Soaked in history and packed with energy, the small, seaside city of Rehoboth Beach, Del., has long been a Washington favorite for summer weekends. Just over one square mile, this coastal community is filled with charming shopping (tax free), outdoor activities, ample accommodations and perhaps one of the best dining scenes in the country for its size.
Thanks to the state’s attractive tax structure, a lot of Rehoboth’s recent growth has been fueled by retirees from D.C., Philadelphia and Wilmington, and even from New Jersey and New York. These Boomers are not ready to be idle – many are starting businesses and nonprofits to serve community needs.
As soon as you arrive, you will see that there is more to Rehoboth than Funland, the boardwalk, the famous pizza joints (we can’t choose), Thrashers fries and Dolle’s salt water taffy. And while the beach, where the Atlantic Ocean delivers wave after wave, is the main event, here is a quick guide for your next visit…
Known as the Culinary Coast, southern Delaware is quickly gaining attention for the restaurants in Rehoboth and neighboring Lewes Beach. From upscale dining to the craft brewpubs, there is something for everyone and much to be enjoyed. In addition to the popular Eating Rehoboth, a three-hour walking and tasting tour, the town’s 9th Annual Restaurant Week is June 1-6.
Proof that these two events are not enough to satisfy the truly foodie town, a friendly chef “throwdown” will take place at the Rehoboth Convention Center on June 12 during the Top Chef of the Culinary Coast competition. Chefs from a number of the area’s best restaurants will be competing for the title, including Bramble and Brine, Nage, Salt Air and Touch of Italy, all recently named to the “Eight Hottest Restaurants in Rehoboth Beach” list by Zagat. The remaining four were a(MUSE.), Cultured Pearl, Eden and Henlopen City Oyster House.
New restaurants on the block include Bramble and Brine, which opened in October to rave reviews and multiple awards. The popular Fins Ale House and Raw Bar opened a second location on Coastal Highway. James Beard-nominated chef-owner Hari Cameron serves up artistic dishes at his restaurant a(MUSE.), which offers several tasting menus.
Bistro and wine bar Nage turns 10 over Memorial Day weekend. Extending the restaurant’s tradition of bringing in new and upcoming chefs, a new chef and sous chef will be joining the Nage team, headed by owner Josh Grapski. “We’ve continued to grow every year and continue to get better and better,” says Grapski. “It’s a fun, steady project.”
Also on Grapski’s plate is Root Gourmet, a takeout deli next door to Nage, and Big Chill Surf Cantina, a Southern California-inspired beach bar on Coastal Highway. “I can’t think of another 10,000-person population that has as much culinary ability and talent as what’s going on in Rehoboth and Lewes,” Grapski notes proudly.
A long-time favorite is the Blue Moon Restaurant on Baltimore Avenue. It is part of Rehoboth’s vibrant and influential gay community, which has ties to D.C. as well. Another favorite, on Coastal Highway, is Bin 66, known for its great wine selection and popular tastings every Friday and Saturday evening.
More information on Rehoboth’s dining scene can be found at RehobothFoodie.com
Along the mile-long stretch of beach are a number of watersport activities, including stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), wind surfing and kayaking. Learn to surf with lessons from Liquid Surf Shop. DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures offers rentals of stand-up paddle boards, kayaks and windsurfing gear, as well as lessons and SUP fitness and yoga classes.
Spend a few hours like a local surf fishing at popular spots such as Tower Road, 3R’s Road, the area just north of Indian River Inlet, Cape Henlopen Point, Haven Road and the Navy Jetty area within Cape Henlopen State Park.
Miles of trails for both hiking and biking link Rehoboth to neighboring beaches and parks. The newly completed Gordon’s Pond Trail links Cape Henlopen State Park to Gordon’s Pond and connects with the existing Junction and Breakwater Trail.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of both Cape Henlopen State Park and the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, which travels 17 miles on an 85-minute cruise between New Jersey and Delaware. Passing historic lighthouses and harbors, the ferry connects points such as Wildwood, Stone Harbor, Avalon, Ocean City and the rest of the Jersey Shore with Rehoboth and other southern Delaware beaches. The Cape Water Taxi Tours provide residents and visitors of Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey and Long Neck (Millsboro) a hassle- and traffic-free way to travel up and down the coast and within the inland waterways. Different types of tours, from taxi services to historic tours, are available. The tours are also picnic- and alcohol-friendly.
From boardwalk hotels to charming bed-and-breakfasts – not to mention rentals by the week – there are many options to stay over in Rehoboth.
New hotels to the area include The Dogfish Inn, located in the previous Vesuvio Motel overlooking the harbor in downtown Lewes. Dogfish Head Brewery owners Sam and Mariah Calagione opened the inn next to their popular brewpub.
The Bellmoor Inn and Spa seaside resort features quaint cottage décor with full-service day spa amenities. At Melissa’s is the only completely gluten-free B&B in Rehoboth Beach. The new oceanfront saltwater pool and Sandcrab beach bar at the Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center both overlook the boardwalk. In addition, the property’s Atlantic Boardwalk Grille is introducing new menus