Our First Beach Vacation: One Week on Fenwick Island
Can you believe we live on the east coast and none of our four children has ever seen the ocean? Heck, my husband and I haven't seen the ocean since our honeymoon... TEN years ago! It was time for a change.
We were fortunate enough to have my parents want to come with us. (It's such a relief to have an extra set of hands and eyes, to help out when vacationing with four littles under the age of nine!) We deliberated on the perfect spot for about a month. Someplace warm, relaxed, fairly inexpensive with a "little something" for everyone. What if it rained? What if they hated the beach (which the baby did)? What if we wanted to eat out or get souvenirs? These were all things to consider. The best thing to do was make a list of possible destinations, then eliminate one by one.
Outerbanks was too far of a drive. We didn't want an overly commercialized spot so Myrtle Beach, Ocean City & the Jersey Shore were out. Cape Cod can get really pricey, Maine was quite a drive and not as warm as we wanted. After some research and elimination, a Facebook “Moms" chat group I belong to pointed me in the right direction. Rehoboth Beach kept coming up, as well as Fenwick Island. Both were appealing but in the end we settled on Fenwick because of its small-town-feel and proximity to so many other destination areas. We couldn't have been luckier to have stumbled upon it for our first big vacation!
We ended up choosing a condo rental in the Bayside community. We went through VRBO to rent. I highly recommend it! It was easy to search locations and made communication with the owner simple and safe, plus it had great pro/con reviews.
Fenwick Island is actually on a narrow peninsula, right at the Delaware-Maryland border; nestled between Bethany Beach and Ocean City with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Little Assawoman Bay on the other. Even though there were a lot of rentals listed, many people live there year round.
We ultimately chose Bayside for the week because this place really had everything: two large inground pools, plus a kid splash pad area, and great recreational facilities like a foosball table, basketball court and sand volleyball area. There were so many lounge chairs, both under shaded pergolas or in the open for sunbathers. Access to the pool was literally just across the street. The condo we stayed in was fully stocked with every kitchen appliance you could need. There's enough parking for one car and a parking area for the rest. The guestbook gave us prior visitor recommendations for restaurants and shopping areas as well as the best beaches.
It was a short drive to the closest beach which happened to be state owned, so it was really well-maintained. It was always clean and never overpopulated. (That meant lots of room to spread out and run or build epic castles!) There's even a large area of the beach sectioned off for dog owners! If you don’t want to pack your own picnic, there were certain locations on the beach that had food stands too.
We couldn't resist going to the beach the very first day! After unpacking and spending a good few hours poolside, we drove the 5 minutes it took... all EIGHT of us in the minivan. The look on the boys faces when they ran over the path between the dunes was priceless! We only intended to stroll along the beach but they couldn't resist wading in. Before we knew it, they were soaked, sandy and full-belly laughing. I hope I never forget that moment for as long as I'm alive! It was just before sunset and couldn't be more perfect.
Assateague Island was a short drive away, with miles of beaches... for both visitors to relax on as well as for the wild horses to roam. That's right, wild horses! There are plenty of photo opportunities but beware, no one cleans up after them so watch where you (and your little ones) are walking! The horses are used to humans, but they're not tame. They will bite you if you get too close. Still, what a crazy cool experience!
Rehoboth Beach wasn't too far either. I've never been to a typical "boardwalk beach" but I imagine this darling town is the textbook example. (Think about the earlier scenes from the movie "Beaches".) From the the old fashioned ice cream and taffy shops to the little boutiques and souvenir stores, it's a sightseer's dream. Park your car right in town at the numerous coin meters and grab the baby backpack... you'll have the retail on one side and the beach on the other so be prepared for anything! We enjoyed a game of outdoor giant chess, endless free ice cream samples and searched for the perfect t-shirt/magnet/shotglass souvenirs before walking along the iconic woodplanked sidewalk. Unlike Myrtle Beach or larger oceanside towns, Rehoboth was very quaint. It would've been a great area to spend our entire holiday, but I'm glad we opted for a bit less "hustle & bustle" in Fenwich Island.
Back in Bayside, there was still plenty to do! While most of our mornings consisted of excursions to other towns and beaches, we really enjoyed spending our afternoons and evenings poolside, playing at the recreation center or walking around the neighborhood. One day, my mom and I took advantage of naptime by touring an open house. It was incredible, to say the least! I always love getting new design inspiration; plus we got the chance to chat up some locals.
During one especially hot and humid afternoon we went to "The Point". It's an area for the Bayside residents (and their guests) to go kayaking, paddle boating and even crabbing. Of course we'd never crabbed before so we did what most would do... stand around and watch what everyone else did! Once we saw just one person do it, it was really easy to pick up on her own. Basically, you take some of the provided chicken wings and secure it with a hook that resembles a bent heavy duty paperclip. That was tied to thick cotton string and connected to the end of a stick. (Really! It was pretty much like something one of my kids would’ve crafted.)
Then we walked to the side of the pier, dropped the raw poultry into the water and waited for the tug. The water was pretty clear so you could see when a crab had really latched on. They’re were baskets around (especially designed for crabbing) that helped with scooping the crabs out of the water and onto the dock. Most of them we threw back because of their smallish size. A few families kept what they caught, but they must’ve arrived there earlier in the day because everything we caught was pretty small (aka: nothing that you would see on a table at Joe’s Crabshack). Once we were done melting in the sun and trying our hand at being crabbers, we decided to head back to the pool to cool off before cleaning up for dinner.
Since we brought so much of our own food, we only ate out twice. Once for lunch at a local seafood restaurant and again for dinner at another location close by. We asked for recommendations from a few people we'd met at the pool and everyone said we had to eat at Harpoon Hannah's. It did not disappoint, we loved it! Friendly, young, waitstaff walked around the restaurant offering baskets of muffins and freshly baked bread while we waited for our fresh seafood meals to arrive. The restaurant looked right out over the water. It was everything you’d want a special vacation dinner at a seafood restaurant to be!
We stopped just down the road at casual restaurant for lunch, choosing it based primarily on the attractive store front! It was a delicious meal with good service. We indulged in some fantastic summer cocktails and appetizers from the menu. I still think about the mouth-watering cheesy crab dip with soft pretzel bites!
Even though we managed to sample some of the local fare, for the most part we brought our own food. This saved us a lot of money, but took up space in the car. As it turned out, the condo we rented was not very far from a Harris Teeter grocery store! When we go back in the future, we’ll plan to bring some basics to eat the first night, as well as a few of our favorite items, but wait to pick up most of the fresh veggies, fruit, milk, bread and cheeses from the grocery store when we arrive. Bringing meat from home that we can marinate and freeze before travel, will save us money, but also save us room in the car. I felt the other items were pretty reasonably priced as compared to our home grocery store.
All in all, it was a fantastic vacation! I cannot say enough good things about our time spent in Fenwick Island. We drove all over the area, and I really feel convinced that we lucked out by choosing the Bayside community. Shortly after we came home, I started following them on Instagram (@livebayside). There have been a lot of improvements to the already beautiful pools and rec center over the past year. I can’t wait to go back and see how it’s changed. The Delaware shore really surprised me and my family. Our beach holiday was the perfect combination of relaxing and fun, ocean and pool, beach and town. It’s the hidden gem of the Eastern Shore and you need to make it your next vacation destination!