Weekend's 2005 Beach Guide

Questions and Answers

By Eve Zibart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 20, 2005

How far away are the beaches?

Measuring from the Beltway as you head east on Route 50, which is the common route, the Delaware resorts are the nearest: Lewes, Cape Henlopen, Rehoboth and Dewey are all about 110 miles away; Bethany Beach is about 115 and Fenwick Island about 125. Ocean City and Assateague Island State Park, on the north end of the barrier island, are about 125 and 130 miles, respectively; and Virginia's Chincoteague Island, which serves as the entrance to the larger Assateague and Chincoteague parks, is a little more than 150 miles. If you are coming from the Baltimore or Columbia area, you may prefer to use Interstate 97 and pick up Route 50 east of Annapolis, but the mileage will be pretty similar.

When is the best time to drive to the shore?

Tuesday night would be good. Or early Thursday, maybe. The beaches are overwhelmingly weekend destinations, so not surprisingly, beach "rush hours" are Fridays from mid-afternoon until 9 or 10 and Saturday mornings between about 9 and 2. You may have an easier time if you wait until later Friday or take off very early on Saturday. And coming back on Sunday, the heaviest traffic tends to be from noon to 6. Of course, if you can take a little more time off and travel during the week, that's better.

Will Bay Bridge construction affect traffic?

The bridge's westbound center lane reopened to traffic this month, but temporary lane closures will be in effect until the first phase of the project is completed. Beach-bound travelers can visit http://www.baybridgeinfo.com/ for traffic advisories or call the Bayspan Hotline at 877-229-7726 for traffic conditions on the bridge.

Are there any alternative driving routes?

Not to the bridge, unless you already live on the western shore or are willing to hike up to Elkton and back down to keep from crossing it. But once you are over the span, there are a few variations depending on your destination. If you are going to Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach or Lewes, you stay to the left -- that is, on Route 404 -- when Route 50 bears off after you cross Kent Island onto the western shore. Stay on Route 404; just past Bridgeville, 404 merges with Route 18 and then with Route 9 in Georgetown. (Don't worry, the beach route is well marked.) Route 9/404 takes you to Route 1 for Rehoboth; if you stay on Route 9, it takes you into Lewes.

If you are going to Bethany Beach or south, you have a few alternatives: You can take the route outlined above and go south along Route 1 as far as Ocean City. Or you could take Route 404 as far as Georgetown, then head south on Route 113; turn east on Route 26 for Bethany Beach, Route 54 for Fenwick Island, the Route 90 bypass for North Ocean City and Route 50 for downtown Ocean City, Route 376 and then south on Route 611 for Chincoteague. Or, especially if you're headed to Ocean City, you might find it easier just to stay on Route 50 all the way for downtown or West Ocean City; take the Route 90 cutoff for parts of Ocean City north of about 50th Street.

If your destination is Assateague Island National Seashore, take U.S. 50 east and south to Salisbury, then U.S. 13 south to Route 175 east to Assateague Island.

Can you suggest some good places to eat en route?

Kent Island isn't really halfway, but it often seems like the midpoint of the commute, and if you get a late Friday start and find that the beach rush is wearing you down, turn right after crossing the Kent Narrows Bridge and have a seafood dinner facing the sunset at Hemingway's (Pier 1 Road, Stevensville; 410-643-2196). Of the many fried chicken places on the road east, Holly's Family Restaurant on the north side of Route 50 in Kent Island (108 Jackson Creek Rd.; 410-827-8711) is the best. Second choice is Jimmy's Grille on the west side of Bridgeville (Route 13-A, 302-337-7575). If you prefer to snack on the run, one of those great-smelling Kiwanis chicken barbecues along the way will fit the bill: There's one near the Maryland-Delaware border on Route 404 at Route 36 and another on Route 113 just west of Delaware Tech.

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