In sometime around 1998 or so, I spent a weekend in Rehoboth, Delaware with my church youth group, working on a house for habitat for humanity. After a long day of accidentally pulling down an entire tree rather than just the vines on it and hammering in nails to hold down roof tiles to later realize they were upside down, we got to explore the beach and boardwalk of the shore. Since then, I’ve had a built up version of how much fun Delaware is and had wanted to return. The Dogfishhead 8K race was our reason to explore the area nearly 20 years later.
The nice part about Delaware’s beaches is that they never seem to really get cold. I’m sure in February I wouldn’t want to sit out on one, but even in late September the temperature was hot enough even before noon to want to seek shelter from the sun. Beach towns stretch along the coast without massive crowds and with plenty of food and drink options, though driving around a bit is required to really experience the area. Even so, we were able to discover some of the best options Delaware has to offer, with the boys and Hershey along for the adventure.
We head down from NJ after work on Friday in late September, not really experiencing traffic until we get within a few miles of the shore, and even that is only because of frequent traffic lights.About halfway down, we stop right off the highway in Wilmington at Iron Hill Brewery. This chain brewpub has a pretty extensive beer menu with multiple seasonals, and I of course choose the habenero honey pale ale. It has a nice kick not only of spice, but a spicy tang from the honey as well, making a great combination. The best part about this location is the back patio which overlooks the river including a ferry boat dock. It’s a cool way to spend part of an afternoon.
We head all the way down to Rehoboth via the highway. Coming into town we pass countless outlet stores and restaurants along the strip malls lining the only road into town. In one of these shopping centers is Fin’s Alehouse and Blue Oyster Brewery, a large and modern seafood restaurant with attached brewery that obviously caters to the shore crowd.
Fin’s has a moderate sized patio area outside which seems perfect for us, the boys, and Hershey, but all of the tables are taken, there is no wait list and it’s somewhat a free for all to get a seat. We know that with a stroller and dog that will be a nightmare, so we grab one of the tables inside instead. The beer from the attached brewery, fairly recently built, pairs well with the fresh seafood and gives a nicer option than the typical tiny selection of domestic brews at seafood places. Service is overly friendly and the boys even enjoy coloring some fish on the placemats. What really gets their attention is the fish. We order them salmon and garlic mashed potatoes, both of which are quickly destroyed. It bodes well for a weekend of seafood that they enjoy it so much. I opt for the softshell crab, mostly because I’ve never had it and it looks cool. I enjoy the tangy cajun seasoning and creamy sauce with it.
After dinner we locate our abode for the weekend, an AirBNB guestroom with a bedroom, kitchen area, and bathroom. We’ve been staying at more and more AirBNBs with the boys and dog because it’s far easier to find affordable spots close to destinations that have enough room for all of us. The boys do best on the road in their twin pack and plays and if they are in a separate room from us. Though this one has an outside area we could use while the boys sleep, it’s a bit buggy at night so instead we explore the selection on Netflix that the hosts provide.
The next morning, we pick up breakfast at The Point Coffee, a large standalone location along the road with seating out front. They are famous for their cinnamon rolls, so we each get one and share a few bites with the boys. We also have to grab coffee to go since it has coffee in the name. We take these provisions and head to the beach for the boys’ first real beach day.
Dewey Beach, the next town down from Rehoboth doesn’t have a boardwalk like it’s neighbor to the north, but it allows dogs on the beach during the off season. Hershey has actually been to beaches up and down the Eastern Seaboard, and while he doesn’t really like to swim, he enjoys standing just on shore and chasing other dogs that do swim. It’s a weird thing but we deal with it. Shockingly to me, the beach also allows alcohol on it, something I didn’t even consider before coming. A few Coronas might have hit the spot in the bright sun.
By noon, the sun beats down on us and even inside their shady tent, the boys are warm. The boys are intrigued by, but also scared of the crashing waves which are fairly rough due to storms. Hershey is tired from chasing seagulls, so we pack up. The boys enjoy smashing sand castles just as quickly as I make them as we leave. We’ll certainly be back for a longer day now that we know how much they like the beach.
