Our final ride of the Summer Beach Series takes an 83-mile surfside route through 3 states between two well-known beach resorts with the same name. The Town of Ocean City, MD is that state’s only oceanfront resort that caters to tourists who come from all over the US. The north side of town has scores of hotels and high-rise condos, which you might expect to see in Miami Beach. The City of Ocean City, NJ has relatively few hotel rooms. Many of the visitors are seasonal residents and visitors typically rent out condos. Both communities have famous boardwalks (2.3 and 2.5 miles long respectively). Alike in some ways, but very different in others, the two communities anchor this ride through 13 distinct beach communities, 4 state parks and a refreshing ferry ride.
The ride starts in North Ocean City near the Delaware Line. There are several hotels here and in nearby Fenwick Island, DE. During the Summer DART bus 208 from Rehoboth Beach stops here. If you are starting near the boardwalk in downtown Ocean City or camping at Assateague State Park you’ll need to use Coastal Highway, a very monotonous 6-lane Stroad. Bikes share the right lane with buses and right-turning vehicles.
After a quick loop around the Maryland Beach section of Ocean City, you will be traveling north on the wide shoulder of DE Route 1 through Fenwick Island State Park. The route diverts into Bethany Beach which has a compact low-key boardwalk. At mile 12 you cross the Indian River Bridge, which has an expansive view of the Delaware Beaches. The Indian River Campground is located on both sides of the inlet.
The ride along the road shoulder through Delaware Seashore State Park may start to feel a bit monotonous. Take a break at Towers Beach, the southernmost of the surviving WW2 defense towers that protected Delaware Bay from German U-Boats. At Dewey Beach the ride leaves DE 1 for good as it winds through Rehoboth Beach neighborhoods to get to the trails at Cape Henlopen State Park.
Follow the Cape-Lewes trail to mile 28.7 and turn right to access the Cape May- Lewes Ferry. Check-in at the ticket desk and if time permits, ride over to Downtown Lewes. Just make sure you get back to the ferry terminal at least 20 minutes before your scheduled departure. Bicyclists board first and roll their bikes to the racks between the parking lanes.
On the Cape May side, you’ll follow the bike lane out to Route 9. Follow the Ride With GPS cues to Ocean Drive, heading for the Wildwoods. Wildwood Crest at Mile 52 has a string of beachfront hotels along Atlantic Ave, a rarity on the Jersey Shore. These hotels are popular with Quebecers so you may hear French being spoken. You may plow through this ride in a day by catching a mid-day ferry. Good for you! But for the rest of us, Wildwood Crest is a great stopping point for day one.
Between Wildwood and Ocean City, NJ you’ll follow or ride parallel to Ocean Drive (CR 619). Ocean Drive has mostly wide shoulders but use caution on the drawbridges, which have steel grates and no shoulders. Most of these bridges have toll booths in the center which require drivers to stop or slow down (no toll for bikes). There are bike lanes along the route in Wildwood Crest, North Wildwood, Stone Harbor, Avalon and Ocean City.
The ride ends at the Ocean City Bus Terminal. There is frequent bus service to Atlantic City (routes 507 and 509). The Ocean City Boardwalk is just 4 blocks east. You can continue on the Ocean Drive route to AC using the cue sheet to Summer Beach Bike Ride #1 to get you there.
Ocean City, NJ at Sunrise. Credit – Peter Miller on Flickr
Getting to Ocean City, MD
This is the hard part from anywhere. especially in the off-season. It’s unfortunate considering that the Eastern Shore of Maryland has an extensive bus network but none of the buses have bike racks. As always, use the power of your phone with the DART First State and NJ TRANSIT Mobile Apps to buy tickets and track your bus.
Summer (Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend)
Use SEPTA Wilmington/Newark Line plus DART Buses to get to the Rehoboth Beach Park and Ride Lot (Weekdays, Weekends). Transfer to the 208 bus to 144th St Bus Terminal in Ocean City. (Google Transit Directions)
Off Season (Mid September to Late May)
In the off-season, your best bet is taking Amtrak to BWI Airport to the Bayrunner Shuttle which will take you to downtown Ocean City. You can book your trip all the way to Ocean City on the Amtrak website for yourself, but not your bike. You’ll need to call the Bayrunner Shuttle first at least 24 hours in advance and ask if there is space available for your bike. If yes, then call Amtrak and tell them that you want to take your bike on the train to BWI. The add-on fees will be $20 for your bike on Amtrak and $10 for the shuttle. Expect to pay $150 to $200 in total for this option but you won’t have to triangulate the bus routes and bike rides to get there.
For a lot less money (about $14 one way) you can take DART (via SEPTA) to the Rehoboth Beach Boardwalk Monday-Friday year round and then bike for 19 miles on the Coastal Highway to Fenwick Island/North Ocean City. On weekends take NJ TRANSIT to North Cape May ($17-$25) and then bike 2 miles to the Cape-May Lewes Ferry ($10). The last Ferry to Delaware departs at 6PM.
Ocean City, NJ and Atlantic City to Philadelphia
Routes 507 and 509 from the Ocean City Bus Station have bike racks and stop 2 blocks from the Train Station at Atlantic and Ohio Ave (in front of the AC Bus Terminal). We recommend taking the Atlantic City Line train over the 551 bus simply because you must put your bike in the undercarriage. However, the 551 bus runs 24 hours a day. Rail tickets between Philadelphia and Atlantic City are honored on Route 551.(Google Transit Directions)
I hoped that you enjoyed this series. It was so much fun researching these intermodal trips. My inspiration has come from these young Philly-centric YouTube content creators who have put out some funny and informative reviews of bus and train services including a Can-Can take-down of the NJ TRANSIT Bus Fare system and a grueling cross-country trip on Greyhound. Let us know about your experience on these adventures.