A friend and I had planned a day trip to Rehoboth Beach with our families, but another friend of mine suggested that Lewes Beach, just north of Rehoboth, would be better for us since we had little kids, due to its long shallow entry and calm surf and laid-back vibe.
This sounded perfect, so we left on a Sunday around 7 a.m. and it took us about 3 hours to get there with very little traffic but with a couple bathroom break stops. Google Maps led us on a route that went through tiny country roads. I don’t know if there was a quicker way to get there, but I enjoyed the two-lane roads passing corn fields, small towns, and forest.
Unfortunately, it started to rain – at first lightly but then heavily – about half an hour away from the beach. Despite the fact that it rained on and off the entire time we were there, and the sun shone for stretches and then disappeared, we had a great time. The lack of crowds probably contributed to how laid back the scene was. There were other hardy souls there, but I’m sure not as many as when it’s a sunny day. Plus our pictures didn’t have that high-contrast glare you get on bright days at the beach.
The entrance to the parking lot is on Bayview Road. When we got there, we had our pick of parking spaces. It costs $1.50 per hour to park at Lewes Beach, with a minimum of two hours, within the hours of 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. You pay at a machine and then leave the receipt on your dashboard.
The Lewes Beach Patrol building at the entrance to the parking lot also houses the restrooms and outside faucets for washing off sand. We had brought a picnic lunch and all our munchies so we never did check out the small snack bar located right on the beach.
I liked how the parking lot was a short walk to the water’s edge – a plus for any family lugging tons of beach gear and supplies. There were lifeguards, who will whistle for swimmers to get out of the water at the slightest rumble of thunder. The other people on the beach that rainy day were also mainly families with small or grade-school-age children, definitely not the college crowd. There was no boardwalk.
The gentle surf and long shallow shelf of the Delaware Bay were perfect for my seven-year-old, who wasn’t afraid to wade right in and go swimming in the cool waters. (The adults in our party did have to go pretty far out for a good swim of their own though.) The mild surf also meant that even my nine-month-old baby could sit on her own at water’s edge and enjoy the lapping of the waves against her toes.
The water looked brown due to the color of the sand but it was clean. I didn’t notice any seaweed or kelp. But my friend overheard a family sitting next to us say that their young girl who had been standup paddleboarding had gotten stung by a jellyfish.
Looking east from the beach you can spy a lighthouse. And Cape Henlopen State Park is right next door.
The kids barely noticed when it started to rain more heavily again around 1 p.m. They were too busy filling holes they’d dug in the sand with water or building sand castles. But we adults had had enough and we packed up. Of course by the time we’d gotten everything into the car and everyone changed into dry clothing, the sun came out. So we headed into town.
Lewes’s Second Street is lined with cute boutiques, restaurants, historic houses, and a 19th-century church. There’s metered parking along the street. Our first stop was King’s for scoops of homemade ice cream in flavors like butter pecan, strawberry, and amber caramel. We ate our cones sitting on wooden benches on the shop’s covered front porch.
Kids’ Ketch is a friendly, locally owned store that sells souvenir T-shirts and postcards as well as a curated selection of toys. Further down Second Street, Lewes Gifts was full of pretty but easily breakable decorative items like beachy glass objects and ceramic bowls. I bought a Lewes lighthouse Christmas ornament before hustling my sticky-fingered three-year-old out.
A few doors down, Lewes Bake Shop/Notting Hill Coffee had aromatic espresso that even impressed my picky European friend. A glass case held tempting pastries like croissants and “Famous Lewes Sticky Buns.” The shop also sells bags of coffee beans and lunch fare.
Our final stop was the Ryves Holt House and Museum Shop, Delaware’s oldest house (circa 1665). My kids liked exploring its maze of low-ceilinged rooms with sloping floors. The shop sold similar items to those at Lewes Gifts.
We could have explored the town further but we wanted to beat Sunday afternoon westbound Bay Bridge traffic. But since the day trip to the beach was so successful and relatively painless, we know we’ll be returning – rain or shine.
Photos by Amy Alipio.