CAMPING MID-ATLANTIC

Cape Henlopen State Park

July 31, 2012

Another weekend, another beach. Can you tell that we were beach-starved last year and making up for lost time? Having lived in Northern California for so long, the idea that one can be warm at the beach is pretty amazing. I still find myself packing layers and sweatshirts expecting the weather to shift and turn my “warm” beach day (warm being like upper 60s) into a cold, foggy, gray day. We were kind of praying for those NorCal beach days because it was so hot the weekend we went to Cape Henlopen State Park. It was so hot that I would find Sly sitting in the car “warming it up” for half an hour just so he could get a bit of A/C. It was so hot that I swear the plastic band on my purse started to melt.

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And then, just like that, a massive storm rolled through and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees. (In case you’re keeping count, it has now rained 3/3 times while camping in our Coleman Weathermaster). When we arrived back at our tent, we were crestfallen to realize that half the tent had blown over and now a pool of water the size of a kiddie pool had formed on top. It seemed as if a combo of soft sand and strong wind gusts pulled out a few of the stakes and collapsed the ‘bedroom’ side of our tent. We fully expected to sleep in a pool of water that night (or perhaps the back of my car), but magically, once inside the tent, everything was pretty dry except for a few pools on the floor that were a result of us not zipping our door closed. Sly dumped off the pool of water, we re-staked the tent and then we spent the rest of the night reading and listening to the rain and eating snacks.

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There were several public beaches at Cape Henlopen State Park, but we skipped the bigger, more popular/populated ones and spent most of our time at The Point, aka our “private beach” (ok, I think every beach we visit that has less than 10 people as “private”). During low tide, the bath-water warm, shallow tidal pools made it easy to jump from sandbar to sandbar (or “private islands” as we called them). On one of our private islands, we found some mating horseshoe crabs which we initially thought were dead until Sly tried to pick one up. Encouraged, we chased fished around for other live horseshoe crabs in the shallow waters around our “island.” Sly, who was obsessed with the creatures, found an overturned horseshoe crab that he thought was dead. We don’t know if the crab was swimming or if he was stuck in that position, but once flipped back over, he slowly came back to life. We tortured played with the poor shell-shocked creature for some time, then released him back into the wild.

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When we weren’t at the beach, we were out exploring the quaint boardwalk town of Rohoboth Beach – probably the cleanest and most family-oriented of the boardwalks I’ve visited on the Eastern Shore. Our after-dinner ritual involved getting some Annies Bannanies, walking to the boardwalk and people watching. During one of our outtings, I begged convinced Sly to ride the Haunted Mansion at Funland. We loved it.

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I felt like we only really scratched the surface of all the things to do at Cape Henlopen / Rehoboth. We walked through the abandoned buildings and climbed the WWII watch towers at Fort Miles. We visited a gallery where Sly almost purchased a massive painting of a pig jumping into a lake. We ate the best Baja style tacos ever. But of course, my favorite moments always seemed to be the most simple ones: getting caught in the rain, searching (unsuccessfully) for a horseshoe crab ornament, having “Zoltar” give us our fortune, taking photos in an old-school black and white photobooth, and trying about 20 flavors of salt water taffy.

cape henlopen state park

stay

Cape Henlopen State Park
Cost: $28/site
Tips: Sites #2-11 are some of the larger and more private sites and can accommodate tents and trailers. The best sites seem to be located on the perimeter of the campground. The sites located in the center are typically less private, closely spaced, and with shared public spaces (you can easily see your neighbors).

