Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer, and I don’t know about you, but I hope to get in one last trip to the beach this weekend. Luckily for us, Delaware offers some of the best beaches in the country. In June, the National Resource Defense Council awarded its top rating of five stars for water quality to Dewey Beach and Rehoboth Beach, placing Delaware at the top of the list!
According to Professor Robert Richie, the beach hasn’t always been a popular vacation spot. In a 1997 study, he found that attitudes regarding water changed during the 17th century. Before that, people feared the ocean’s depths and the potential monsters that lived below. By the 1600s, water’s medicinal benefits were apparent. Englishmen found that a dip in the North Sea had therapeutic qualities and doctors prescribed seawater baths for general health. Soon, beach trips were all the rage among affluent members of society. Even Benjamin Franklin enjoyed swimming and he promoted its medicinal uses, Richie discovered.
By the end of the 19th century, beach-going had become a popular summer pastime for everyone. In Delaware, Reverend R.W. Todd sought to open a seaside resort just south of Cape Henlopen. After returning from a retreat at Ocean Grove Camp Meeting in 1872, he found “his health much improved by the salt air” and expressed to Rev. W.M. Warner of Lewes that he had found an ideal place to situate this coastal sanctuary. Todd and a group of shareholders purchased 200 acres from Lorenzo Dow Martin and John Marsh, and in 1883, The Hotel Henlopen opened for business. In 1873, the first boardwalk was laid and a small open pavilion was built at the foot of Rehoboth Avenue.
Whether it’s Bethany, Dewey, Rehoboth, or Lewes, Delaware beaches are the place to be this summer. It really is good being first!