Heading to the Delaware beaches this weekend? 

Here’s what you need to know if you’re planning to stick your toes in the sand the weekend of Aug. 28-30 – and what might be different than normal at the beaches in the summer of COVID-19.

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.

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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.

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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 guidelines 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.

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 is capped at 60{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} 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 is 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 in late June 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.

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Crowds came out on July 4th to Rehoboth Beach, as seen from atop the Atlantic Sands. (Photo: Chuck Snyder/Special to Delaware News Journal)

Current reopening plans allow restaurants to have up to 60{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} 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. Those bar restrictions have not yet been lifted.

People are encouraged to call ahead for reservations and to check on any changes in normal operating hours or other restrictions.

That 60{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} 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{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c}.

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 through Sept. 14, and Dewey Beach also offers free parking in the evening Monday through Wednesday. 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

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.

Meanwhile, Delaware has been on and off of quarantine lists for a few neighboring states, but as of Thursday, Aug. 26, First State travelers were in the clear. 

Delaware hotels and other accommodations are 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 running. 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.

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Hot weather and clear skies brought thousands of visitors to Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, June 27, 2020. Social distancing did not appear to be followed very strictly on either the beach or boardwalk, with mask usage also not universal. (Photo: Chuck Snyder/Special to Delaware News Journal)

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 forecast might put a damper on some people’s beach plans unless the rain holds off. Forecasts can change as the weekend gets closer.

The National Weather Service forecast for Friday, Aug. 28, in Rehoboth Beach is mostly sunny with a high near 87 degrees. There is a 50{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} chance of showers and thunderstorms in the evening.

Saturday will be mostly cloudy, windy and likely rainy with a high near 84 degrees. There is a 60{143106009d8b87d45252e1fd973f0c0835ad3aabba3679e828c3cd83539ae06c} chance of showers, mainly after 3 p.m. Patchy fog is expected in the morning, before 9 a.m.

Sunday should be a breezy, sunny day with a high near 80.

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 Friday, Aug. 28, Delaware has seen a total of 16,976 cases since the first case was detected in March, data shows.

Of those cases, 7,927 have been in New Castle County, the most populated county in the state. Another 6,208 have been detected in Sussex County.

The pandemic has been linked to the deaths of 604 people in Delaware. So far, over 228,000 people have been tested statewide, and 9,101 people have recovered from the viral disease. As of Friday, Aug. 27, 57 people were hospitalized in Delaware, 15 of whom were considered critical. 

Maddy Lauria, environment and Sussex County reporter

Maddy Lauria, environment reporter

Growing up along the Delaware River taught me how beautiful and fragile our state is, and how widely and deeply its wildlife, waters and air touch every Delawarean and their ability to live happy and healthy lives. Looking closely at drinking water issues and the threat of climate change, I’ve learned the world around us has important lessons to teach about ourselves. I use my writing to help share them.

If you value my work, please subscribe.

Contact reporter Maddy Lauria at (302) 345-0608, [email protected] or on Twitter @MaddyinMilford.

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