Delaware National Parks 2022: Insider Tips for all 4 Sites

Historic waterways. Revolutionary history in one of the oldest homes in the country. Green space and exploration vibes.

If you’re wondering about Delaware National Parks, you should know that it has one officially designated national park, two national historic trails, and one NPS-affiliate site.

Delaware takes great pride in its national parks and has a good mix of natural scenery and American history.

Though small, the state has played an important role in the founding of the country and played home to everyone from John Smith to George Washington.

Image: Old Swedes Church and Cemetery. Larry Syverson. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Get some outdoor recreation in as you paddle the waterways of the John Smith historic trail, or spend some time visiting historic homes in Delaware that make up the fantastic First State Park.

For each Delaware national park area, we’ll cover the most popular things to do there, specific tips about visiting, and more.

What to Bring to National Parks

As you’ll see, not all of the properties associated with the NPS are the same, but many of them do include outdoor components, if not the entire thing!

Here are just a few essentials that you might not have thought of when it comes to taking a trip like this.

National Park in Delaware

The main, fully recognized national Park is Delaware is known as First State Historical Park.

1. First State

With multiple locations spread out around the state, First State National Park tells the story of the founding of Delaware and the important role the state played in the beginning of the United States (it was the first state to ratify the Constitution!)

Part of the goal is to recognize the diversity of the founders of the US, as not all of them came from England and there were Swedes, Dutch, and others who lived in the area.

Image: Old Swedes Church and Cemetery. Larry Syverson. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Visitors can check out the New Castle Court House, one of the oldest court houses in the US and today a museum.

Roam the trails of Woodlawn along the Brandywine River to learn more about Native American tribes and the original residents of the area.

You can also head to First State Park’s attractions in Central Delaware, where you’ll see “the Green,” a public square that is surrounded by historic buildings and the site where Delaware chose to ratify the Constitution.

Then, in southern Delaware, head to Lewes where you can visit what is considered to be one of the 50 oldest structure in the country, a home built in 1665.

Image: Battery Park, New Castle, Delaware. Ken Lund. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

First State is one of Delaware’s best national parks for history buffs.

While there is greenery and space to roam, it is definitely more of a historic national park rather than simply a place to enjoy nature.

Insider Tips:

  • In total, there are 7 different attractions and landmarks that make up First State National Park
  • Spring and summer are the best time to visit the sites, as there are usually events and celebrations happening
  • You’ll want a car to be able to reach all of the sites easily, as public transportation is limited

Website: https://www.visitdelaware.com/things-to-do/history-heritage/first-state-national-historical-park/

National Historic Trails in Delaware

While not considered national parks, these national trails are great for exploring and discovering the Delaware landscapes.

2. Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail

If you prefer water to land, the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail is for you.

This entirely water-based trail, the first of its kind in the US, follows the routes of Captain John Smith as he explored the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1600s.

For many, John Smith will ring a bell because of his connection to the legendary Pocahontas, but this trail is all about the trips he and his small crew took to map out over 3,000 miles of waterways.

Image: OkoumeFest 2013 on the Capt. John Smith Trail. NPCA Photos. [CC BY-ND 2.0], via Flickr

Part of the trail begins in Delaware, and then goes on to stretch through Maryland, Virginia, New York, and more.

Visitors can boat or kayak along the waterways, and along the route you’ll find historic stops such as Delaware’s Seaford Museum that protects the history of the local area and important Delaware people.

This is truly a unique national trail and one that future seafarers will have tons of fun exploring.

Get some fresh air, take in the natural Delaware scenery, and learn more about the Native American tribes John Smith encountered along the way.

Website: https://www.chesapeakeconservancy.org/what-we-do/explore/find-your-chesapeake/about-the-trail/

3. Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route

Some historic trails are ones that can actually be walked, more like a hiking trail, but this national trail is more of a “route” following where George Washington and French troops led by Rochambeau walked in their battle against the British to cement American independence.

The initial route starts in Rhode Island, but Delaware has quite a few stops on the route in the north of the state, near Wilmington and in other areas around the Delaware River.

Image: 1307. U.S Department of the Interior. [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Flickr

Start at the Thomas Robinson House in Claymont, then head to Wilmington which has the Continental Army Hospital as well as a French Army campsite and the Mordecai Woodward House.

In the west of Delaware, you’ve got the Cooch’s Bridge Monument in Newark and and Thomas Cooch House (the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge was the only Revolutionary War Battle fought in Delaware, making this a must-see!)

Insider Tips:

  • Make sure to have a car to explore this route, as it’s not a traditional walking route
  • The best time to explore is during good weather months (spring and summer) when most of the attractions will be open and more activities will be held

Website: https://w3r-us.org/

Other NPS Sites in Delaware

4. Chesapeake Bay

While the Chesapeake Bay is an NPS affiliate site, Delaware is only connected to it by the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal (connecting the Chesapeake Bay the Delaware Bay).

In general, the Chesapeake Bay is well known for being one of the largest estuaries in America and all of the wonderful things to do on its shores, including fishing, hiking, and visiting historic landmarks.

Image: Chesapeake Bay Winter Drive. likeaduck. [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

If you’re in Delaware, though, you’ll want to explore the canal, which has a flat road running alongside it for biking or walking.

Visitors enjoy getting out in the fresh air along this route and getting views of the bridges, as well as the boats going up and down the canal.

Bird-watchers also find that there are some great bird-watching opportunities along the way.

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