Fenwick's low-key beach is great for families who want to relax. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
While Ocean City is jam-packed with attractions and amusements as far as the eyes can see, Fenwick Island is comparatively laid-back and low-key. Its most bountiful lodgings are picaresque bayside houses, which replace the high-rise hotels and motels that populate the areas due south with a more residential, small-town feel. (It reminds one of New England and has approximately 200 citizens who call it home year-round. During the summer months, the population swells, reaching 10-12,000.) Fenwick isn't the kind of place where youthful thrill-seekers come to celebrate their high school graduations, get a body part pierced or revel drunkenly on the sand after midnight. This is part of its draw.
Fenwick appeals to beach-goers who like Ocean City's sun, surf and sand, but don't particularly care for its hustle and bustle. Just north of Ocean City, where 146th Street ends, Fenwick (and Delaware) begins. Fenwick duplicates some of Ocean City's popular stores and eateries, and what it lacks is accessible a short drive -- or a brisk walk -- up the road. If you've rented one of Fenwick's cozy cottages for a week and are looking for entertainment on a rainy weekday, don't pout. Fenwick may lack a video store or an eight-screen movie theater, but you can find both nearby at the northern-most points of Ocean City.
Familiar flavor, different digs
Sunsations is the place to go for everything you need for a day at the beach. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
Like its southern cousin, Fenwick Island has a boardwalk. But unlike Ocean City, you may be inclined to use air quotes when referring to it. Where Ocean City's boardwalk stretches on and on with stores, restaurants, arcades and a scenic view of the Atlantic, Fenwick's boardwalk consists of a small strip of eateries bayside of Coastal Highway. Pretzels, funnel cakes, pizza, French fries, ice cream and Fisher's Popcorn are all available for noshing. And that's about it.
Although the boardwalk doesn't contain any retail outlets per se, you can satiate your shopping needs elsewhere in Fenwick Island. The nearby Village of Fenwick offers 15 stores in a quaint, convenient retail area, including the print/poster/picture hut Ocean Gallery, which can also be found on Ocean City's boardwalk with spectacularly tacky architecture that makes some passers-by stop and gawk. That Fenwick's Ocean Gallery is a pleasant, small-scale shop appropriately summarizes the difference between the two resorts.
Fenwick's shopping doesn't cater to just one taste. For every Seaside Country Store (a yesteryear outlet that features homemade fudge, antique collectibles and Victorian furnishings), there's a Sunsations, that staple of beach retail that hawks important necessities like towels, T-shirts and sunglasses. If there's something you're after that you can't find, Ocean City, with its everything-and-the-kitchen-sink offerings, is right next store. But remember, the perk to shopping in Fenwick is that -- as with all of Delaware -- it's duty-free!
Dining out and soaking up
Shark's Cove provides a cool place to grab a bite or a drink. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
Aside from the tax break, Fenwick is probably most well known for its dining and diversions. Those in the mood for a seafood delicacy can visit the Fenwick Crab House, where the specialty is a sumptuous crab cake that will make your mouth water. Its bar offers a range of original drinks with odd names you may be hesitant to try -- like the Suffering Seagull and the Flaming Fenwick. Harpoon Hanna's is another popular restaurant, sort of a toned-down version of Ocean City's Seacrets. Sailors famished after a day on the water can dock at the site's piers and stop in to dine while they watch the sunset from its Tiki Bar.
Like other Atlantic beaches, Fenwick is popular with water sports enthusiasts. The Fenwick Island Surf Shop offers all the accessories and outfitting you'll need for a day on the water. The west side, which borders Assawoman Bay, is nice for sailing, rowboating or kayaking. Stop by Skeeter's Skirts, located in nearby Frankford, for a nifty mesh covering that will keep bugs and other sea critters from infiltrating your kayak.
Catch a breeze:
Sailing is just one of the many activities available at Fenwick Island State Park. (Photo by Patrick Swoboda, Special to SunSpot)
The Fenwick Island State Park, a three-mile barrier island that lies between Bethany Beach to the north and Fenwick Island to the south, exists for like-minded folks. Before the site was converted to a park in 1966, its area was part of Delaware's coastal defense system during World War II. A concrete observation tower still stands near the northern boundary. Now, however, the park's 344 acres are used for activities such as swimming, surfing, fishing, sailing, windsurfing, clamming, crabbing and bird watching.