Fenwick Island is a coastal town in Sussex County, Delaware, USA. According to 2010 census figures, the population of the town is 379, a 10.8% increase over the last decade. It is part of the Salisbury, Maryland-Delaware Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town is located on Fenwick Island, a barrier spit.
Fenwick Island and its neighbors to the north, Bethany Beach and South Bethany are popularly known as "The Quiet Resorts". This is in contradistinction to the wild atmosphere of Dewey Beach and the cosmopolitan bustle of Rehoboth Beach. Fenwick Island, however, is somewhat less "quiet" than "the Bethanies" because it is immediately across the state line from Ocean City, Maryland, which has a reputation as a lively vacation resort.
Named after Thomas Fenwick, a planter from England who settled in Maryland, Fenwick Island lay in the part of Delaware which was claimed by Lord Baltimore and his heirs during the Penn-Baltimore border dispute.
Contrary to popular belief, the town does not sit on a barrier island but on a narrow peninsula which resembles a barrier island (unless one considers a narrow man-made boat canal well inland that connects White Creek to Little Assawoman Bay). The narrow strip of land separates the Atlantic Ocean from Little Assawoman Bay. Ocean City, Maryland occupies the southern tip of this peninsula.
Local legend has it that Cedar Island in Little Assawoman Bay was a spot for pirates to bury treasure. Regardless of the truth of the legend, the Delaware coastal area was well known as a place for pirates to hide from the law.
The town was an unincorporated area between South Bethany and Ocean City, Maryland until July 1953, when the Delaware General Assembly passed an act to incorporate the town. Local sentiment demanded incorporation to prevent the relentless high-rise development of Ocean City from creeping north into Fenwick Island.