An A-to-Z Guide to Outdoor Recreation at the Delaware Beaches
There’s more to do at the beach than swim in the surf or work on a tan. Here are the things to do when you just can’t lay in the sun a minute more.
ALLEY-OOP SKIMBOARDING CAMP
Born in Dewey Beach, Alley-Oop has become the largest skim-boarding school in the country. Levels of instruction range from three-hour mini sessions to overnight camps. Need an introduction? Check out a free Saturday clinic. Dewey has long been an epicenter of skimming, but when you’re ready to leave the local beaches, set out on an international jaunt with the Alley-Oop crew. (227-7087, alley-oop.myshopify.com)
Covered with ponds, marshland, forests, farm fields and miles of coastline, eastern Sussex is ideal for birding. It is also a pit stop for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway. There are many rare and exciting species to spot, from bald eagles to piping plovers. Popular sites include Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park and Assawoman Wildlife Refuge. The viewing and species change with every season.
CAPE WATER TOURS
Escape the crowds onboard a Cape Water Tours cruise from the Fisherman’s Wharf in Lewes. Tours offer a blend of fun and education—History Happened Here, eco tours and more—with a BYOB policy built for vacationers. On July 4, score the best seat in town for the fireworks display on the Fireworks Cruise. (644-7334, capewatertaxi.com)
DEWEY BEACH PARASAIL
There is nothing like the sensation of floating high above the bustle of the resorts with a cool breeze in your face while suspended from a sport parachute towed from a boat far below. Boasting a perfect safety record, Dewey Beach Parasail leaves out of Dewey for cruises about Rehoboth Bay, out of the Indian River Inlet Marina for a flight over the ocean. You’ll take off and land from the boat, without ever getting wet—unless you ask the skipper to dip your toes. (227-9507, flydewey.com)
ECO BAY KAYAK & SUP
Through Eco Bay Kayak in Ocean View, kids of all ages can explore the inland bays from a new vantage point. Using kayaks and stand-up paddleboards, Eco Bay educates and entertains kids during two-day programs on James Farm Ecological Preserve starting mid-July. For adults, Eco Bay also offers guided tours and rentals of kayaks and SUPs. (841-2722, ecobaykayak.com)
FISHERMAN'S WHARF DOLPHIN CRUISES
For more than 27 years, families have enjoyed dolphin- and whale-watching cruises out of Lewes. Cruises into the Atlantic last two to three hours, and Captain H.D. Parsons says there is a 98 percent rate of sighting. "Expect to see different birds and sea life as well," Parsons says. (645-8862, fishlewes.com)
If you like your summer sand with some green around it, check out the Delaware Golf Trail. Play courses at a discount all summer and enjoy access to the restaurants and motels at member courses. Beach-area courses include The Rookery, Rehoboth Golf Park, The Salt Pond, and this year’s featured links, Baywood Greens, a five-star course described as the Augusta of the North. (delawaregolftrail.com)
HIKE THE JUNCTION AND BREAKWATER TRAIL
This five-mile-long trail, a converted Pennsylvania Central Railroad bed, links Rehoboth and Lewes across a stunning range of environments and sites, from woodlands to wetlands. Walk in at any of several points along the trail. Better yet, do it by bike. Bring your own gravel grinder, or rent from the new Seagreen Bicycle. (645-7008, seagreenbicycle.com)
INDIAN RIVER MARINA
The Indian River Marina hosts the largest charter boat fleet in the state. Hire a captained boat for touring or game fishing of white marlin or yellowfin tuna as far out to sea as Baltimore Canyon, or angle for sea bass and flounder in Rehoboth Bay. If you’d rather cast from the beach or rock jetty, bait and tackle are available on site. You can even have your catch cleaned. (227-3071, destateparks.com)
Jungle Jim’s is a perfect treat for the kids during a trip to Rehoboth Beach, though adults like it, too. You’ll find mini-golf, batting cages, a water park with wave pools and monster slides like The Anaconda, go-karts, bumper boats and more. Need a break? Hit the River Safari Café. (227-8444, funatjunglejims.com)
For vets and rookies, Delaware has some of the most popular kite sites on the East Coast. For those who like the surf, the ocean beaches at Indian River Inlet and the unguarded beaches near Fenwick Island State Park are popular launch areas. Flat water kiters flock at the bayside of Tower Road on Rehoboth Bay and launch from Lewes Beach on Delaware Bay. Pick up lessons at East of Maui Surf Shop in Dewey and Lewes.
LITTLE ASSAWOMAN BAY - ASSAWOMAN WILDLIFE AREA
Located along the western edge of Fenwick Island State Park, Little Assawoman Bay is a beautiful area that offers all kinds of recreation. From its delineation at The Ditch in Fenwick north to The Narrows below South Bethany, the enclosed bay is a paradise for hunters, fishermen, crabbers and clammers, as well as for sailors and sailboarders. Climb the viewing tower at Assawoman Wildlife Area for the postcard panorama. Enter on Camp Barnes Road. Or sign on with Coastal Kayak in Fenwick Island for guided eco-tours of the area. (539-7999, coastalkayak.com)
This preserve on the Broadkill packs a lot into its 143 acres—tidal marsh, cedar swamp and upland forest. A hike from the parking lot outside Milton rewards at its terminus on an absolutely primeval stretch of river. Or paddle in from Milton two miles upstream. The preserve is home to several species of rare plants and hosts 100 species of nesting and migratory birds, including neotropical songbirds. (nature.org)
When it comes to surfing, two words say it all. The north side of the Indian River Inlet abides, even as other breaks come and go with big storms and beach replenishment projects. The jetty traps migrating sands so there is rarely any bone-crunching shorepound, and the waves hold their shape when southerly thermals kick up. It can get crowded, with the top of the pecking order jockeying for position on the peak next to the jetty, but the crowd can spread out down to the cove, so newbies and grommets stand a chance, too.
