If your vacation entails a busy schedule of relaxing on charming beaches where the alarm is only set to watch the sunset, then Bethany Beach might be right for you. This quiet Delaware resort practically breeds award-winning restaurants, tax-free shopping hubs and picturesque spots for the whole family to enjoy. Named one of the "Best Secret Beaches on Earth" by Travel + Leisure Magazine, Bethany Beach sits along the Atlantic Ocean with a boatload of vistas. Live it up in HomeAway's condo rentals, where the beach is only minutes from your doorstop.
Though during most of the year the town is home to only 1,000 residents, the summer colony sprouts with more than 15,000 people since Bethany Beach is a burgeoning beach community known for its laid-back vibe and gorgeous scenery.
Spend some quality family time on the beach itself, a hot spot for a laid-back, worries-by-the-wayside day. Take a stroll along the boardwalk, surf the easy breakers or kick back and listen to waves roll in. During the day there are lifeguards on duty, and the beach is open from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. Many visitors like to fish or go dolphin watching nearby.
Assawoman Bay State Wildlife Area
In Bethany Beach's backyard there is the Assawoman Bay State Wildlife Area, a haven for serenity-seekers. The ponds and greenery are peaceful, offering three areas to launch your boat: the Strawberry, Sassafras and Mulberry landings. It even has a 65-acre pond prime for walking around and enjoying the wildlife. Rent a kayak for the afternoon to bask in the calm waters. It's a fun place to explore, especially considering you can spot dozens of birds, including redheaded woodpeckers, great blue herons and red wing blackbirds. If you're lucky, you might catch a glimpse of an eagle. Come here to hear yourself think again. The area is open from 8 a.m. to sunset.
Salt Pond Golf Club
Get in the swing of things at this 18-hole golf course, complete with a competitive mix of par 3s and 4s. The greens are suited for beginners to intermediate players, making a golf day with the kids a must. If you're hungry afterward, visit Birdie's Snack Bar for a cold drink and one of their tasty sandwiches.
Fenwick Island State Park
Located between Bethany Beach and Fenwick Island, Fenwick Island State Park provides a pleasant escape from the summer crowds. With 344 acres of ocean shoreline, this park invites swimming and sunbathing, which are popular activities along the white sand beaches. As one of the few beaches in Delaware with designated surfing, Fenwick is a bustling spot to shred the breakers. One of the new features is the bathhouse, which has convenient showers and changing rooms. Lifeguards patrol the swimming beach every day from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.
DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum
Surfacing the sunken treasures of the deep, DiscoverSea Shipwreck Museum preserves Delaware's maritime heritage. Showcasing a boatload of artifacts - 10,000, to be exact - the museum brings to life the journey of sailors and fishermen like you've never seen before. Check out the gold and silver coins, weapons, seashells and items used aboard early-day sailing ships.
Dining and Tax-Free Shopping
It's only fitting that Bethany Beach serves up its fair share of delicious seafood.
Off the Hook
The aptly-named Off the Hook concocts mouthwatering seafood platters, priding itself on being the freshest and most appetizing in the area. Bringing in surf from local farmers, this place makes excellent dishes, such as the seared scallops in stroganoff and baked lobster mac 'n' cheese for the kids. The beer and wine list holds its own too, so come hungry and thirsty! Be sure to get there early since Off the Hook doesn't take reservations.
14 Global is exactly what it sounds like - a variety of cultural dishes from across the globe. Try out the tapas, including the soup trio, duck sacchetti or asian crab dip. If you've never tried tapas, this is your chance. The short rib tacos are a crowd favorite, as well as the margaritas once the sun goes down. You won't find another restaurant in the area that has as much variety as 14 Global.
Blue Coast Seafood & Grill
Sunset and seafood is a winning combination - and that's exactly what Blue Coast Seafood & Grill has. The menu is long and in charge, filled with mussels, andouille sausage, shrimp and crab. It's not cheap, but most foodies agree it's worth the price. The secret: if you go on Tuesday, you get 25 percent off your entire check.
The only thing better than finding the perfect pair of shoes or homemade souvenir is buying them without any taxes! Downtown Bethany Beach and nearby Fenwick Island provide a range of stores, boutiques and farmers markets where shopoholics can get their fix. Hit up the Bethany Surf Shop for trendy t-shirts and sweatshirts.
For more info on the area, check out our guide to
Bethany Beach vacations