Before you pack the car and head for the shore, check out our story on the things to know before visiting Ocean City and the Delaware Beaches! We’ve got you covered on the best time to visit, packing, parking and of course, travel tips.
Best time to Visit Ocean City and the DE Beaches
Honestly, it depends. Here’s the breakdown of reasons.
Fall: The water is still warm in the fall and the crowds have dropped off a bit making fall a wonderful time of year to visit.
Spring: Many a spring breaker has shrieked when they dip their toes in the water. The water temperature hovers in the high fifties and low sixties often until mid-June. Still it’s a great time to visit and get out on the water for boating, fishing, kayaking, etc. even if you’re not getting IN it.
Summer: The most popular and busy time of year to visit the beach is in the summer. Memorial Day weekend kicks off the start of the summer and things (traffic, tourists, wait times in restaurants) steadily increases until July 4 and doesn’t really let up until kids go back to school. Labor Day is the official end of summer and Bethany Beach even has a funeral procession to mark another great season. Locals tend to breathe a sigh of relief once the population shrinks back to off-season/shoulder season numbers but many have remarked that the shoulder season gets longer and longer. There are a number of events that tend to bring people back to the beach.
Winter: If you visit in the winter you’ll most likely be able to get a place to stay for fraction of the cost. Though not all of the restaurants are open, those that are often have great specials. And though you might have to bundle up for a stroll on the beach there’s something really sweet about seeing the surf in the cold.
Packing List for the Beach:
Sunscreen: No matter what season you visit, pack sunscreen. Even in the off-season, the sun can be strong and the last thing you want to ruin your trip is a bad sunburn.
Layers: Mornings and evenings by the water can be cool so make sure you have something you can add after the sun goes down.
Flip flops: Okay so you might not be able to rock flip flops in the winter, but you can almost definitely get away with them in the summer.
Casual clothes: Pretty much anything goes at the beach. There are some restaurants that are pretty fancy but if you’re looking for a place with a laid back, anything goes kind of vibe, this is it.
For more info on what to pack, head on over to our Beach Packing Guide
Getting to OCMD and the Delaware Beaches:
There’s a tiny airport in Salisbury/Ocean City that you can fly into. American Airlines flies into the Salisbury Regional Airport six times a day. Give them a look if you want to get to the beach without a whole lot of driving. It’s 27 miles to the beaches once you touch down. In addition you can rent a car at the airport!
Most people drive and have to battle the Bay Bridge. If you’ll be driving to the beach, make sure you check the Bay Bridge website before you leave. They have several web cams that show you the traffic in real time. They also show you lane closures and report delays. If you can’t get to a computer you can also call the phone number which also gives updated traffic reports. 1-877-BAYSPAN (229-7726). For those of you who have traveled this way before, you know that timing is everything. Leave early or leave late, especially on weekends. Don’t make the mistake of many a tourist who leaves mid-morning and then sits in traffic for hours waiting their turn to cross the bridge. Uh uh.
If you have an EZ Pass bring it with you! These lanes often go a tad faster than the cash only lanes. Don’t have one? Get one HERE.
Go the speed limit. There are speed traps all over the place on the way to the beach.
Ocean City Parking:
In the off-season, you can park for free. Once April 1 arrives, however, you’ve got to feed the meter (up until October 31) or use the Parkmobile app. For more specific parking information about Ocean City go HERE.
Fenwick Island Parking:
Fees begin May 15 and end September 15. More parking information is located HERE. Their system uses parking permits but the permits don’t guarantee you a spot. Be sure to check their site for more info.
Bethany Beach Parking:
You must pay for parking from May 15 to September 15. Outside of that window it’s free! Bethany also uses the Parkmobile app. For more information about parking in Bethany, head HERE.
Rehoboth Beach Parking:
Rehoboth Beach has parking permits, meters and also uses the Parkmobile app however not all methods are available at all locations. Parking fees begin the Friday before Memorial Day and continue through the second Sunday following Labor Day. Fees are in effect from 10am to midnight. In addition, all 30 minute parking spots are enforced year round! Avoid the ticket and feed the meter! Click HERE to learn more about Rehoboth Beach Parking.
Want to go out but don’t want to drive? We don’t blame you! The good thing is, Uber and Lyft are both available at the beach.
Are the beaches guarded?
Yes! Beaches are guarded in Ocean City the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. They’re guarded up until Sunfest weekend which is typically the third weekend following Labor Day (September.) This year the last day of guarded beaches in Ocean City is Sunday, September 24. Guards are on duty every day from 10am to 5:30pm.
The beach patrol in Bethany Beach guards from Memorial Day Saturday until Labor Day Monday and weekends throughout September. Typical hours are 10am – 5pm but weekend hours are 9:30am to 5:30pm except for weekends in September which are 10am to 5pm.
Fenwick Island beach patrol guards from 10:00am -5pm from Memorial Day weekend and the first weekend in June. They go full time starting on June 10 until Labor Day Weekend. September weekend hours are determined per weather conditions and staffing.
The Rehoboth Beach Patrol guards on weekdays from 10am – 5pm and on weekends and Holidays from 10am- 5:30pm.
Other Things to Know for Visiting OC and the Delaware Beaches
If you love shopping, you’ve come to the right place. You can shop tax free in Delaware and there are tons of outlets in Rehoboth to visit.
Crabbing season in Maryland began April 1 this year. To find out more about crabbing and rules and regulations about catching you own, visit the Maryland DNR site HERE. To learn more about crabbing in Delaware waters, go HERE.
Old Bay Seasoning 6 oz each (1 Item Per Order) is a seasoning and we put it on everything! Chips, popcorn, french fries and of course, CRABS! If you’re crazy about Old Bay, check out this Old Bay Limited Edition Baseball Cap Hat.
Last call at bars for drinks in Delaware is 1am and last call in Maryland is 2am.
When it’s time to leave, check the Bay Bridge Website again and leave early or leave late.
Watch for turtles, tourists, bikers and runners on route one when driving. Ocean City recently installed a fence in the median to discourage people from cutting across the road but some have decided to go under it. Keep your eyes peeled and stay alert.
Things to Know Before Visiting Ocean City and the Delaware Beaches
What did you think about our list of things to know before visiting the beach? Did we miss anything? We’d love to hear from you. Please let us know in the comments below. And if you found this interesting, be sure to check out the Best Places to Eat at the Maryland and Delaware Beaches, 53 Fun Things to Do, 25 Free Things to Do. You might also be interested in How to Avoid a Tourist Trap!