Delaware

About the Park

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.

Water, Beaches, and Trails

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.

Camping and Cabins

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.

Fort Miles Museum and Historical Area

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.

Seaside Nature Center

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.

Nature Center Hours

  • Mid-June through Labor Day
  • 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
  • Fall and Spring
  • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily
  • November through March
  • 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday
  • Closed Monday and Tuesday

Borrow-A-Bike Program

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.

Available 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily on days when the nature center is open

Nature Preserve

Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve – Washover Barrier Spit provides the only publicly owned wild beach in Delaware incorporating dune and marsh habitat as it lies between the Delaware Bay and the Broadkill River. A portion of beachfront allows surf fishing and pedestrian use however, a majority of the Preserve is off limits to human activity for the purpose of wildlife conservation. It provides important habitat for horseshow crab spawning and shorebird feeding in the spring.

Amenities: Linear Trail on river side (pedestrian only). Parking lot, limited access to beach and Broadkill River.

Acreage: 127 acres

t the Animals

3 Palms Zoo and Education Center/CLAYTON – 

Not a typical commercialized Zoo, this non-profit rescue & education center allows guests to embark on an educational exposure to exotic, wild, domestic, and agricultural animals in a natural woodland surrounding. Chickens and Geese freely roam the grounds. Hand feed and pet domestic animals such as; Llamas, Alpaca, Goats, Ducks, Sheep, Donkey, Pigs & Mini Pigs, Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Tortoises, and an Emu.   3 Palms also houses non-releasable wild animals for educational purposes such as: a Raccoon, Opossums, Groundhog, Skunks, Turtles, Screech Owls, Silver & Red Foxes, Turkey Vultures, Common Raven, Fish & American Crows, Snow & Canada Geese, Wild Turkeys. Each of these species resides in his or her own habitat designed for their own special needs. Don’t miss the exhibit  of exotic birds: Red Jungle Fowl, Peacocks, Exotic Pheasants, Black Sumatras, Mandarin Ducks, and Indian Rock Pigeons.  Migratory Waterfowl (including Wood Ducks, Pintails, & Shovelers), Pheasants, Cackling Geese, and Laughing Gulls call the Coastal North America Habitat home. In the Rainforest Habitat listen for the White Faced Whistling Tree Ducks, and keep your eyes peeled for: Turtles & Tortoises, Polly the Military Macaw, and 3 species of Tree Frogs. The Grand Finale attraction is Tick-Tock, Delaware’s only alligator. >MORE