Monday, July 19, 2021 / by Jay Lesko
Here's why Fenwick Island is a great place to live
With it’s white sands and colourful beach huts, Fenwick Island, Delaware is a laid back East Coast seaside town with numerous real estate options. Close to Ocean City, Maryland, Fenwick Island borders the Atlantic Ocean and has become a popular destination for windsurfing, surf fishing and adrenaline-pumping water sports. Residents have the benefit of experiencing the great Delaware outdoors while enjoying big city amenities. Salisbury, Maryland, the largest city on the Eastern Shore, is a scant 36 miles away.
Is Fenwick Island a good place to live?
Fenwick Island is considered a good place to live. The area sports good schools and climate and a peaceful lifestyle with a low crime rate. The climate on the Delaware coast is generally pleasant, with the months of September, October and May bringing favorable weather conditions.
As the demand for homes in the southern coastal area of Delaware continues to rise, Fenwick Island is becoming increasingly popular with younger people as it offers good education and comparable job opportunities to the rest of the country.
City dwellers looking for a second home are the ones causing a spike in the demand for homes in the area. This indicates that the town has become increasingly desirable with younger families and according to real estate figures from Sussex County Agents, an increase of 30% in home sales have been seen over the last year.
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Things to Do
Tax-free shops and more than a dozen restaurants line a mile of Ocean Highway between the Fenwick Island State Park and Ocean City. The town features a small park, shuffleboard courts, play areas for children and basketball court. The town sponsors several annual events such as the Memorial Day service and Christmas Tree lighting.
On the western edge of Fenwick Island one can find Little Assawoman Bay. This East Coast treasure is home to sailboats, clams and crabs and is considered an angler’s paradise. Visitors can paddle in the serene waters surrounding the Assawoman Wildlife Area and explore the wooded shoreline and salt marsh ponds. Home to Bald Eagles that make their home in the tall pines, avid bird watchers could be treated to sightings of Osprey, Blue Heron, Great Egrets and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
Rent a boat and view Fenwick Island from the water before heading back into town for some locally-sourced seafood. In the evening beachside bars serve colorful cocktails and South Delaware wines that nicely complements the seafood.
For those who have a day trip in mind, nearby Bethany Beach is less than six miles away. The small town has a short boardwalk and sandy beach. In nearby Ocean City, MD, visitors can explore shops, galleries, museums and family friendly attractions.
Housing in Fenwick Island
Located just across the state line from Ocean City, the “Summer Capital” of the nation, Fenwick Island, DE, is a quieter, yet fun-filled alternative to the bigger city’s non-stop action. Nestled on a narrow strip of land between the Atlantic Ocean and Little Assawoman Bay, residents enjoy wide ocean beaches and quiet bay boating opportunities. Fenwick Island brings with it a blend of recreational fun, entertainment and beach vacation living.
When it comes to housing apartments, townhouses and single-family homes are among the real estate options available in Fenwick Island. A variety of styles ranging from beach cottages, A-frames, contemporary architecture and Cape Cod-style homes offer bright, airy interior and large, east-facing windows in order to take full advantage of the stunning views offered by the beach and ocean.
At $522 per square foot, the average home sells for about 2% below the list price. Multiple offers on homes are rare. The typical home value rests at an estimated $770,178, however this value is seasonally adjusted and only includes the middle price tier of homes. Home values on Fenwick Island have gone up around 21.9% over the past year.
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As a decidedly white-collar town, Fenwick Island is a town of professionals, sales and office workers and managers. Quite a number of people living in Fenwick Island work in sales jobs (23,78%), management occupations (14%) and teaching (8,5%). Apart from the white-collar workforce, Fenwick Island is also home to creatives. The area has more artists, designers and people working in the media than in most communities in America, adding to the unique character that shapes the island’s character. A relatively large number of people telecommute to their jobs, overall around 8,5% of the workforce are working remotely.
Fenwick Island is an extremely popular tourist destination and it attracts an abundance of seasonal residents. So much of the town’s population is seasonal that the population numbers swell significantly during the vacation season, dropping again when the season comes to a close. Much of the local economy is centered around tourism, with some businesses only operating during the high season. During the low season year-round residents enjoy a substantially quieter place to live.
In addition, Fenwick Island is home to people described as “urban sophisticates.” These individuals are educated and wealthy, thus tending to be older, richer and more established than young professionals. Being described as having a point of view and state of mind that relates to “urbaneness,” one will find the urban sophisticate regularly lives in small towns, suburbs and rural areas as well as big cities. These groups of individuals tend to support the arts and high-end shops and may have a fondness for travelling.
More than half (54.33%) of adults have a 4-year degree or graduate degree. This is more than double the national average for all cities and towns that rests at 21.84%. The per capita income was noted to be $64,806 during 2018, which is wealthy relative to Delaware and the nation. A family of four could see an annual income of $259,224.
