Between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the northeastern United States, Delaware is the second smallest state in the country, with only 1,954 square miles. But what makes it so popular is that it has 381 miles of coastline to enjoy. In fact, the whole eastern side of the state is like one big beach! Named after the Delaware Bay, which covers about 75% of the coastline, it was the Dutch who first settled in the state in 1631 when they set up a trading post in Lewes, which was called Zwaanendael at the time.
Although the state is not tropical by any means, the summer months range from 71 to 77 degrees F, which is great for swimming, boating, fishing, and hiking. The winter is typically cool, with temperatures in the 30s. And with over two dozen official beaches, it is easy to enjoy some of these sports and leisure activities. However, it can be daunting to find a dog-friendly beach anywhere, so we found 17 for you to choose from.
Bellevue State Park
What used to be a family estate owned by William DuPont Junior is now Bellevue State Park in Wilmington, which is in the far northern section of Delaware. With almost 30 acres of nature preserve, several trails including the 10.4-mile Northern Delaware Greenway Trail, a fishing pond stocked regularly, and even a horse farm, there is something in this park for everyone. And your leashed fur puppy is welcome to join you in almost every area, with the exception of indoor buildings.
As a community park, it holds popular concerts, events, and programs all year long as well. But if your pup is interested in playing on the beach, Bellevue Pond has plenty of shoreline for him to explore. He can even cool off in the water as long as he does not disturb anglers. Also, in the park, you and your pooch can enjoy a game of disc golf with some great tee pads and baskets.
Fort DuPont State Park
About a half-hour south, this 322-acre park is also part of the former estate owned by the DuPont family. Fort DuPont State Park is pooch popular with access to the Delaware and Chesapeake Rivers as well as the Delaware Canal. Fort DuPont was named for Admiral Sam Francis DuPont, who served in many battles, including the Civil War, where he helped to defend the Chesapeake Bay. You can still visit the batteries and a theater that was built in the 1930s.
Although your doggo will need to stay leashed while in the park, he is welcome to play along the shores of the Delaware River, Chesapeake, and the Delaware Canal; boating and fishing here are also popular here too, as long as you have a license. Take a walk along the River View Trail, where you can learn more about the park’s history. Be sure to pack extra dog waste bags to pick up after your pooch.
Charles E. Price Memorial Park
The only park on the list with a leash-free dog park, Charles E. Price Memorial Park is just 17 miles southwest of Fort DuPont State Park. Located in Middletown, just a few minutes from the Maryland border, the park used to be called Levels Road Park because it is on Levels Road. It has 100 acres of recreational space to play, and a large eight-acre pond where you can fish and your pup can splash in the water.
This is a great place for hanging out around the water or fishing off the pier or you can enjoy one of the three nature trails. But the best part for your pooch is the huge eight-acre dog park. It is separated with five acres for big dogs and three for the smaller ones. There are plenty of shaded seating areas for pup parents and lots of space for you to toss around a frisbee or a ball.
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge Beach
Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is just about 45 minutes south of Fort DuPont State Park and allows pups on a leash any time of the year. Although one of the most popular activities here is the 12-mile wildlife drive, you need to get out and play with your fur buddy on the beach. It has about two miles of sand along Delaware Bay as well as several miles of waterfront on Duck Creek and Leipsic River, which flow through the middle of the park.
With close to 16,000 acres, the refuge protects thousands of endangered animals, including over 100 types of birds, foxes, rabbits, deer, and horseshoe crabs. There are five nature trails you and your pup can explore from a quarter mile to one mile in length. Just remember to pack plenty of puppy poo poo bags and extra water for both of you. Go ahead and pack your fishing gear, too because they allow fishing all year.
Head southwest about 15 miles to the small town of Wyoming, where you and your fur baby can relax and play at Wyoming Park. It is located in the southeastern corner of Wyoming Pond, which is free to use for fishing, wading, and splashing, but not swimming. But your pup can play in the water as long as he is on a leash. You will have to keep your pup on a leash, but he is welcome to join you anywhere in the park except for the kids’ playground.
The pond is mostly used for fishing, and it is stocked regularly. However, make sure you have a Delaware fishing license before tossing out your line. The picnic tables and grills are also available all year, but restrooms are closed from November to April. Make sure you keep your pup away from any wildlife in the park and bring enough doggie waste bags to pick up after him.
