The ultimate guide to Cape Henlopen State Park shares a gem of a find and what’s inside the 5193 pristine acres that are paired with 6 miles of shore and 2 designated swimming beaches (Cape Henlopen Beach) with lifeguards. Cape Henlopen Delaware offers the best spoils of the Southern Delaware area, without the drastic crowds of Bethany, Dewey, and Rehoboth beaches, plus you’ll experience nature, scenic landscapes, gorgeous sand dunes, and unending waterside views.
Cape Henlopen State Park stands out when it comes to finding a variety of things to do in one place, but don’t just take my word for it, so many others take trips to visit Cape Henlopen State Park again and again!
Once inside Cape Henlopen State Park, you’ll find that it is not just a state park nor it is it just a beach, instead, you’ll find that Cape Henlopen State Park is an experience that is often overlooked by those visiting the area!
Why You Will Love Cape Henlopen Delaware (One of the DE State Parks)
When in Southern Delaware hardly will you lack beach choices. Bethany, Dewey, Lewes, and Rehoboth are just a few options all within a short distance of the other but each is so very diverse in its offerings.
In general, during peak season, you’ll find each Bethany, Dewey, and Rehoboth beaches to be overpopulated with vacation-goers, and underwhelming areas to change in, for your day at the beach, which is in stark contrast to this Cape Henlopen State Park.
You’ll love Henlopen State Park in Delaware for all of these reasons and more.
- White sandy beaches
- A minimal entrance fee means you will never be required to walk back to your car to fill the meter so more time on the beach and less time running for the stupid meters
- Clean bathrooms and changing areas (at Northern designated swimming beach), and p-l-e-n-t-y of beach areas to spread out without being anywhere near as populated as its neighboring sister beaches.
- Camp Henlopen for RVs or Cabin rentals
- Hiking areas
- Biking paths
- Lots of parking spaces
- it feels like a vacation from your vacation
Cape Henlopen State Park is a hidden treasure for both beach and adventure-seeking humans. Do you fit one of those categories?
While I don’t get over-excited about state parks, Cape Henlopen State Park is not just a state park, rather it’s an experience. Perfect for every age and adventure abounds from the beach to the boardwalk.
Things You Might Want To Bring/Know For Your Time At Cape Henlopen State Park
There’s a lot of ground (literally) to cover here, but let me give you the short and skinny list and then expand on it! “What can we do at Cape Henlopen State Park?” Maybe it should be what can’t we do at Cape Henlopen State Park?
- Do bring bug spray, you are in a protected environment, and mosquitoes lurk as do flies, etc.
- Be prepared as you would be with any trip to a park. You can use my beach packing list to help pack up!
- Beach chairs and bottled water are great ideas
- Don’t forget sand buckets and shovels too
- Additionally, phone connections in some parts of the parks are sketchy at best, so you may not have service (learned this while on the premises).
What Can I Do While I Am At Cape Henlopen State Park
Honestly, there is so much to do that this small list does not really cover it, but it is a light overview of what I’ll share in my travel guide for Cape Henlopen in Delaware so you get the most out of your time spent here!
- biking – enjoy the bike trail of about 3+ miles and you can even bike to Rehoboth and back. Bikes are free to use (details below)
- sunbathing – On any of the beaches within the Delaware Henlopen Park.
- disc golf – what fun to play Disc golf inside the park!
- camping – whether you want to rent a cabin, enjoy your tent, or hook up the RV you can at Camp Henlopen!
- a nature center – get close up with some of the local sea life including interactive aquariums.
- a tackle and a bait center are available – so don’t worry about hauling bait!
- fishing – a 1/4 mile pier you’ll love!
- surf fishing – right on the beach
- boardwalk at Gordons Pond Trail – walk on this boardwalk it is a nature walk boardwalk atop marshes and it is about 6 miles round trip
- Sandcastle building
- Shelling at the Bay (the Point is great when the tide rolls back and if you look at my photos you’ll see shells!
- Wade in tide pools during low tide at the Bay
- You can gain access to Rehoboth Beach as well.
Ultimate Guide to Cape Henlopen State Park: Gaining Entrance To The Park
To enter the park you can expect to pay a nominal fee. Don’t forget to check the site for CHSP, and I’d suggest a parking pass. In-state and out-of-state pay different fees, the pass makes sense.
Therefore, you pay the meter and you will need to be back and be punctual about paying it again. While I would never downplay the beauty and fun located at these beaches (Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany) I am describing a scenario that takes away from beach time.
