View of Atlantic Ocean at Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

Where is Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen State Park resides entirely in the state of Delaware. Resting against the Atlantic coast, the state park’s recreation attractions mostly revolve around the ocean and all it has to offer. Cape Henlopen State Park contains miles of beach access, a fishing pier, a designated surf-fishing area, a campground, a disc-golf course, and several paths designated for walking, hiking, and bicycling. The park also contains Historic Fort Miles. The closest town to the state park is Sussex, Delaware, and the state park is about an hour from Dover. Several other outdoor recreation areas reside near Cape Henlopen State Park. These include Delaware Seashore State Park, Fenwick Island State Park, Holts Landing State Park, and a few others.

How Large is Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen US State Park covers over 5,000 acres. The park’s acres are mostly a combination of beaches, coastal dunes, and intertidal zones. However, the park also contains several acres of maritime forest and Historic Fort Miles. Inside of Fort Miles resides Battery 519. This historic underground gun bunker was constructed in 1941 and covers over 15,000 square feet. The park’s trail system is over 21 miles long and maintains trails through each of Cape Henlopen’s various ecosystems. The longest trail in the park is the Junction and Breakwater trail at a distance of five miles.

View of Lighthouse and Boats During Sunset at Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

Cape Henlopen State Park Weather

The temperatures at Cape Henlopen State Park vary frequently through the year. In the summer, temperatures normally average between 65- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, average temperatures drop to a range of 30- and 55-degrees Fahrenheit. The hottest temperatures in the park appear in June, July and August, and the coldest temperatures in the park appear in December and January. On average, Cape Henlopen receives around 50 inches of rain per year. Despite containing several miles of beach access, Cape Henlopen State Park also regularly receives snow every winter. On average, snowfall in the state park averages over eight inches per year.

When did Cape Henlopen Become a State Park

Cape Henlopen became a state park officially in 1964. However, Cape Henlopen was originally set aside for public use by William Penn back in 1682 when the United States was just thirteen colonies. Cape Henlopen was one of the first parcels of land to ever be set aside for public use in the original thirteen colonies. Years later, Cape Henlopen was an important location for United States naval and army forces during several wars including the American Revolution, World War I, and World War II. The park contained Cape Henlopen Light, the sixth lighthouse to be built on the Atlantic Coast, from 1769 to 1926. The lighthouse now resides at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Fort Miles was built on Cape Henlopen during World War II in 1941.

Sand Dunes and Beach Grass With Lighthouse in Background at Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

Things to do in Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen offers its visitors a variety of recreation activities including beaching, swimming, hiking, fishing, and others. List of Parks outlines the most popular adventures below:

Cape Henlopen Beaches

The beaches of Cape Henlopen attract visitors from around the country to Cape Henlopen State Park. Visitors can access the beaches to sunbathe, swim, surf fish, or just to spend time with friends and family. The bays of Cape Henlopen State Park offer visitors the opportunity to kayak, canoe, and paddle board.

Point Overlook 

The Point Overlook in Cape Henlopen State Park is where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. This meeting of waters is a popular gathering place for marine species such as dolphins, seals, and schools of fish. Visitors will also take in views of East End Breakwater and Harbor of Refuge lighthouse from the Point Overlook.

Fort Miles Historic Area 

History buffs visiting Cape Henlopen will want to check out the Fort Miles Historic Area. The area contains Battery 519, observation towers, and other military sights that will teach visitors about the area’s role in past military engagements.

Borrow a Bike 

Thanks to the Friends of Cape Henlopen Association visitors of Cape Henlopen State Park can borrow a bike from the state park for free. Using their newly borrowed bike, visitors can complete the park’s bike loop. The bike loop passes winds throughout the park, and also grants visitors a first-hand view of the beach, dunes, and maritime forest the park contains. 

Nature Center 

The Cape Henlopen Nature Center is a great option for every visitor spending time in Cape Henlopen State Park. Inside the nature center, visitors can expect to find various exhibits, guided programs and several touch tanks. The touch tanks located in the nature center allow visitors to interact with several marine species including sea stars and various rays.

