Summer. Time for gay men across the country to make our annual pilgrimages from the urban jungles we call home. We flock to the sandy meccas of America, where beach boys run wild and mimosas run bottomless (and the boys occasionally run bottomless, too): P’town, Fire Island, and—if you can take the heat—Key West.
Luckily, we have our own option, less than three hours away.
Boasting a population of more than 50,000 at the peak of summer tourist season, Rehoboth Beach has long been a draw for gays from Baltimore and D.C. But now, more and more Philly guys looking for the P’town/Cherry Grove experience without the actual schlep to P’town or Cherry Grove are pouring into the “beaches” (never “the Shore”), going in on shares or nabbing reservations at cute hotels. Whether you’re a couple of 25 years or simply someone looking to blow off steam with your boys, we have you covered. Welcome to the gayest guide to the gayest beach town around.
The most popular option in Rehoboth is the house rental; the bad news is if you didn’t get down by February to reserve yours, you’re probably out of luck. (They go fast.) Weekly house rentals can range anywhere in price from $1,500 (think double-wide) to $11,000 (think granite countertops) depending on the frills. Jack Lingo is a good bet for last-minute rentals for you and 10 of your closest.
If the house thing isn’t for you, there are plenty of hotels for the choosing. The Shore Inn is a bed-and-breakfast with a reputation (complete with salty nickname) that precedes it. The 14 motel-style rooms are accompanied by a clothing-optional sun deck and a hot tub that guys refer to as, ahem, “The Petri Dish.” The Ram’s Head Inn, named after a royal residence in England (as are all the guest rooms), is a few miles away on the outskirts of town. The inn is also clothing-optional, and offers an idyllic setting for roaming au naturel. A draw for the longer-staying New York crowd, the Inn also offers day passes for the merely curious.
The Hotel Rehoboth, smack in the middle of Rehoboth Avenue, is a more classic boutique option. With banquet facilities that play host to weddings and commitment ceremonies alike, the hotel—which features a heated pool with sun deck, along with a Raymour & Flanigan–ish decorating scheme—was voted one of the “Top 10 U.S. Romance Bargain Hotels” by Trip Advisor. For boys on a budget, the Canalside Inn, at the corner of Sixth and Canal streets, is pet-friendly and offers complimentary bikes to get you back and forth from the beach.
During the day, Poodle Beach is where the beautiful boys, masculine men, and everyone in-between go to frolic. Find it by going south down to the end of the boardwalk at Queen Street (that can’t be a coincidence), and turning toward the ocean. (Later, keep your ears open for the legendary house parties at night.) There’s a very ripped college boy who sells water ice on Poodle; nobody seems to know if he’s gay or straight. But one thing is obvious: He’s a genius at marketing. Like most gay sections tucked away in beach resorts, Poodle gets very crowded very quickly, so if you want prime real estate, you need to stake a spot by noon. By two, it’s jammed towel-to-towel.
If you’re looking for some relaxation off the beach, Kaya Wellness Center (which also sports a location in Old City) focuses on supporting individual growth through yoga, movement, and bodywork. Multiple classes are scheduled during the weekends, and the studio offers a big menu of massage options, including hot stone, deep tissue, and couples. Staying the week? Just $65 will get you a one-week access pass to all of the center’s yoga classes.
Body Shop Fitness, the only gym in town, offers daily passes for $12 or day passes with a class for $15. After you’re done sweating and are contemplating grooming, Bad Hair Day is a stylish salon that welcomes walk-ins and offers men’s cuts at $33 or just a buzz for $23.
Rainy day? Make the trip to Movies at Midway, just outside of the city, to catch the latest summer blockbuster. Just remember, no butter on the popcorn, and Diet Coke—it’s mating season in Rehoboth!
When it comes to grub, Rehoboth offers countless options for any palate. When sunbathing at Poodle, lunch is but a call away: Tucked away in a courtyard off Baltimore Avenue, Lori’s Cafe is known for both its delicious chicken salad and delivering lunch right to your beach chair.