I personally prefer to pay to play (so to speak) one time and get on with my day. Don’t you? The fees are established for park maintenance, that is it, and after you see the park, you will want to keep it maintained and beautiful!
Bayside – The Point At Cape Henlopen State Park
So before I even start this story, I have to take a minute and tell you this photo was on my Instagram feed and it won the #SoDelSummer contest! I took it in the dunes of the bay. The area is so beautiful you can not help but take photos.
This is prime summertime and does this beach look over-populated to you? No! It is perfect to toddle in the shallows!
Your Ultimate Guide To Cape Henlopen State Park Begins at The Point (Bay)
The Bay offers very long walk-out areas so much sandbar, no and waves, in a little bit warmer than the water on the ocean side that was averaging about 67° F while we were there.
The more shallow water is heated by the sun a bit more rapidly!
From the bayside, you can stroll out a nice distance and still never be beyond 5 feet in-depth in the water.
Definitely a choice for families with smaller children and those that want to be on a beach with prime swimming areas.
The Bayside is very clean and very family and expansive, and perfect for kayaking too if you are into that!
You can set up your coolers, and your umbrellas and chairs and just kick back and relax.
There are little tide pools that the children play in and make sandcastles without the worry of them being washed away.
Things To Know About Your Bayside Experience at Henlopen State Park
Parking in this area for the bayside experience keeps you close to the bay, without having to lug your stuff too far. Do note that the parking lot here is smaller than at the Cape Henlopen Beach areas, but get there early and you’ll get a space.
There are sand dunes and grass as far as the eye can see! Do respect the property, as it is a protected wildlife area. I just really have to show you the area up close.
Take a look, there is a nice shoreline, and plenty of space to sprawl out. This is a weekday and it is hardly populated in fact this is 1:30 in the afternoon.
Now when you go to the other public beaches (Bethany, Rehoboth, etc. ) they are jammed but not here inside the park and that is why I created the travel guide for Cape Henlopen in Delaware so you can find it and enjoy it!
I found the area to be serene and quiet. Isn’t it nice? I do love Bethany, Rehoboth, and Dewey but this was so quiet and calm, truly just a very different aspect of the Southern Delaware beach areas.
The Bathhouse at Cape Henlopen Beach Is A Big Amenity Bonus
My largest gripe with Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany beaches was simply the fact that there were no changing facilities and our hotel was not on the beach(as you know there are no beach hotels here) and then parking was difficult to find and you had to constantly remember to feed the meter!
This could be why I completely loved being in Henlopen State Park and finding the bathing house and plentiful parking so close to the beach, making it super easy to take all we had with us and not worry about drying off and traveling back to the hotel!
As a mom, I loved the fact that there was a changing facility as well as showers right as you get off the bay!
At the Northern designated swimming beach Cape Henlopen Beach you’ll find a bathhouse as well as a snack house!
Also, you can rent beach chairs and umbrellas and experience a life-guarded beach here, overall, there are just fewer people here making it comfortable, and what I term a hidden gem.
Cape Henlopen Park + Feeding Their/Your Hunger
Don’t worry if you didn’t pack food, you’ll find something to eat right in the park!
Food At The Cape Henlopen Beach Area
You are not going to find popular pizza places here but you will find some fun foods at the snack shop like chicken fingers, fries, etc.
Best Photo Spot For Lighthouse Photos + Sunsets
At The Cape (the Point) Bayside you will feel as though you can walk to the lighthouse.
Doesn’t it look like you could totally wade right to the lighthouse from this angle?
Of course, I know it is not possible but seeing the lighthouse from this direction was pretty darn cool.
Additionally, it does give you an idea of how far you can go in the bay and enjoy the water at ankle-deep levels does it not?
We were so lucky with the weather too, it was not too sunny, it was just right as the sun peaked in and out of the clouds.
It’s hard to believe that the East End Lighthouse is so close yet so far!
Here you get a very different vantage point it looks as if you could walk out to the lighthouse, even though that is simply not possible.
Earlier in the day, we took the East End Lighthouse Tour so this was a perfect way to come full circle on views of the lighthouse.
Cape Henlopen Fishing Pier
Do you want to fish while you are in the Henlopen State Park?
- There is a bait and tackle shop and you have 2 options for fishing. You can fish off a pier or you can surf fish right on the beach.
- All fishing options require licenses that can be purchased online (keeps things simple right?).
