Rehoboth Beach, Delawhere?

Just two hours away from the Philadelphia area sits gay-gracious Rehoboth Beach — one square mile of cottages, grand mansions and sparkling sands.

Beach and boardwalk connect more than 75 eateries and gourmet restaurants (many gay-owned), including the pioneering Back Porch, which put out the welcome mat for a gay incursion back in 1979. Lodging includes upscale hotels, Victorian houses and beach-chic B&Bs and a whopping selection of rental cottages and condos.

Exceptional gay-owned and gay-friendly shops abound. There’s Elegant Slumming and Mod Cottage for hot home furnishings and accessories, with Rock Creek and MGT and Co., among many, for cool clothing. Gidget’s Gadgets has fun retro toys and gifts plus an astounding vinyl collection for sale. Shoppers hail from the metro D.C. area, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and beyond.

Stroll along Rehoboth Avenue, enhanced by a multi-million-dollar revitalization to satisfy aesthetic tastes, as the requisite hotdogs, salt-water taffy and funnel cakes satisfy seaside junk-food cravings. Double Dippers ice-cream shop and Snyder’s Candy can take care of your sweet tooth.

Summer mornings before hitting the beach, sip coffee at Lori’s Oy Vey Café in the courtyard at the CAMP Rehoboth Community Center, the heart of the LGBTQ community in this resort town. Whether you head to the state park at Gordon’s Pond, where leashed pooches are welcome, for the mostly, but not entirely, women’s beach, or the mostly male, but not entirely, Poodle Beach in downtown Rehoboth, bring a book from Browseabout — downtown Rehoboth’s legendary book store and gift shop. But be warned, it’s tough to read here at the beach — too much eye candy.

Sunbathers of all body types, ages and personalities generously co-mingle. Products of the “gayby boom” are ubiquitous. 

If you’re up for a romantic meal, don’t miss The Blue Moon, Fable, Eden, Shorebreak or the Back Porch. If you can get to town by Thursday evening, Cafe Azafran hosts pianist John Flynn with cabaret bartender Holly Lane — she can sing like a French chanteuse while mixing a perfect Cosmo. Awesome!

There’s dancing in lots of places, notably Restaurant G, the Swell, Java Jukebox, The Pond and the soon-to-open Diego’s Hideaway, keeping up the traditions of the Double L Bar that held court on the way into Rehoboth for many years.

When gays descended in the ’80s, a backlash saw bumper stickers screaming “Keep Rehoboth a Family Town!” Now, with the economically providential addition of gay businesses, plus diverse neighborhoods and tourists, Rehoboth is comfortable being a family town for all kinds of families.

During summer Saturdays, you can walk from one art opening to another, at Gallery 50, Philip Morton Gallery or Ward Ellinger Gallery and more, winding up, cocktail in hand, with hundreds of gays and lesbians hanging out at Aqua, the patio at The Blue Moon, Rigbys or the backyard Biergarten at the Purple Parrot.

Despite four seasons of weather, Rehoboth is a year-round beach town. Summer kicks off right now with Memorial Day festivities. Then come concerts in June, a huge July 4 celebration and the spectacular Sundance Auction and Dance Party for Labor Day weekend. Summer cedes to fall’s independent film and jazz festivals, wild holiday shopping (no sales tax!) and holiday dining, dancing and celebrations. Before you know it come three-day winter weekends, Valentine’s Day with restaurants gone wild, and the April Women’s FEST featuring national entertainers and hot dance parties.

The hometown crowd is a seamless blend of Delaware old-timers and a burgeoning kinship of LGBTQ weekenders, second-home revelers, retirees and day-trippers.

So now it’s summer. From pinball arcades and dolphin-watching to dazzling cuisine and a colossal gay sensibility, Rehoboth is the place to be. Spend some quality time here and you’ll never say “Delawhere?” again.

Fay Jacobs is an award-winning writer of five humorous and activist memoirs, including her latest “Fried & Convicted.” She is also touring with her one-woman show, “Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay.”

Newsletter Sign-up