Located just a few minutes south of the Little Creek Wildlife area, Pickering Beach is a nice long patch of sand on Delaware Bay. However, to get to the beach, you have to take a short path through two of the houses on the beach, where you will see a fence and a few signs about the beach. And as long as Fido is leashed, he is welcome. But please remember to bring doggie bags and pick up after your pup.
This is just a beach, though. You will not find any playgrounds, picnic areas, or even a restroom. Bring your own water and pack a lunch if you plan to stay for a while. Parking is limited as well. This is a spawning spot for horseshoe crabs so you can see them often but keep your pup on a short leash. Fishing is great here, too so bring a pole and a license if you have them.
Little Creek Wildlife Area Beach
Little Creek Wildlife Area, which is about 20 minutes back to the coast, has close to 5,000 acres of natural space for recreational use. Located in the small town of Little Creek, leashed dogs are always welcome here while leashed and you can find plenty of waterside fun around Cattail Gut, Taylors Gut, or Little Creek itself. Fishing, kayaking, floating, and swimming are all popular activities here and you will often find it crowded during the summer.
According to history, the town was originally the home of pirates and was actually called Little Landing back then. In 1748, John Woolman chose to settle in the small village after going there for a Quaker meeting. Besides water play, you can also see horseshoe crabs and a variety of birds like hawks, rails, and owls. Take your pup up the boardwalk to the observation tower for some awesome views while you are there.
Another short trip south will bring you to Bowers Beach, another pup popular beach. This one is on the corner of Mulberry and Cooper, where Murderkill River meets Delaware Bay. There is plenty of sand to stretch out on, but dogs are not allowed from May through September. But that is okay because you will not have to worry much about crowds of tourists. Keep your canine companion on his lead the whole time he is here, and pick up after him right away.
Fishing here is popular all year long, and there is a nice long fishing pier where you can get further out in the water. To get even further out, bring your boat and use the free boat launch. According to the Bowers community, this is their “best kept secret,” so try to keep it that way so everyone can enjoy it. The jetty is a great place to look for large fish and even sharks.
Slaughter Beach is also open to leashed dogs from October to May. Just a few miles down the coast of Delaware Bay, the name may put some people off but nobody is really sure where the name came from so it is probably not a big deal. Some say it is because of the many horseshoe crabs that get flipped over by the waves and end up dying from the heat. Others say it was named after the nearby Slaughter Creek.
What used to be a resort is now a public beach in a sleepy little beach town. In fact, the population is less than 200 people! But they do not mind sharing their slice of heaven with those who respect the beach. That means picking up after yourself and your pup, not messing with the wildlife, and keeping your fur baby from digging huge holes. If he does dig some, just fill them back in before you leave.
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge
Just a half hour from Slaughter Beach, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge has more than 10,100 acres of wetlands, woods, and prairies packed with a variety of fun activities, from canoeing to hiking. You can fish at any of the designated fishing spots and even go crabbing. If hunting is your thing, check out the hunting seasons on the website.
There is a hidden treasure in the middle of this refuge called Prime Hook Beach, where the locals come to cool off during the summer. And dogs are welcome to play in the water too, as long as they are leashed. It is the only public beach that allows dogs on the beach any time of the year. This beach is also the only place in the refuge where you can swim. All other bodies of water are for wildlife only. And you will definitely see a lot of critters, from birds to white-tailed deer.
Cape Henlopen State Park Beach
Twenty miles down the sand at the mouth of Delaware Bay, Cape Henlopen State Park in Lewes is pup-friendly from October 1st to April 30th as long as your fur baby is on a leash. During this time, your leashed pooch is welcome in the park but not on the beaches. You can also stay the night if you reserve one of the 175 campsites in advance. They fill up fast, so book early.
Take some time to tour the Fort Miles Historical Area and see Battery 519 and the observation tower. The fishing pier is open to leashed pups, too and you can catch some flounder, grouper, and many other unique saltwater fishes. You and your fur puppy can also take a walk on the 3.2-mile Gordon’s Pond Trail, where you can walk all the way to the Gordon Pond Wildlife and State Park Area. Dogs are also welcome there.
Delaware Seashore State Park Beach
You and your fur buddy can spend the day at the 7,000-acre Delaware Seashore State Park in Rehoboth Beach, about 15 miles south of Cape Henlopen State Park. However, you cannot bring him on any beach with a lifeguard between May and September. But that does not mean he cannot play in the surf because this stretch of sand has plenty of open areas that are not guarded. Also, between October and April, you can play on any part of the beach.