- You will find a 1/4-mile-long pier that gives you plenty of access to Delaware Bay.
- As for surf fishing, you can take your vehicle onto the beach, and your pet as well but you have to be actively engaged in your sport in order to stay there.
- Yes, the beaches are monitored by the Park Rangers who enforce the rules!
Surf Fishing Henlopen State Park Beach
Beachside surf fishing is a big deal inside of Cape Henlopen State Park (CHSP) and when you surf fish you can bring your vehicle to the beach, and you’ll want to adjust your tire pressure as well!
Enjoying the Beach At Cape Henlopen State Park
The beachside is quite exciting as you will find waves, people fishing, and even vehicles on the beach and dogs.
- Dogs do have to be maintained on leashes and not further than 6′ foot leashes.
- Rehoboth beach is only 3 miles away!
- In case you are curious the top speed when riding on the beach is 15 miles per hour or a park ranger can cite you and ticket you and yes it does happen.
- Only bring your vehicle on the beach if you are surf fishing and have the license for such, otherwise no vehicles on the beach.
- There is plenty of parking and it is not a long haul from the parking lot down to the beach.
- Again you will find facilities for changing as well as using the bathroom.
- You can bring coolers onto the beach but do make sure you clean up after yourself or you will receive a fine.
- Also, no alcohol is permitted in the Cape Henlopen Beach swimming designated areas, but it is allowed in the pavilions and surf fishing beach
- There are lifeguards on duty.
Simply stated: there is a lot of area on the beach for you to spread out and enjoy.
Ride the 3.3 Mile Bike Loop In Cape Henlopen Delaware (The Bike Barn)
As part of a green initiative, Cape Henlopen State Park offers free bicycle rentals for up to 2 hours.
You can borrow a free loaner bike for up to 2 hours at no charge, you will need to fill out paperwork and provide a photo id!
There are many bikes to choose from, this is amazing and you can choose from plenty of trails in the park for every level of biker, and if you want you can head down to Rehoboth Beach boardwalk as it is just 3 miles away!
The trails include paved, earthen, crushed stone, and shell. Pick your pleasure and go!
Seaside Nature Center In Henlopen State Park
For those of you who want to get up close and personal with a stingray do it here at no charge and you can even pet it (ugh).
Well, I will say I passed on this opportunity, however, my son pets it. He said it feels like velvet. I will just go ahead and take his word for it, I think it is funny to see their underbelly.
The nature center is right next to the bike barn.
You can enjoy petting a stingray, or getting up close and personal with a horseshoe crab.
We learned more than we ever wanted to know about a horseshoe crab from superintendent Grant.
To be honest this thing totally creeped me out but once you learn about it is not so scary.
We have seen horseshoe crabs when visiting the Outer Banks and never knew much about them now I know a whole lot about the animal and respect them.
Truly a learning experience we have never had, not even at a zoo and we have been to many zoos.
The attraction is free, though someone may not always be there to give insight on the tanks, etc.
I Like Turtles
Great, if you like turtles because they swim right up to the glass to see you. This one seemed like it was striking a pose, so yes I snapped its photo. Cute right?
Additionally, as you move through the center, you will find 5- 1000 gallons tanks that are local to the state park and some turtles.
There is a snake exhibit, which we did not tour (thank goodness) as well as a LIVE Osprey Cam.
Inside Cape Henlopen, You’ll Find A Military Bunker & Armory Known As Fort Miles
The WWII area, coupled with the artillery is something you do not want to miss.
If you are a history buff, you should know that the artillery there is not the original artillery so you won’t be disappointed but that did not matter to my crew, because it is simply cool and interesting!
The bunkers in the sand made for great defense and sighting enemies coming from them at the ocean.
What has been created here is a mock-up of where and how they would defend the area.
When you get inside you will be astounded to find a concrete compound that is actually the size of 2 football fields long when you are standing in one hallway. I was nothing short of astounded.
The exhibits here are fun to browse and of course, filled with information.
As the state gets more money to fund this, it will be officially opened as a non-guided tour museum.
During one part of the tour, our guide h 1 of the guide Tyler we learned how they planned for battle and fired the artillery. In addition, we gained an appreciation for how heavy the missiles that were launched were and how they had to be handled.
At the end where MJ travels gets to fire the artillery ready to set fire take a look.
Of course, I had to have a little fun here too.
I found these signs on the wall.
Actually, they were descriptive signs for the contents that would have been found in the rooms if it were an active base.
