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The best beaches near DC – and which one is right for you

The best beaches near DC – and which one is right for you

Distance from DC: 124 miles, approximately 2 hours, 40 minutes by car.

So many Washingtonians flock to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, every summer that the city long ago adopted the nickname “the nation’s summer capital.” It’s the destination of diverse communities, including LGBTQ+ beachgoers who came to the city in the 1950s and eventually transformed it. It’s known for restaurants, shopping, a popular boardwalk, and plenty of ice cream and pizza shops. Oh, and guest appearances by President Biden, who owns a beach house north of downtown.

It’s hard to agree on one thing in DC, but we recommend Rehoboth as a beach town that’s perfect for just about any occasion: a generational reunion, a gathering of college friends, a weekend getaway with the kids, a romantic getaway for couples.

Rehoboth has settled into its role as the grande dame of Delaware’s beaches—on the main drag, Rehoboth Avenue, you’re more likely to find boutiques selling high-end dresses or Scandinavian art than questionable T-shirts. At Browseabout Books, a longtime favorite, you can pick up a beach read or stop by an author’s autograph signing. Penny Lane Mall, tucked down a quaint alley, is a window-shopper’s dream, with a photography gallery, shops selling sea-themed home decor, jewelers and an ice cream parlor. Decades-old CAMP Rehoboth organizes art exhibits and meditation classes. Rock, country and tribute bands (think Elton John or the Eagles) play Friday through Sunday nights at the boardwalk pavilion.

The boardwalk is a mile long, and a few blocks near the central business district offers the expected mix of arcades and shops selling ice cream, boogie boards or T-shirts. The historic Funland amusement park, with its many old-fashioned games and modern rides, is a must-see for kids of all ages. The rest of the boardwalk serves as a boardwalk. On weekends, when the beach near the bandstand is covered with towels and umbrellas, pick a direction and follow it to less crowded areas. Head south, and you’ll eventually come to Poodle Beach, a longtime gay hangout. For more exercise, head north of Rehoboth at Gordons Pond, a beautiful salt marsh known as a bird migration and nesting site that has hiking and biking trails. Between Gordon’s Pond and Rehoboth, you’ll find North Shores, the city’s longtime lesbian beach.

But Rehoboth’s charm is timeless: the streets away from downtown are filled with houses, not towering apartment buildings and hotels. By and large, Rehoboth’s atmosphere is the same as it was ten years ago or even earlier. And that’s what keeps people coming back.

Do not miss: Rehoboth is a great base for exploring the area’s beer and wine scene. Nearby breweries include Dogfish Head, known for its bold flavors and unusual ingredients, which offers tours and tastings at its parent brewery in Milton, and Dewey Beer Co., which has earned a national reputation for smoothie-like fruit sours and tropical, hazy IPAs and now has a brewery and tasting room in Harbeson and the original brewhouse in Dewey Beach. Wine lovers should head to Nassau Valley Vineyards, which offers self-guided tours and guided tastings, as well as live music and an art gallery. — Fritz Hahn