Fronting the open Atlantic, Rehoboth Beach was founded in the 1870s when church groups bought beachfront land, established the town, and extended a railroad line south from Lewes. The highway frontage along Hwy-1 is over-full of franchise food and factory outlet malls, but the heart of town along Rehoboth Avenue is the place to go. With its summer-only but very lively Sputnik-era Funland Amusement Park (302/227-1921, open May-Sept., hours vary), where the attractions include bumper cars, a nighttime haunted house, and a tidy boardwalk running along the broad beach, Rehoboth has somehow retained a small-town feel despite the many thousands of bureaucrats and power brokers who descend upon the place during the summer, escaping the sweltering heat of Washington, D.C.

The D.C. connection helps explain the town’s profusion of very good (and some very expensive) restaurants. Lining the main drag are casual, kid-friendly places like Dogfish Head (320 Rehoboth Ave., 302/226-2739), which has great food and killer beers in Delaware’s oldest microbrewery. More grown-up palates will be drawn to the gourmet places a block south, like the eclectic, Mediterranean-inspired and unfailingly yummy Espuma (28 Wilmington Ave., 302/227-4199), which fills an old beach house. There are also the more mainstream delights of Thrasher’s French Fries and sundry beer-and-burger stands along the boardwalk.

Places to stay include some quaint old B&Bs and a barrage of highway chain motels, plus local ones like the Beach View (6 Wilmington Ave., 302/227-2999, $79 and up), on the boardwalk.