I love the ocean. My husband loves to camp. We never thought the two could mix, but last year we found that they can, thanks to Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware. It has now become our official family vacation spot.
Cape Henlopen State Park is located where the Deleware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and has approximately six miles worth of beaches.
The camping area is a 15-minute walk (25 if you meander slowly) from the beach. While visitors have the ability to drive to the beach through the campground, others choose the walk. The paved pathway takes you through sand dunes and beach-type woods, marked with both nature and historical sign posts along the way. Take the path in the early morning or evening and it is not at all unusual to have a deer dart across your path.
Once at the beach, there is a large bath house complete with his and her shower and bathroom facilities, drinking fountains, and a refreshment stand. The swimming beaches have life guards on duty during the daytime hours between Memorial Day and Labor Day of each year.
The campground itself has a total of 139 sites with water hookups and 17 sites without water hookups. Out of state campers pay a fee of $28 a night (sure beats a hotel!) and are able to reserve a campsite for a stay as long as two weeks in duration.
There are some camp site regulations, such as how many tents per site, as well as how many campers, but they are regulations that are easily adhered to.
The camp ground offers men and women bathroom and shower facilities, located at various central locations on the campground. Of course, such as it is with any campground facility, as the day wears on these become harder for those of us with germ-a-phobia tendencies to handle. However, an early morning shower usually guarantees both privacy and cleanliness. If you have to take a late afternoon shower because you’ve been at the beach, it’s nothing a can of lysol, a rag, and some rubber gloves can’t take care of before you shower.
One of our favorite parts of camping at Cape Henlopen is the sense of camaraderie at night among the campers. For the most part, every one keeps to themselves, and yet, usually because of the children around, conversation is inevitable at some point. As camp fires are started and lanterns are lit, a hush falls all around, voices become quieter, and the evening takes on a tone of relaxation and coziness.
We appreciate the curfew that is set by the park for the purpose of quiet hours. As a general rule, everyone follows this curfew without complaint. They, too, are there for the quiet and relaxation. If there are campers that hoped to make a party out of their stay (as we had one night), park staff are great about requesting their cooperation — or departure, if needed.
There is also a three-mile paved path that loops the entire camp ground, and takes the hiker by old WWII canons, barracks, and even an old bunker built into one of the hills. There is also a WWII observation tower that visitors are able to climb; the view is incredible from the top. Even if a person is not a history buff, there is a sense of awe that comes from walking among the WWII relics on the camp ground.
In the surrounding area, there is plenty to do. Lewes, Deleware, the town the park resides in, has several historic locations for those who enjoy that sort of thing, including a small museum and graveyard. Ocean fishing abounds, hiking and biking trails are readily accessible, and there are golf packages available for those who prefer the golf course to the ocean.
Drive a few miles down the road and you find yourself in Rehoboth Beach, which has an awesome sea-side boardwalk (from which it is not unusual to see dolphins regularly), swimming beaches, and rows of quaint shops and restaurants that pull you in with tantalizing smells. We found Rehoboth Beach to be a little less family-friendly as the night time hours wore on, but during the day it is a delightful spot that you and your children will love!
If you get bored in Delaware, you can always take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry on over to New Jersey, where even more adventure awaits you. Not only is the trip a charming ride (approx. 80 minutes), with occasional dolphin sightings and the gentle swaying of the ferry, Cape May offers its own selection of family-friendly activities. Our goal the next time to go is the Cape May Zoo!
I was always an Outer Banks gal, and while I still enjoy a trip there occasionally, I have to say that Cape Henlopen and the surrounding area has beat out the Outer Banks for my favorite places to vacation. As trite as it sounds, I honestly cannot reccommend it highly enough!