Dewey Beach, Delaware
Phil & Geri Fontana
The “Balcony” at the #207 Sunspot condo…For wife Geri & me the view is equaled by the time spent on the balcony reading, people watching, spotting dolphin, cigar smoking (me!), & in happy hours!
Excuse us for living two weeks a year on the beach in Dewey Beach, Delaware. We’ve been doing so now for 19 years in a condo, “Sunspot,” on McKinley Street. We started for the first 13 years in an efficiency-room timeshare hotel, the Surf Club, right next door. We were slow to catch on, making the switch to the Sunspot condos. The trade-off was giving up the Surf Club pool and gaining the amenities of a condo and considerably lower rates at Sunspot.
The question we are asked most often is why the beach in Delaware and not our own New Jersey with 120 miles of fine shoreline that served us well growing up in the 1950’s and 1960’s? Our standard answer is, “Exactly! We loved the New Jersey shore when we were kids! And we’ve found it again in Delaware!” – – Less people, less traffic (Well there was less traffic! That’s getting worse!), less expensive, plenty of space on the beach, more freedom re regulations from using floatation devices to surf-fishing (mornings, evenings, or even day-time with sufficient feet from swimmers). We discovered the shore points of Delaware in the late 1990’s, picking up a brochure at a rest-stop while transporting our oldest son back to the University of Delaware.
Dewey Beach quickly became our favorite spot for what is “vacation” to us; pure and simple quiet and rest, “R & R”! We like to distinguish our relaxing vacations as opposed to other trips we fully enjoy from sightseeing (especially Europe) to fishing in upstate New York. I am sure most of you have your favorite place or places you like to return to. And we see the photos and hear all about so many wonderful places. But we happened to get to know “Dewey” and Dewey Beach became our favorite place to vacation, rest, and find 2 weeks of peace each year on the beach.
Cape May is our destination on the way to the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. It’s only 167 miles down the Garden State Parkway from our home in Montville, NJ. If we head out early or book a later ferry reservation, we can steal an hour or two in scenic Cape May, as can be seen with these colorful B&Bs along the ocean front, a worthy destination in its own right!
The Cape May-Lewes Ferry turns our modest vacation trip into a little adventure each year. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry Authority is an independent, non-profit operation run by New Jersey & Delaware. Pictured here is one of the three ferry boats in operation, down from a fleet that numbered five. The ferry ride is about an hour & twenty minutes. It eliminates about 80 miles of driving down the New Jersey Turnpike, over the Delaware Memorial Bridge, & south to the Delaware shore. We just drive the 167 miles to Cape May, catch the ferry to Lewes, Delaware, & meander maybe 3 miles down the main drag, Rt. 1, to Dewey. Just know the ferry reservation roundtrip for two is $108. – – Drive more miles or “pays your money”! – – “Different strokes for …”
Coming off the Ferry in Delaware brings you to the quaint town of Lewes. We like to call it a tiny touch of Nantucket. Founded by the Dutch in 1631, Lewes built a replica of the City Hall in Horn, the Netherlands. Lewes has a little of everything; shops & antiques, historic buildings, a modest number of restaurants, hotels, B&Bs, fishing party boats. Pictured here are two 1600’s sailing ships at the dock on Lewes Inlet.
This is a good map of Delaware for our purposes, but for the absence of a few labels. The white area is labelled New Jersey. On the southern end you can see the Cape May Peninsula jutting out. That’s where the Cape May-Lewes Ferry runs across Delaware Bay to Lewes on the yellow map. From Delaware to Virginia that stretch of land is known as the Delmarva Peninsula; Delaware, Maryland, & Virginia. Rt. 1 is the main road connecting the shore points going south; starting with Lewes, then Rehoboth with its very popular boardwalk, Dewey Beach, the upscale Bethany with many gated communities, Fenwick Island with high-rise condominiums, & finally Ocean City, Maryland, that looks like Atlantic City size hotels 10 times over in number without the casinos! Ocean City is the end of the line from where you take a bridge continuing through Maryland & beyond into Virginia.
Upon entering the town of Dewey Beach, you are greeted by this sign, “Dewey Beach, A Way of Life.” One assumes the motto is a holdover from days gone by as a community of hippies “doing their thing” in the 1960’s at the beach. Today the mood it conveys is one of a laid back place, unassuming, giving you space to “do your thing.” Dewey Beach is only .3 sq. miles with 341 permanent residents. But in season, Dewey has a juxtaposed reputation for attracting young party goers in their upper 20’s & 30’s as well as being a popular family resort. Its beaches are a nice size, varying over the years with sand reclamation due to storm erosion. – -Plenty hotels, cottage rentals, condominiums, a modest number of restaurants, & no shortage of bars & clubs. – – More about that later as we go along here. Off season, Dewey quiets down to the modest little place it is.
Here’s a great partial aerial view of Dewey Beach. It gives you a good feel for the place. The foreground is the ocean, naturally, with the bay at the top of the photo. The water quality & the beaches of the Delaware shore have achieved award winning status over the years with the best in the nation. The center left condominium pictured on the beach is NOT ours! But our Sunspot is the condo immediately to its left! And, to the left of Sunspot, you can see a mural outlined in pink! That’s the Surf Club, the place that started it all for us.
This is the main drag, Rt. 1, passing right through the heart of Dewey Beach, north-south. A mid-day photo shows you there is not much going on in Dewey unless you’re on the beach!
