Beach weather may be over for the year -- at least in our neck of the woods -- but that doesn’t mean the beach isn’t worth visiting during the off-season. Indeed, if sweltering heat and throngs of minimally dressed sun-worshippers aren’t your idea of a good time, now might be exactly the right time to head to one of the Mid-Atlantic’s popular beach towns, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, would do nicely for starters.
According to a history prepared by the Rehoboth Beach Historical Society, the origins of the City of Rehoboth Beach as a seaside resort go back 140 years, to 1873, when “The Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church” was established as a site for a “Christian seaside resort” for summer religious gatherings. The name Rehoboth comes from the Bible and in early Hebrew means “broad places.” English explorers also gave the name to nearby Rehoboth Bay in the 17th century.
Once the resort was established, religious encampment grounds were constructed, along with several small wooden buildings known as “tents” (one still remains on Christian Street and houses the museum of the Historical Society, which is worth a visit itself). There were also a post office, several hotels, and the original Rehoboth Boardwalk, then a mere 8 feet wide and 1000 yards long. (Times have changed, and today a stroll along the mile-long Boardwalk is a favorite activity no matter what time of year. For military buffs, so is the sighting of WWII towers, built to detect enemy vessels approaching the coastline, which still stand along the beaches and the entrance to Delaware Bay.)
With the extension of the railroad in 1878 from Lewes to Rehoboth Beach, more visitors began coming to Rehoboth. As its seaside attractions soon overshadowed its religious orientation, by 1881 the annual religious camp meetings were discontinued. Rehoboth Beach today is a family-friendly resort that in recent years has taken a turn to the upscale with fine dining restaurants and unique shops coexisting with the requisite t-shirt and ice cream stands.
Shoppers rejoice! There is no sales tax in Delaware. Between outlets, antique shops, artists’ studios, and eclectic boutiques, the savings can mount up. Remember, holiday shopping is just around the corner!
Rehoboth Art League
12 Dodds Lane
Rehoboth Art League (RAL) was founded in 1938 to provide art education to children and adults during the summer months. Located in Henlopen Acres, RAL provides free access to its 3.5 acre campus comprised of art galleries, educational classrooms, and historic buildings, such as the Peter Marsh Homestead. In the past 75 years, RAL has expanded its programs to include year-around art education, exhibitions, and open studios in a variety of art mediums.
Indian River Life-Saving Station
Route 1, south of Dewey
The life-saving station--built in 1876 as an Atlantic-coast outpost to look for ships in distress-- was transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915, decommissioned in 1962, and restored in 1998. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, its interior recalls the heroic rescues of sailors from sinking ships. Guided tours are available, or you can use your cellphone for an audio tour. Off-season, the station is open on select weekends from 8:30am to 4pm, so it’s a good idea to call ahead.
Lewes and Lewes Harbor
A few miles north of Rehoboth Beach, where the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean meet, the small coastal community of Lewes enjoys both photo-opp coastline views and significance as the First Town in the First State. Perhaps one of the most picturesque spots in Southern Delaware, Lewes Harbor on the Lewes and Rehoboth Canal has been painted by many artists throughout the years. It’s also home to numerous pleasure boats, a fleet of head boats, and charter boats offering fishing and sightseeing excursions. A public boat ramp provides access to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and the Delaware Bay.
Nassau Valley Vineyards
32165 Winery Way
Nassau Valley Vineyards, founded in 1987, is the first (and only) award-winning winery in the state of Delaware, founded on a family farm site just outside of historic Lewes. Tours and tastings are available during the Vineyards’ operational hours (year-round Monday through Saturday from 11am to 5pm, Sunday from noon to 5pm, closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, and Election Day. Self-guided tours are free. Tasting is $5 per person and includes your tasting glass as a take-home souvenir.
Southern Delaware Beaches
Southern Delaware is home to more than 25 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. Public ocean beaches can be found in the towns of Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, and Fenwick Island. Public beaches along the Delaware Bay include Slaughter Beach near Milford and Broadkill Beach near Milton.
Cape Henlopen State Park
Get back to nature at Cape Henlopen State Park. The Cape Henlopen Nature Center provides a look at marine life in their many salt water aquariums and there are numerous programs and activities offered throughout the year.
The flat terrain makes Rehoboth ideal for bicycling, and during the off-season, you can ride on the boardwalk anytime. The scenic 6-mile crushed stone Junction and Breakwater Trail connects Rehoboth and Lewes and is suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers, and wheelchairs. The 15-mile round-trip takes 2 hours, give or take, depending on where and how long you stop. The trail head is located behind the Tanger Outlets shopping area on the east side of Route 1. For a downloadable trail map, visit www.destateparks.com/downloads/trails/j-and-b-trail.pdf.
Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival
Since it was founded in 1998, this award-winning festival has developed into a premiere, Mid-Atlantic cultural event, showcasing approximately 100 of the best American and international films including features, documentaries, and shorts. All the films are shown at one multi-screen location. The Festival also offers informative seminars, opportunities to mingle with celebrity guests, and special events including a Children’s Cinema Corner.
Annual St. Nicholas Tea and Sleigh Boutique
The Village Improvement Association (VIA), a nonprofit charitable organization, will host its eighth annual St. Nicholas Tea and Sleigh Boutique at the VIA clubhouse at the Boardwalk and Grenoble Place. Both days will feature a formal Victorian high tea with seatings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. with a Mother, Daughter, Grandmother tea held on Saturday at 2 p.m. The cost is $25 per person ($15 for children 13 and under). For reservations (which are needed) call 302-227-2598.
Delaware Seashore Lighthouse Weekend
Delaware Seashore State Park will highlight lighthouses and life-saving stations along the Delaware coast for a weekend package price of $55 per person (accommodations not included). Tour the Lightship Overfalls and the Indian River Life-Saving Station, view the Delaware Breakwater & Harbor of Refuge lighthouses, and tour the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. The local lighthouses and the Life-Saving Station were built primarily in response to the alarming number of shipwrecks occurring along the Atlantic coast as early as the 1600s when trade and settling in the area increased.
Rehoboth Beach Tree Lighting
Be part of this annual hometown tradition with an old-fashioned sing-a-long and sunset tree lighting from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Bandstand Pavilion just off the Boardwalk in downtown Rehoboth.
Nov. 29-Dec. 22
“A Christmas Carol”
Clear Space Theatre Company
20 Baltimore Avenue
This perennially popular holiday tale gets a new take as Ebenezer Scrooge is transported from not-so-merry ol’ England to the equally joyless America during the days of the Great Depression. But the moral remains the same, as Scrooge is forced to face the choices of his Past, the cruelty of his Present, and the consequences in his Future.