Communities share the Atlantic, but prize their distinction


July 11, 1993|By Audrey Haar | Audrey Haar,Staff Writer

Tourists flock to this stretch of the Atlantic Ocean for the delights and diversions of the beach. While the area beaches share the same body of water, each has its own flavor.

Spend a day at Assateague Island or travel a few miles north to Bethany, Dewey or Rehoboth Beach, Del., and it is startling to see how independent each community is.

If you are in Ocean City for more than a few days, it's worth packing up the sand chairs and cooler in the car and taking a day trip to some of the neighboring beaches. You'll find that even the sand on each beach has a different texture.

If you find this surprising, check out the sand display at the Ocean City Life Saving Station Museum near the inlet on the boardwalk. There you can compare the Ocean City sand to 88 sands from around the world.

Ocean City

Ocean City has long been a popular vacation resort for Baltimore and Washington, but look out. Yankees from New York and New Jersey have started heading south in increasing numbers. They say the beaches here are larger and less congested than those at the Jersey shore.

This year the resort was also advertised in Canada, and it is not unusual to see cars from that other North American country around town. It is easy to understand why the Northerners are making lengthy journeys to visit Ocean City. Not many resorts have 10.5 miles of beaches patrolled by lifeguards.

The Ocean City lifeguards are on duty daily during the summer season from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

While their primary duty is to guard the beaches, lifeguards can also provide the lowdown on water tides and currents. "A lot of times people are embarrassed to ask lifeguards about the conditions of the water," says Lt. Edward Kovacs of the Ocean City Beach Patrol.

He points out that the ocean is an active body of water that is constantly changing. "A lot of times people aren't aware of the hazards," says Lieutenant Kovacs.

If you arrive at the beach without chairs and umbrellas, there are 137 rental stands on the beach. Rental prices vary. Want to remember your vacation? Have your photo taken on the beach. The photographers who canvas the beach are known as "scopers" and will take photos, which are eventually mounted in a small plastic telescope viewer.

There are three businesses in town competing for those $3.25 sales, and it happens that all three owners share the same last name -- Ferrante. Brothers Greg and Todd and Greg's wife, Katie Ferrante, have three independent businesses. "We are as competitive as we can be," says Greg Ferrante.

Those looking for a respite from the sun and fun of the beach can take a stroll on the 2.9 miles of boardwalk. There are plenty of diversions such as amusements, shops, refreshment stands and full-service restaurants.

Information: Call Ocean City Visitor Information at (410) 289-8181 or (800) OC-OCEAN.

Assateague Island

There are two beach areas on the Maryland side of Assateague. The busier one, Assateague State Park which is owned and operated by the state, has a lively concession area. Next door at the beach area maintained by the National Park Service, the atmosphere is quieter.

Both the state and national parks at Assateague have beaches monitored by lifeguards.

In addition to wide sandy beaches, Assateague offers a natural setting that is an alternative to the urban atmosphere of Ocean City. Instead of buildings, the beach at Assateague is decorated with sand dunes, birds and wild ponies.

The state park area has a concession area with a convenience store that has ice cream, cold drinks and sundries in addition to rental beach chairs and umbrellas. You can also buy deli and grilled sandwiches in this air-conditioned oasis. Cash-poor tourists should note that credit cards are accepted.

The bathhouse has a roomy changing facility with showers and coin lockers. For a quick rinse off, there are also outdoor showers.

If you are planning a picnic on the beach, bring a trash bag and plan on taking your litter with you when you leave because the state park no longer provides trash receptacles.

Originally designed to save the state money and free park employees from trash duty, the policy has had the added benefit of motivating people to pitch in and help take care of the park, says Ranger Kevin Farley.

At the national park, there are lifeguards and picnic facilities at North Ocean Beach. Bring your own food and beach supplies because there aren't any vendors here. Keeping with the natural setting of the park, there is a rustic bathhouse that has outdoor showers and changing rooms inside.

Information: To get to Assateague, take U.S. 50, turn south on Route 611.

Assateague State Park, (410) 641-2120. Beach area open 8 a.m. to sunset. Lifeguards on duty 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fee: $2 per person, half price on Wednesdays, free admission for children in car seats and seniors age 62 and over.

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