Delaware has many beautiful state parks, which cost from $4-5 per in-state vehicle, $8-10 per out-of-state, with more information available here. If you start in the north, there are several lovely ones in the Wilmington area.
Brandywine Creek State Park is a picturesque park of rolling meadows and forested area, and of course the creek. Chipmunks can be spotted near the blue gneiss stone walls (built in the late 1800s and early 1900s to mark property lines), and there are more than 14 miles of trail throughout the park. There is a nice disk golf course and plenty of fishing.
Bellevue State Park, a former DuPont estate, lies a few miles away. (You will find many attractions and landmarks in the area that were property of the DuPont family in this area). William DuPont’s home, Bellevue Hall, stands in the middle of the park, as well as a number of other structures and several playgrounds. There are always lovely horses to be seen, as the park includes horse stables, indoor horse training facilities, and a 1 ⅛ mile long horse track. There is a fishing pond, disk golf course, and a paved part of the Northern Delaware Greenway runs through the park.
Just a few miles away is Auburn Valley State Park, which runs along the Red Clay Creek. It houses the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley Steamer cars (which offer rides on “Steamin’ Days”) as well as a historic paper mill which lies undisturbed in the middle of the park. The hike up the hill (I believe this is called the Oversee Farm Trail) will get your heart rate up, but it is also paved which is nice for strollers and scooters.
The historic town of New Castle, Delaware, established in 1651 and the landing place of William Penn, is just a few miles away from Wilmington. In fact there is a 5.5 mile trail that connects the Wilmington Riverfront with Old New Castle, which is mostly paved, and lovely. In Old New Castle there are tons of Colonial and Dutch historical buildings, most of which are lived in or house businesses for people going about their daily lives. Jessop’s Tavern is one such building that is fun to visit. People dress up and celebrate Dutch, Swedish and English colonial history on Old New Castle Day, held on the third Saturday in May. The First State National Historical Park in the heart of Old New Castle includes the New Castle Courthouse Museum, the Old Sheriff’s House and the Green (which runs along the river and has picnic spots and playgrounds.) It is free, though parking may be metered.
Delaware is not a large place, and it’s easy to travel the length of the state in a day. The following are a few destinations a little farther south, moving toward the center of the state.
Lums Pond, near the city of Newark, is Delaware’s largest freshwater pond, and is a State Park with lots to do. There are 17 miles of trails around the pond, a boathouse offering a variety of boats with which to explore, camping, pavilions, a dogpark, and a nature center with a few live animal exhibits. Our personal favorite activity is the Go-Ape Treetop Ropes course where you can get a workout and some awesome zipline rides across the pond.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is a little further south, nearer the city of Smyrna. It is a beautiful wetland renowned for it’s birds. There is a 12 mile wildlife drive that loops around the refuge, and five walking trails (two are paved), with three observation towers, which offer a great place to take photos and get a good view of the birds on the water, especially in spring and fall when they migrate, and during sunrise and sunset. The cost is $4 per vehicle, and there is a visitor center open during the week and weekends in the spring and fall.
The Dover Air Mobility Command Museum is one of the best in the country, and it is free. If you have an airplane lover in the family, they will enjoy viewing the many historic aircraft in the main exhibit gallery and outside as well. C-5A cargo compartment tours are available, living history reenactors are on site most Saturdays, and you can sometimes visit one of the air control towers and watch the planes traveling in and out of the base. The Museum is open to the public Wed through Sun, 9 to 4PM.
The southernmost county of Delaware, Sussex County, includes rural farmland and the beautiful and popular beaches that tourists enjoy every summer.
Cape Henlopen State Park is both beach and park, and includes about 6 miles of coastline at the mouth of the Delaware Bay. The park includes “The Point,” where the Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, barrier dunes, coastal beaches, and maritime forests, which are all highlighted in the Seaside Nature Center that also offers interactive educational programs. Fort Miles was built in the park during World War II, and the towers can be viewed along the drive. Or you can just enjoy a day at the beach at this lovely section of Delaware’s coast.
Other Delaware Beaches include Lewes Beach and Rehoboth. Lewes is a charming little town filled with boutiques and waterfront cafes and restaurants. It has a classy but friendly feel, and the Bay is great for little ones who want to swim without a lot of surf. Rehoboth is not as quiet, but has a fun, mile long boardwalk and lots to do. Many come for the tax-free shopping at the outlets, but the beach itself at Rehoboth is clean, lovely, and worth the crowds.