Sand and Solitude

Not far from the crowds of Ocean City and Rehoboth, you'll find quiet beaches that offer plenty of room to spread your towel.


Summertime in Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach: Barely an inch of blanket space on the beach, little kids kicking sand in your face and a crush of foot traffic trampling down the boardwalk.

Is this really getting away? Plenty of quieter coastal options do exist. Among those: Lewes, Broadkill and Slaughter beaches in Delaware and Assateaugue seashore in Maryland.

On a recent weekday afternoon, barely a dozen people were at Delaware's Slaughter Beach. Sylvia Smith and her granddaughter Khari Vance were two of them. Smith lives Springfield, Va., and commutes to her summer house in nearby Lincoln, Del. whenever she can.

"It's basically always secluded," said Smith, a 60-year-old florist. "It's not your typical beach. It's not crowded, it's just peaceful."

Besides a few footprints and empty horseshoe crab shells, Slaughter Beach's sand was smooth. A short walk away from Smith's umbrella and blanket, three women reclined in beach chairs at the water's edge, letting the waves roll over their feet and watching a small boy play in the ocean.

"I very rarely go to Rehoboth in the summer," said one of them, Jeanie Fitzgerald, a restaurant owner who lives in Slaughter Beach year-round. "There's too much traffic and too much hassle."

Smith echoes this sentiment.

"For me, [Slaughter Beach] is the ideal situation," she said. "With Rehoboth and Ocean City, you have to fight for a spot and for parking. We drive here and we drive home."

Here are some alternatives to the bustling beaches:

Slaughter Beach --Distance from Baltimore: about 105 miles.

Driving down Route 1 South from Dover, Del., skip the first sign for Slaughter Beach -- it will steer you to the long and curvy Cedar Lane. Instead, look for Slaughter Beach Road, which runs you right into the main public beach. On the way, you can pick up supplies at Popa Doo's Market or the Slaughter Beach Mini-Mart -- right across Bay Avenue from the sand.

The beach, public restrooms and a small pavilion are open from 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily. Free. There's also a small park with tennis and basketball courts.

Broadkill Beach --Distance from Baltimore: about 111 miles.

This beach is a good deal wider than Slaughter's and there are a few more activities in the area. Nearby Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge (302-684-8419) offers free hiking and canoeing (bring your own boat) on Prime Hook Creek from sunrise to sunset.

Broadkill Road off Route 1 ends at the coastline, near the Broadkill Store. From Broadkill Road, turn left onto Turkle Pond Road. The Rookery, an 18-hole golf course, also sits off Broadkill Road. No set hours. Free.

Lewes Beach --Distance from Baltimore: about 118 miles.

There's plenty to do in Lewes, Del., which is closer to Rehoboth than Slaughter and Broadkill beaches. Kings Highway and Savannah Road are the two main streets off Route 1 South, and both take you near the water.

The main beach area has a wide swath of sand and plenty of parking, and the town of Lewes has restaurants and lodging. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry runs up to New Jersey in about an hour and a half, and the nearby Cape Henlopen State Park (302-645-8983) is a prime spot for camping, fishing, sunbathing and picnics.

Park admission is $4 per person for in-state visitors and $8 for out-of-state visitors. Hours are 8 a.m.-sunset daily.

Assateague Island National Seashore and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge --Distance from Baltimore: about 150 miles.

About 300 wild horses roam this 48,000-acre island. Both Maryland and Virginia have districts here, with public access on either end of the island. Each side offers swimming, fishing and hiking, but there are more hiking trails in the Virginia district. Admission is $10 per vehicle per week for either district, and the Maryland district also has camping.

The Maryland district is open year-round, 24 hours a day. Its visitor center is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. The Virginia district is open 5 a.m.-10 p.m. daily May through September. Its visitor center is open 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Hours are shorter in the off-season.

To reach the island's Maryland entrance, take Route 611, about eight miles south of Ocean City. To reach the Virginia end, take Route 13 South to Route 175 East to Chincoteague, Va., make a left on Main Street, turn right on Maddox Boulevard and follow to the beach.

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