MD/DE Beaches Odds & Ends

Offseason is an excellent time to hit the beach (area).

Just got back from our annual Thanksgiving weekend pilgrimage (ha!) downy oweshun, hon. We’ve been visiting the beach on TG weekend since the kids were small, and during that span the Ocean City/Rehoboth Beach corridor on Thanksgiving weekend has gone from semi-ghost town to mega-packed. The bloody battlefields of the tax-free outlets make Braveheart look like a Disney film.

Here’s some of the new discoveries we’ve….uh…discovered, good and bad.

LODGING

This time out, we decided to try the brand new Hyatt Place in the middle of Dewey Beach, DE (1301 Coastal Highway, Dewey Beach, Delaware Tel: 302 864 9100 $130 nt + tax). This three story ultra-modern monster is art museum slick, and sits in stark contrast to the old school, salt worn down-hominess of Dewey.

Frankfurt Germany would be proud.

Frankfurt Germany would be proud.

Hyatt Place is thoroughly 3rd millennium both inside and out, with a glass & chrome design that feels more Frankfurt, Germany than mid-Atlantic beach town. Our room was large and well-appointed, with HD TV, mini fridge, sitting area, and a unique frosted glass slider leading to a bathroom that was snazzy enough to star in a Daft Punk video.

That’s about it for the good news.

The hotel sits on the bay side of Route 1, but has seriously limited views of anything bay-related. Plus, it’s pretty clear that they cut design costs when it came to noise suppression. The place is LOUD. We were awakened at 7am this morning by random continuous banging from an undisclosed location (we were on the top floor, so it wasn’t above us, either), and the people across the hall seemed intent to see just how loud they could slam their room door–repeatedly–all morning long. So much for sleeping in and taking advantage of the 12 noon checkout time. In all, it felt very Days Inn, and not at all what we’ve come to expect from a luxury brand like Hyatt.

Other weirdness? There’s no non-emergency staircases, so apparently the Hyatt wants us all to be fat and slovenly. The place only has three floors; we’d prefer to walk up. Instead, two small elevators are the only way to get vertical, and when we headed down for breakfast this morning, we found a good 30 people clamoring in the lobby to go back up. Total cattle drive; not well-conceived, and totally unnecessary.

In all, Dewey’s Hyatt Place was mostly a swing and a miss. Decent rate for a holiday weekend, but the property felt like a cheaply-made, entry level subcompact by a luxury automaker that was long on pomp and short on execution. Our advice: spend the extra coin and book at Rehoboth Beach’s Bellmoor Inn instead. Infinitely more quiet and intimate, service that’s far more personal and less Best Buy, and a complimentary breakfast that’s miles ahead in both quality and delivery.

MORE LODGING

Back in September, we had a last minute chance to spend a warm weekend in Ocean City, and we did. As it was still summertime, all of our favorite places to stay were already booked solid, but we found vacancy at Bonita Beach (8100 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City), a small sand-colored hotel in north midtown on Coastal Highway. The mere fact that this property still had rooms available was a red flag on its own, but a bad day at the beach still beats a good day at home so posterity dictated that we go for it.

We bet this place was stellar in 1992.

We bet this place was stellar in 1992.

We never did find out what year the place was built, but it was probably quite the showplace back in the early 90s. Bonita Beach sports a true Melrose Place-era decor, but these days it’s aging and sagging, looks like its best days are behind it, and smells like stale menthol cigarettes–a lot like Keith Richards.

Mrs Bunny and I managed an ocean view room with two queen beds and a small balcony for us and the two youngins. The ceilings were stained, half of the Liza Minelli bubble light bulbs in the bathroom were burnt out, and the tub’s poor drainage led to back-flow gray water enveloping our feet when we showered. But the best moment was when we were walking through the main floor parking garage under the building, and a big, nasty dollop of air conditioner condensation slopped from the ceiling above us and right into my son’s latte (bloop!). Legionnaire’s Disease, anyone?

FOOD                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Here’s some other standouts down at the beach that we’ve never touched upon but are worth checking out.

