The Insider’s Guide to Cape Henlopen State Park

Expert Grant Melville, park superintendent, talks up the nature center, Herring Point, seining for bay crabs, and more must-do activities at the Lewes, DE park.

Illustrations by Brad Woodard

Drive time from Center City: 2 hours, 18 minutes

Where to start: Go to our nature center first. There are touch tanks with stingrays and horseshoe crabs — my favorite. Right next door is the bike barn, which the Friends of Cape Henlopen run. You can borrow a free bike for up to two hours. There are kid’s bikes, adult bikes and pull-behind strollers. But get there early. There’s a 3.3-mile bike loop, but make your way up to the Point. There’s a beautiful view — it’s where the Delaware Bay meets the ocean. Look for seals, whales and dolphins.

Where to picnic: If you didn’t bring lunch, there’s a concession stand at the main beach. I would take the four-mile bike ride to the overlook at Herring Point. It sits next to an old military installation, and there’s a pier. For shade, there’s a pavilion. And a bathroom.

Afternoon activity: At Fishing Pier, you can rent kayaks, paddleboards and party mats — huge mats that float and fit five or six people.

Must-do: The Battery 519 tour. There are underground bunkers and a coastal defense system that was manned in World War II. We also have nature education activities, like ghost crab tours and seining for bay crabs.

Timing: If you don’t get here by 11 a.m. on a Saturday, the park might be at capacity. It usually opens back up again at one. If you don’t want to deal with parking, spend the night. We have 170 campsites and 12 cabins.

Be on the lookout for: A variety of birds. There are osprey all over the place, and we see them carrying all sorts of fun stuff, from fish to eels. There’s an osprey cam in the nature center.

My secret activity: It’s a five- or six-mile bike ride through the park to Rehoboth. I like to bike there for breakfast or lunch from the park on weekends; it’s only 30 or 40 minutes away.

» See also:
21 Ways to Be One With Nature at a Nearby Park This Summer
The Insider’s Guide to French Creek State Park
The Insider’s Guide to Marsh Creek State Park

Published as “Park It!” in the June 2018 issue of Philadelphia magazine.