Delaware beach guide: What you need to know for your Aug. 7-9 weekend beach trip
Heading to the Delaware beaches this weekend?
Here's what you need to know if you're planning on dipping your toes in the surf the weekend of Aug. 7-9 – and what might be different than normal at the beaches in the current phase of Delaware's reopening plan and in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias.
Access and restrictions on beach and boardwalk
Delaware's beach towns are open to the public, but government and public health officials warn that everyone's help is needed to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Social distancing is encouraged in all public spaces, and people should maintain at least 6 feet of distance from those who are not members of their immediate household.
CORONAVIRUS IN DELAWARE:Our latest coverage
As for face masks, they are required to be worn in public spaces where social distancing is difficult, and inside businesses that are open.
Face masks are recommended, but not required, on most beaches themselves, but social distancing is a must.
Masks must be worn on the streets, sidewalks, boardwalk and inside businesses in Rehoboth Beach city limits.
Lewes also requires masks to be worn outdoors in the city's downtown area, public beach parking lots and while crossing the Savannah Road drawbridge between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m. There are similar rules in Bethany Beach, where people in violation of mask rules can face up to a $100 fine.
Swimming is permitted at all beaches unless dangerous weather conditions arise. Make sure to check in with the local lifeguards before you dive in to learn about any potential hazards in the water or on the sand.
Any minor beach impacts from Tropical Storm Isaias should be evened out by the weekend, state officials said. Rehoboth Beach Patrol Captain Kent Buckson said he expects the surf to be relatively calm this weekend, and the weather service has not issued any rip current warnings.
At beaches within the Delaware State Parks system, like Cape Henlopen State Park, Fenwick Island State Park and Delaware Seashore State Park near the Indian River Inlet, there are limits on how many people will be admitted.
The number of vehicles allowed in will be capped at 60% of parking capacity, according to parks officials. Masks or face coverings are required in bathhouse and concession areas at all three parks and strongly encouraged on the beach as well.
At Cape Henlopen, when the gates are closed, admission also will be restricted for those with surf-fishing tags. Natural Resources police will be enforcing the 20-foot minimum distance between vehicles on drive-on beaches.
What's open? What's not?
Delaware is in its second phase of reopening businesses previously restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. John Carney announced June 25 that the state was pausing moving into the next phase due to concerns about people not following guidelines.
In late June, he also announced that bar service at the Delaware beaches had to shut down ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
This affects taprooms and bar service in the following towns: Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Dewey Beach, Long Neck, Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, West Fenwick Island, Ocean View and Millville, according to the order.
Customers can still get service at tables or outdoors.
Current reopening plans allow restaurants to have up to 60% of the people who would be allowed in the building by the fire marshal, not including staff, but they must still adhere to social distancing guidelines. Some have increased outdoor seating to try to accommodate more diners.
Carney's additional restriction on beach bars means bar seating within restaurants is also off-limits. It's unclear when those bar restrictions will be lifted.
People are encouraged to call ahead for reservations and to check on any changes in normal operating hours or other restrictions.
That 60% capacity cap also applies to personal care services – such as hair and nail salons, tanning, tattoo, massage therapy services and spas – that were previously required to keep occupancy at 30%.
No additional announcements have been made on when Delaware will enter phase three of the state's rolling reopening plan. For more details on the state's reopening, go to governor.delaware.gov/delawares-recovery.
Parking permits or metered parking are in effect in all of Delaware's beach towns from Lewes to Fenwick Island.
In Lewes, city officials are supporting businesses by offering free downtown parking from 9 a.m. to noon for shoppers. Rehoboth Beach is offering free parking on Monday nights until Labor Day, and Dewey Beach also offers free parking on some weeknights. Bethany Beach, too, is offering free parking from 4-11 p.m. on Tuesdays in August, followed by a whole month of free parking in September.
Each town has different rules and rates for parking. For more information, visit an individual beach town's website or call Town Hall in the beach town you plan to visit before arriving.
Below are links to each oceanfront beach town's parking policies:
Travel and rentals
Previous bans on out-of-state travelers and short-term rentals were lifted in early June. Delaware's reopening plan says leisure travel "should be avoided" at this time, but it's allowed if people and businesses can adhere to social-distancing-related recommendations, according to the state.
In late July, Delaware was again added to the quarantine lists for a few neighboring states. As of Aug. 4, Washington, D.C., was the only place still asking people who visited Delaware to self-quarantine for 14 days when returning to the city.
Hotels and other accommodations also are now accepting reservations for vacation stays, though there may be limits and restrictions in gathering areas like lobbies.
Delaware's daily DART beach bus service is fully operational. People can take advantage of the Park & Ride options in Lewes and Rehoboth to avoid heavy beach traffic south of Lewes.
Face coverings are required on public transportation.
The Lewes Park & Ride is at 17616 Coastal Highway, just south of Five Points, and the Rehoboth Park & Ride is off Route 1 at 20055 Shuttle Road, just north of the entrance to Rehoboth Avenue. Parking is free at both lots.
Cash-only fare for a one-way trip, due upon boarding, is $2, and an all-day daily pass is $4.20. Seven-day passes also are available for $18, while a 30-day pass costs $65. For more information, go to www.dartfirststate.com/information/programs/beachbus/index.shtml#parkride.
DART's beach connection, which runs from Wilmington to Rehoboth Beach on weekends and holidays, is also now available.
This weekend's weather is looking to offer a lot of rain at the beach. However, forecasts can change as the weekend gets closer.
The National Weather Service forecast for Friday, Aug. 7, in Rehoboth Beach is for a rainy, mostly cloudy day with a high near 81 degrees. There is a 60% chance of rain and the possibility of a thunderstorm. The rain may be heavy at times.
A flash flood watch also is in effect at the Delaware beaches until 8 a.m. Friday.
Saturday will be partly sunny with a high near 80 degrees. There is a 50% chance of showers and thunderstorms, mainly after 3 p.m.
Sunday should be a mostly sunny day with a high near 83.
Water temperatures off the coast of Lewes are reaching the high 70s this week, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Delaware's COVID-19 case numbers
As of Aug. 6, Delaware has seen a total of 15,365 cases since the first case was detected in March, data shows.
Of those cases, 7,092 have been in New Castle County, the most populated county in the state. Another 5,786 have been detected in Sussex County.
The pandemic has been linked to the deaths of 587 people in Delaware. So far, over 192,000 people have been tested statewide, and 8,365 people have recovered from the viral disease. As of Aug. 6, 45 people were hospitalized in Delaware, 15 of which were critical.
Contact reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, email@example.com or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.