If you have never heard of Bethany Beach, Delaware, look it up. It’s next door to more bustling (and commercialized) Rohoboth Beach, and has a quaint downtown and low-key boardwalk. Actually, I almost don’t want to write about it because I would rather it not get too popular! We stay at the Sea Colony Resort (a Wyndham property now) for a week, which has tennis courts, multiple heated outdoor pools, both condos and homes for rent, and free family-friendly activities like roasting marshmallows at bonfire night with live music.
Our 3-bedroom condo rental is steps from the pool and private beach–convenient when you have a fussy toddler and a 10-month-old, which requires pushing a big beach cart with crap. Honestly, the website doesn’t do this place justice (the exterior buildings are supposed to be renovated soon because they look like government housing!). It is worth the 4.5-hour drive from New Jersey. Even during peak season in August, it’s not overcrowded. For tips and highlights, read on!
1. Southern Hospitality: The chair/umbrella beach attendant at Sea Colony with the strong southern accent is not in fact a local. He’s a very polite Texan who summers in Delaware and spends the rest of the year on a cattle ranch out west. Tips are appreciated. Oh, and low-back chairs sell out quickly, so rent them early in the morning.
2. Parents Gone Wild: The bartenders have a heavy pour at beachfront Mango’s Bar & Restaurant, which has happy hour from 1 to 6 pm. Kid-free at 8 pm (thank God for in-laws) meant large tequila shots followed by a coconut margarita for me!
3. 99 B-A-C level?: After tequila shots on date night, we stumbled (literally) upon a very classy-looking hotel called Bethany Beach Ocean Suites (surprisingly a Residence Inn Marriott brand). We decided to have another drink and dessert at the bar of their restaurant 99 Sea Level where unfortunately there was a very drunk, barefoot man (okay, he had flip flops but kept taking them off and flailing his feet!). After one too many hand slams to the bar, the bartenders started to yell at him to keep it down. We decided it was our cue to gobble down our oversized chocolate cake, write a note on our signed bill saying that they need to cut off and kick out overly political shoeless drunkards, and skedaddle to our next destination.
4. Seafood To-Go: Skip eating inside the “shack-like” Mickey’s Family Crab House and make your order to-go. We prefer to sit on our private balcony facing the ocean while peeling and eating a pound of medium steamed shrimp with fries, and melted butter and old bay on the side. Skip the hushpuppies, but the crab dip is tasty.
5. “Ice Cream Downtown?”: That was Ella’s favorite phrase that week. Downtown is a 3 minute drive from Sea Colony (or a 15 min walk) to Garfield Pkwy, and it features my favorite Kohr’s Frozen Custard, multiple restaurants, speciality stores, miniature golf, and a mini theater for live performances.
6. Cross the Line: If you love lighthouses like I do, you must drive ten minutes from Bethany down to Fenwick Island where there is a lighthouse built in 1859. You can’t go to the top, but you can learn about Delaware’s maritime history from the tour guide, look around inside on the ground level, which has historical maps and photographs, and physically walk across the Maryland-Delaware state line shown on the ground. Then head to one of the waterfront restaurants like Harpoon Hanna’s or Catch 54.
7. It’s Beach-o-Clock: I’m a control freak and going on this vacation as a family of six (11 if you count my sister-in-law, her husband, and kids) reminded me that nothing will really go as planned. The kids won’t go to bed on time, they may hate the beach (Ella finally played in the ocean on our last day), your date night may get cut short because of toddler tantrums, and you may only eat one roasted marshmallow at the bonfire because your child doesn’t want to share her stick. Despite all that, I reminded myself every day that I was lucky to be at the beach, making memories and spending quality time with the ones I love.