Nestled at the mouth of the Delaware Bay in Lewes, Cape Henlopen State Park is thought to be one of the oldest sections of public land in the whole of the USA.
Despite being gifted to the ‘citizens of Lewes and Sussex County’ by William Penn in 1682, it wasn’t officially designated as a Delaware state park until almost 300 years later. With lawmakers deeming its strategic position, on the southern fringes of the Chesapeake Bay, as being too an important area for military defense and commercial enterprise, to give up.
Today, thankfully, the park is fully accessible to the public, providing excellent opportunities to enjoy its 6 miles of coastline. As well as a range of outdoor recreational activities including fishing, hiking, boating and visiting its world-class aquarium.
As it is located less than an hour’s drive from Dover and Cambridge, the park’s spectacular landscape makes it a popular day trip destination. However, for those who want to soak in its beauty and tranquility over the course of a few nights, there are plenty of camping accommodation options available in its main campground.
Cape Henlopen State Park Photos
Spread across 5,193 acres, the park offers plenty to keep the visitor occupied, engaged and entertained.
Here is just a small selection of all the things you can see and do there.
Swimming at Cape Henlopen State Park
Undoubtedly, the park’s sensational beaches are one of its main drawcards.
If you want to take a refreshing dip in the bracing waters of the Atlantic, there is a fabulous swimming area on the ocean side of Cape Henlopen. This section is lifeguarded from Memorial Day to Labor Day, although at other times of the year you will have to swim at your own risk.
That said, the waves are generally not too rough, on account of the area’s natural and artificial harbors, so if you are sensible and exercise caution, you should be ok.
From the boardwalk, there are also wheelchair-friendly mobile mats in place that provides access to the water’s edge.
Fishing at Cape Henlopen State Park
The park is a haven for anglers who come from all parts of the USA to throw in a line here.
Open 24 hours, the quarter mile fishing pier at Cape Henlopen is a terrific place to catch fish at all times of the year. Between April and November is it ADA-accessible and you should be able to snare plenty of bluefish, flounder, croaker and stripers.
If you would prefer, you can surf-fish from the sand dunes, or rent a kayak and make your way to the pilings toward the end of the pier, where flounder can be found in abundance.
In order to fish in any of its waters, you will need to procure a Delaware State fishing license. You can either get this online, or at the onsite tackle, bait and snack shop.
Hiking at Cape Henlopen State Park
The park boasts a number of trails, many of which are multiple use for hiking and biking.
Showcasing terrific views of the ocean, these paths also take you through the stunning landscapes of sand dunes, marshlands, dense forests and wildflower strewn grasslands that make up the park.
These trails are also a wonderful way to spot some of the several species of birds that reside at the park. This includes the likes of raptors, songbirds, waterfowl and shorebirds.
Here are some of the trails you can tackle at the Cape Henlopen State Park:
trail 1 – Pinelands Nature Trail. Length: 1.5 miles Degree of Difficulty: easy
trail 2 – Seaside Nature Trail. Length: 0.6 miles Degree of Difficulty: easy
trail 3 – Junction and Breakwater Trail. Length: 5.3 miles Degree of Difficulty: moderate
Fort Miles Museum at Cape Henlopen State Park
Nestled within the rolling sand dunes, high on a bank that looks out to the ocean, lies the Fort Miles Historic Area.
An important strategic part of the nation’s coastal defense system from World War II to the early 1970s, this fascinating museum conveys the history of Fort Miles.
Its central features include a fire control tower, six barracks buildings, Battery 519, the Fort Miles Artillery Park and an orientation building. All of which are well worth checking out.
Nature Center at Cape Henlopen State Park
One of the main highlights of the park is its magnificent Seaside Nature Center.
Recently renovated, it features a two-level, 495-gallon touch tank, replete with viewing windows, that allow you to see a range of aquatic animals like stingrays, horseshoe crabs and several species of fish.
The center also has five separate 1,000-gallon tanks which are filled with local fish. As well as a live Osprey cam and a fabulous range of programs and activities for both kids and adults to enjoy.
Pets at Cape Henlopen State Park
Pets are allowed in the park, although some restrictions might apply. So if you want to bring your dog with you, it would be a good idea to contact the park’s main office to determine what they are.
Camping at Cape Henlopen State Park
Set among stunning pine-covered dunes, Cape Henlopen offers over 100 camping sites for those who are interested in spending a few nights at the park. Most of these sites are suitable for RVs and trailers, and come with electric and water hookups, as well as fire rings and picnic tables.
Although there are no sewer hookups available, there is a dump station on-site that you can use. Other amenities include restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers, laundry and a recycling station.
In addition to the main campground, there are also 20 walk-in tent sites which are located near the Waking Dunes Trail. As well as 12 cabins that come with two bedrooms, an outdoor spigot, fire rings for cooking and a shared, communal bath house.
Three primitive youth camping sites are also located just to the north of the main campground.
Cape Henlopen State Park
15099 Cape Henlopen Drive
Lewes, DE 19958