It’s summer. It’s beach season. But where to go for the sun and the sand? Whether you’re a newbie in the area or a longtime resident in search of fresh ideas, have a look at the itineraries we’ve pulled together for various types of beachgoers. Then grab your beach towel, your sunscreen and your sense of adventure, and get out of town.
Where: The Wildwoods, N.J.
Stay: A family beach trip is an ideal time to rent your own place. Check with local vacation rental agencies or sites such as VRBO.com. Another option is a hotel suite, many of which offer kitchenettes and rooms with bed configurations well suited for parents traveling with children. You can find suites at properties including the Caribbean Motel (5600 Ocean Ave., Wildwood Crest; 609-522-8292; www.caribbeanmotel.com) and Pan American Hotel (5901 Ocean Ave., Wildwood Crest; 609-522-6936; hotels.moreyspiers.com/panamericanhotel).
Play: Treat the family to the kind of old-fashioned vacation you used to have — or wish you had. Put the cellphones away, and dig into the sand at any of the five-mile-long island’s free beaches.
You’ll probably want to make time each day and evening to visit the two-mile-long historic boardwalk. Morey’s Piers (3501 Boardwalk, Wildwood; 609-522-3900; www.moreyspiers.com) boasts amusements such as Skeeball and balloon darts, water parks, a Ferris wheel and other rides.
If little legs aren’t up for a long walk, hop on the Sightseer tram cars (5308 Boardwalk, Wildwood; 609-523-8726; www.dowildwood.com/boardwalk.html) for a 30-minute ride. Or pile the family into a bike surrey from any number of shops, including Sportland Bike Rental (435 E. 24th Ave., North Wildwood;
609-522-4408; www.sportlandbikerental.com) and Surf Bike Rental (5011 Ocean Ave., Wildwood; 609-729-5147; www.surfbikerental.com).
Eat: Don’t say we didn’t warn you about deep-fried Oreos, funnel cake and all the usual boardwalk fare. Elsewhere, kids will enjoy being served their hot dogs in dog bowls at Maui’s Dog House (Eighth and New Jersey avenues, North Wildwood; 609-846-0444; www.mauisdoghouse.com). Introduce the young’uns to the concept of a jukebox in the ’50s-inspired Cool Scoops ice cream parlor (1111 New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood; 609-729-2665; www.coolscoops.com). Vintage memorabilia is also the name of the game at Route 66 Restaurant and Pizzeria (2700 Boardwalk, Wildwood; 609-523-6466; www.route66wildwood.com).
Where: Cape Charles, Va.
Play: Kiptopeke State Park (3540 Kiptopeke Dr.; 757-331-2267; www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/kiptopeke.shtml), about 10 miles south of Cape Charles, allows pets on its southern beach. If Fido gets tired of the sand, take him for a walk on the park’s four miles of trails, but be sure that your leash is no longer than six feet. (The park also has several pet-friendly accommodations.)
About 18 miles north of Cape Charles, Chatham Vineyards (9232 Chatham Rd., Machipongo; 757-678-5588; www.chathamvineyards.com) welcomes leashed dogs on its property. Make it an afternoon with a walk, a bottle of wine and a cheese plate. Be on the lookout for the winery’s four-legged greeter, a Norwich terrier named Wilbur.
Back in town, you can walk around admiring the lovely houses and take a spin through Cape Charles’s pretty Central Park. Your leashed dog is also welcome on the town beach before 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m.
Eat: Brown Dog Ice Cream (203 Mason Ave.; 757-695-3868) sells frozen treats for both people and canines. Dogs can sit with you at the outdoor seating for the Cape Charles Coffee House (241 Mason Ave.; 757-331-1880; www.thecapecharlescoffeehouse.com) and the Shanty (33 Marina Rd.; 757-695-3853; www.shantyseafood.com).
Where: Rehoboth Beach, Del.
Stay: The Bellmoor Inn and Spa (6 Christian St.; 800-425-2355; www.thebellmoor.com). This 78-room property is elegant, with nary a hint of beachy tackiness. It’s just a few blocks to the beach, and couples will appreciate the Bellmoor’s adults-only pool.
The Boardwalk Plaza Hotel (2 Olive Ave. and the Boardwalk; 800-332-3224; www.boardwalkplaza.com). The Victorian pink lady on the northern part of the boardwalk oozes romance. And what could be more romantic than an oceanfront view?
Play: Couples looking to escape the crowds will find quieter patches of sand in the Gordons Pond area of Cape Henlopen State Park (enter on Ocean Drive; 302-645-8983; www.destateparks.com). Active types might enjoy renting a tandem bike to explore the park or ride along the Junction & Breakwater Trail from Rehoboth to Lewes. Bike to Go (174 Rehoboth Ave.; 302-227-7600; www.biketogo.com) and Atlantic Cycles (18 Wilmington Ave.; 302-226-2543; www.atlanticcycles.net) are among the shops that offer tandem bikes.
If your date nights often include a show, the Clear Space Theatre (20 Baltimore Ave.; 302-227-2270; www.clearspacetheatre.org) offers several productions in repertory throughout the summer. If art is more your thing, check out the Rehoboth Art League (12 Dodds Lane; 302-227-8408; www.rehobothartleague.org), where you can view masterpieces made by others or create your own. For example, every third Thursday at the league is Canvas & Corks, a wine-and-painting event.
Eat: Rehoboth is blessed with many choices for fine dining, adult-style. The Back Porch Cafe (59 Rehoboth Ave.; 302-227-3674; www.backporchcafe.com) has several spots for alfresco dining. Victoria’s in the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel (302-227-0615) has outdoor dining, too, with ocean views. Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats (320 Rehoboth Ave.; 302-226-2739; www.dogfish.com) attracts its fair share of families, but the beer selection can’t be beat.
