When the current lands of the state of Delaware were granted to William Penn sometime after 1682, Penn proclaimed that Cape Henlopen and its natural resources were to be for the common usage of the citizens of Lewes and Sussex County, thus establishing some of the nation's first "public lands." It has remained in the public domain ever since, playing a major role in local shipping and in the nation's military history. The historic Henlopen Lighthouse no longer helps to guide vessels through the treacherous bay waters, but the two stone "breakwaters" barriers off the point of the Cape, completed in 1869 and 1901, still form a safe harbor for boats during rough seas. As a Delaware state park, Cape Henlopen remains in the public domain.
Cape Henlopen's beaches attract thousands of visitors who enjoy everything from ocean swimming, boating, fishing, and kayaking to clamming, paddle-boarding and wind-surfing. But Cape Henlopen offers more than just the ocean and bays. The park's premiere trails offer hiking and biking exploration.
A designated swimming beach, accessible from the Lewes entrance to the park, provides lifeguard patrols between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day (schedule may vary depending on staff availability).
Mobi-Mat equipment, consisting of three 30-foot mats allowing those in wheelchairs and power chairs to access the beach from the boardwalk, is also available at this location.
Cape Henlopen's campground, set among pine-covered dunes, now includes 2-point hookups, 100-amp service on several sites, and sites to accommodate larger rigs. Twenty walk-in tent sites lie adjacent to the Waking Dunes Trail. Twelve camping cabins -- two-room individual cabins that offer an outdoor spigot and fire ring for cooking and share a communal bath house -- offer an economical alternative for vacationing at the beach. Visit our Reservations section for camping information and pricing.
During World War II, the Delaware River was a chief priority for defense planners because of the access it afforded to the giant trade centers of Wilmington, Philadelphia, and beyond. Fort Miles, located in what is now Cape Henlopen State Park, was a key piece of the nation's coastal defense at that time. Visit the Fort Miles page in our Attractions section for information about programs and tours.
The centerpiece of the newly-renovated Seaside Nature Center is a 495-gallon two-level touch tank, complete with viewing windows that allow visitors to see stingrays, horseshoe crabs and other species in the tank while they’re underwater. The nature center also features five 1,000-gallon tanks with local fish, exhibits that explain the different habitats within the park, a live Osprey cam (April through August), and a gift shop. A wide selection of activities and programs for children and adults are led by Seaside Nature Center staff each week.
9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday
Free bikes are available at the Seaside Nature Center on a first-come, first-served basis, weather permitting, for 2 hours at a time, Bikes must remain within the park and stay on the paved bike trail. For more information, call the nature center. The Borrow-A-Bike Program is a project of the Friends of Cape Henlopen.
Lying between the Delaware Bay and the Broadkill River, Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve – Washover Barrier Spit provides the only publicly owned wild beach in Delaware incorporating both dune and marsh habitat. A portion of beachfront allows surf fishing and pedestrian use; however, a majority of the preserve is off limits to human activity to allow for wildlife conservation. The site provides important habitat for horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird feeding in the spring. The preserve has a pedestrian-only linear trail on the river side and a limited-access parking lot.
Monday, June 15, 2020
Get in the grove as we seek out what moves and how by land, air and sea. We’ll keep things going with cool crafts and fun activities, too.
Monday, June 22, 2020
Discover some of the wildlife mysteries of Cape, as we dig into the different habitats in the park and find out what makes the coast the most.
Monday, June 29, 2020
Experience all the colors of Cape as we search the spectrum of nature’s possibilities, making colorful crafts, and a playing a rainbow of games.
Monday, July 6, 2020
Challenge yourself as part of a team that catches fish, tracks animals and seeks out the wild side of the park!
Tuesday, July 7, 2020
This fun and educational program for children ages 9 to 16 years is designed to teach the importance of water safety, surf rescue techniques, minor first aid, and respect for natural resources, and to provide children with the knowledge and experience of true ocean rescuers. To be eligible for the Junior Lifeguard Program, each participant must have minimum swimming ability. Those who are unable to tread water or do not have basic swimming skills will not be allowed to participate. Tuesdays and Thursdays only, 8 to 9:30 a.m., July 7 through August 4.
Monday, July 13, 2020
Experience Fort Miles history as you develop skills such as code breaking and concealment, then use them to complete an historic mission.
Monday, July 20, 2020
Find out how the plants and animals of Cape beat the heat, as we explore different “cool” places in the park.
Monday, July 27, 2020
Venture where explorers, pirates and defenders traveled. Hunt for treasure and uncover some of Cape’s mysteries as part of a team.
Monday, August 3, 2020
Not just for the birds and bees, we’ll explore what’s got wings but how plants and animals survive the long summer days.
Monday, August 10, 2020
Get in touch with nature as we seek to see, feel, smell and experience how plants and animals spend summer in the park.