eat

Go Fish!: Fish + Chips / $15-20, fresh and tasty with several locations. You can actually order Fish with salad instead of fries if you want to spare yourself from carb overload. Try the mush peas.
**Annie’s Bannannies: “Ice Cream” made from bananas /$5 – it’s hard to describe this unless you’ve had it before, but essentially they make ‘ice cream’ using only frozen bananas (so it’s not really ice cream, but frozen banana puree). The result is really creamy and not as banana-y as you might think and is sugar-free and vegan. The sundae combinations like strawberry shortcake and banana cream pie are delicious. We pretty much ate here after every meal.
Stingray Sushi Bar: sushi/fusion / $25-30 — located on a quiet street in a cute house. Trendy, lounge-y interior and nice, breezy outside deck. Great for drinks. Loved the “Sloppy Joe” sushi roll.
***El Dorado Restaurant: street style tacos/$5-10 — Tucked in an out-of-the-way, unassuming strip mall, but hands-down the best Baja Style tacos I think I have ever eaten. Everything is so fresh and all the sauces are homemade. We tried every single taco, and each one was so bright and packed with flavor. Why can’t there be a place like this in the DC area?
Coffee Mill: coffee/$5 — cute coffee shop located in a little alley with lots of outdoor seating and artsy vibe.
Dolle’s Saltwater Taffy: taffy, popcorn, crepes, fudge / >$5 — I typically hate salt water taffy, but these are pretty tasty. Lots of flavors. Vintage vibe.

shop

Downtown Cowgirl: cute, trendy, and retro gifts, jewelry and clothing. Moderately priced.
Christmas Spirit: year-round Christmas store. It’s pretty awesome if you like this sort of thing.
Browseabout Books: awesome local bookstore with tons of local gifts and books. The type of place you could spend hours.
Rohoboth Beach Variety: one of those old drugstores that has just about everything from organic sunscreen to cute souvenirs.

do

***Funland: Rohoboth Beach boardwalk — vintage rides mostly geared towards kids, but there are some gems like the Haunted Mansion that are suitable for all ages. Tickets are really cheap (a ride on the Haunted Mansion cost us $1.50 each)
Rohoboth Beach Boardwalk: Smaller, well-maintained, family-oriented boardwalk.
Fort Miles: beautifully stark abandoned buildings that once served as military housing back in WWII. Several watchtowers are located nearby that you can climb to the top.
Biking/Kayaking, Cape Henlopen State Park – this park is a great place for bikes, and in the event that you forget yours at home, they can be rented for free (yup, free) from the Visitor/Nature Center. Various kayaking tours can also be reserved at the center, although I’m not sure if these are also free.

tips

  • The Cape Henlopen State Park camp store remains open 24hrs and sells wood and ice
  • For the amount of sites at the campground, there are only two bathrooms. The one closest to the entrance is rather small with only three stalls and three showers and is always crowded. The larger bathroom located at the back of camp has a lot more showers and bathrooms and is hardly ever crowded. It’s worth the short walk to not have to wait in line.
  • Bikes, helmets and even kid carriers that attach to the bikes can be rented for free from the visitor/nature center
  • In the morning, the tidal pools at The Point beach area are a great place to explore, watch for wildlife and see horseshoe crabs (both live and dead).
  • There are several beaches within the state park – the main beach (the one with the bathhouse) gets really crowded. Get there before noon or you will not be able to find parking. Further down the road, there is an area where you can drive onto the beach (and is a place where lots of people were fishing from the back of their trucks). There is an area just before the turnoff where you can let the air out of your tires (or re-inflate them) before driving on the beach
  • You can download a parking app (finally someone thought of this!) that can be used to pay/refill any parking meter in downtown Rehoboth.
  • Rehoboth Beach is gay-friendly! 🙂

 

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  • jj August 17, 2012 at 3:48 am

    Mmmm that sushi looks wonderful. Bookmarking the baja style tacos joint for future reference as well. I love the rides and such on Rehoboth’s boardwalk…when I was there 6 years ago, we rode that spinning spaceship thing where you can climb the walls, with all these little kids. It was high school romantic :).

    I didn’t know if you realized it, but Rehoboth is also well known for being very gay friendly, with lots of gay-owned and -operated businesses.

    • veronika August 17, 2012 at 4:01 am

      We almost rode the spaceship thing (“Gravitron” or something?), but the line was too long. Next time you go, ride the Haunted Mansion, it’s actually really awesome and intricately designed.

      I realized Rehoboth was gay-friendly when we found ourselves in a gay-friendly bookstore (drawn to it bc of the strange mermaid ornaments) and then I remembered you saying something about it. It’s prob why the area is so ‘cute’, has so many organic-y food options, and has more of a family (instead of party) vibe.

      Def try the baja tacos – curious to know if you will be as blown away as we were. We’re going back with the nephews next month and I can’t wait to eat there again.

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