The six-mile stretch of shoreline attracts throngs of visitors each summer, but the families who return to Cape Henlopen year-after-year don’t visit just for the beach. With its scenic bike loop, dunes, wetland trails, nature programs and upgraded campgrounds, this state park is what family memories are made of.
Facts and figures
- This beloved region of Sussex County, Del., was named a state park in 1964.
- Situated where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, the park spans 5,193 acres.
- Often referred to as the crown jewel of the Delaware state park system, Cape Henlopen State Park upgraded its camping facilities in 2017.
Before European explorers settled here in the 1600s, Native Americans fished the waters.
In 1682, William Penn was deeded the land that currently makes up the state of Delaware. Shortly after, Penn declared that Cape Henlopen’s rich natural resources (timber, berries, fish, etc.) were to be for the common usage of citizens. In doing so, Penn essentially established the Cape as a public park long before the state itself was created.
Centuries later, Cape Henlopen served as a military base during World War II.
Things to see and do
Get those toes sandy at the designated swimming beach near the park’s Lewes entrance. Lifeguards are on duty during peak season. After an afternoon splashing in the Atlantic, you’ll appreciate the onsite showers and changing rooms.
The Seaside Nature Center is a must-visit, especially for children. In addition to five 1,000-gallon tanks full of indigenous fish, there are touch tanks for kids to feel stingrays and horseshoe crabs.
As you exit the center, stop by the adjacent bike barn, where you can borrow bikes and pull-behind strollers for up to two hours. Take advantage of the free wheels with a ride up the bike path to the Point, which boasts a sweeping ocean view and a chance to see seals, whales and dolphins.
History buffs shouldn’t miss the Battery 519 tour at the park’s Fort Miles Historical Area. Within the 15,000-square-foot fortified underground chamber, exhibits and artifacts detail the crucial role Fort Miles played in defending our country’s coastline.
Kayakers and canoers can rent boats at the Fishing Pier, while golfers will enjoy the family-friendly 18-hole disc course at the Officer’s Club building.
Cape Henlopen offers 170 sites for RV and tent camping, as well as 12 cabins. The renovated campgrounds feature drinking water, modern bathroom facilities, electric hookups, picnic tables, fire rings and a laundry facility. Holiday weekends book quickly in the summer, so reserve your site up to a year in advance.
Best time to go
When school’s out, there’s nothing like a family vacation to the beach. But if you prefer to avoid the summertime crowds, consider visiting in the fall, when temperatures should still be comfortable. Kids love the Halloween Fantasy Trail festival in October, where they’re encouraged to don their costumes for trick-or-treating along the park’s jack-o-lantern-lined path.