“The Little Store” is a very important place since this is the only store with the basic necessities in Dewey Beach; food staples, newspapers, & a little of everything. One must drive down Rt. 1 to Rehoboth where there are 4-5 supermarkets. Fortunately, our condo is just down the block from The Little Store.
“Sharkey’s”!!! – – Also down the block from us! – – Across from The Little Store! Everyone in Dewey knows & goes to Sharkey’s! It’s an “expanded food stand,” limited counter & table seating. Sharkey’s means coffee & breakfast & hamburgers & a little more. Are their restaurants in Dewey Beach with the same & more? Yes, but there’s Sharkey’s!
A typical side street? There is nothing typical in Dewey! Every street is uniquely its own. This one is Read Street, on which the Surf Club is located, facing the ocean. It’s the street next to us on McKinley.
Here’s a nice shot of the two places we’ve stayed at over these 19 summer seasons. On the left in pink is the Surf Club where we stayed for 13 years. It’s unique in that it is a “time-share hotel.” You can name your date of arrival & departure. Owners “buy into” one, two or three weeks per month or full ownership. All units are one expanded room efficiencies that sleep four with a kitchen wall. Amenities include pool, sauna, & Jacuzzi. On the right in blue is the condominium, Sunspot, where we have stayed for the last 6 years. It took us too long to realize how much better a condo unit is at Sunspot compared to a room at the Surf Club. There are one & two bedroom condos (& a penthouse) that sleep four to six people, with full kitchen & living/dining room combo, & that balcony. Bookings are Saturday to Saturday like most places. But the rates at Sunspot are considerably more reasonable than the Surf Club.
Pictured is the McKinley Street lifeguard station, on duty 10:00 to 5:00. And the uncrowded beach scene is typical.
Here is how Geri spends most of her beach time for two weeks at Dewey. – – Reading!
Here is how Phil spends most of his beach time for two weeks at Dewey. – – Reading! – – Oh, maybe a “bikini check” break too!
Happy Hours are held on days we cook something special together. Get used to my obnoxious Hawaiian shirt that is as old as it looks! I only wear it while we are at Dewey & only indoors! – – very special!
The nights we cook together with Happy Hours are the most special part of our stays at Dewey Beach. And here is the piece de resistance; cooking Zupa di Clams! Zupa is clams in their shells, a red sauce with sausage slices & spices. It can be served with pasta or just Italian bread! (For the recipe, go to the right margin here, click on “Friday Night/Recipe Posts” & then click “4thPastaPost”)
Each year we take an “iconic” photo like this one on “Zupa Night.” It’s the high-point of our stay & it’s held usually on the third day or so of our trip. – – One Rule: Eat all the clams, red sauce, & Italian bread you want! Another Zupa meal is reprised over our two week stay!
Once a week Dewey Beach has a family children’s movie night on the beach!
And once a week Dewey Beach has a family oriented bon fire night on the beach!
Just to the north of Dewey Beach, a mile plus, is the town of Rehoboth. No trip is complete unless you spend an evening on the boardwalk at Rehoboth with rides, games of chance, food, & shops. Rehoboth has a considerable choice of hotels & many restaurants.
Cape Henlopen State Park is a great facility near Lewes & the Ferry. There you will find campsites, hiking trails, & an unusually long fishing pier (where we’ve spent many hours fishing over the years).
South of Dewey Beach is Delaware Seashore State Park, a spot not to be overlooked. It offers a bucolic drive-on beach for surf-fishing, Indian River Inlet for more fishing, private charter boats & party boats for fishing (we’ve done them all over the years), & an RV campground.
The Starboard, above, is one of five clubs in Dewey with live bands, dancing with wall-to-wall bodies, & plenty of drinking (& it ain’t soda!). It’s the 20 & 30-something set that frequents Dewey Beach. And on Friday & Saturday nights the main drag is filled with young people crawling their way to a favorite place. Oh, there are other bars too along the way between “clubs,” Movie star Kevin Bacon & his brother, Delaware boys, reprise their old band once a summer at one club, “Bottle & Cork.”
Northbeach is one of those clubs also with picturesque dining on the bay beach in Dewey. Their specialty is lobster dinners & their famous rum drink, the Dewey Devil! – – A very good drink! There is no shortage of restaurants along Rt. 1 & a plethora in the heart of Rehoboth.
There are six restaurants we frequent in the area, in Dewey Beach, north to Rehoboth, & south to Ocean City, Maryland. But the one we never fail to go to each summer is Phillips Crab House, almost an hour drive south, in Ocean City, Maryland. It’s really a landmark with great seafood for 60 years & counting since 1956!
Phillips features a formal dining room & a seafood buffet. Pictured above is the colorful, fun, & fabulous seafood buffet. Despite all the bad impressions people have of buffets, this one is GOOD! It features EVERYTHING under the sun from oysters to prime rib to pasta & much, much more, plus desserts, all at a reasonable price.
On the southern end of Dewey Beach are gated streets of “high-end” summer homes. Here are just a few of them as seen from the beach. As you continue to walk the beach south, you come to the beginning of Delaware Seashore State Park.
This photo gives you a good idea of what Dewey is like in terms of the typical number of people on the beach. The taller pink building, center left, with the white blank wall, is the Surf Club. And in the distance, facing north, is Rehoboth beach, an ambitious hike. – – We know!
Excuse us for living out our favorite little summer place with you! Dewey Beach has been good to us both in rest and fun over the years. We wanted to tell you about “A Way of Life” named Dewey Beach, Delaware!
Sources: 19 years in Dewey Beach