When I spent a long weekend in Delaware last summer, Wawa wasn't the only new wonder broadening my horizons (though it was by far the most important). I was also introduced to the phenomenon that is the drive-on beach.
If you're like me, and you've reached adulthood without seeing one of these, it's basically exactly what it sounds like -- a beach onto which you drive, park, and set up camp. In particular, my gang heads to Cape Henlopen State Park, just north of Rehoboth.
When I heard this was the beach we were going to, I had a similar reaction to the one I had to Wawa -- a wrinkle of the nose and a why? Why would we go to this fisherman's beach? It sounds...well...trashy.
On the flip side, my bougie friend Steve, who grew up going to Cape Henlopen, thinks walk-on beaches are for "peasants." His words, not mine. The truth is I was (mostly) wrong about Cape Henlopen. Like its neighbors Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany, it's a perfectly nice Delaware beach. The only thing I really question is the sign you see on the way in as you pass the park area -- "Primitive Youth Camp." Like...are they cave-babies? Child cannibals? Can we banish Donald Trump to the Primitive Youth Camp?
Anyway, it got me wondering which is best. Drive-on or walk-on?
I'd say the biggest edge the drive-on beach has over the walk-on beach is the convenience factor. If you drive on, you have all your stuff in your car with you. You don't have to lug the chairs and the coolers and the umbrellas and the gallons of sunscreen over your shoulder (even though honestly, that's usually just like...a two-minute walk from the car til you find your spot). Still, you can bring cornhole boards with you and other big-ass things like tents, and have them all right there with you.
Of course, the walk-on beach gets crowded from time to time, which means you could end up with some terrible neighbors nearby. But if you're driving on, you have as much space as your car takes up. Wait, did I say car? I meant truck. Truck. Right. So the thing about trucks is that sometimes people who own them also own Confederate flags. And sometimes they like to wave their Confederate flags proudly at the drive-on beach. And sometimes that makes this liberal Jewish girl uneasy. And once you're parked, you're parked, so...
FOOD + DRINK
One nice thing about walk-on beaches is that you can walk from your spot on the beach to restaurants and bars that are right on the water. On the other hand, who cares if you can go to WAWA IN THE MORNING AND HOAGIEFEST THAT SHIT UP? The only thing is, last time, my sandwich got soggy sitting in the cooler. Whomp whomp.
The drive-on beach does afford you a nice bit of space from your neighbors, lest they be members of the Confederacy. The only thing I don't love is that (at Cape Henlopen at least), you have to mark your space with a fishing pole. Which is no biggie, except when you're in the murky mid-Atlantic water and your unsuspecting foot touches the fishing line under the water and you freak out for a second about jellyfish. Still, it's pretty great to set up camp, put on your jamz, and have your only tiny private beach with your posse.
Finding parking on the beach is undoubtedly easier than finding parking on the crowded beach parking lots. BUT, you have to have a truck or an SUV big enough to drive onto the sand, and you have to let air out of your tires before you drive on (or at least that's what the boys do). And you have to pay for both, either via meters/day passes or season passes.
Walk-on beaches give you access to the boardwalk, where you can undoubtedly find gems such as these "T-shirts" you see here. On the other hand, walk-on beaches give you access to the boardwalk...
Point: You decide.