Where: Assateague Island, Md.
Stay: What better way to get closer to nature than by camping? At Assateague Island National Seashore (Maryland side only), options include campgrounds and backcountry camping (410-641-1441; www.nps.gov/asis/index.htm). Campsites are also available at Assateague State Pa rk (410-641-2918; dnr2.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/eastern/assateague.aspx).
If you prefer something a little less rustic after a day in the great outdoors, accommodations abound in nearby Ocean City. For a cute small-town experience, consider the Atlantic Hotel in Berlin, Md. (2 N. Main St.; 410-641-3589; www.atlantichotel.com).
Play: Horses, of course! Assateague and nearby Chincoteague, on the Virginia side, are famous for their herds of wild horses. Explore the National Seashore, the state park and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to view the horses and other wildlife, such as piping plovers, turtles and sika deer.
Ranger-guided programs at the National Seashore include aquarium talks, kayak tours and clamming and crabbing lessons. Other groups offer tours as well. SuperFun Eco Tours leads wildlife viewing and sunset kayak trips (11848 Assateague Rd., Berlin; 410-656-9453; superfunecotours.com). A number of operators run boat cruises, including Daisey’s Island Cruises (3335 Main St., Chincoteague, Va.; 757-336-5556; www.daiseysislandcruises.com).
If you prefer to explore on your own, you can rent kayaks, canoes, clam rakes, bikes and paddle boards from a concession stand operated by Maryland Coastal Bays Program and SuperFun Eco Tours at the National Seashore (13002 Bayside Dr., Berlin; 410-726-3217; www.mdcoastalbays.org/rentals).
Eat: If you’re camping in the area, you’ll need provisions. Bring them from home or stock up in nearby Ocean City or Berlin. For local goodies, visit Berlin’s farmers market, which runs every Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Harrison Avenue behind the Berlin Fire Co. Or treat yourself to a sweet from Baked Dessert Cafe, 4C Bay St., Berlin; 410-641-1800; www.bakeddessertcafe.com).
Where: Ocean City, Md.
Stay: The Hilton Ocean City Oceanfront Suites (3200 N. Baltimore Ave.; 410-289-6444; www.oceancityhilton.com) has more than 200 rooms and two outdoor pools, including one with a swim-up bar. Bayside, choose from suites at the Lighthouse Club or the Edge at Fager’s Island (201 60th St.; 410-524-5500; www.fagers.com), which has its own active nightlife scene.
Play: Craft beer is big in Ocean City. Aficionados can sip at Fin City Brewing (12913 Ocean Gateway; 410-213-1771; fincitybrewing.com), Backshore Brewing (913 Atlantic Ave.; 443-373-1224) and Ocean City Brewing (5509 Coastal Hwy.; www.ocbrewingcompany.com).
Pool bar fans should head to the Holiday Inn (6600 Coastal Hwy.;
800-837-3588; www.holidayinnoceanfront.com) and the Flagship Oceanfront Hotel’s Rip Tide Bar and Grill (2600 N. Baltimore Ave.; 800-837-3585; www.flagshipoceanfront.com/dining). The Jamaica-themed Seacrets (117 W. 49th St.; 410-524-4900; seacrets.com) is another place to grab a daytime drink.
Less than 10 miles from Ocean City is the Casino at Ocean Downs (10218 Racetrack Rd., Berlin; 410-641-0600; www.oceandowns.com).
Of course, walking the boardwalk is another way to drink in the Ocean City scene.
Eat: Bars aren’t just for drinking. Some share spaces with establishments that serve decent food, too. Among them: Galaxy 66 (6601 Coastal Hwy.; 410-723-6762; www.galaxy66barandgrille.com) and Fager’s Island Restaurant and Bar .
Where: Cape May, N.J.
Play: Wine and beer drinkers won’t go thirsty here. Tour and taste at Cape May Brewing (1288 Hornet Rd., Rio Grande; 609-849-9933; www.capemaybrewery.com), Cape May Winery (711 Townbank Rd.; 609-884-1169; www.capemaywinery.com), Hawk Haven Vineyard & Winery (600 S. Railroad Ave., Rio Grande; 609-846-7347; hawkhavenvin.wordpress.com), Jessie Creek Winery (1 N. Delsea Dr., Cape May Court House; 609-536-2092; www.jessiecreekwinery.com) and Willow Creek Winery (160-168 Stevens St., West Cape May; 609-770-8782; www.willowcreekwinerycapemay.com).
Be guided through the area’s food and drink scene with Cape May Food Tours (800-979-3370; capemayfoodtours.com) or Cocktails at the Cape (609-898-7390; cocktailsatthecape.com). Pick up specialty food products at any number of shops, including Cape May Peanut Butter (516 Carpenter Lane; 609-898-4444; www.capemaypeanutbutterco.com), Cape May Honey Farm (135 Sunset Blvd.; 609-425-6434; www.capemayhoneyfarm.com) and Seaside Cheese (110 Park Blvd., West Cape May; 609-884-8700; www.seasidecheesecapemay.com).
Farm-to-table fans can visit Beach Plum Farm (140 Stevens St., West Cape May; 609-849-9019; www.caperesorts.com), which supplies food to several restaurants in the Cape Resorts hotel group. There are guided and self-guided tours, as well as a weekly farm stand in season.
Eat: The Ebbitt Room in the Virginia Hotel (25 Jackson St.; 609-884-5700; www.caperesorts.com) is one of the beneficiaries of the food grown at Beach Plum Farm. The Mad Batter (19 Jackson St.; 609-884-5970; www.madbatter.com) has been a Cape May mainstay for almost 30 years. Tisha’s (322 Washington St.; 609-884-9119; www.tishasfinedining.com) is a classy spot on the Washington Street mall.