Mother’s Cantina (2812 Coastal Hwy, Ocean City 410-289-1330 ) is small and less than gorgeous, and resides in a small and less than gorgeous strip center on the main drag, but serves up excellent margaritas and Tex Mex home cooking that gives uptown rival Tequila Mockingbird a real good run. If you like things truly spicy, the Red Hot Burrito is mouth-watering (and mouth-melting too). Their En Fuego sauce packs serious friggin heat–you’ve been warned. If you visit Mother’s on a weekend, be prepared to wait. But that’s cool; the bar is long and the drinks are good.

Fresh ingredient margarita. Take a sip.

Fresh ingredient margarita. Take a sip.

Finbar’s Pub & Grill (316 Rehoboth Ave, Rehoboth Beach 302-227-1873) is a fairly authentic Irish watering hole (for a beach resort) that does a solid job across the board. When we found our that their trendy next door neighbor Dogfish Head Brewery had a 35 minute wait last night, we gave Finbar’s a shot and we’re glad we did.  Their Whiskey Wings were a potent combination of spicy and sweet, with a fantastic house made sauce featuring fresh ginger, chilis, and Jamison Irish Whiskey. They were so good, we ordered a second round. Likewise, the Maryland Crab Chowder had a thick, chunky tomato base, and was well-stocked with crabmeat.

If you’re jonesing for Dogfish Head brews, don’t stress. Finbar’s has them, draft and bottled. And guess what: they’re less expensive than they are next door.

Don't bother going next door to Dogfish Head.

Don’t bother going next door to Dogfish Head.

The entire Getaway Bunny team wishes you and yours a very happy and festive holiday season!

-GB

Advertisements

GB Weekends: Rehoboth Beach’s Bellmoor Inn

I looked at my wife, and she stared back knowingly, as our youngest son thundered away on the drum kit in his bedroom like a hyperactive gorilla on steroids and the family dog continued to vomit chunks of my brand new Nikes all over the living room carpet.

It was time for a serious getaway; one that involved deluxe accommodations in stress-free surroundings, tables for two, and copious amounts of good wine.  But the problem was that we had neither the time nor the excess income to go and hide out in a beach hut in Bora Bora for the next month, as compelling as the thought was.

No, we had but a long weekend to cram in as much downtime, relaxation, and romance as possible.

So my wife called The Bellmoor.

Rehoboth’s Bellmoor Inn is a perfect romantic hideout.

 

Rehoboth’s Bellmoor Inn is such a perfectly luxurious hideaway for two that I almost don’t want to tell you about it, lest the word gets out and they raise their rates. This locally-owned hotel conveys an elegant, classic feel that’s perfect for unwinding.

 

The building is rather unassuming from the outside, but from the moment you enter the Bellmoor’s lobby, you’re submerged in the rich scents of fresh flowers and wood oils, warmed by the crackling fireplace, and surrounded with exquisite furnishings and graceful artwork. It’s posh, but not the least bit pretentious, with a refined level of true hospitality. In fact, it feels a whole lot like visiting the home of an old friend for the weekend (albeit a very wealthy old friend). Even a clueless guy like me took note.

My wife and I opted for a Bellmoor Club suite on the adults-only 4th floor, and the spacious quarters were sublime: a king bed with a real mattress, comfy sitting area, gas fireplace, wet bar, refrigerator, and generous marble bath with a huge hydrotherapy tub and walk-in shower. And perhaps most importantly—it was wonderfully quiet. We were already a million miles away, with stress levels steadily receding.

Each suite on the Bellmoor’s 4th floor is uniquely designed and decorated with custom-crafted furnishings and is assigned an actual name rather than a number—a welcome break from the usual corporate hotel chain cloning. Down the hall, we found a leather-chaired sitting room with its own library, along with complimentary snacks, bottled waters, and soft drinks—an additional 4th floor exclusive. All very James Bond, especially since you need a specially-coded keycard to access this level in the elevator.

The Bellmoor Club Suites are all private, unique, and well-appointed.

 

Another standout of the inn is its full service day spa. I lost my wife through its doors on Saturday morning, and she floated out a few hours later, massaged, pedicured, and smiling like she was on something. Needless to say, she loved it.

