Gems of Bethany Beach
Nassau Valley Vineyards
Producing a wide variety of wines, Nassau Valley is Delaware’s first and only farm winery. The winery is open for free tours and tastings year-round. The self-guided tour includes a chronicle of wine’s 8,000 year history, up to the process and production of modern day vineyards. Picnickers are welcome, and specialty tastings and wine and food pairings are available on site or off. Theater and musical groups perform during the summer months. This is an ideal stop on a rainy beach day or a midweek break from the pulsing July sun.
Chincoteague and Assateague Islands
Chincoteague Island, just a 30-minute drive from Bethany down Route 1, is Virginia’s only resort island, and one of the more beautiful islands that salt and pepper Virginia’s eastern shore. This bucolic beach is famous for its wealth of breathtaking and accessible wildlife, oyster beds and clam shoals, migratory birds, and wild horses (often grazing casually around the parking area).
Throughout the summer, crowded beaches give way to stretches of secluded shoreline, marshes and forests, if you’re willing to walk beyond the crowded entrance. As a Natural Wildlife Preserve, the Chincoteague and Assateague islands harbor plenty of inspiration for the adventurous, Thoreauvian journeyman.
Set in what looks like an over-sized bungalow, with warm yellow lights strung across the frame, the Cottage Café is, has a comfortable atmosphere and quality, unpretentious seafood.
A wide bar sits in the center of the restaurant, with dining on either side. Among the many choice menu options and a solid brunch buffet, a notable item is a generous plate of “dune fries,” a deliciously fun seafood spin on chili-cheese fries.
Dogfish Head Brewery and Brewpub
No one does beer like Dogfish Head. What started as the smallest commercial brewery in America in 1995 single-handedly brought the culture of craft brewed ales back from near extinction.
Whether looking for a finely balanced, classic ale, or a beer based on the chemical analysis of pottery fragments that revealed the earliest known alcoholic beverage, Dogfish Head brewery is a good time with some great beer. Tour the brewery, sample fresh brews, and talk with the casual, friendly staff. Their brewpub, on the Rehobeth Beach boardwalk, pairs their ample beer offerings with classic American cuisine, and features house-made vodkas from a small distillery operation in the back. Live music plays throughout the summer.
Dickey’s Frozen Custard
Well before the days that Bethany Beach became the Delmarva tourist haven it is today, Dickie’s Frozen Custard was serving the local in-crowd from their modest corner store, just off the main boardwalk drag.
This is quintessential beachside custard. The employees are often found without shoes. Young customers, five or 10 at the most, commonly sit against the wall in the shade of Dickie’s awning, licking and slurping at their over-sized cones with sprinkles as they drip down their knuckles, chins, and shirts. Yeah, it’s cheesy. Yeah, it’s nostalgic and silly. Yeah, it’s just custard. But I’m willing to bet it’s the best you’ll ever have.
Offering sail-boat rentals, guided kayak and bicycle eco-tours, Coastal Kayak allows guests to experience the bay-side marshlands and wildlife from a completely new perspective.
The salt marsh tour is a brilliantly fun addendum to any list of activities. Paddle through the salt marshes around a state wildlife refuge, the feeding grounds for many animals, some of which include herons, osprey, horseshoe crabs and skimmers. One of the premier offerings is the exploration of a small sandbar where you get out of your kayak and comb the beach for a variety of beach dwellers such as fiddler crabs, starfish, and clams.
If you’ve been anywhere near the Delaware Beaches, you have doubtless fallen prey to the wafting, tantalizing scent of Grotto’s pizza in the salty air. Synonymous with Bethany and Rehobeth beach culture, there is hardly another pizza joint in town — not that you would ever want one. It is awfully, awfully good.
The local restaurant behemoth and area staple, with its signature “bull’s eye” pizzas, is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a summer-long celebration. Whatever time you’re there this summer, keep an eye out for special deals and promotions.
A one-street town sandwiched between its larger siblings, Bethany and Rehobeth, Dewey Beach is undeniably the college crowd’s scene. With a slew of bars, crab shacks, and motels, Dewey makes for a pretty fun night if you’re looking to get away from quiet evenings in Bethany and knock back a beer and a basket of fried shrimp with your friends.
Stop by The Starboard, voted one of the top 25 bars in America by Men’s Journal magazine, and concoct one of their build-your-own Bloody Marys, with over 700 ingredients and 18 brands of vodka. Or check out the Bottle and Cork, an outdoor bar and music venue.