The Ultimate Guide to Delaware's Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen is the gem of the Delaware State Parks system. This guide will help you ro make the most of your visit to the park!

Cape Henlopen State Park is a big place with lots to do including camping, biking, hiking, kayaking, touring a WWII fort, and much more. Many people come to the park and just hit the beach, but miss out on all other other amazing things the park has to offer. Here are the key experiences to hit during your visit, as well as a 1 and 2 day itinerary!

1.  Catch a Sunrise at Herring Point

Herring Point is one of the best places in the park to watch a sunrise. The sun will rise directly over the water, and there are rock outcroppings that make for beautiful photos. 


2. Visit the Touch Tank and the Aquariums in the Seaside Nature Center

In the nature center you can encounter local reptiles, fish, and other marine organisms. There is also a touch tank where you can find horseshoe crabs, whelks, and more. You can talk with a knowledgeable naturalist, grab a park map, and even pick up a souvenir. The Nature Center is a great place to start your day, and you can rent bikes for free from the bike barn next door. 


3. Bike or Hike the Bike Loop

The Bike Loop Trail will take you through the park and give you a good overview of the place. The trail is an easy ride, and you can stop and see a few things along the way including the Observation Tower, Fort Miles, the Fishing Pier, and the Nature Center. If you're starting your day at the Nature Center, you can rent bikes at the bike barn and catch the trail from the front of the Nature Center. 

4. Climb the Observation Tower

The Observation Tower was originally a WWII Fire Control Tower, but today, you can climb to the top to get a spectacular 360 view of the entire park. If you are doing the Bike Loop Trail, be sure to stop here!

5. Tour the Fort Miles Museum

Cape Henlopen was a military fort during WWII, and you can still see the bunkers and the battery where the guns were kept. Tour the artillery park and take a guided battery tour if you can!


6. Bike the Gordons Pond Trail into Rehoboth

The Gordons Pond trail will show you an entirely different side of the park. The trail will take you on an elevated boardwalk above the salt marshes and then end at the beach on the other side of the Park. Once you reach the end of the park, continue for a few minutes and you'll find yourself in the middle of the famous Rehoboth Boardwalk. 

7. Hike the Walking Dunes Trail

This lesser-known trail will take you through the massive sand dunes of the park and will make you feel as though you've been transported to the desert.

8. Walk the Fishing Pier

The fishing pier is a popular spot for fishing, but also a great place for walking. Stroll along the quarter mile pier and see what people have caught. At the end, you can see old pilings sticking out of the water that used to belong to the original pier. You may even catch a glimpse of an osprey if you're there in the summer. If you're into fishing, there is a bait and tackle shop directly beside the pier. 

9. Look for Dolphins from the Hawk Watch

Dolphins come through Delaware every summer, and you can often see their fins dipping through the water. The Hawk Watch is a good place to watch for dolphins because you have an elevated view. The best time to look for dolphins is in the morning or around dusk. 

10. Hit the Beach!

Cape Henlopen offers a beautiful beaches that are perfect for swimming or sunbathing. The main beach is guarded from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and you can even take your dog to the beach at Herring Point as long as it is on a leash. If you're into surf fishing, you can do that on the beach as well. 

11. Eat a Gelati

The concession stand at the main beach bathhouse has amazing Water Ice. If you're really feeling it, go for the gelati where they layer soft serve ice cream and water ice. You won't regret it!


12. Kayak the Bay

The Bay side of the park is a great place for kayaking! You can kayak out to the East End Breakwater lighthouse and see the stones of the breakwater up close. You may even see a few dolphins if you're lucky! Kayak and SUP rentals are available at the fishing pier, or you can sign up for a guided kayak tour of the Bay. 

10. Explore the Delaware Bay at Low Tide and Look for Creatures

During low tide, the Bay side of the park is practically drained of water, leaving sand bars and tide pools behind. Search the water for crabs, fish, snails, and more. The best spot to look is under the fishing pier.


11. Watch the Sunset from The Point

The Point is the literal point where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. There is no better spot in the park to watch a sunset. The view is best when low tide and sunset happen at the same time. 

12. Look for Ghost Crabs at Dusk

Once the sun goes down, ghost crabs start to emerge! Search the sand on the Bay side of the park and look for these sand-colored crabs darting across the sand. The best place to look is around the beach surrounding the fishing pier. 

13. Pitch a Tent in the Newly-Renovated Campground

Cape Henlopen renovated their campground in 2017, and it's a wonderful place to spend the night!



One Day itinerary

  • Start by visiting the nature center (or start with a sunrise first if you are a morning person!).
  • Rent a bike from the nature center and bike the Bike Loop. On the Loop, stop by Fort Miles to wander through the artillery Park and climb the Observation Tower. 
  • Hit the main beach in the afternoon, and grab lunch and a gelato from the concession stand OR bike the Gordons Pond Trail.
  • If low tide happens in the late afternoon, head to the Bay side to look for creatures under the fishing pier or in the sand bars. 
  • Watch sunset from The Point.
  • Stick around after sunset to look for ghost crabs on the sand

Second Day Itinerary

  • Camp in the campground.
  • Catch a sunrise at Herring Point.
  • Look for dolphins from the Hawk Watch in the morning.
  • Rent a bike from the nature center and bike the Gordons Pond Trail. If you have your own bike, continue into Rehoboth and stop for lunch or ice cream. 
  • Kayak the Bay OR hike the Walking Dunes Trail in the afternoon.
Published: January 16, 2018

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Abby ShepardExplorer

Dover

Advocating outdoor adventure and chasing sunsets, all with a serious case of wanderlust.