Make sure you keep him on a leash at all times, and you can play fetch, toss around a frisbee, or just build a sandcastle for your pup to trample on. It’s all fun! You can also take a kayak or canoe out in the bay but make sure you have life vests for both of you. It is also a great place for fishing, hiking, or picnicking. If you want to stay overnight, choose from 347 different sites but book early because they fill up fast.
Holts Landing State Park
Just to the southwest of Delaware Seashore State Park on the Indian River Bay, Holts Landing State Park is a fun place to spend the day with your canine companion. This large recreational area is known for its crabbing, clamming, and fishing, so if you feel like some seafood for dinner, bring your gear and a license. They have the only pier made for crabbing in the state of Delaware. Other fun here includes picnics, paddling, and hiking.
But if you want to swim or watch your dog hit the surf, you can find a spot to the east by the parking lot or over by Ellis Point to the west. The Seahawk Trail will take you on a tour of the whole place, with most of it being a boardwalk over the salt marsh and through the maritime forest. While you are here, you will have to pick up anything your pup drops, so pack plenty of bags.
Leashed dogs are welcome at to swim and splash at Bethany Beach, just a few minutes to the east, from October 1st to May 14th. During the rest of the year, your pup is welcome in the park but not on the designated swimming beach or the boardwalk. This is not really a problem unless you were planning to join your fur baby in the water because it will be chilly. But Fido will not care!
There is one full mile of gorgeous sand along South Bethany Beach, where your pup is allowed as long as he is on a leash. It is a small town, so you get that small-town vibe everywhere you go, especially at the small shops and eateries along the beach. Nearby, Off the Hook Restaurant offers some of the freshest seafood in the area, and Grotto Pizza has the best pie. Be sure to ask before bringing your pup inside any establishment.
Fenwick Island State Park Beach
Fenwick Island State Park is just a couple miles down the coast and boasts close to 350 acres of space to explore and enjoy. Named after Thomas Fenwick, the founder of the Thirteen Colonies, who served as sheriff and Justice of the Peace until he died in 1708. Today, the park is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and Little Assawoman Bay and has three miles of oceanfront where swimming and sunning are very popular activities.
Like some of the other parks on the list, you will not be able to take your dogster to the designated swimming beach from May 15th until October. However, that still leaves plenty of warm white sand for you to enjoy. Sailing, surfing, and boating are fine any time of the year so you can put on your wetsuit and head to the beach even when it gets chilly. Fishing, crabbing, and picnicking are also fun here, and there is even a concession stand and gift shop on the beach.
Trap Pond State Park
Less than 30 miles inland from Fenwick Island, Trap Pond State Park started as a logging pond in the 1700s but was turned into a park soon after. The dog-friendly park is popular for boating, paddling, and swimming, as well as fishing, sunbathing, and hiking. There is also a nature preserve, shaded picnic areas with tables and barbecue grills, and pavilions for larger groups. Pups are welcome as long as they are leashed.
In fact, there are nine miles of water trails as well as 12 miles of hiking, biking, and equestrian trails to explore with your canine companion. If you do not have a boat or bike, you can rent one there. You can also play a round of disc golf, take the little humans to one of the playgrounds, or laze around on the sand with your pooch. They also have 150 campsites so you can stay as long as you like.
Nanticoke Park Wildlife Area
Clear across the state almost to the Maryland border, Nanticoke Park Wildlife Area is a huge 4,500-acre park that is shared between Delaware and Maryland with the Nanticoke River and Broad Creek. On the property, you can also find Phillips Landing Park and Phillips Landing Recreation Area. Both of these have access to the river as well as the creek, so boating, fishing, swimming, and floating are all popular here.
You and your pup can explore several miles of riverbank and shoreline on the waters here. Pack a cooler and enjoy a picnic right at the water’s edge or in one of the picnic areas in the park. There are also several trails you can explore to see what goes on in the white cedar swamp and woods. Keep your fur baby on a short leash, and remember to pack plenty of poo bags to pick up after him.
The Final Woof
If you get tired of the beach, take your pooch to play a game of miniature golf at Viking Golf on Fenwick Island. You can even learn a little bit about Viking history as you play. Afterward, take your canine companion with you while you have a brew at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. They even have a food truck that serves chowder, brats, and pickles. Island Watersports will help you and Fido get out on the water. They rent pontoon boats, paddle boards, and kayaks. For a special treat, take your best furry friend to Salty Paws in Rehoboth Beach for ice cream, cookies, or other treats made especially for dogs.