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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

It’s Sussex for sun, surf and salt air

Courtesy Southern Delaware Tourism

Delaware’s beaches offer much to please planners who want to season their events with a sprinkle of salt air.

“Southern Delaware and its coastal resort area have long been associated with summer family vacations,” said Scott Thomas, executive director of Southern Delaware Tourism. “Businesses and organizations are now finding that the region also serves as an ideal off-site meeting destination where colleagues can unite and refresh as a team while capturing great weekday hotel deals in the off-season.”

The area’s proximity to New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington make it a “nearby-faraway retreat and meeting destination,” he said.

Sussex’s resort towns are strung out like pearls on a string, each with its own flavor. Lewes, founded in 1631, sports a mix of Colonial and Victorian architecture. The former shipbuilding and fishing town is now a year-round destination for history buffs, antiques lovers and those who enjoy strolling the small town’s streets. Downtown Lewes is a five- to 10-minute bike ride from Delaware Bay and a 10-minute drive from the Atlantic Ocean.

      Courtesy Southern Delaware Tourism

Rehoboth Beach, once the site of religious camp meetings, sits on the water, which is why it is more crowded in-season. Dewey rests just outside Rehoboth and has long been known for its nightlife, although it’s becoming more family-oriented.

Bethany and Fenwick Island are smaller, quieter enclaves that appeal primarily to families.
Most meetings migrate to the northern towns. Quaint and charming, downtown Lewes suits smaller groups. The 26-room Inn at Canal Square, a Nantucket-style inn next to the new Canalfront Park, is popular for small groups; several other boutique properties, including the Hotel Rodney and the Hotel Blue, can handle overflow.

The University of Delaware Executive MBA Program is among the clients that have used the Inn at Canal Square’s 715-square-foot and 776-square-foot meeting rooms. The Parkview Room opens into the breakfast lounge, which makes for a handy lunch or dinner buffet area.

For larger groups, the 181-room, oceanfront Atlantic Sands Hotel and Conference Center in Rehoboth has 10,000 square feet of oceanfront event space in eight rooms, among them the 3,300-square-foot Swan Ballroom.

The hotel’s oceanfront guest rooms were renovated in 2008, and the rooftop sundeck has also received a makeover, making it a popular place for outdoor events for up to 200.

The neighboring 84-room Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, an oceanfront AAA Four-Diamond property, has adjoining oceanfront banquet rooms. Used together, they accommodate receptions for up to 150. For those who seek charm, the hotel’s Victorian-style Plaza Cottage has a boardroom with a wraparound porch.

Two Rehoboth properties bill themselves as luxury hotels: the Hotel Rehoboth and the Bellmoor Inn, which has a spa. Both have small meeting rooms, but neither has food and beverage in-house. However, the Hotel Rehoboth shares space with Lupo di Mare, an Italian restaurant that is part of a five-property restaurant chain whose catering division, Plate Catering, has serviced the Bellmoor.

Most of the town’s nicest properties are within walking distance of the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center and its 6,700-square-foot auditorium and stage. “We have lots of interest from medical groups: doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies,” said Karen Zakarian, who books the Boardwalk Plaza and the convention center.

Less than 40 minutes away, the 14-room Brick Hotel on the Circle in Georgetown was taken back to its 1836 roots during a 2008 renovation. The property has meeting and banquet facilities, an on-site restaurant and tavern, a rooftop deck and a terrace. It might be small, but it is mighty, especially when it comes to housing legal groups. Georgetown has been the setting for high-profile corporate court cases.

     Courtesy Southern Delaware Tourism

The Natural Resources Defense Council in 2009 ranked Delaware’s beaches among the nation’s cleanest, and they are clearly the area’s main draw. “At Cape Henlopen State Park, visitors can take in the picturesque beach, explore a variety of nature trails or take a tour of Fort Miles,” Thomas said.

Visitors can also take tours of Nassau Valley Vineyards, Delaware’s only farm winery, and Dogfish Head Brewery, known nationwide for its esoteric brews.

Nassau Valley’s 3,600-foot Claret Hall is modeled after a Williamsburg plantation.
In 2007, Dogfish Head, in Milton, was named one of Travelocity’s “Local Secrets, Big Finds.” Along with brewery tours, groups can book the event space at Dogfish Head Brewing and Eats, Dogfish’s brew pub in Rehoboth Beach.

A dozen public golf courses in Sussex County include layouts by Jack Nicklaus and Arthur Hills. The clubhouse banquet hall overlooks the course at Baywood Greens, described as the “Augusta of the North.”

U.S. Route 1, meanwhile, is lined with outlet after outlet, including Kate Spade, Coach and Michael Kors shops. Delaware’s lack of sales tax makes shopping even more popular.

Southern Delaware Tourism
(800) 357-1818