 

The Bellmoor really is everything that a top-notch inn should be, and nothing it shouldn’t. The complimentary breakfast buffet each morning is excellent, with an omelet chef, pastries, fresh fruit, and great coffee that we enjoyed while relaxing in the enclosed, sun-brightened porch area that overlooks the ancient Bald Cyprus and 82-year old Crepe Myrtle out in the garden. There’s even a high tea that’s served every Saturday afternoon at three by the concierge. And speaking of which, the concierge was exemplary. He was a load of fun, and really knew the ins and outs of the best restaurants in the area, right down to their wine lists. Impressive.

Bellmoor Courtyard.

 

Another thing we appreciated is the inn’s location. Now, normally I’m strictly the waterfront type, but the Bellmoor is perfectly able to have you feeling completely removed and light years away from the bustle of a beach town (even in July), and yet you’re just one short block off of main drag Rehoboth Avenue and two blocks from the sand. You really can leave your car for the weekend in the inn’s underground garage and walk just about anywhere you want to go. Case in point, there are several outstanding restaurants that your shoes can take you to in no time at all. (more on that coming soon.)

 

Restaurants are one of Rehoboth’s strong points. There’s a good mix, and plenty of diverse choices. For relaxed and casual, we like the Tex Mex fare of Dos Locos (208 Rehoboth Ave), with their fantastic homemade guacamole, fresh tortillas, and dee-lish margaritas. Our other local favorite is Fins Fish House & Raw Bar (243 Rehoboth Ave), a cool, laid back seafood joint that specializes in fresh oysters from prime locations like Cape Cod, Prince Edward Island, Chincoteague, and Long Island Sound (the Blue Points alone are worth the trip). If you’re not sure which ones you like, order up the sampler and try them all. They’re marvelous. Fins also features an eclectic beer menu that’s more extensive than many wine lists.

But this weekend was designated as a romantic getaway, so something a bit more upscale was in order. The Cultured Pearl (301 Rehoboth Ave) is a superb Japanese restaurant and sushi bar that has a real flair for both traditional and fusion cuisine, as well as its very own river that runs through the dining room, and live cockatoos in the lobby. We’re big sushi fans, and the Cultured Pearl never disappoints. I’m getting hungry again just writing about it.

And based on the Bellmoor concierge’s recommendation, we chose Eden (23 Baltimore Ave) the following evening for its amazing steaks and loaded wine list with more than 100 different options, including a whopping 40 choices by the glass. The space is cozy and well-appointed, with curtained booths that create a warm, intimate feel. We’ll definitely be back.

After dinner, we arrived back at the inn, both of us quite full and a tad sleepy, and found the bed linens turned down with chocolate truffles resting on each pillow. A nice, yet unexpected touch.

The Bellmoor really is a first-rate getaway in any season, with the comfortable intimacy of a bed & breakfast combined with the luxury and superior service of a world-class hotel. Whenever you need a quick unplugging from the daily grind, you’ll find a sweet reprieve in one of their 78 rooms and suites (GB Tip: avoid the garden cottages). But don’t just take my word for it. The Bellmoor Inn comes highly rated by travel industry icons like Conde Nast Johansen’s, Select Registry, and Zagat, and they also say that a staggering 50% of their business is from repeat customers. Given the unlimited number of accommodation choices at the beach, this speaks volumes.

So, by the end of our getaway, we’d gone from haggard and frazzled to satisfied and smiling. I can’t say that The Bellmoor will allow one to reach supreme transcendental nirvana, but what we did achieve felt pretty good indeed.

The Bellmoor Inn

6 Christian St.

Rehoboth Beach. DE. 19971

Phone: (302)227-5800

TheBellmoor.com

 

Family Friendly?     Yes

Pool?     Outdoor (2), one is adults-only

Hot Tub?     Yes

Wireless Internet Access?     Yes-in room and complimentary

Business Services?     Yes

Conference Room?     Yes

Bar/Restaurant on-site?     No

Free Parking?     Yes

Fitness Room?     Yes