Nestled between the busy vacation cities of Rehoboth Beach, Delaware and Ocean City, Maryland, Fenwick Island State Park is a quiet retreat from the more tourist-filled areas along the east coast. Stretching over three miles of undisturbed barrier island, Fenwick offers all the fun of surf and sea without the crowds. Whether you want to spend your day in the sea or on land, Fenwick Island State Park is perfect natural destination along the Atlantic coast!
History of Fenwick Island State Park
This little strip of barrier dunes between the Atlantic Ocean and Little Assawoman Bay were protected from the forces of nature, and over time, created this beautiful undisturbed strip of beachside paradise that we know today. In 1966, it was designated as a part of the Delaware Seashore State Park, but was eventually distinguished as a separate entity in 1981. Today, it is a great place to go out and enjoy nature!
Activities in the Fenwick Park
With three miles of shoreline, swimming, sunbathing, and boating are naturally some of the favorite activities of visitors to Fenwick Island State Park. It is also one of the few places in Delaware to have a designated surfing area, so definitely come prepared to catch big waves. Lifeguards patrol the beach every day during the busy season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. However, the fun here extends far beyond the shore! Nature enthusiasts will want to hike the 2.6-mile trail, which is also horse-friendly, and discover the changes from sea to land. With over 300 acres in the park, you will always find something new to explore!
Picnic tables, showers, and restroom amenities make Fenwick Island State Park a comfortable place to spend the whole day. Although there are no camping facilities, a day here is more than enough fun! There is also a snack stand and a shop that rents beach equipment, so you can enjoy the surf, even if you leave your boogie board at home. Designated pet areas allow you to bring even the furry members of your family along. A boat ramp and rentals allow you to head out into the water to fish, explore, or simply enjoy. Best of all, everyone is welcome here, as the beach is set up for wheelchair access. Enjoy a fun, sun-filled day of swimming, surfing, fishing, hiking and more at Fenwick Island State Park!
One of the most iconic images of the east coast, particularly of New England, is the statuesque white lighthouse extending into the sky. For generations, lighthouses protected sailors and guarded the coast from harm. Although many cities along the Atlantic Coast may boast lighthouses, few have the unique and interesting history of the one that is still standing on Fenwick Island. For those who are interested in a little slice of history, or any who simply want to view an iconic lighthouse that is still standing, be sure the visit the Fenwick Island Lighthouse!
History of the Island
This small island has seen a lot of action throughout its history. It is named for Thomas Fenwick, a planter who immigrated to Delaware from England. Fenwick was granted ownership of the land by Lord Baltimore, the Governor of the Province of Maryland. Fenwick never lived there, but a fun local legend claims that he fled to the island after being thrown overboard by pirates. Although this myth is often debunked by historians, it is true that the island has a pirate past. After Fenwick died, pirates took advantage of the abandoned island and used it as a safe haven of sorts. Eventually, the land was declared to the state of Delaware, and the need for a lighthouse arose.
Construction of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse
Due to the dangerous shoals around the Fenwick Island coast, the United States Congress commissioned the Fenwick Island Lighthouse for $25,000 in 1856. The land it is built on was purchased for just $50, and construction was completed in 1858. At the time, the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was built with the latest technology, and was designed for two keepers, along with their families, to live on the surrounding land. The lighthouse is 87 feet tall, with a cast iron spiral staircase inside that leads to the top. The mirror that reflects the light was imported from France. Originally, the Fenwick Island light was lit using whale oil, but it was converted to electric in 1940. The Fenwick Island Lighthouse stood for over 100 years, until it was decommissioned in 1978.
After it was decommissioned, the lighthouse stood dark for many years. A group of passionate local citizens rallied to save the lighthouse, and its ownership was transferred to the state of Delaware. In 1982, the lighthouse was relit, but it needed extensive repairs. A successful fundraiser allowed it to be renovated, and the Fenwick Island Lighthouse was rededicated in 1998.
The Fenwick Island Lighthouse Today
Today, the lighthouse is managed by a non-profit group, New Friends of the Fenwick Island Lighthouse. Visitors are welcome to view the lighthouse and visit the small museum on site, free of charge. There is also a small gift shop. Although you cannot head to the top, there are some great historical artifacts from this era of Delaware history that are worth perusing!