If you’re wondering what Delmarva is, it’s an East Coast peninsula that includes most of Delaware and parts of the Maryland and Virginia Eastern Shore regions. Its borders are the Chesapeake Bay (west) and Pocomoke Sound (southwest). Eastern borders include the Delaware River, Delaware Bay or the Atlantic Ocean. Here’s a visual depiction of the area.

Delmarva map

I visited Delmarva in September and spent time on the Maryland Eastern Shore and several beaches in Maryland and Delaware. More specifically, I visited Cambridge, Maryland; Ocean City, Maryland; and Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach and Lewes Beach, Delaware.

This is part one of a three part series of my trip to the area. You can also see my specific reviews of the Hilton Ocean City and the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in the area.

Ocean City, Maryland sunset

Ocean City, Maryland sunset | Photo by Julie Neafach

Why I Visited Delmarva

My September 2022 trip was driven by a few factors. Given the challenging airline situation during the summer, I was seeking a quick getaway within driving distance of my home.

I also was curious about the Delaware and Maryland Atlantic Ocean beaches, which I hadn’t visited despite living in the Washington, D.C., area for many years.

Finally, I had some hotel credits and free night certificates that would expire in the middle of October, and there were some options to use them in this area.

Getting to Delmarva

I traveled entirely by car on this trip. I did a loop driving from the Washington area, to the Maryland Eastern Shore, to Ocean City, Maryland, to the Delaware beach towns and back home. I crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in both directions.

map to delmarva

Delmarva is a relatively short drive for people traveling from many areas in the eastern United States. Driving times can vary significantly based on traffic. Ocean City, Maryland— the largest Atlantic Ocean beach town—is approximately:

  • 150 miles or about three hours from many parts of the Washington, Baltimore or Philadelphia areas
  • 200 miles or about four hours from central Pennsylvania
  • 250 miles or about five hours from the New York City area

Time estimates above are for normal traffic conditions, not what you might experience on summer weekends.

Within Delmarva, the drive from Cambridge to Ocean City took about an hour, and from Ocean City to as far north as Lewes Beach was under an hour of total driving time.

If flying to the area, the closest major airports are Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) and Philadelphia (PHL). Both are served by multiple U.S. airlines and are approximately three hours away from Ocean City by car.

There are a couple of minor regional airports with extremely limited service. Salisbury, Maryland (SBY), is about 30 minutes driving distance from Ocean City with limited service on American Airlines (American Eagle regional carrier). Wilmington, Delaware (ILG), used to have limited service on Frontier Airlines, but the route was terminated in June 2022.

There also is ferry service between Lewes, Delaware and Cape May, New Jersey. The ferry transports foot passengers, bicycles and cars.

Hotels Where I Stayed

I stayed at two hotels during this trip and wrote full reviews:

I considered several other lodging options. Ocean City has the largest selection of chain hotel properties. In smaller towns, there are fewer choices for chain hotels, and most chain properties are limited service brands. I strongly considered staying at the Hyatt Place Dewey Beach or the Hyatt House Lewes / Rehoboth Beach, and here are a few thoughts about those properties.

The Hyatt Place Dewey Beach is a Category 6 property, probably because of its waterfront location in a beach town. The strip of land on either side of the Coastal Highway in Dewey Beach is narrow, so the walk between Rehoboth Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is only about five minutes.

The Hyatt Place has a deck and adjacent restaurants with outdoor seating on the bay, and there is ocean beach access across the street and a block walk. From the pictures I saw online, the rooms and amenities are pretty standard for a Hyatt Place.

While I think that Category 6 is too high for a Hyatt Place in this location and wouldn’t spend 21,000 to 29,000 Hyatt points per night to stay there, the hotel might be worth considering when cash prices are low. For weeknight stays between the middle of September and early October, I saw nightly pre-tax non-refundable rates under $160 and flexible rates about $175.

The Hyatt House Lewes / Rehoboth Beach is a Category 3 property, and it’s located a few miles away from the coast in Lewes. If you don’t mind driving about 10 minutes to the beach, this property might be worth considering. The rooms looked nice online, and the property is fairly new.

Rates reflect the hotel being away from the water. Hyatt point rates fluctuate from 9,000 to 15,000 per night. For weeknight stays between the middle of September and early October, I saw nightly pre-tax non-refundable rates under $120 and flexible rates about $140. I would have paid cash instead of using points at those prices, but when cash rates are higher, this property could be a good use of points.

Throughout Delmarva, there are options for vacation rental properties. This type of lodging may be a good fit for people planning longer stays, traveling with a larger group or planning to stay in one of the more residential beach areas with few hotel options.

Final Thoughts

Delmarva is a popular area for family travel and East Coast beach trips, so I wanted to share information that hopefully will be useful to others planning a trip.

I normally take beach trips during times of year when it’s colder at home, so I end up going to international locations—or California or Florida if staying within the continental United States—to find warmer weather. It was a nice change of pace to take a beach trip that didn’t involve getting on a plane or driving more than a few hours.

Everyone has different expectations for beach and resort vacations, and when you visit strongly influences the experience, in terms of weather, activity and dining options and number and type of travelers.

I’m certain that my experiences on weeknights in mid-September are different from experiences others have when visiting the same towns and hotels on a busy summer weekend. It’s likely a different experience during the off-season when the weather is cold or wet and many seasonal businesses and attractions are closed.

In mid-September, I experienced nearly perfect weather: sunny and comfortable temperatures for wearing swimsuits and shorts. While I was fortunate with weather conditions during my trip, this area isn’t immune to storms during hurricane season. Shortly after my trip, Delmarva was impacted by the remnants of Hurricane Ian, with heavy rain, wind and beach erosion.

In general, beaches, boardwalks, town areas and hotel facilities weren’t packed during my trip, and since schools were in session, most people vacationing seemed to be adults. Some tourism focused businesses had closed for the season or on specific days of the week. Other than Ocean City—which was hosting a motorcycle event while I was there and was loud when walking around town—the calmer atmosphere was a good choice for my preferences.

I would return to the Rehoboth / Lewes areas, but my brief visit to Ocean City confirmed my initial belief that it isn’t the best fit for me.

I liked the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, and I think this property checks the boxes for a variety of different interests.