Gordons Pond Trail 

One of the most popular trails in Cape Henlopen State Park, the Gordons Pond Trail is 3.2 miles long and offers views of several of the park’s coastal ecosystems. This trail meanders through the park’s dunes, wetlands, and forests using a series of boardwalks. Visitors embarking down the Gordons Pond Trail should keep an eye out for some of the park’s wildlife that is frequently spotted in and around the trail. 

Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve 

In between Delaware Bay and Broadkill River, the Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve is the only publicly owned wild beach in the country. The preserve protects fragile beach, dune, and wetland environments. Most of the Beach Plum Island Nature Preserve is off limits to human activity. However, the preserve does maintain a designated surf fishing area where the public can come and experience the nature preserve. 

Sunrise View of Delaware Beach Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

When to Visit Cape Henlopen State Park

Cape Henlopen is best visited in the summer. During the season, temperatures in the park allow for a variety of outdoor activities including swimming, sun bathing, hiking, and biking. The fall and spring are also great times to visit the park. Visitors arriving at the park in spring, fall, or winter can expect to face smaller crowds. However, visitors arriving in December, January, or February may experience freezing temperatures and snowfall.

Must Have Items to Bring to Cape Henlopen State Park

A day at the beach or a day on the trail requires packing and planning. According to our National Park Visitors Guide the following items listed below are essential to get the most out of Cape Henlopen State Park. 

Swimsuit, Sunscreen & Sunglasses 

Visitors packing for Cape Henlopen State Park will want to plan for a day at the beach. A swimsuit, sunscreen, and sunglasses will all be helpful to visitors looking to sun bathe or swim in the Atlantic Ocean. Sunglasses and sunscreen can also be utilized by hikers, bikers, and just about everyone who visits Cape Henlopen State Park.

Fishing Tackle & Equipment 

Surf fishing in the Atlantic Ocean requires specialized rod, reels, and tackle. Anglers visiting Cape Henlopen State Park will want to make sure they bring all of their saltwater fishing tackle with them to the park. Visitors needing additional tackle or to replenish on fishing line, sinkers, or hooks can browse the park’s store for suitable gear. 

Electrolytes & High Energy Snacks

The summer sun in Cape Henlopen State Park can dehydrate any visitor in a hurry. Visitors should arrive at the park with supplies of water, electrolyte beverages, and high energy snacks that can replenish low energy levels late in the day.

Layers of Clothing

Even though Cape Henlopen State Park features a beach and coastal environments, temperatures in the park can still get rather cold. Visitors should bring layers of clothing with them to the park to combat all temperatures. 

Camping Gear

The various campsites found in the park campground include primitive sites and ones complete with electric and water hookups. Sites without electricity may require campers to bring additional equipment along with them such as portable charges and solar camp lights.

View of Sunny Beach Day Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

Where to Stay in Cape Henlopen State Park

Individuals looking to stay within Cape Henlopen State Park will want to make a reservation for one of the park’s campsites or cabins. These reservations can be made online through the park’s website and reservation portal. On the reservation page, visitors will also find additional information regarding the campground and reservation procedures. Visitors to Cape Henlopen State Park looking to stay in a hotel in the area should search for options in Sussex, or plan to make the one-hour drive to Dover to find more options. 

Food Near Cape Henlopen State Park

In summer, Cape Henlopen State Park operates a concession stand that visitors can visit to purchase snacks and drinks. Visitors looking for a full meal should either research the few options located in Sussex or drive to Dover for a variety of options. Dover, the capital of Delaware, contains a variety of restaurants and bars visitors can visit to have a meal or drinks.

View of Stone Path Along Breakwater Trail at Cape Henlopen State Park Delaware

Airports Near Cape Henlopen State Park

The closest airport to Cape Henlopen State Park is located in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore - Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is about 110 miles and a two-hour drive away from the park. The next closest airport to the park is the Dulles International Airport in Washington D.C. The airport is a little farther than the airport in Baltimore and lies about two hours and forty-five minutes away from Cape Henlopen State Park.

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