A Guide to Beaches Within Two Hours of Washington, D.C

If you’re a resident of the D.C. metropolitan area and you’re planning an overnight beach vacation, you’ll likely go to Ocean City, Virginia Beach, or father south into the Carolinas. However, if you just want to drive one or two hours to spend an afternoon sunning, walking, fishing, or building sandcastles at a local beach along the Potomac River or Chesapeake Bay, check out these local options.

While these beaches do allow swimming in designated areas, be aware that jelly fish can become plentiful in the Bay during the hot summer months, and swimming in the Chesapeake may not be desirable or possible at these times. Check the jellyfish forecast prior to your trip if swimming is important to you. You can find this information at the NOAA website.

NORTH BEACH
8916 Chesapeake Avenue ~ North Beach, MD
http://www.ci.north-beach.md.us

Parking at the visitor’s center on Chesapeake Avenue and 5th street is free. Simply cross the street to enjoy this relatively uncrowded, quiet, bay-side beach. There is a pirate-ship-themed playground right on the beach and restaurants and shops (including antique shops and a fine arts gallery) within easy walking distance. You can bring coolers under 7 gallons and picnic on the beach, but no grills, open fires, or alcohol. There’s a small, roped off area for wading and swimming.

If you visit on a Sunday, you can stop by the Bayside History Museum at 9006 Dayton Avenue, which is open from 1 ‘” 4 PM on Sundays only.

On the second Saturday of June, July, and August, you can enjoy a free summer concert. On the 4th Sunday in August, North Beach hosts its annual Bayfest, which allows a wide variety of craft-makers to show off their wares.

Entry onto the beach is free for North Beach residents. Calvert County residents pay $4 for adults and $3 for children. All others pay $10 for adults and $6 for children ages 3-11. This hefty charge does tend to keep the beach less crowded than many. At least children age two and under are free. Fishing off the pier is free for Calvert county residents, but non-county residents must purchase a $5 pass. The beach is open daylight hours.

BAY FRONT PARK
Route 260 ~ Chesapeake Beach, MD
http://www.chesapeake-beach.md.us/ Bay Front Park on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay is open dawn to dusk. It has a very small, sandy public beach with about 20 parking spaces. Come early, because parking gets crowded on hot days. Admission to the beach is $8. The park is open daylight hours.

While you’re in Chesapeake Beach, you might want to visit the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum at 4155 Mears Avenue. Admission is free, and the museum is open 1 ‘” 4 PM daily. There’s also a water park at Chesapeake Beach. See the separate listing under water parks for details.

COLONIAL BEACH
Colonial Avenue (off Rt. 205) ~ Colonial Beach, VA
http://www.colonialbeachva.net/visitorinfo.htm

About 1.5 hours from D.C. and near Westmoreland State Park, Colonial Beach is the second-longest public beach in Virginia. Located on the Northern Neck of the Potomac River, it offers fishing, boating, swimming, crabbing, and a boardwalk.

After entering town, drive down Colonial Avenue to Washington Avenue. Take a left on Hawthorne Street, where you will find the boardwalk and Information Center. On weekends, you can get around colonial beach by trolley. You can also rent a golf cart, which can be driven around the streets of the town.

Expand your day in the Northern Neck by visiting George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument where a picnic area overlooks the water (see http://www.nps.gov/gewa/ for more information).

BALTIMORE COUNTY BEACHES
Baltimore County, MD
http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/recreation/countyparks/waterfront/beaches.html

There are three beachfront parks in Baltimore County, Maryland. Entrance fees on weekends and holidays are $8 for adults and $4 for children. On weekdays, it’s $7 and $4.

* Money Saving Tip: Visit after 4 PM and pay only $4 for adults and $2 for children.

(1) Rocky Point Park at 2200 Rocky Point in Baltimore is a 375-acre park at the mouth of Middle and Back Rivers. There’s a 300-foot beach with eighteen picnic areas, two playgrounds, a fishing pier, bathhouse, first aid station, boat ramps, and sand volleyball court. Swimming is allowed during the summer from 10 AM to 6 PM. The park itself is open from dawn to dusk. Keep an eye open for wildlife, including eagle, blue heron, and osprey.

(2) Oregon Ridge Beach on Beaver Dam Road in Cockeysville is housed in a former quarry and boasts white sands and cool waters. There are shallow and deep swim areas and lifeguards on duty. There’s a bath house, picnic areas, grills, volleyball courts, playground, and a concession stand.

(3) Miami Beach Park at 4001 Bay Drive in Middle River has a 300-foot-long Chesapeake beach that offers pavilions, grills, a playground, a bathhouse, and nature trails. Swimming is permitted in the summer from 10 AM to 6 PM. The park is open 9 AM to 7 PM. Friday through Monday and closed Tuesday through Thursday. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children on weekends and $1 less on weekdays.

LAKE ARROWHEAD
Valley Burg Road ~ Luray, VA
http://www.townofluray.com/parks.html

This white sand beach borders a 34-acre lake that offers swimming, boating, and fishing. It also offers hiking trails, a playground area, picnic shelters, volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, and a concession stand (seasonal). Swimming fees are $2 per day for ages 3 to 12, $2.50 a day for ages 13-18, and $3 a day for ages 19 and up. In the summer, you can also rent canoes and paddle in 30 minute increments for $1-$2 a person.

MORE BEACHES AND OTHER DAY TRIPS

Swimming and beach areas are also available at Lake Ana State Park, Gunpowder Falls State Park, Sandy Point State Park, and Point Lookout State Park. You’ll find information about these state park beaches, as well as over 100 other inexpensive summer day trips, attractions, and festivals in The 2011 D.C.-area Guide to Surviving Summer With Kids.