park
Also located in Lewes is Cape Henlopen State Park Beach.
Those who want to enjoy the natural beauty of the area can squeeze in a kayaking tour of Cape Henlopen State Park or take a dolphin-watching cruise in between laying out in the sun on the beach.
Cape Henlopen State Park Beach is easy to access, and an entrance permit costs just $5 for in-state residents or $10 for out-of-state residents.
Cape Henlopen State Park Amenities
Cape Henlopen offers nearly any amenity you'd need for a great day-use beach, including:
- Drinking Water
- Day Use Areas
- Fishing Pier
- Concession Stands
- Bait and Tackle Shop
- Hiking, Biking and Equestrian Trails
- Surf Fishing (permit required)
- Wheelchair-Accessible Beach Area
- Lifeguards on Duty (on the designated swimming beach, located near the Lewes entrance - check availability on the Delaware State Parks page)
- Seaside Nature Center
Cape Henlopen makes a great choice for families or simply those looking for a pristine beach to relax.
6. Slaughter Beach
Slaughter Beach is another off-the-beaten-path beach on the Delaware Bay, located to the north of Broadkill.
Despite its name, which has many debated origins, it is a sleepy and peaceful location, perfect if you are looking for some quiet rest and relaxation.
Slaughter Beach Attractions
Ecotourists looking to reconnect with nature will enjoy Slaughter Beach, which has been certified as a Wildlife Habitat Community and is a horseshoe crab sanctuary.
Visitors can also enjoy nature at the Milford Neck Wildlife Area and the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, which surrounds the beach.
Similar to Broadkill, Slaughter Beach lacks the amenities of some of the more popular beaches to the south, so you will need to plan ahead.
Food and accommodations are hard to come by, and you may have to travel to the next town over for options. There is definitely no nightlife or partying to be found.
Like Broadkill, Slaughter Beach has few restrictions and regulations.
For example, dogs and bonfires are allowed on the beach without a permit.
However, the beach is unpatrolled, so swimming and water activities are at your own risk.
For those looking for a natural experience, Slaughter is one of Delaware's best seaside towns.
7. Fenwick Island
Located south of Bethany Beach, Fenwick Island is known for its calm, peaceful beaches, as well as family attractions.
Fenwick is located just north of Ocean City, Maryland, and offers a more peaceful respite compared to the hustle and bustle of OC.
Beachgoers in search of a quiet coastline will appreciate Fenwick Island State Park, while families will appreciate the multitude of local restaurants and mini golf courses, such as Thunder Lagoon Water Park.
Fenwick Island State Park
Fenwick Island State Park offers a multitude of activities, including kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, and even wild crab chases!
The park is easy to access, and costs just $5 for an in-state entrance fee, or $10 if you're from out-of-state.
The Fenwick Island State Park Beach offers several amenities, including:
- Public Restrooms
- Drinking Water
- Day Use Area
- Food/Refreshment Stands
- Nature and Horse Trails
- Wheelchair Accessibility
- Surf Fishing (permit required)
- Lifeguards on Duty (see Delaware State Parks' information page for availability)
You can learn more about visiting Fenwick on Delaware State Parks' information page.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have identified some options, you may be ready to plan your trip to the beach.
However, if you are still trying to decide, below are answers to some commonly asked questions to help.
Are Delaware Beaches Safe?
Yes, Delaware’s beaches are safe, as long as you take common-sense precautions and follow all beach regulations.
Many beaches in Delaware have lifeguards and beach patrols on duty during the summer season, usually from May to September.
However, you should be aware that some beaches like Broadkill and Slaughter do not, and that any water activities there will be at your own risk.
Additionally, the beaches on the Atlantic Ocean tend to be a bit rougher and have more waves; if you want more tranquil waters, head to the beaches on Delaware Bay.
Are Delaware Beaches Clean?
Delaware’s beaches are clean and safe for water activities.
Delaware prides itself on having some of the cleanest beaches in the nation.
Rehoboth and Dewey have been consistently recognized for their cleanliness and water quality, despite being among the state’s busiest.
In addition to clean waters, Delaware’s residents are committed to keeping the shoreline clean as well by holding an annual Coastal Cleanup.
Tourists are a major contributor to Delaware’s economy, and the state makes every effort to keep visitors safe and happy.
Should I Bring My Dog on My Beach Vacation?
Check the regulations on dogs before you go.
Some beaches prohibit dogs during the summer season but allow them otherwise.
Others allow them during the summer season, but with restrictions on the times of day when they can be on the beach.
Others still are pet friendly and have no restrictions on dogs.
When Is the Best Time to Visit?
The summer tourist season is typically from Memorial Day to mid-September.
There will be the most amenities and options available to you during this time, including places to stay, eat, and shop.
However, this is also the time when the beaches are the most crowded.
If you opt to visit off-season, you will usually find better deals and prices.
Beaches and local venues will be less crowded as well.
Off-season may also be better for certain activities, like surfing, with the best surf conditions reported in the fall.
How Do I Know Which Delaware Beach is the Best?
Delaware has many great beaches, each with its own unique personality.
Picking the right one for you will depend on your personality and what you want from your getaway.
If you want to mingle with other tourists, meet new people, and have some fun at night, Dewey and Rehoboth are good picks.
If you're looking for a quiet getaway to decompress and relax in the sun, Bethany and Lewes might be better options.
Nature lovers will probably prefer Broadkill and Slaughter.
Think about what you're looking for most, and then do a quick re-review.
Delaware has so many options that we guarantee at least one of these beaches will make an excellent match!