Those who call Fenwick Island home describe themselves as belonging to various ethnic groups and races. The greatest number of residents report their race to be White, followed by Native American. Some important ancestries in the area include German, Irish, English, Italian and French. English, Italian and Polish are frequently spoken on Fenwick Island.
Fenwick Island Homes for Sale
Transportation and Travel
The Coastal Highway Beach Bus departs from 144th Street Transit Station and goes from Fenwick Island to Ocean City, MD. Alternatively, enjoy the Chincoteague ponies with a trip southward to Chincoteague Island, Virginia, via Route 113. The Delaware Bicycle Route 1 travels from the Fenwick Island neighborhood to the Pennsylvania border in New Castle County. This popular cycling route snakes through picturesque towns such as Cheswold and Lincoln. It is worth noting that Fenwick Island is highly car-dependent and has a low walkability score, meaning that residents are dependent on their vehicles to get from point A to B.
Rehoboth Beach is a short 29 minute drive away while Dover lies an hour and 15 minutes away. Bethany Beach is the closest as 11 minutes driving. The major roads in the area include the Coastal Highway and Lighthouse Road.
Points of Interest
Lying right on the Delaware-Maryland state line, located on a small peninsula, Fenwick is known for having some of the cleanest beaches in the region. Besides the proximity to the Delaware Seashore State Park, one of the most popular attractions is the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Measuring at 87 foot tall, the towering beacon was built in 1859 and accepts visitors throughout the summer.
Fenwick Island State Park is the most southern beach in the state of Delaware and offers three miles of ocean beaches as well as access to Little Assawoman Bay. Few know that the Park was once home to the Fenwick Island Life-Saving Station during the 1800’s. The station provided help for distressed maritime travellers, but was lost to a storm in 1962.
This stretch of coastline was also protected during World War II by the fire control tower built on the coastline. Ghost crabs of the area are protected but can be seen through programs offered by park naturalists.
Fenwick Island Real Estate
A History of Changing Hands
Lord Baltimore originally claimed the land now known as Fenwick Island, later giving it to Colonel William Stevens in 1680, who then gave it to a wealthy New Yorker named Thomas Fenwick in 1692. Fenwick didn’t live on the land, but it received his namesake nonetheless.
During the 1600’s Fenwick Island resembled an actual island more than it does today. There were several well-travelled inlets that connected the bay to the Atlantic Ocean. Merchants, sailors as well as pirates frequented these well travelled routes. Local island lore states that the small islands surrounding Fenwick Island were used by pirates to unload their loot. Charles Wilson, rumoured to be partner in crime with the infamous Blackbeard, allegedly buried treasure on Assateague Island, just south of Fenwick Island. Before Wilson was hung for his crimes, he wrote a letter to his brother that detailed directions to this treasure. While the fabled treasure is yet to be found, it did not deter fortune seekers and treasure hunters to try and locate the cache.
With Thomas Fenwick’s death in 1708 the island became the property of his daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Willian Fassett. Local legend has it that Fassett swam to the Fenwick Island beach after being tossed overboard a pirate ship, just off the shore of the southern Delaware coast. Being grateful to reach the beach, he allegedly vowed he would own the land someday. This wish was realized when he married Thomas Fenwick’s daughter.
Although the island had changed hands several times, Fenwick Island still remained relatively uninhabited for some time. An increasing number of shipwrecks occurring off the coast of Fenwick Island during the 19th century saw to it that the lighthouse was built. It was first lit in 1859 and has been a fixture of the coastal town ever since. The lighthouse helped to boost the population of Fenwick Island with the addition of the families of the lighthouse keeper and his assistant.
As the decades wore on, the island population slowly began to increase and vacationers took note of the prime beaches and gorgeous scenery. Post-World War II, Fenwick Island increasingly got noticed as an excellent summer resort and has been one of the prime destinations on the Delaware shore ever since.
During the 19th century, one of the few people to settle on Fenwick Island was Zippora “Zippy” Lewis. She moved into the area with her husband, John. Zippy often walked along the Fenwick Island beach, wearing the fashion of the time: a long dress and sun bonnet. She was waiting for her husband to return after he left on a ship one day and never came back. It is unknown what happened to her husband, John, but legend has it that Zippy built a shack on the beach in order to keep a watchful eye for John’s return. It was rumoured she had amassed a vast collection of coins that she gathered from the beach in order to support herself financially, however when she passed away in 1884, no treasure was to be found in the home of “Aunt Zippy.”
The rich history surrounding Fenwick Island undoubtedly plays a part in the island’s modern-day charm. For Bayside residents that uniqueness is one of the best aspects of living in this Delaware beach community.