One of Delaware’s most popular beaches, Rehoboth Beach offers visitors the chance to escape back into a simpler time amidst the soft sands of a traditional Atlantic coastal seaside town.
Historic and contemporary posters of every description show some of the beach’s most notable selling points: as a family camping destination where children fly kites and build sand castles on a sun-drenched summer day; as a paradise for surfers and cyclists; as a joyful stretch of game-filled arcades and carnival rides; and much more.
Simply put, it’s one square mile of simple pleasures and outdoor fun in the “Nation’s Summer Capital.”
The History of Rehoboth Beach
Local historians trace the ultimate origin of the beach’s name to the Bible. The Hebrew name “Rehoboth,” found in Genesis 26:22, is often translated as “broad places.” At the beginning of the 17th century, English explorers called the local bay “Rehoboth,” likely due to its wide sweep of water.
In 1873, the Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church purchased land from local farmers and established a resort area, constructing hotels, a post office, and a series of small wooden houses it called “tents.”
The organization also built the 3,000-foot-long Rehoboth Boardwalk, now one of the central tourist attractions of the quaint small town. And in 1891, the City of Rehoboth Beach incorporated itself as a municipality in the state of Delaware after briefly using the name Henlopen City.
Rehoboth Beach is now Delaware’s largest beach resort town. Thanks to the construction of a paved highway in 1925 that stretched from Georgetown to Rehoboth Beach, residents of Washington, DC, in particular have long loved the place. Members of the United States government workforce, as well as foreign diplomats, have spent numerous summers there. As our family demonstrates, Rehoboth Beach is easily accessible from Philadelphia as well as Baltimore. Today, visitors from all around the world come to Rehoboth throughout the year.
On the Boardwalk
Stroll along the Boardwalk at Rehoboth Beach and find Ibach’s Candy by the Sea, offering handmade classic fudge, salt-water taffy, caramel popcorn, and other treats from the beloved century-old local brand Dolle’s Candyland. Ibach’s, a third-generation family-owned and operated company in itself, purchased Dolle’s in 1959.
Funland Rehoboth has enchanted families visiting the Boardwalk since the 1960s. With enhanced social distancing, masking, and COVID-19 cleanliness protocols put in place for its reopening in summer 2021, this local institution offers dozens of rides and midway games, an arcade, a Skeeball area, and its signature attraction in the Haunted Mansion ride, one of the most popular adventures of its kind in the country.
The Boardwalk Plaza hotel, with its wrought-iron overhang at the entrance, recreates the look and feel of a Victorian-era seaside getaway with full suites of contemporary conveniences. Victoria’s Restaurant overlooks the sea, and even offers traditional-style high tea.
The Historic Cape Henlopen Lighthouse
In a roundabout at Rehoboth Beach stands a replica of the legendary Cape Henlopen Lighthouse. The replica, built in 1924 by a local realtor to call attention to his offices, serves as a reminder of the storied lighthouse, which collapsed in 1926.
The first foundations of the real lighthouse dated from 1764, with a lantern rising 100 feet at the entrance to Delaware Bay. The lighthouse served as a welcome sight to sea-weary travelers for centuries, and survived British bombs during the War of 1812. Local legends tell a rich variety of semi-true and completely fanciful tales about it, including that it was set on fire by the Redcoats during the American Revolution.
Due largely to natural wearing-away processes at work amidst the disintegration of sand dunes and the constant action of the waves, the lighthouse at last fell in on itself. But its value as a symbol of the history and character of coastal Delaware lives on in countless images of the state.
The beauty of the Atlantic coast’s natural world is a constant in and around Rehoboth Beach. Nearby Lewes has a Seaside Nature Center with a marine aquarium and extensive environmental education programming. The Rehoboth area also offers several picture-worthy city and state parks.
A walk on the trails that wind through the parks’ growths of oak and pine can yield sightings of birds, deer, and other native wildlife. The town’s wooded areas are also home to numerous sweet-scented magnolia trees.
The nearly 3,000-acre Delaware Seashore State Park at Rehoboth Beach is filled with possibilities for camping, swimming, and surfing. Local shallow bays are perfect for boaters and windsurfers, and students of nature will find much to learn from the brackish and freshwater wetlands that provide homes for numerous varieties of plant and bird species.
Hikers will find half a dozen family-focused hiking trails through a variety of habitat areas, and easy-to-follow digital trailheads unlock the world of nature at such popular destinations as Thompson Island Nature Preserve. The Thompson Island Trailhead’s approximately three-quarters of a mile of crushed stone surface traces a route featuring memorable views of forest lands thick with conifers, as well as the characteristic tide marshes of the region.
Featured Image courtesy Jeffrey | Flickr