Camping In Delaware: Historic Sites, Beaches, &Adventure
We’re going RVing in Dela-Where?
Not much is known about America’s First State outside the East Coast. Delaware is a culmination of Mid-Atlantic, Northeastern, and Southern geography, culture, and history.
To the north, Wilmington is the largest city, and centrally-located Dover is the second-largest city and state capital. Delaware has three counties; from north to south, they include New Castle County, Kent County, and Sussex County. New Castle County is a more urbanized area, and the two southern counties are predominantly agricultural-based.
Delaware is a hub for sunbathing, sight-seeing, history, outdoor activities, and festivals. The southern beaches are popular destinations for summer vacation. The Brandywine Valley to the north is home to the Du Pont Legacy, including the Winterthur Estate. As one of America’s earliest colonies, Delaware has many colonial-era towns packed with historical stories and artifacts.
With its gently rolling topography, casual outdoor activities like biking, hiking, and golfing are popular pastimes. Within the 17 state parks, 5 offer unique family-friendly camping opportunities. Camping in Delaware is year-round. A forest use permit is required on all State Forest Lands. Privately owned campgrounds are sprinkled throughout the state, with a denser population in the south, closer to the beaches.
Of course, boating and fishing, particularly deep-sea fishing, is everyday life on the coast. The fresh blue crab is the common catch of the day. Although Delawareans like to keep things low-key with their everyday activities, they do love to celebrate. There are several long-time traditions and festivals scheduled throughout the year, including concerts, competitions, and fairs.
With its close proximity to major East Coast cities like Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, DC, an RV adventure in Delaware can be easily added onto a travel itinerary. Those camping in Delaware can take home plenty of treasured memories. No sale tax means more groceries and souvenirs to collect.
When is the best time of year to go camping in Delaware?
Delaware is locked into a transition zone with the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay to the east and the Chesapeake Bay to the west, where temperate and subtropical climates meet. Humid continental conditions are in the north, and subtropical climate conditions are pronounced in the south. Temperatures are less extreme near the coast compared to more interior locations.
Overall, the state experiences cold but reasonably mild winter temperatures, hot summers, and ample precipitation throughout the year. In winter, temperatures range from the upper 40s to the low 50s F, and snow is unlikely.
Spring is rather rainy. Summers tend to be hot and humid, reaching temperatures of 80-90 degrees. The coast is always 10 degrees cooler with the breezes of the ocean, however. Fall experiences the nicest temperatures, averaging in the 70s.
A word of caution, the state isn’t impervious to severe weather. Winter and spring nor-easters can bring snow and cause coastal flooding. Thunderstorms are ever-present in the spring and summer. Tropical systems include high winds, coastal flooding, and heavy rainfall in the autumn.
With its four seasons, Delaware has much to offer in the way of sight-seeing and activities for RVers. Summers are the peak season for tourism, especially at the beaches where fun in the sun is where it’s at. Late spring and fall are the best times to beat the crowds, book some great deals on accommodations, and experience brilliant seasonal colors.
Whether it’s spring wildflowers blooming in manicured gardens or bright red and gold fall leaves fluttering in trees lined up along backroads, there are plenty of opportunities for great photos. Albeit the slowest tourist season, there are plenty of festivities to partake in during the winter months. Camping in Delaware is available all year; RV parks are open year-round!
Driving your RV in Delaware
In addition to the only U.S. Interstate, I-95, that crosses Delaware in the northern region, six U.S. highways traverse the state, including U.S. 9, U.S. 13, U.S. 40, U.S. 113, U.S. 202, and U.S. 301. There are also several state highways, among them DE 1, DE 9, and DE 404. DE 1 is the main route between Wilmington and the Delaware beaches. DE 9 connects Dover and Wilmington via a scenic route along the Delaware Bay.
The state operates three toll highways:
- The Delaware Turnpike (I-95, between Maryland and New Castle)
- The Korean War Veterans Memorial Highway (DE 1 between Wilmington and Dover)
- The U.S. 301 toll road (between Maryland’s border and DE 1)
Delaware residents and visitors can cross over into the nearby states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey by road and overseas via bridge or ferry. Among its approximately 1450 bridges inland, the Delaware Memorial Bridge is perhaps the most magnificent. This twin suspension toll bridge crosses the Delaware River between Delaware and New Jersey.
Among the three ferries operated in the state, one caters to RVs. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry sails over the mouth of the Delaware Bay between Lewes, Delaware, and Cape May, New Jersey. The 85-minute ride saves nearly 200 miles of driving along the Atlantic Coast. Aboard the ferry, passengers can enjoy live music, food, and beverages while viewing lighthouses, seabirds, whales, and other ship traffic. The ferries are also pet-friendly.
