Questions and Answers

Friday, May 19, 2006

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 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 is pretty similar.

When is the best time to drive to the shore?

Tuesday night would be good. Or early Thursday, maybe. The beaches are weekend destinations, so not surprisingly, beach rush hours are Fridays from mid-afternoon until 9 or 10 and Saturday mornings and early afternoons between about 9 and 2. You may have an easier time if you wait until later Friday or take off very, 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.

Where can I get updates on Chesapeake Bay bridge traffic?

Travelers can visit for traffic advisories or check the Bayspan recording at 877-229-7726 for current conditions on the bridge.

Are there any alternative driving routes?

Not unless you go way up to Elkton and back down to keep from crossing the Bay Bridge. But once you are over the span, there are a few variations on the Eastern Shore, 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 into Delaware; just past Bridgeville, it 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 can 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.

Don't ignore older routes, many of which have been improved or expanded and now serve as useful ways around the major traffic backups. Route 24, for example, runs from Route 113 in Millsboro along the west side of Indian River Bay up to Route 1 west of Rehoboth; so if you are driving between one of the more northerly resorts to a more southern destination, you could avoid the outlet mall crowds altogether. And if Route 113 is particularly heavy, you can get onto Route 13 south from Bridgeville all the way to the Chincoteague turnoff.

How far in advance should I plan my trip?

The sooner the better. Don't expect many last-minute deals on hotels or B&Bs in season. However, rental agencies often offer discounts on houses and condos if properties remain vacant -- check about a month before you want to go.

How do you go about renting a house or condominium at the beach?

Use the Internet. Many of the Realtors' sites have search engines to help you find the right home, or you can do the old-fashioned thing and call. The cost of rental property varies considerably, with size, amenities and time of year being the major factors. If you can live with a bare-bones cottage without central air conditioning, you'll pay significantly less than the guy who insists on a Jacuzzi in the bedroom. To save money, travel before Memorial Day or after Labor Day.

In general, what are the rules regarding surfing, bodyboarding, inflatable rafts, etc.?

They vary from beach to beach, but generally bodyboards and rafts are okay most of the time. Surfing is usually restricted to certain beaches or hours of the day. Other rules common to most mid-Atlantic beaches: no pets, no fires, no alcohol, no glass containers, no driving on the beach. Some popular beaches also place limits on surf fishing.

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