Driving less than 12 hours will be a big improvement
November 16, 2010 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Looking for MD/DE/NJ beaches with an Outer Banks vibe.

The past umpteen years, we've taken a family vacation to the Outer Banks (usually in KDH about MP 8.5, sometimes a touch south). This year, looking to do something more northerly. What are some good beach towns in Maryland/Delaware/southern New Jersey?

I'm looking for a town with:

-Family friendly vibe
-Something for a seven and four year old to do beyond the ocean. OBX had plenty of mini golf, Kitty Hawk Kites, the aquarium, the memorial....
-A decent beach. I know some of the NJ beaches are on the narrow side, would like a little space to ourselves.

Special extra bonus points if you know a good realtor for the area, as well.
posted by Chrysostom to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Growing up, we used to go to Wildwood, NJ. Their boardwalk has several piers with rollercoasters and waterslides. Their beach is huge and expansive. It's right next to the more adult (and I mean mature, not immature adult) Cape May with its Victorian architecture.
posted by inturnaround at 10:46 AM on November 16, 2010

I grew up on the beaches of NJ every summer, with the occasional Outer Banks vacation thrown in. I'm not sure what you mean by a beach being on the narrow side, but Belmar is a pretty good beach town with some of the best surfing in NJ (for what that's worth).

Belmar has mini-golf, arcades, etc. on its boardwalk, but is also quieter scene than Wildwood or Seaside, which have more of the "Jersey Shore" vibe. Definitely more family friendly. It's also close to Point Pleasant and Manasquan, which also have a lot for the kids on their boardwalks if you exhaust your options. All three of these are worth a look, actually.
posted by charleskinbote at 11:04 AM on November 16, 2010

Unless you're interested in going to some of the trek-to-ier, unguarded parts of the Delaware beach state parks or Assateague, the Eastern Shore beaches are going to be fairly crowded, in my experience - much more than I remember the one time I went to the Outer Banks, at least. And with a little kid, I'm not sure how far you'd want to hike away from folks.

That said, they certainly have other things for kids to do (minigolf of more varieties than you could imagine! Shipwreck museums in Ocean City and Lewes! Those submarine spotting towers! Way more exciting than the flight memorial.)

I've only been to New Jersey beaches once (also to Wildwood) and all I really have to say is that the water seemed a lot calmer there - the really long shallow area definitely seemed to cut down on the big waves that got near the shore, compared to the past summer on the Eastern Shore beaches.
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 11:06 AM on November 16, 2010

In New Jersey, I'd say Long Beach Island is as close as you'll get to the OBX vibe.

Down in Beach Haven (south part of the island) there are a bunch of mini-golf places, beachy stores, and cute little diner-y places. The beach is the widest I've seen in NJ/MD/DE (though, it's low tide is probably comparable to mid-to-high tide at Corolla, which isn't saying too much), generally with plenty of room (less crowded than I've seen at Bethany, Rehobeth, Ocean City, MD, etc).

Limited hotels in the area as it's primarily house rentals (which is probably preferable for you anyway), with a lot of families with kids.
posted by CharlieSue at 11:19 AM on November 16, 2010

Avalon and Stone Harbor (South Jersey Shore) fit your criteria. I went with my kids when all four were less than 10. We stayed a week each summer for 4 summers. Had a blast.
posted by AugustWest at 11:31 AM on November 16, 2010

Seconding Long Beach Island. Only NJ beach that didn't make me wince. (I'm a lifelong KDH-vacationer, too.)

Rehobeth is okay, too, even with the boardwalk stuff.
posted by desuetude at 12:55 PM on November 16, 2010

I've been to Avalon for the past few years and I don't think it fits Chrysostom's criteria. The beach seems to be shrinking and the loud drunken college set seems to be pretty firmly planted there, though there are many many families around. While there's the one mini golf place and the park and the library, there's not a whole lot else that seems kid-fun-ly. I have heard that Ocean City NJ is historically great for families.
posted by knile at 1:47 PM on November 16, 2010

It sounds like you really are looking for Ocean City. My family vacations there almost every year.

Ocean City is a dry town, meaning no insane bar scene and no crowds of partying college-age or twentysomething people, though you can of course stock up your own fridge. It has a very wide variety of beach house rentals, from simple to pretty luxe, for all sizes of groups. It attracts families with kids of all ages, groups of adults in their 30s and so, intergenerational families, and retirees.