The following video lends advice on how to reserve an RV parking space on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. RVers need to be aware of height regulations and have all propane turned to the “off” position upon boarding the vessel.
Wherever you plan to go camping in Delaware, it’s advised to plan ahead, keeping in mind weather, peak commutes, and special events. Motorists can download the DelDOT mobile app, which monitors and reports everything from the flow of traffic in your area to where snowplows are located.
If you plan to explore Delaware’s southern beaches in your tow vehicle, it’s a good idea to download and use ParkMobile. This smartphone app allows visitors to pay for parking from the palm of their hand. Visitors can also opt to have someone else take the wheel with the DART Beach Bus Service.
Delaware road trips and scenic drives
Delaware has much to offer in the way of sightseeing and first-hand experiences. Even though Delaware is the second smallest state, many landmarks, attractions, and other noteworthy places are scattered all about the land of Liberty and Independence.
The only way to see all of these important venues is by taking a road trip. The following are themed-based road trips that encompass Delaware’s history, culture, and scenic beauty.
Delaware History Trail
Attention, history buffs! One item you may want on hand during your travels is Delaware’s History Trail Passport. The booklet lists 36 prominent historic sites found throughout the state surrounding Delaware’s early settlers, influential patriots and pioneers who built our nation, and the creative minds driving the Industrial Revolution.
Locations encompass historic architecture, grandiose estates, and unique museums. There is no specific route to follow, so as you leisurely explore cities and nearby towns, you’ll be sure to run across many of these landmarks.
To get started on the trail, simply download the Delaware History Trail Passport, read the rules, visit the sites, fill out the passport, and send it to the Delaware Tourism Office to receive a limited-edition “Landmarks and Legacies” Delaware history book.
Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway
The legendary “Underground Railroad” was a series of people and locations that helped pave a northern route for African American Freedom Seekers before the Civil War. Harriet Tubman and other organizers were instrumental in leading more than 3000 individuals through Delaware to freedom.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railway Byway, which spans Maryland, Delaware, and Pennsylvania, offers travelers opportunities to visit key points. The Delaware segment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway follows a south to north orientation. At the terminus of Maryland’s byway, the route runs about 98 miles through Kent and New Castle counties in Delaware to Pennsylvania’s border on Route 52.
Travelers will tour the state’s only remaining slave quarters, walk through churches and homes that offered shelter for runaways, and learn about the country’s most influential abolitionists. A downloadable driving tour guide book provides detailed maps and information on each location. Plus, icons indicate if the byway site has exhibits, programs or tours, and whether it is RV accessible. An accompanying audio guide, downloaded via the website or mobile app, includes authentic stories of the journey. The guide book indicates what track to play on the audio tour for each site.
Take a look at all of the locations travelers will get to experience along their journey of the Harriet Tubman Underground Trail Byway in the video below.
Delaware Bayshore Byway
Delaware Bayshore Byway is about a 100-mile scenic two-lane road that follows roads and views along the Delaware River and Bay Estuary, from New Castle to Lewes. The route is mainly down the windy Route 9. Unless you want to stop and explore each site, as illustrated in this map, the trip is 2-3 hours.
For the typical RVer, that is not the case. A few days may be needed to explore the largest preserved coastal marshland on the east coast, see all sorts of wildlife, discover the small natural beaches and tranquil open vistas, and visit many smaller towns that began and continue their history with maritime commerce. For overnight stops, consider campgrounds located along Route 1, south of Dover.
The following video gives a more comprehensive tour of this scenic drive.
Delaware Small Town Road Trip
Some of the best aspects of a place are found in the quaint towns hidden away from the bustling metropolises. Delaware’s small towns are no exception. To truly understand every piece of the “Small Wonder” that is Delaware, it’s important to visit and get to know the faces and stories living in these little nooks.
- Claymont residents have a history of preserving history with the many renovations they have made on old buildings.
- Hockessin, an old railroad town, hosts many annual festivals, including a wildflower celebration in the spring.
- Wyoming invites visitors to stop by Fifer Orchards to experience the farm life, run through a corn maze, pick fresh produce, and try their famous apple cider donuts.
- Odessa and Milford take Christmas decorating and festivities to a whole new level. The historic homes of Odessa on Main Street are decorated and open for tours.
- Felton prides itself on its vintage train station and gorgeous Victorian houses.
- Seaford was voted 28th Best Small Town in America at one point. It’s worth spending time enjoying its parks, historic sites, and award-winning restaurants.
