Why Do They Call It ‘Slaughter Beach?’

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Woman laughing while relaxing on Slaughter Beach, Delaware

Would you visit a place called Slaughter Beach? Many people do, mostly out of curiosity, and they are often delighted at what they find there.

We know the warning about judging a book by its cover. You can say the same about Slaughter Beach. The little low-key beach community in Delaware has much going for it. It’s a good thing it does because it has to overcome some creepy first impressions.

So what’s the story of Slaughter Beach? Let’s find out!

What Is Slaughter Beach? 

Slaughter Beach is a small town in Delaware that’s a bedroom community for several nearby cities. It has a long history, dating to 1681, but a short list of residents.

The town covers only 1.3 square miles and has a population of 220 people, according to the latest estimate.

There’s not much development other than houses and a few small businesses. In fact, a significant portion of Slaughter Beach exists for wildlife preservation. The various species thriving here include diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, and numerous shore birds.

Where Is Slaughter Beach? 

Slaughter Beach is on the eastern coastline of Delaware on Delaware Bay, separating Delaware from New Jersey.

It’s east of the neighboring town of Milford and about 30 miles south of Dover, Delaware’s capital. The better-known seaside community of Rehoboth Beach is about a 40-minute drive away.

Why Do They Call It ‘Slaughter Beach?’

How Slaughter Beach got its name is probably the most common question that visitors ask. Unfortunately, according to the town’s official website, there’s not a single, clear-cut answer.

The residents incorporated the town in 1931, and one theory is that Slaughter was simply the surname of the postmaster. We like this explanation because it’s the least gruesome.

Another origin story goes back to the horseshoe crabs and their practice of laying eggs in shallow waters along the shore. Sometimes many of them perish on the sands after retreating tides leave them high and dry. Could it be that scores of crab carcasses gave rise to the name Slaughter Beach?

A third theory is even more violent. That version says the name goes back to the slaughter, by cannon, of a group of Native Americans in the 1700s. 

Does Slaughter Beach Have a Public Beach? 

While some waterfront areas are a haven for the horseshoe crabs, people can enjoy the town’s public beach, too. There are few amenities here and not a busy boardwalk like those in other Delaware beach towns.

This is an excellent place for beachcombing, though, and at low tide, you can walk out for a pretty good distance. You may want to wear water shoes because the ground is pretty rocky. Besides the small stones, there may also be shells underfoot.

You’ll see interpretative signs about the wildlife, including the many kinds of birds that live here or stop during migrations. Be sure and scan the horizon for dolphins offshore.

Town officials ask that beachgoers stay off the dunes. They are a reasonably fragile ecosystem, home to many plants and animals, and protect the town from flooding.

Traveler’s Tip: Go for a swim and Sunbathe At the 5 Best Beaches in Delaware.

Horseshow crab in the sand at Slaughter Beach

Where Can I Park at the Beach?

For parking, you have a few options close to the beach. There are some small parking areas near beach houses and a main parking lot near the fire station.

It’s a short walk to the beach from any of these areas, and there are restrooms and showers for rinsing.

There are also a few picnic tables under a shaded pavilion. If you don’t feel like getting out on the sand, this is an ideal place to sit and enjoy the view.

Can You Swim at Slaughter Beach? 

You can go swimming in Delaware Bay at Slaughter Beach, but be careful because there are no lifeguards.

You should also be aware that sometimes there are harmful bacteria in these waters. Delaware’s Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control does regular testing, but it’s usually safe here.

Besides swimming, many residents enjoy fishing along the shore and participating in other recreational activities like boating and windsurfing.  

Another attraction is a 345-foot boardwalk with an observation deck over a salt marsh.

Woman walking in the sand at Slaughter Beach

Is the Beach Dog-Friendly? 

Your four-legged friends are welcome to join you on our beach outing. Simply keep your dogs on a leash, and be sure to pick up after them.

You will likely encounter other curious visitors, but if you’re lucky, you may have the place to yourselves.

Is Slaughter Beach, Delaware, Nice?

Despite its unfortunate name, Slaughter Beach is a pleasant place to hang out. In fact, it’s about as relaxed as a beachfront town can be. There are no typical tourist trappings, not even chain restaurants or souvenir shops.

Just don’t go there expecting glistening white sand and stunning blue-green waters. That’s not what this place is. Instead, it’s a sweet little beach community where you can peacefully pass some time in a laid-back way. The main activity seems to be what the locals love to do; enjoy and appreciate nature.

 Will you go to Slaughter Beach on your next outing?

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