Home » 2002 RV Trip to Delaware and Virginia Beach

Cape Henlopen State Park, DE

Thursday, November 7, 2002 - 8:00am by Lolo
228 miles and 4 hours from our last stop - 1 night stay


Boys post skate boardingBoys post skate boardingThe rumors were true. The Delaware beaches are some of the loveliest on the East Coast—definitely something to keep in mind for future trips, considering its closeness to New Jersey.

I’m sure this park really bustles during the heat of the summer. However, for now on this weekday in November, we pretty much had it all to ourselves, which is kind of nice too. Since the days in November are so short, we only had a few hours to explore the park before sunset. We assumed our favorite mode of transportation (bikes) and headed out on the paved trails that lead from the campground.

You could pretty much get everywhere in the park by bike, which was great for us because once we settle the RV into a campsite, we usually like to just leave it there. The ride took us through pine forests and past salt marshes and eventually out to the beach. At one point we came upon a tower that looked a bit like a lighthouse minus the light. We got off our bikes and climbed its stairs to the top where there was an absolutely incredible panoramic view of the park. It wasn’t just an accident that the view was so good from here. This tower’s original purpose was to spot enemy ships along the coast during World War II.

After an early dinner, we headed back out on the trails to watch the sun set over the dunes. This time the boys rode their skateboards while Herb and I ran ahead of them like nuts trying to film them cruising down the long rolling hills through the dunes. These filming episodes always seem like such a pain in the butt at the time, but are always appreciated at a later date. This evening was one of those moments we wanted to capture forever.


Cape Henlopen State Park is the northernmost of three state parks along Delaware’s 25-mile stretch of Atlantic shoreline. It lies 5 miles east of Lewes on a piece of land that juts out into the sea, separating the Atlantic Ocean from Delaware Bay. Its 3,143 pristine acres of beaches, dunes, pine forests, and salt marshes are a pleasant surprise after the condominiums and high rises in Lewes.

Boys with bikesBoys with bikesThe park offers beach swimming, 7.6 miles of nature trails, paved bike trails, bay-shore crabbing, pier fishing, and camping. It is also home to the 80-foot Great Dune, the highest sand dune between Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras. A little further inland are the famous “walking dunes,” which are gradually moving each year as they are blown by the wind. The “dwarf” pines along this dune may actually be the tips of 30-foot trees.

During World War II, Cape Henlopen’s strategic location at the mouth of Delaware Bay led to its importance as a military base. Bunkers and gun emplacements were camouflaged among the dunes, and concrete observation towers were built along the coast to spot enemy ships. Today, you can climb to the top of one of these WW II observation towers for an incredible panoramic view of the park. If you look close, you might also find the remnants of old bunkers hidden in the dunes.

A good place to start your visit is at the Seaside Nature Center, near the northern entrance of the park. The Center has several aquarium exhibits where you can get a close-up look at and even touch some of the local marine life. Here you can also sign up for one of the many ranger-led activities, such a moonlight hikes, guided canoe trips, bird watching, etc.

Some of the activities you can do on your own include:

  • Ocean swimming on its guarded beaches
  • Surf fishing from panoramic Herring Point or fishing from the ¼ mile pier that juts out into Delaware Bay
  • Biking along the 3 miles of paved trails throughout the park
  • 4-wheel driving along the beach (with a permit)
  • Bird watching - bald eagles, brown pelicans, ospreys, ducks, geese, terns, and even the rare peregrine falcon can be seen in the park.
  • Walking the 0.7-mile Seaside Nature Trail through the dunes from the Nature Center. The trail comes to the sandy shores of Breakwater Harbor before looping back through the woods.
  • Walking the 1.6-mile Pinelands Nature Trail. This trail begins across the street from the Nature Center and meanders through a sandy pine forest and several cranberry bogs
  • Hiking the Walking Dune Hiking Trail
  • Climbing to the top of the Observation Tower and enjoying the panoramic views
  • Driving to Herring Point Overlook at the end of the southern park road for a sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean. A short trail leads down to the beach.

The park also has a lovely 159-site campground set amongst pine-covered dunes. Although there are no full hookups, most of the sites have water.