- Millsboro is a riverside town along the banks of the Indian River. Although it is the tiniest town on the list, it’s jam-packed with little boutique stores, antique shops, cafes, and restaurants downtown. The town is on the National Register of Historic Places as it is the home to many historical buildings.
- Selbyville is a small beach town with a one-of-a-kind police museum. The museum holds artifacts like firearms, photographs, and first-hand accounts of crimes dating back more than a century.
While you’re camping in Delaware, make a point to stop and explore each of these towns. Many of them have RV parks so RVers can enjoy more time learning about each community and all it has to offer.
Camping near Wilmington
Wilmington is one of the country’s oldest inhabited municipalities and Delaware’s largest, most populous city. Located in northern Delaware, the urban hub is a center for banking and innovation.
The bustling metropolis is home to world-class restaurants featuring Mid-Atlantic cuisine, historical and cultural museums with legendary Du Pont family influence, performing arts venues like the Grand Opera House, state parks with miles of biking trails, and much more.
The Du Pont family is without a doubt one of the wealthiest families in the United States. The family founded its fortune in the gunpowder business in the mid-1800s. Years later, the Du Pont dynasty expanded its business to include chemical and automotive (General Motors) corporations.
The Du Pont legacy is evident in the many museums, gardens, and parks located in and around Wilmington’s Brandywine Valley. These were former DuPont estates that are now open to the public.
The Nemours Estate, a mansion Alfred du Pont gifted to his second wife, is an 18-century French architectural design modeled after Versailles. French designs were also used in the gardens and sculptures.
The Winterthur Museum, Garden, and Library was the childhood home of Henry Francis du Pont. The museum houses a significant portion of important Americana collections, and the library is filled with literature on American art.
The garden includes a section known as the Enchanted Woods and is a playground of fairy-tale structure. The lush spring wildflowers of Mt. Cuba and the highly publicized botanical gardens of Longwood Gardens can be enjoyed up close by way of walking paths throughout each park.
Museums and Educational Centers
Visitors can learn a lot about the past and present at Wilmington’s many museums. The Delaware Museum of Natural History showcases exhibits centered on dinosaurs, geology, plants, animals, and evolution. Aside from its over 10,000 pieces spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21 centuries, the Delaware Art Museum offers workshops for aspiring artists throughout the year.
If you are looking for a unique, hands-on learning experience, the American Helicopter Museum and Education Center offers over 40 exhibits detailing the timeline of this aircraft. Visitors can climb aboard and operate the helicopters and experience a working wind tunnel.
For a broader view of the surrounding city, the Wilmington and Western Railroad offers steam-diesel-powered tours through Wilmington’s scenic Red Clay Valley. The modern-day train follows the same route that was laid down in the early 1870s.
Camping in Delaware
The many local and state parks scattered about Wilmington offer an array of outdoor recreation such as hiking, bird watching, and biking. The Alapocas Run State Park is popular amongst climbing enthusiasts with its natural rock formations. Rockford Park has a 100-year old tower park-goers can climb and see amazing views of the city.
The Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge, which lies along Wilmington’s riverfront, is a sanctuary for various animals seeking solace from the city. Many trails pass through or alongside marshy areas and vistas.
Camping opportunities are scarce in the northern portion of Delaware. There is free overnight parking at Delaware Park Casino in Wilmington and Delaware Motel and RV Park in New Castle. Lums Pond State Park is about a 20-minute drive southwest of Wilmington. Besides full hookup RV sites and other camping amenities, the park has a ziplining course!
Wilmington pays tribute to its diverse population, with celebrations held every spring and summer. These events are the Italian, Greek, and Polish festivals, Indiafest, and Hispanic Week. Authentic food, music, activities, carnival rides, and games complete the festivities. The Haneef’s African Festival and Big August Quarterly celebrate the community’s past and present heritage and culture.
Other annual festivals include the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival held each summer in Wilmington’s Rodney Square. The Peoples’ Festival is a celebration of Bob Marley, who once lived in Wilmington. The riverfront venue features reggae and worldbeat musicians. The Riverfront Blues Festival is held each August in the Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park.
Detour to nearby New Castle
Take a detour to the nearby city of New Castle. New Castle captures colonial America in its historic downtown area with cobblestone streets and stately buildings. One of the most famous landmarks in the city, the New Castle Court House Museum, was built in 1732 and served as the state’s first court and capital.
Tours are offered at the museum. Patrons can see exhibits about Delaware’s court system, social, cultural, archeological, and Underground Railroad history.
