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Delaware beaches FAQ: When to go, what to do and more

Everything you need to know to have a successful trip to the Delaware beaches:

Best time to visit: Think spring. From late April until mid-May, enjoy free parking meters at the resort towns, unlimited bike riding on the boardwalks at Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach and brisk walks with Fido on the beach.

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Worst time to visit: Fourth of July may celebrate the birth of our country with gusto, but from Lewes to Fenwick Island, the weeks before and after the national holiday make you realize that Beltway rush-hour traffic has come to the beach.

Beach rules: Unlike the Jersey shore, many Delaware beaches are free.

But they're not free of rules.

Smoking, alcohol and overnight sleeping are banned on the beach. There is a vehicle admission charge ($10 for out of state) for the beach state parks: Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware Seashore State Park and Fenwick Island State Park.

When/where to go if you're...

A young family: Gather beach chairs and marshmallows and head to Dagsworthy Street in Dewey Beach for bonfires on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. June 14 through Aug. 31.

In need of personal space: The Lewes Beach, divided into Beach 1 and Beach 2, is a relaxing space. Restrooms are available, and the beaches have lifeguards on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Into people watching: Rehoboth Beach's boardwalk at the end of Rehoboth Avenue is Grand Central for after-dinner strollers. Find a bench, share it with strangers and watch humanity parade by. The melodic crashing waves provide a suitable soundtrack.

Into beach sports: Hit the volleyball nets in the evenings on the beach north of Rehoboth Avenue, says Frank Shuman, who runs the website rehoboth.com.

A seashell collector: Cape Henlopen State Park in the morning after storms or high tide, and an hour or two before or after low tide. John Derrick, a store manager at the Sea Shell Shop recommends looking after a storm along Rehoboth Beach or anytime along the Delaware inland bays or the Indian River Inlet.

Into marine life: Take a sandbar exploration trip with Back Bay Tours, which leaves Ocean View Marina.

Participants will be able to hold live blue crabs, spider crabs and possibly starfish plus see osprey and sometimes pods of dolphin.

"Adults love it as much as the kids," says tour owner Tom Fowler.

Into fishing: You need a fishing license in Delaware. Get one at a bait shop or public marina or from retailers with sporting counters.

Check delaware-surf-fishing.com for the best locations.

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Into surfing: Check out Rehoboth Beach Surf Shop, then grab your board and head to Indian River Inlet and Cape Henlopen Herring Point for the best waves, according to the Delaware chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Into craft brewing: Besides Dogfish Head, visit Dewey Beer Co. for craft ales brewed on site.

A foodie: Head to Rehoboth.

James Beard-award nominee chef Hari Cameron teases the palate at a(muse), as well as at his casual Grandpa(Mac), specializing in pasta.

Don't miss Bramble & Brine for a diverse, creative menu.

Into doing as the locals do: Never, ever speed through Bethany Beach. It's a radar hotspot. In fact, ditch your car and hop on a bike or grab a ride on the Jolly Trolley (jollytrolley.com) to get from Rehoboth to Dewey Beach.

Looking for fresh, local seafood to cook where you're staying: Pull up at Hook 'Em and Cook 'Em Bait-Tackle-Seafood (39401 Inlet Road, Rehoboth Beach), a one-stop fishing store. If you've caught your own, they'll clean them. "People can walk along the docks and watch people unload fish from their boats," says co-owner Deanna Adams.

Looking to go upscale: Book a well-appointed room at Hotel Rehoboth for luxurious accommodations. Enjoy a beach shuttle, full breakfast and a nightly wine-and-cheese reception, says front desk manager Anthony Bozzi.

In need of a rainy-day diversion: Visit the arcades on the Rehoboth Beach boardwalk, take in a film at Movies at Midway, or head out of town to bowl at Millsboro Lanes (213 Mitchell St., Millsboro).

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