For me, it was a stop and smell the roses kind of a moment or maybe just a few Dana Descriptors, lol!
Camp Henlopen at Cape Henlopen State Park
You’ll find 12 cabins that are available to rent inside Cape Henlopen State Park.
Here you’ll find ac, electricity, 2 bedrooms, screened-in porches, and grills!
- The camping grounds here are clean.
- You’ll find 20 Walk-In Tent Sites
- There are 12 Cabins to rent with screened front porches, and electric
- There are electrical and water hookups too!
- If you prefer a cabin, they are available to rent and have air conditioning in them.
- Pets are allowed on the camping grounds but strictly enforced rules of a 6-foot separation on leashes and no further are enforced.
- Remember bug spray and leashes for pets.
I even saw a camper that had chickens in cages with them (true story).
Henlopen State Park FAQs
Can You Walk The beach At Cape Henlopen State Park?
Yes but not on the beach, instead you’ll not be walking the beach, on a sand trail that starts at the Seaside Nature Center and leads right to the bay (the Point) it is about .7 of a mile!
Are There Free Bikes To Use Inside Cape Henlopen State Park?
Yes! You’ll need your ID and to fill out some basic paperwork and you can use the bike for up to 2 hours. Look for the Bike Barn right next to the Seaside Nature Center.
Is there a Bathhouse At Cape Henlopen Beach?
Yes there is, and you’ll find clean restrooms too, plus you’ll find restrooms at the Seaside Nature Center.
Can I Buy Bait For Fishing At Henlopen State Park?
Yes. There is a bait and tackle shop and they sell ice cream too!
Can I Drive On Cape Henlopen Beach?
Yes, you are allowed to drive your vehicle on the beach, but you will need to be actively engaged in surf fishing.
Am I Able To Bring Alcohol To Cape Henlopen State Park?
Yes. Alcohol is permitted in the pavilion areas, and surf fishing areas, but not on the beaches that are designated for swimming.
Can I Get To Cape Henlopen Via Foot?
Yes, you can! You can walk from Rehoboth Bech to Cape Henlopen it is about 3 miles.
Is There Good Biking Throughout Henlopen State Park?
Yes! There is a 3.3-mile loop including a ride through a forest, the dunes, and a pass-through Fort Miles, it’s a relatively uncomplicated biking path with the exception of 2 steeper areas it is a great bike adventure!
Is there Really A Former Military Watch At Henlopen State Park?
Yes! You can tour the museum and see the artillery artifacts!
Will I Be Able To Find Public Grills To Use At Cape Henlopen, Delaware?
If I Don’t Have An RV Can I Still Camp In A Tent At Cape Henlopen Delaware?
Yes. You can rent a cabin, or pitch a tent! There are 20 walk-in tents available to rent and 12 cabins. There is a laundry area, dump station, fire rings, and picnic tables.
Are There Umbrella Rentals For The Beach ( at Cape Henlopen State Park?
Yes! Learn more here.
Cape Henlopen State Park Is The Perfect Playground For Adults and Kids
Secluded yet wide out in the open, and a public space Cape Henlopen State Park is truly a playground for families, a great beach area, and somewhere that is secluded from the hustle and bustle of the other beaches in the area of over 5000 acres or 6 miles of shores!
Perhaps Cape Henlopen State Park was the treasure chest I found in the area without even realizing it until I walked away.
Families need to flock to these acres of pristine bliss and enjoy their vacation.
Your true Southern Delaware beach experience is not simply at Bethany, Dewey, or Rehoboth (unless you prefer umbrella-ridden, chair-filled, over-populated beach areas), but rather right here inside of Cape Henlopen State Park.
Those areas albeit perfect for a vacation can tend to be over-populated, with umbrella, and chair-filled beaches.
All in all, there is so much to do within CHSP that 1 day will not be enough time spent here.
Plan on spending a few days and try out both the Bayside and the ocean side with waves, a little bit of the history and the military, as well as bicycling.
Pay a nominal parking fee and enjoy a world of nature ahead.
History, fun in the sun, and the lovely beaches of Southern Delaware are waiting for you! ~ Dana XO
I visited Cape Henlopen State Park and spent my time with my 3 teens and Park Superintendent Grant Melville. I asked dozens of questions as did the teens and got answers. Dana Vento is an award-winning travel writer who loves to seek out adventure and fun. The trip was sponsored by Southern Delaware. Opinions are my own.