Other surviving early colonial buildings include the Amstel House. Owned by a wealthy landowner, the early Georgian mansion still stores relics from when it was first built. The Dutch House was erected when New Castle was still a young port. Spoon racks, a 1714 Bible, and a pewter tea set are just some of the artifacts on display.
Jessop’s Tavern is a nice place to stop for a pint and a bite to eat after a full day of walking tours. This 1724 building is now a pub with colonial fare and features servers in period costumes.
Detour to nearby Delaware City
If you haven’t had enough of a history lesson, head on over to Delaware City for more fun facts coupled with some spook-tacular fillers. By land or by sea, there are many things to do in this riverside town. Visitors can break a little sweat hiking or biking Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Trail or explore more of the urban vibe downtown.
Folks can also take a ferry to Pea Patch Island to tour Fort Delaware State Park. The fort played many roles during the Civil War, Spanish American War, WWI, and WWII. It served as a Civil War prison that held close to 33,000 Confederate prisoners. Many reenactments are performed during the day. Nighttime is a different story, though. Ghost tours are a popular event in the park, and tickets sell quickly.
The following video features many of the great adventures you could experience in and around Wilmington, Delaware.
RV camping near Dover
The state capital, Dover, is a mixture of the past and present, of preservation and innovation. First State Heritage Park is where much of Dover’s past took place. This park encompasses several sites around what is known as “The Green.”
The Dover Green, established in 1683 by William Penn, was essentially a gathering area for the town. The Green played a part in many of our nation’s major milestones: the American Revolution, the founding of our nation, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights, and more.
There are many walking tours in and around the many landmarks of First State Heritage Park, like the area’s oldest wooden structure, the John Bell House, and the Legislative Hall, which has been Delaware’s General Assembly meeting place since 1933.
Delaware’s first permanent capitol building was completed in 1791 and is referred to as the Old State House. The Biggs Museum of American Art is another prominent building. It contains a collection of 18th- through 21st-century Delaware and American fine and decorative arts.
Every May, Dover celebrates its colonial heritage with Dover Days. The festival includes a parade, traditional Maypole Dancing, games, tethered hot air balloon rides, over 100 craft and food vendors, music, and reenactments.
If all of this history makes you thirsty, you don’t have far to walk to get to a watering hole. Although the original was demolished in the 1830s and later replaced by a hotel and then a retail store, the modern-day Golden Fleece Tavern is a recreation of the “statehouse” where Delaware officials voted to ratify the US constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Dover’s modern attractions include:
- The NASCAR races at Dover International Speedway.
- The horse tracks at Dover Downs.
- An impressive aircraft display at the Air Mobility Command Museum.
While those venues attract many crowds, no other venue can compete with the Firefly Music Festival. This three-day summer event occurs at the Dover International Speedway. It showcases the top bands and artists in the music industry.
Dover does offer a reprieve from the busy city life at the nearby Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge on the Delaware Bay. Visitors can drive the 12-mile wildlife scenic route, hike one of five trails, climb three observation towers, or attend educational programs.
Camping in Delaware’s Southern Beach Towns
Delaware is home to a wide variety of beaches that are worth visiting any time of the year. A mere 29 miles along Delaware Route 1 separates the state’s most popular beach towns and state parks. Lewes, Rehoboth, Dewey, Bethany, and Fenwick are beach towns with tons of restaurants, shops, attractions, pet-friendly amenities, and annual events, enough fun for every family member.
Cape Henlopen and Delaware Seashore State Parks provide reprieves from the populated boardwalks and businesses. Each town and park has its own style and allure, and each has its own reason to become your favorite. Plus, with ample campgrounds around the area, RVers will have plenty of days to explore the many attributes of each destination.
In the charming town of Lewes, visitors will find the historic district, museums, restaurants, and shops. For history buffs, the Cannonball House and Zwaanendael Museum are must-sees. The Cannonball House, built in the mid-1700s, has withstood the test of time, with an actual cannonball jammed in its bricklayers to prove it.
The building has served a variety of roles. It now houses exhibits from the Revolutionary War and the Bombardment of the town by the British during the war of 1812. The Zwaanendael Museum includes artifacts of the town’s history beginning in the early 17th century.
For some adventure on the sea, Lewes offers overseas excursions on their Cape Water Tours & Taxi. These ecotours give a unique perspective of the Southern Delaware shorelines, the marshlands, and local ecosystems.
Visitors can also tour one of only a few remaining lightships built along the mid-Atlantic coast. The Lightship Overfalls was used as a moveable lighthouse guiding ships along the treacherous waters when visibility was low. The Pirates of Lewes offers a fun experience for kids. They can transform into pirates with water fights, treasure hunts, sing-alongs, and other activities aboard a large vessel for a few hours.
