Beaches in Delaware

The Coast with the Most

The Coast with the Most

No matter what type of beachcomber you are, you’ll find your haven along more than 380 miles of shoreline in Delaware. Whether you’re a boardwalk stroller, an ambitious angler, a watersport adventurer, sun-worshipper or simply a sand sloth, we’ve got a bit of coastline for you.

Let’s take a drive down Route 1, the Coastal Highway, and check out the options from north to south.

East of Odessa on the Delaware River sits the Augustine Wildlife Area, which includes a public beach with laid-back river swimming, rafting and fishing surrounded by nature trails.

Cross over into Central Delaware and you’ll find Woodland Beach, part of the town of Smyrna. This quiet and beautiful beach is one of Delaware’s best-kept secrets, especially with its modern fishing pier and plentiful sea glass dotting the sands. It’s also a popular spot for crabbing, so get your traps and baskets ready!

Next is Pickering Beach, just 10 miles east of Dover Air Force Base. It’s a narrow beach great for walking, bird sightings and horseshoe crab watching, especially during the May/June spawning season.

Where the calm waters of the Delaware Bay meet the St. Jones and Murderkill (Dutch for Mother River) Rivers is Bowers Beach, a perfect spot for swimming, boating, kayaking, kite-flying or just relaxing in this tranquil delta.

Bennett’s Pier Beach is just sand and water, no facilities, and a favorite of solitude-seeking fishermen angling for striped bass, croaker, flounder, sharks, dogfish, skates, and more.

Big Stone Beach, contrary to its name has no rocky formations, but it does feature a WWII observation tower keeping watch over low-lying marshes and tons of shore and song birds.

Along the Southern Delaware coastline, you’ll find the state’s most award-winning beaches. In fact, the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council gave its highest five-star rating for ocean water quality to Sussex County beaches and ranked them cleanest among the 30 U.S. coastal states.

First, you’ll come upon Slaughter Beach, which despite its name is a peaceful horseshoe crab sanctuary. Horseshoe crabs are actually the state marine animal of Delaware, and protecting these prehistoric creatures is vital to the Delaware Bay estuary.

Fun fact: Horseshoe crabs have blue blood which contains a unique substance that can detect small amounts of toxins. Their blood is used in the biomedical field to test the sterility of drugs and equipment in research towards a treatment for cancer.

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Award Winning Beaches

Along the Southern Delaware coastline, you’ll find the state’s most award-winning beaches. In fact, the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council gave its highest five-star rating for ocean water quality to Sussex County beaches and ranked them cleanest among the 30 U.S. coastal states.

A bit farther down the shore is another horseshoe crab sanctuary, Fowler Beach, which is located in Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. Prime Hook Beach on the bay side of the refuge is a secluded paradise with little traffic or crowds, even in the summer. Relax in the sun and sand and maybe catch a glimpse of some of the surrounding wildlife like foxes, herons, red knots and ospreys. Or follow the jaunts of the piping plovers, a nearly threatened species of shorebird which seems to be increasing their population — using Delaware’s beaches to nest.

Nestled against Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge is Broadkill Beach (Dutch for Broad River), also part of the horseshoe crab sanctuary. Many beachside activities can be enjoyed here such as swimming, surf fishing, kayaking, and stand-up paddle-boarding.

The next stunning section of the Delaware coastline is highlighted by a grand old lighthouse that rises off a windswept beach at Cape Henlopen State Park. Encompassing a landscape of gentle dunes and singing shorebirds, Cape Henlopen State Park offers a wealth of activities: sunbathing on the park’s six miles of shoreline; fishing from the jetty or beach; walking or cycling down the miles of wildflower-adorned trails that weave through dunes and wetlands; and climbing to the top of one of the many WWII observation towers that dot the coast. These abandoned gun towers are no longer providing watch for military invasions but now serve as ideal scenic lookouts. With a convenient bathhouse, picnic areas and campground, this is a great destination for the whole family. Lewes’ beaches are nestled within the Cape Henlopen State Park, and with its charming downtown and canal walkways, it’s the perfect complement to a day at the cape.

Rehoboth Beach is perhaps the most well-known beach in Delaware, and it is often billed as the “Nation’s Summer Capital.” It’s been a resort city since the 1870s and remains a desirable getaway with its sophisticated restaurant scene, wide and clean beaches, historic boardwalk plus great tax-free shopping. This area of the coast is a popular celebrity vacation spot for the likes of David Grohl, frontman of the Foo Fighters, Hoda Kotb, Kathie Lee Gifford and Denzel Washington.

Families can’t get enough of the boardwalk treats and amusements, and there’s always some sort of entertainment happening, like the open-air free concerts from the bandstand. Fair warning if you walk the boardwalk while enjoying some salty hot Thrasher’s fries, you may just be inviting Delaware’s own species of a ring-billed gull (Larus Delawarensis) in for a bite! Rehoboth Beach is also one of the popular gay-friendly beach towns on the mid-Atlantic coast and has several gay-owned businesses.

Dewey Beach is just south of Rehoboth, and it’s the favorite of the young and trending crowd. With expansive ocean beaches on one side and a broad bay on the other, which is perfectly suited to the adventurous set whose idea of fun leans more toward jet-ski rides, beach volleyball, parasailing, wake boarding, water skiing and windsurfing, but the nights are the big draw in Dewey with its array of lively bayside clubs and bars.

When it comes to fun on the water, there’s one coastal destination that has it all. On its eastern side, Delaware Seashore State Park has six miles of ocean coastline and dunes, perfect for sunbathing, swimming or just chilling out. Right across the Coastal Highway to the west, the park faces Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay, both popular with boaters and all sorts of watersport enthusiasts. Fishing, surf fishing, sailing, clamming, and crabbing are other favorite activities here, and the park is well equipped to handle it all with changing rooms, showers, restrooms, rental stores for chairs, umbrellas, and rafts, and concession stands.

The pace slows down a bit in Bethany Beach and South Bethany, where families have been returning for generations to enjoy its barefoot yet sophisticated lifestyle. A welcoming boardwalk offers peaceful strolls along broad beaches, shops and some great seaside dining options.

At the very southern edge of Delaware lies Fenwick Island, a laid-back beach town with quaint cottages, popular with families looking for traditional summer fun. With Fenwick Island State Park next door and both bay and ocean sides, Fenwick Island is a serene place to spend the day sunbathing, fishing, windsurfing, playing putt-putt, or challenging the slides at the local waterpark.