Cape Henlopen State Park (tel. 302/645-8983; www.destateparks.com/park/cape-henlopen), with its 3,143 acres bordered on one side by the Atlantic and on another by Delaware Bay, offers beach swimming, tennis, picnicking, nature trails, crabbing, and pier fishing, accessible from all the Delaware beach resorts. It's also the home of the 80-foot Great Dune, the highest sand dune between Cape Hatteras and Cape Cod. For those who enjoy a good climb, a refurbished World War II observation tower (115 steps) offers some of the best coastal views for miles. Walking with kids? Ask for the Seaside Interpretive Trail Guide; it tells about things you'd probably just walk by without noticing. The park is open year-round from 8am to sunset. Entry fee to the park is $8 for out-of-state visitors and $6 for Delaware residents from May through October; it's free the rest of the year.
Even if you're not a serious cyclist, it's good to bring a bike to Lewes: The historic streets and shoreline paths are ideal for cycling, and it's a great way to avoid the parking problem in the shopping district. All of Southern Delaware is easy to bike with flat terrain and pleasant views of farmland, villages, and wetlands; and most roads are wide, with good shoulders. The Delaware Bicycle Council (tel. 302/760-2453; www.deldot.gov) produces Delaware Maps for Bicycle Users. All roads are marked and color-coded according to their suitability for cyclists, so there's no guesswork involved in planning your route. Maps can be obtained online.
Bicycling on your own near the beaches is a breeze thanks to the level terrain and the wide back roads. Even a trip up Route 1 from Bethany to the Indian River Inlet is easy. For family excursions, biking is a great way to see Cape Henlopen State Park (tel. 302/645-8983; www.destateparks.com/park/cape-henlopen). Paved bike routes run through the park and take you places that cars can't go. The terrain is mostly flat, with just a few hills on routes to overlooks. Or head to Trap Pond State Park which opened new hiking and biking trails in 2008 or to the 6-mile Junction and Breakwater Trail that connects Lewes and Rehoboth Beach via a crushed stone trail suitable for walkers, joggers, bikers, and wheelchairs; motorized vehicles are prohibited. To access the wooded trail, find the trail head off Wolf Neck Road off Route 1, where there's a parking lot and visitors' services. A map is available at www.destateparks.com/downloads/trails/j-and-b-trail.pdf.
Delaware state law requires that children 16 and under wear bicycle helmets while riding.
You can also rent bikes from Lewes Cycle Sports, in the Beacon Motel, Savannah Road (tel. 888/800-BIKE  or 302/645-4544).
Bird & Wildlife-Watching
Lewes, located between Cape Henlopen and Prime Hook, is the best base for birders on the Delaware coast. Cape Henlopen State Park (tel. 302/645-8983; www.destateparks.com/park/cape-henlopen) is prime breeding ground for the endangered piping plover. (Access is restricted certain times of the year to protect the nesting grounds.) Whales and dolphins appear regularly off the coast of Cape Henlopen, though usually a little farther south. About 10 miles north of Lewes, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, off Route 16 (tel. 302/684-8419; www.fws.gov/northeast/primehook), is the best place around for birding and wildlife photography. The refuge has two hiking trails and a 7-mile self-guided canoe trail (bring your own canoe); they're great places to view migrating waterfowl in spring and fall, plus shorebirds, warblers, amphibians, and reptiles in spring. Admission is free; the refuge is open daily from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset. The visitor center is open Monday through Friday from 7:30am to 4pm, plus Saturdays and Sundays between April and November from 9am to 4pm. Note: Bring bug repellent, especially in late summer.
The creeks and ponds of Sussex County make for lovely canoe excursions. A 5-mile canoe trail along the Hitch Pond and James branches of the Nanticoke River will take you past the two largest trees in Delaware, one of which is estimated to be 750 years old. The wide, glassy pond is surrounded by the northernmost stand of naturally-planted bald cypress tress, one some 300 years old. The trail begins at Trap Pond State Park, 33587 Baldcypress Lane, Laurel (tel. 302/875-5153; www.destateparks.com/park/trap-pond), where you can rent canoes or kayaks for $8 to $11 an hour.
Nearby in Laurel is the smaller, wilder Trussum Pond, which looks and feels more like the Florida Everglades or a bayou than southern Delaware. From Route 24, take Route 449, which goes by the entrance to Trap Pond State Park, to Road 72 (Trussum Pond Rd.). A small park and parking area are located next to the pond, where you can paddle among abundant lily pads and the last graceful trees from a prehistoric bald cypress stand. You'll have to do the navigating yourself; there aren't any trail markers.
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, 11978 Turkle Rd., Milton (tel. 302/684-8419; www.fws.gov/northeast/primehook), offers 15 miles of streams and ditches, including a 7-mile self-guided canoe trail. Electric-powered boats can also use the waterways. There's a boat launch behind the visitor center, but bring your own boat -- there are no rentals at the 10,000-acre refuge. Admission is free.
Did you know there were disc-golf stars? They get together at Trap Pond State Park, 33587 Baldcypress Lane, Laurel (tel. 302/875-5153; www.destateparks.com/tpsp/tpsp.htm), for a series of tournaments through the wooded areas of the park. The course is available for amateurs, too.
With easy access to both Delaware Bay and the Atlantic, Lewes offers a wide variety of sportfishing opportunities. The fishing season starts when the ocean fills with huge schools of mackerel in late March through April. Large sea trout (weakfish) arrive in early May and June; flounder arrive in May and remain throughout the summer, as do bluefish and shark. As the ocean warms up in June, offshore species such as tuna and marlin begin roaming the waters. Bottom fishing in the bay for trout, flounder, sea bass, and blues continues all summer, with late August through September often providing the largest catches. October and November bring porgies, shad, and blackfish. Delaware now requires licenses for all fishermen ages 16 to 64.
Arrange headboat ocean and bay fishing excursions and cruises at Fisherman's Wharf, Anglers Road (tel. 302/645-8862), or at Angler's Fishing Center, Anglers Road (tel. 302/644-4533; www.anglersfishingcenter.com). Call for full-day, half-day, or nighttime excursions. There are even family shark-fishing excursions.
Cape Henlopen is great for shore and surf fishing. In Lewes, try the Lewes Harbor Fishing and Boating Outfitters, 217 Anglers Rd. (tel. 302/645-6227), for supplies.
Winswept Stables (tel. 302/645-1651; www.winsweptstables.net) offers horseback excursions along trails or on the beach.
Quest Fitness and Kayak (tel. 302/644-7020; www.questfitnesskayak.com) offers tours to watch the sunset, look for dolphins, or pass by lighthouses. The Pints and Paddles tour is designed for the beer enthusiast. Rentals are also available.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.