Cape Henlopen State Park
Walkers, runners, and bikers can travel the six miles between Cape Henlopen State Park and Lewes Beach via the Junction and Breakwater Trail. Once a railroad route in the 17th and 18th centuries, it winds its way through forests, fields, and coastal marshlands.
Like Lewes, Cape Henlopen State Park is a place to enjoy water sports, sunbathe, and catch glimpses of the Breakwater Lighthouse just offshore. The park has a basketball court, an 18-hole disc golf course, and a fishing pier.
Best of all, Cape Henlopen offers camping for tents and RVs. (Be sure to make your online reservations early.) Fort Miles Historic Site is also located within the park. Visitors can tour an old bunker house and climb the World War II-era observation tower.
Dubbed “America’s Beach Capital,” Rehoboth Beach has both an artsy, edgy vibe coupled with family-friendly fun. A wide wooden boardwalk stretching a mile of the 1.5-mile beach is the hub for hotels, eateries, and shops. Funland is also located here. Since it was founded in 1962, Funland has been a popular amusement park, boardwalk, and video arcade all rolled into one.
Delaware’s most recognizable beer brand can be found in the town at the Dogfish Head Brewery and Eats. Besides great food and locally-made brews, it often hosts live entertainment in the evenings. The entertainment doesn’t stop there, though. Rehoboth Beach is an event center with its many annual festivities, including the Chocolate Festival, Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival, the Sea Witch Halloween Festival, and the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival, among others.
On rainy days, people head to the Tanger Outlets. Not only do shoppers get notable discounts on purchases, but it is tax-free shopping.
Dewey’s motto should be “Sunbathe by day. Celebrate by night.” During the day, beachgoers are busy playing on the beach, parasailing, wakeboarding, water skiing, windsurfing, or even dolphin watching. But the shenanigans don’t end when the sun goes down.
Known as Delaware’s party beach, the town is big on nightlife compared to its neighbors. The Bottle & Cork is a premier concert venue and always features big names in the music industry. There are smaller celebrations too, like bonfires on the beach and free beach movie nights.
Delaware Seashore State Park
Delaware Seashore State Park is six miles of shoreline with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Rehoboth Bay and Indian River Bay to the west. Its location is a popular fishing spot–surf fishing along the ocean and angling at the Indian River Inlet. Between surfing, sailing, clamming, crabbing, and hiking, there is plenty to do and explore for days.
Camping in Delaware Seashore State Park is available year-round. The park offers campsites on either side of the Indian River Inlet. The North Inlet campsites have partial hookup sites and primitive sites, while the South Inlet campsites feature only tent sites.
Bethany provides a low-key ambiance for vacationers wanting the ultimate experience in seaside living. Fishing and crabbing expeditions, shopping on the small boardwalk, setting sail on a sunset cruise, or catching a film on the beach movie screen at night, are just some of the activities visitors can enjoy. From the beach to the boardwalk to the bay, there are plenty of things to do but at your own pace.
Just south of Bethany Beach and near the state border is the 3-mile strip of barrier island beach of Fenwick. Another family-friendly location, Fenwick Island, has activities for all ages. The Viking Golf Amusements and Thunder Lagoon Water Park have putt-putt, go-karts, and a lazy river with twister waterslides. Guided kayak and paddleboard tours are offered along the bay, and the marina advertises banana boat rides.
Tours are given at the historic Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Take pictures of the 1859 landmark, and be sure to get a selfie standing on the Trans-peninsular Line, separating Delaware and Maryland. The marker can be found near the lighthouse at the northern boundary of Ocean City, Maryland, located on 146th Street.
The video gives a glimpse at all the fun attractions and activities visitors can experience during their stay along the shores of Southern Delaware.
Find more places to go camping in Delaware
Delaware is home to numerous historical and cultural landmarks, picturesque landscapes, and laid-back coastal towns. Spending a day or two in the “Diamond State” is only scratching the surface. Why not extend your travel plans and explore more?
Whether it’s staying in a casino parking lot overnight for free, getting back to nature in a state park, or paying a few extra bucks a night for a full hook-up campsite, there are many options in the way of RV camping in Delaware.
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Natalie Flores-Henley and her husband, Levi Henley, workamp around the
country in their 26-foot motorhome. Along with writing for RV magazines,
they recently published their first book together, Seasonal Workamping for
a Living: How We Did It. They share their experiences and RV-related tips
on their own blog henleyshappytrails.com as well as videos on their
YouTube Channel, also called Henley’s Happy Trails.