For lunch, we head into Delaware Seashore State Park and find crowds there for surfing, windsurfing, and kite flying. Apparently the rough seas attract the adventure sport enthusiasts. Next to the marina we find Hammerheads Dockside, a huge beach bar with kitschy vibes and a large outside area with tables and sand. It somehow manages to transport us to the Caribbean. Like any beach bar, there isn’t a draft beer selection to speak of, but they do actually have a nice set of local craft beer cans. I further immerse myself in ocean vibes with a tropical fruit pale ale. I also go for the fish tacos, three succulent chunks of ahi tuna smothered in a citrus glaze that enhances the beer. The boys and Hershey fall asleep in the sand as we eat and nurse our beers in the sun.
After lunch, we take a mini-brewery tour of our own devising starting with the biggest craft brewer in the area, Dogfishhead. The massive brewery feels less like a craft brewery after all the microbreweries we’ve been visiting, but the four free tastings are a nice touch. The scale of the operation is huge and the brewery feels more like a museum, though there is a large tasting room bar. I enjoy the SeaQuench Ale, a light summery ale blended with lime and salt, making for a refreshing thirst quencher that still tastes like an ale. We don’t spend long at the brewery and barely utilize the front lawn, an excellent spot to sit and sip in the sun.
We then drive over to 16 Mile Brewery, a large farmhouse brewery with a fairly small tasting room. The outdoor space isn’t utilized very well as there’s nowhere to sit on such a nice day, but the inside allows dogs, so we all head inside. The beer list has a fairly large number of choices for a small place including some funky twists like a watermelon beer. The more standard brews like a belgian ale are delicious too, and we even find some of their amber ale at a gas station later, giving us options for our Netflix marathon libations.
To enjoy the final hours of late summer sun, we head over to Crocked Hammock Brewing. This brewery has probably the best backyard of any brewery I’ve been to with a huge astroturf lawn that has picnic benches, a playground, ping pong tables, cornhole, and of course hammocks to lounge in. It feels like a tailgate party all day. The inside is huge too so it’s always easy to find a spot. I enjoy a nice malty oktoberfest brew for the majority of our stay while the boys enjoy walking around the lawn and chasing ping pong balls. Hershey mostly hides under the table, scared of the hammocks.
For dinner, we hit the road again and found Off The Hook, a surprisingly awesome seafood restaurant in, you guessed it, a strip mall. We sit at the outside tables, in a barricaded section in the parking lot. Unlike the less than bucolic environment, the food is awesome and service has a definitively surfer vibe. I even find some local craft brews on the menu. The boys devour pounds of hashbrowns and shrimp while I similarly devour a scallop and fall grain dish that properly puts me in the fall mood. As the sun sets over the parking lot, Hershey makes friends with the next table and even manages to get some scraps.
Before heading back, we make a brief stop at the Bethany Beach boardwalk to relive my childhood spent at the shore. We grab Kohr’s Frozen Custard, a shore tradition and take the boys on a brief stroll on the boardwalk which they love because there are tons of people to wave at. They probably don’t even notice the beach. They do love the bouncing stroller as we pass over the boards.
After that, we head back to the house and resume our Netflix after the boys go to sleep.
On our last day, we start with breakfast from Surf Bagel. These chewy bagels rival those from NJ. The dough is nice, soft, and chewy. Of course the boys have a blast chewing through a few bites.
Unfortunately the time has come for us to leave Delaware and head back home. On the way, we absolutely have to stop at Grotto Pizza, a Delaware chain that is unavoidable. With a slogan like “the legendary taste”, we can’t stay away. We stop off the road at a huge location that features a massive bar that sports football fans from just about every franchise. The pizza is actually noticeably better than most chain locales. The sauce has a unique spice in it that separates it from the joints we have. It’s by no means gourmet, but it exceeds similar options. It also makes for a great road trip meal.
Delaware’s shore isn’t exactly how I remember it from childhood, but it’s better in other ways. The craft beer and food scenes are excellent and there’s plenty to do. The summer never seems to end on the Delaware shore and with great beaches that are dog and kid friendly, it makes for a great destination.