Almost 30 miles of coastline fringe America's First State. Go "downy ocean" — as the locals like to put it — at these eight favorites, ranging from quiet refuges to beach-boardwalk hotspots.
By Amanda Castleman
1 of 8Photo: aimintang/Getty
Beach 1, Lewes
Visitors can sprawl on expanses of soft, golden sand, enlivened by a snack shack and volleyball court. Set on the Delaware Bay, this uncrowded shoreline usually has gentle waves and excellent wading.
2 of 8Photo: Robert Kirk/Getty
The family-friendly classic has a mile-long strip of sand, cleaned mechanically three times a week throughout the summer. Surf north of Campbell Place or stretch your legs along the charming pedestrian-only boardwalk.
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Cape Henlopen State Park, Lewes
Swimmers gravitate to the Atlantic side of the park's peninsula, which has a bathhouse and snack stand. But don't miss the 80-foot Great Dune or its smaller "walking" cousins, which are slowly swamping a pine forest.
4 of 8Photo: Courtesy of VisitDelaware.com
Delaware Seashore State Park, Rehoboth Beach
While swimming and sunbathing hold sway, fishers gather on the ocean beaches and along the Indian River Inlet. Just north lies one of the state's few designated surf and sailboard spots.
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Lounging between the ocean and a broad bay, this Delaware town has always courted the young and the restless. Nightclubs rule here, along with sports like jet-skiing, windsurfing, and parasailing.
6 of 8Photo: Edwin Remsberg/Getty
Fenwick Island State Park, Fenwick Island
Escape the madding resort crowds on a three-mile stretch of barrier island that lies between the popular resort towns of Bethany Beach to the north and Fenwick Island and Ocean City to the south. Hikers and equestrians enjoy the Atlantic Ocean beach area, where ospreys often circle overhead.
7 of 8Photo: Scott Dunn/Getty
"The Nation's Summer Capital" lies 120 miles from Washington, D.C. A mile-long, trinket-packed boardwalk stretches along the Atlantic at this free, family-friendly beach that epitomizes the Delaware coast.
8 of 8Photo: Courtesy of VisitDelaware.com
South Bethany Beach, South Bethany
Sun, swim, and surf on an uncrowded, well-guarded shoreline with 17 public-access points. Then retire to the bayside, laced by five miles of canals, for SUP, kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or crabbing.