May 7, 2021
By Laura Scharle, Interpretive Programs Manager at Delaware Seashore State Park
Fenwick Island State Park, located between the towns of Fenwick Island and South Bethany Beach, is a 3-mile stretch of beautiful, wild coastline. It is most known for the guarded swimming beach and bathhouse on the south end of the park, as well as the three crossings to access the drive-on portion of the park for surf fishing. But Fenwick is also known for paddling. The Assawoman Recreation Area, located on the bayside of the park, offers access for kayaks and paddleboards, as well as a place to enjoy a beach with smaller waves and shallow waters.
At first glance, the paddling at the Assawoman Recreation Area appears to be just an open bay, with little to explore. However, this spot is way more than meets the eye! If you head directly across the bay to the west, you will find beautiful marsh creeks to explore within the Assawoman Wildlife Area, an area managed by DNREC’s Division of Fish & Wildlife. Paddling this area around sunset is a real treat, as you leave the hustle and bustle of Route 1 and start soaking in the stillness and tranquility of this lesser-known spot. Egrets, osprey, and bald eagles are frequent sightings, and because this area encompasses both salt marsh habitat and quite a bit of wooded area, wildlife sightings are more diverse than if you were paddling along the marshes adjacent to the highway.
The Assawoman Wildlife Area also has three different landings where paddlers can get out and stretch. If you pack a picnic, both Mulberry and Strawberry landings have picnic pavilions, and all three landings have picnic tables. Check out their map here.
Another paddling option is to head north from Fenwick’s Assawoman Recreation Area. You will eventually come to the southern end of the Assawoman Canal. This canal was dug from 1889 to 1891 to create an inland waterway for small ships to travel between the Indian River Bay and the Little Assawoman Bay, and into the town of Bethany Beach. The canal is now managed by Delaware State Parks and offers a nice, shaded paddling trip, something that is hard to come by here in coastal Delaware! The canal is about 4 miles long and runs right through the town of Ocean View. A state park kayak launch and restroom are situated about 3.5 miles north of the launch in Fenwick Island State Park, so if you’re up for 7 miles round trip, the kayak launch on Town Rd makes for an excellent pit stop and place to turn around. There’s even a juice bar, ice cream shop, and mini-golf course within walking distance!
If you are visiting Fenwick Island State Park and you don’t have your own kayak or paddleboard, no problem! Be sure to check out our awesome state park concessionaire, Coastal Kayak, located right across the street from the main beach bathhouse!
For more information about paddling around Fenwick Island State Park and the surrounding areas, please contact Laura.Scharle@delaware.gov, and to view all locations listed above, check out this detailed map.