From nearly 100 feet high, you can see across to Cape May, N.J., and watch seagulls flying at eye level from the WWII Observation Tower at Cape Henlopen State Park. Fire Tower #23, is one of the only ones open to the public. The towers were originally used to defend the coast during World War II, but now they stand only to memorialize those who defended the Cape during wartime. Climb to the top of Fire Tower #23 any day starting at 8 a.m. or just admire the towers on your own time. (645-8983)
PRICKLY PEAR TRAIL
Hiking, biking and horse-riding are all options on this 3.5-mile trail in Bethany Beach that offers a view of the Indian River Bay. The trail is primarily flat, and its 8-foot width makes it a good choice for family strolls. It is also located just off Coastal Highway, so parking is readily available. Delaware Seashore State Park Fresh Pond intersects with the trail at one point as well, making it a convenient stop if you’d like to spend a day outside but want some variety, too.
QUEST FITNESS AND KAYAK
Spotting a dolphin in the distance is one thing, but kayaking beside one is something else. For the more experienced kayaker, Quest Fitness and Kayak in Lewes offers opportunities to paddle within feet of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. Anyone can take the Pints & Paddles tour for a look at the Broadkill River and a tour of Dogfish Head Brewery upstream. (745-2925, questkayak.com)
REHOBOTH BEACH SAILING ASSOCIATION
Gain your sea legs at Rehoboth Bay Sailing Association on Rehoboth Bay, which offers clinics for adults and children. Certified instructors will teach you the ropes with classroom and on-the-water instruction. RBSA also provides rentals of catamarans and daysailers. (227-9008, www.rbsa.org)
SAVAGES DITCH AREA PADDLING
Launch your stand-up paddleboard at Savages Ditch—just south of the Indian River Lifesaving Station—on Rehoboth Bay for a relaxing trip among islands of coastal salt marsh. The islands are prime nesting areas for many species of birds, including osprey, but turtles, horseshoe crabs and other sea life are also prevalent. The area has bathrooms, a picnic pavilion and a grill. It’s best to launch at high tide. (destateparks.com)
If you are a sailor of any kind, head to Delaware Seashore State Park to check out the bay side of Tower Road. When the wind is whipping, you'll see catamarans launch there, as well as board sailors and legions of kite surfers, all looking for a few fast reaches across Rehoboth Bay. When the breezes drop, bring the kids. The water is still shallow—and family-friendly—far offshore. Bring a stand-up paddleboard or any other water toy you like. (destateparks.com)
UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE NATIVE PLANT AND RAIN GARDEN
Six years ago, UD’s Hugh R. Sharp Campus in Lewes transformed a reoccurring puddle and eyesore in its parking lot into a blooming rain garden. Choosing only plants native to the area, the garden grew into a peaceful place for a stroll for students, locals and visitors alike. It’s more than just a pretty face, though. Rain gardens are built from a depression in the soil that collects rain runoff and soaks up storm water to prevent erosion, water pollution and flooding. Thanks to the Sea Grant Program, rain gardens have taken root throughout the state. Join a free guided tour in June on a Friday at 10 a.m. or in July and August on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday at 10 a.m. (831-2841)
Channel your inner Misty May-Treanor and Keri Walsh Jennings this summer with some killer volleyball events. Mid-Atlantic Volleyball hosts tournaments and clinics throughout the summer, beginning with the Memorial Day Classic May 28-29 at McCullough Field in Laurel. Be sure to end your summer at Poodle Beach, where the ultimate volleyball throwdown ensues: the annual Rehoboth Beach Drag Volleyball match. The crowd starts gathering on Labor Day as early as 8 a.m. for the 1 p.m. start. What people wait all summer for is a peek at the players’ dramatic outfits: both teams dress up in drag but keep the theme of their costumes top-secret before competition.
Horseback riders of all abilities are welcome at Winswept Stables in Millsboro, where owner Dawn Beach provides lessons and riding camps. (645-1651, winsweptstables.org) But if you want to ride on the beach, check in with Kershaw Acres in Milton. Riders must be approved by owner Karen Kershaw, and the areas and times are limited, but the reward is sweet. (684-1818, kershawacres.com)
X MARKS THE SPOT
Hitting the Delaware Geocaching Trail is a great way to introduce yourself to this relatively new activity. There are several locations in the resort area, including Holts Landing State Park, Baywood Greens golf course in Long Neck and the Lewes Historical Society. (Just stay out of the flower beds). Download a passport, get the GPS coordinates, then start searching. (visitdelaware.com/geo)
YOGA ON SUP
Surf’s up, but you’re blissfully chilled while holding a pose as the sun sets on the bay. Find your Zen during a stand-up paddleboard yoga class with Dimitra Yoga and DelMarVa Board Sport Adventures. One-hour classes start with an introduction to paddle boarding, then certified instructors lead the class into the flow of yoga, moving with the natural current of the water. (645-9100, delmarvaboardsportadventures.com)
The outdoor part: De Vries Monument along Pilottown Road in Lewes (across from Lewes Dairy) marks the establishment of the first permanent European presence on Delaware Bay. After you check out the monument, find some shade in the Zwaanendael Museum and view artifacts from the 1631 Dutch settlement. While there, enjoy exhibits such as “Delaware and the War of 1812” and another on the British war ship DeBraak. (645-1148, history.delaware.gov/museums/zm)