Town by town, visitors find shops for every taste and budget.
Beach Wear & Gear in Bethany Beach.
When beach-goers have had enough sun—or there is no sun—they head to the resort shopping districts, which, like Delaware’s beaches, are distinctive to each town. Laced with attractions and restaurants, yet still close to the water, they give new meaning to retail therapy.
LEWES: FIRST TOWN SHOPPING
Founded in 1631 by the Dutch, Lewes has retained its small-town ambiance for hundreds of years, and that shows in its shops. “I describe them as locally owned specialty shops, offering friendly, personalized service,” says Betsy Reamer, executive director of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce. “Our shop owners and their employees are outgoing and are very helpful to Lewes visitors who have questions about where to go and what to do.” That’s important, considering the town is often the first stop for visitors who take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry to Delaware.
In town on a Saturday? Home cooks and chefs gather at the Historic Lewes Farmers Market, held on the grounds of the Lewes Historical Society from 8 a.m.-noon. (110 Shipcarpenter St., Lewes, 644-1436, www.historiclewesfarmersmarket.org)
Walking tours of the Historical Society’s properties start at the Ryves Holt house, the oldest house in Delaware still standing in its original location. It also holds the society’s gift shop, featuring books, prints, household goods and Lewes-themed merchandise. (218 Second St., Lewes, 645-7670, www.historiclewes.org/visit/museums)
Every beach town needs a bookstore, and Biblion Books has used and antique books, greeting cards, stationery, literary-themed books and art. (Second and Market streets, Lewes, 644-2210, www.biblionbooks.com)
Lewes has plenty of clothing boutiques. Twila Farrell is a destination for fashionistas seeking upscale clothing, accessories and shoes. (122 Second St., Lewes, 645-7007, www.twilafarrell.com)
Aquamarine at 114 was picked by Elle magazine as one of the state’s best boutiques. Brands include Trina Turk, Tibi, Sachin & Babi, and Lilla P (114 Second St., Lewes, 644-4550, www.aquamarineat114.com)
For a souvenir, head to Lewes Wear, which, in addition to T-shirts and other apparel with a Lewes logo, offers books about the area, decals, mugs and magnets. (109 Savannah Road, Unit B, Lewes, 827-4405, www.leweswear.com)
Moving to a new location is the Kevin Fleming Delaware Art Gallery, which features art by the locally based photographer. (103 Second St., Lewes, 800-291-7600, www.kevinfleming.com)
The gallery last season was located in space that’s now under construction on Second Street for Half Full, a pizza, wine and beer bar. When renovations are complete this summer, Half Full will move there from its smaller spot on Market Street. With more space, Half Full will add salads to the menu and offer outdoor seating. Until then, enjoy the restaurant in its current site. (645-8877, www.halffulllewes.com)
For lunch, also consider Nectar Café & Juice Bar, where the kale chips that come with the sandwiches are so good you won’t miss potato chips or fries. (111 Neils Alley, Lewes, 645-5842, www.cafenectar.com)
Lewes Mercantile Antiques.
The Tanger outlet shops that line Del. 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth have welcomed some newcomers, including Vera Bradley, which offers handbags, luggage, stationery and baby items. The Limited clothing store also opened recently, as did Ecco, a Danish shoe company. Coming soon: Francesca’s, Bath & Body Works, and Sperry, which sells active wear. Also new is a second location of the yogurt shop TCBY.
The renovation at Tanger Surfside (formerly Tanger Midway) is complete. Tanger is also considering makeovers for Tanger Bayside and Tanger Seaside, possibly within the next year or two. For a list of store locations, visit www.tangeroutlet.com/rehoboth/directory.
The outlet centers have plenty of familiar casual and fast-food restaurants. For a locally owned lunch option, pop into El Dorado for fish tacos and burritos. The owner, Aquiles Demerutis, will likely take your order and greet you as an amigo. (18776 John J. Williams Highway, Rehoboth, 645-1596, www.eldoradorehoboth.com)
Cool off and enjoy a movie at the Movies at Midway (202 DE-1, Lewes, 645-0200) or take a dip in the water park at Jungle Jim’s (36944 Country Club Road, Rehoboth Beach, 227-8444, www.funatjunglejims.com)
Shoppers stroll in Rehoboth Beach.
DOWNTOWN REHOBOTH BEACH
While downtown Rehoboth features well-known shops, such as White House Black Market, boutiques rule. Consider The Lilypad Children’s Boutique for clothes, accessories, toys and gifts. (149 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-4464, www.shoplilypad.com)
Ladies have numerous options, including Downtown Cowgirl, which has everything from vintage clothes to new duds to mugs, books and home decor. (146 Rehoboth Ave. No. 3, Rehoboth Beach, 227-1917, www.downtowncowgirl.com)
For women and men, Carltons has been an institution since 1960. (31 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7990, www.carltonsapparel.com)
No matter where you are downtown, you’re a stroll away from the boardwalk for a quick bite or a spin on a ride at Funland. If you’d like a more leisurely lunch, consider Hobos Restaurant, which is celebrating its sixth year. The restaurant accommodates special dietary needs, including gluten free and vegan. (56 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 226-2226, www.myhobos.com)
On the way out of town, stop at the Rehoboth Beach Museum, located in the old icehouse. In addition to displays, there are walking tours. (511 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-7310, www.rehobothbeachmuseum.org)
Downtown Bethany Beach.
BETHANY BEACH: QUIET CACHET
The accessible streets of Bethany’s shopping district make Rehoboth look like the big city. And that’s fine by the shop owners who embrace the Quiet Resorts, which also include Fenwick Island. Kevin McCourt and daughter Mary Liz McCourt recently opened Lizzy’s Beach Wear & Gear partly because they both live in nearby Ocean View and also because Kevin McCourt is a marketing consultant who’s primarily focused on this area. The partners bought an existing custom T-shirt shop and its inventory, and they’ve added such resort wear brands as Mud Pie and Luv Surf (100 Garfield Parkway, No. 4, Bethany Beach, 581-9190, www.lizzys.net)
The summer opening of the 112-room Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn will make the town more of a year-round destination. (99 Hollywood St., Bethany Beach, 539-3200, www.marriott.com/hotels/travel)
The oceanfront hotel will have a full-service restaurant. Or head to the boardwalk for a quick lunch. You can also hop in the car for an easy drive across Del. 1 to dine at Off the Hook, whose menu is peppered with innovative dishes using local ingredients. Don’t miss the roasted corn-and-jalapeño crab bisque or the crab cake. (769 Garfield Parkway, Bethany Beach, 829-1424, www.offthehookbethany.com)
Bring your swimsuit to any of these destinations. When the sun comes out, you can head to the state park beaches, which run from Cape Henlopen State Park to Fenwick Island State Park. Delightful sea breezes can sweeten a good day of shopping. (www.destateparks.com)