The beach is probably New Jersey's very prettiest, especially along the south end of the island, and it's very wide up and down. There are mini-golf places and a seven-mile boardwalk, two miles of which is full of rides and attractions and food stalls and the like. Every morning until noon, you can ride bikes and surreys on the boardwalk, which turns into a very congenial 'promenade' hour that is a great start to the day.

The downtown offers a lot in the way of shopping in small, independent and unique little stores featuring everything from toys to beads to clothes to used books to gifts to you-name-it, so if you happen to have a rainy day you can amuse yourselves there for a good while. There are a couple of movie houses. In summer, there are town events most evenings, like a downtown night with live music and face painting, or small parades and happenings. There's a weekly farmer's market. At the very southern tip of the island is a state park which is quite beautiful and natural, with trails through the dunes. In town there are kayak rental places, a dolphin watch cruise, fishing boat cruises, parasailing and other ways to get on the water.

If you want to do some half-day excursions nearby, Atlantic City is 20 minutes north, with gambling and the Absecon Lighthouse which you can climb. Cape May is 30ish minutes South with a pretty Victorian village and another lighthouse.

Despite the amount of things to do, the feeling is still very relaxed and very much focused on the outdoors and being at the beach.

I grew up in New Jersey and have spent some time at every beach town in the state. Ocean City is definitely my pick for an all-ages vacation of a week or more. It's got everything but not too much of anything, and the negatives of some beach towns are completely absent here.

LBI is quite nice, but more for quiet/nature lovers and families who aren't looking for a wide variety of activities. The beach there is great, but there's not much else to do if you like to be active.

I think you'd really enjoy it!
posted by Miko at 1:47 PM on November 16, 2010

Oops, the island is seven miles, the boardwalk is 2.5 miles.
posted by Miko at 1:49 PM on November 16, 2010

Lewes, DE. It's an adorable small town with little coffee shops and restaurants. There's a peaceful beach right in Lewis, and the town is in easy driving distance to Cape Henlopen State Park and the boardwalk at Rehoboth, as well as Dewey and Bethany beaches. You can even take the ferry from Lewes to Cape May, NJ, which is pretty entertaining in itself for kids.

Lewes is super family friendly and you'd have lots of not-beach things to do -- a non-exhaustive list includes mini golf, the boardwalk at Rehoboth, museums, the nature center at Cape Henlopen with kids' activities and guided nature walks, a movie theater and go kart racing places. Lewes also has a fantastic farmers market on Saturdays.

The beach isn't as peaceful as it was when I was younger, but it's still relatively relaxing. It's is on the bay, so the waves are smaller. You can take walks way far out when it's low tide and discover sea creatures around the sand bars. If you want bigger beaches and waves, Cape Henlopen is lovely and not as packed towel-to-towel as Rehoboth.
posted by zahava at 4:28 PM on November 16, 2010

I have a friend whose family has a summer house in Brigantine. It's a really nice, quiet beach with plenty of big beach houses. Seconding LBI, too.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:17 PM on November 16, 2010

Awwwww, where is the Rehoboth love? My extended family has been going to Rehoboth every summer for half of forever... we're into our fourth generation of Rehoboth-lovers.

There is all kinds of fun stuff to do -- Funland is legendary (with fun stuff for kids of all ages), Dolles has the best taffy and a great arcade, Ryan's Gems and Junk is a wonderland for kids AND has rooftop mini-golf, and the Royal Treat is my favorite ice cream parlor. The city schedules all kinds of concerts/performances on its stage on Rehoboth Ave at the boardwalk. There's an awesome kite shop, a paint-your-own pottery place... part of the fun in going every year is checking out the new shops/things to do.

And the city is very walkable. You can basically park your car at your rental house and be done with it until you leave, unless you want to check out stores and such out on Route 1. My cousins love the water park and mini golf courses there.

Downsides: It can be a bit crowded sometimes, and in recent years the beach has gotten a little rough/rocky. You'll want to wear water shoes to keep your feet happy, but you can do fine without them.

God, I miss Rehoboth. I moved away from the East Coast a few years ago and haven't been in a while. (sigh)
posted by scarnato at 9:04 PM on November 17, 2010

« Older Best Sled ride in LA   |   How much should I charge for trumpet lessons? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.