For an adorable and quaint sit-down lunch off the beach, Jam Bistro by Eden is your spot. Its wine list is comprised of 40 bottles all priced under $40, a win for any aficionado on a budget. Café Azafrán serves up mean Mediterranean, while Iguana Grill delivers delish Tex-Mex and tasty margaritas to match. Stingray Sushi Bar & Asian Latino Grill slices all your sushi needs, and features a fabulous happy hour where you can get two sushi rolls for the price of one weekends from noon to six. And its takeout service, available till 1 a.m., can fulfill any late-night cravings you incur after a day (and evening) of drunken debauchery.
For summer seafood, Henlopen City Oyster House features popular menu items like soft-shell crabs from Virginia, plus fried oysters and three to five fresh fish rotating on the menu daily. Crab from Smith Island, Maryland, is the main ingredient in the crabcakes, making them, hands-down, the best in town. An extensive rotating beer list is comprised of eight drafts, 80 bottles and, for the beer snobs, one on cask. An alternate: Big Fish Grill, which also has a location in Glen Mills, offers predictable but delicious fare.
Blue Moon is a fine-dining destination perfect for special occasions and the random boozy brunch. Reservations fill quickly, so you’ll need to plan at least two weeks in advance to sample executive chef Lion Gardner’s award-winning menu. Order the fish.
The nationally recognized Ice Cream Store serves more than 70 mild-to-wild flavors that range from Raspberry Chocolate Thunder and Rocky Peppermint Road to Bacon and Better Than Sex. Seriously: Have you ever heard of a better name for an ice cream flavor?
For strong drinks from post-beach on—and probably the best outdoor patio seating in the entire resort—check out gay-fave Aqua Grill. The good news is that the staff is gorgeous. The bad news is almost all of them identify as straight. Sigh.
Later in the evening, the aforementioned Blue Moon becomes the hub of Rehoboth nightlife. With drag shows both amazing and tragic (I once watched a flawless Tina Turner impersonator, followed immediately by a hot mess who flopped around to a Rihanna song) on weekends and dancing till 2 a.m., it’s by far Rehoboth’s spot to see and be seen. Its roof retracts, opening the space to the sky above and giving new meaning to the term “dancing with the stars.” Recent renovations in the front bar have left something to be desired (I’m still not feeling the tacky sky mural), but are still an upgrade. Older or younger, this club has it all.
At Purple Parrot, a mixed crowd dominates karaoke on Fridays and Saturdays, but the spectacular “Birdcage Bad Girls Drag Show” on Sundays at 10 has a huge gay audience and is not to be missed. Worth taking off Mondays for.
The Double L is a popular destination that will remind Philly boys of our own Bike Stop. Little clothing and gear are encouraged, while courage is required. (Porn plays on the monitors. ’Nuff said.) On Saturdays, a line snakes around the corner for MANDance, an old-school dance party that’s extremely trendy and draws locals and out-of-towners alike.
Looking for a quieter night out? Try Big Sissies Bar & Grill. Welcoming an older crowd (over-40ish), John Flynn is at the piano every Saturday, and the lovely Cathy Gorman—imagine Carol Channing, but with a beautiful voice—sings the hell out of the standards on Fridays.
When it comes to retail, beach towns thrive on the tasteless and trashy: neon tees sporting offensive language, seashell-encrusted tchotchkes. Luckily, Rehoboth sports a few shopping gems curated with sophistication that any stylish man can appreciate.
Beach Essentials carries all necessary beach apparel, including swimwear by Andrew Christian, Junk Underjeans, and Pistol Pete. South Moon Under offers a great selection of designer clothing, including duds by Descendants of Thieves, Scotch + Soda, and Hugo Boss.
Brought the pooch? Rehoboth is extremely pet-friendly. Critter Beach stocks gourmet treats, accessories, and food you may have forgotten.
Gidget’s Gadgets is a retro emporium full of new and vintage collectibles; it recently began featuring a spectacular collection of vinyl that’s become a treasure hunt for locals. When you’re there, ask for Pam—she always has the skinny on what’s going on in town on any given weekend.
Proud Bookstore carries a wide selection of books, gifts, cards, and play-safe accessories (along with an impressive selection of vintage porn magazines stocked in the back). If Proud’s collection of kink is insufficient, Leather Central, just outside the city off Coastal Highway, is an alternative. Just remember: What happens in Rehomo, stays in Rehomo.Sign up to get a free subscription to G Philly’s quarterly glossy.