Popular Summer Beach Getaways & Attractions for D.C. Residents
Well, it’s that time of year again in Washington, D.C.
It’s hot, it’s humid, and high time to plan a refreshing getaway to one of your favorite beaches for some relaxation, recharging your batteries with some summer rays, glistening cool waves, and sparkling warm sand.
But where to go? Like everyone else, you’re busy, and if time is a factor, remember the capitol region isn’t too distant from beaches adorning the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, mainly destinations dotting the more than 50 miles of shoreline between Maryland and Delaware.
It’s not far. In a few hours, you can drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, reaching a multitude oflocations to indulge in your hearts delight, whether that be playing on the pale gold beaches, swimming in the crisp, clean sea, taking the boat out for a fishing trip, hiking and viewing wildlife, or enjoying great food and drink along the boardwalk.
The great thing DC-area beachgoers will find about these spots is the diversity, as each town is quite different, possessing its own amenities and attractions. Whether you’re seeking culture, a party, a family outing, or a quiet sabbatical, there is a vacation locale offering whatever experience you’re seeking.
So, let’s go on a journey together, right now. Here is the low-down on some of the best areas to check out while on your trek to build sandcastles under the sun.
You can begin by absorbing some nourishing natural resources a mere 40 miles from D.C. at the Sandy Point State Park, slightly past Annapolis at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The park boasts a marina providing boat rentals, shoreline fishing, beaches with picnic tables and grills, a bathhouse, and snack concessions.
The Chesapeake Bay Talbot County area on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is great for a weekend getaway, offering romantic bed and breakfasts, all types of fare, including plenty of fresh crabs and seafood cuisine, versatile shopping, as well as arts and crafts vendors, a few wineries, and even a rum distillery.
If you are bringing the kids, and want to engage with local attractions, you can find a large range of unique family-orientated adventures, such as the annual Waterfowl Festival, a custom tour of the Wye Grist Mill, or boarding the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry for an exciting trip on the Tred Avon River between Oxford and Bellevue, Maryland.
Of course, Annapolis also offers many events and points of interest, but that’s another article. Let’s visit our favorite beaches, those encapsulating features ranking them as essential ports for every D.C. wave-worshipper to experience during their sun and fun journey.
And now, a few words about our top beach town picks for Maryland and Delaware.
Maryland's Eastern Shore
In addition to the bay, every D.C. vacationer knows something about the extraordinary Maryland beaches, attracting thousands of yearly visitors with their combination of sundry summertime recreational possibilities, namely swimming, sun bathing, fishing, and every other outdoor festivity you can imagine.
Assateague Island National Seashore
After navigating the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, Washington D.C. residents flock to Maryland’s eastern shore beaches on summer weekends. Probably the most famous are the Assateague Island National Seashore, comprising most of Maryland’s Eastern shore, and Ocean City.
As if being drawn back to an earlier era, wild horses saunter along the beaches, and graze in the marshland of the Assateague Island National Seashore. Truly, a very special place, capable of creating lasting memories.
A bit more challenging, but nonetheless rewarding for its beauty and attributes, the national seashore is always a visceral experience. Expect to embrace the elements while caressing nature in this park, with campgrounds on both the bay and oceanside sporting limited facilities, and only dunes separating camping areas from the Atlantic.
Like all shore towns, Ocean City Maryland, situated between the national seashore and Fenwick Island on the Delaware border, doesn’t sport a huge population. That is, until the summer months, when tourists flood the three-mile-long boardwalk, enjoying arcades, amusement rides, and proverbial Eastern Shore Delmarva classics such as golden fried chicken, thick brown French fries, buttery popcorn, and saltwater taffy.
Just think of it: Ocean City, with 10 miles of white glittery sand beaches hugging the clear Atlantic waters, perfect for swimming, surfing, sunning, volleyball, and every type of beach related activity. Bikes are everywhere, and there is even a train covering the entire region, in case you are ready to explore the museum and downtown historical area.
Many scoot down from Delaware’s Rehoboth Beach, taking the Coastal Highway until it becomes North Philadelphia Avenue, to this resort beach town that has just about every pleasing family amenity you can think of, including public parks, playgrounds, shopping centers, movie theaters, restaurants, and nightclubs.
Delaware’s Eastern Shore
Like many regions in Maryland, you will find equally unique and startlingly lovely resort beach towns sprinkled through southern Delaware’s Suffolk County, such as Fenwick Island, Lewes, Rehoboth Beach, Bethany Beach, and Dewey Beach. Each manifests its beauty like a pearl, but each is also quite different and exceptional from the next.
The three Delaware counties all possess wide, sandy beaches, and the inlets, bays, and mouths of rivers supply an extra 350 miles of shoreline to Delaware’s 30 miles of coastline, providing an expanded range of recreational options. And while you’re playing, there’s no need to worry about lodging. Delaware beaches are loaded with hotels, inns, and rental properties, catering to any D.C. vacationer’s particular needs.
Besides the enchanting beaches, and depending upon which town is chosen, the slew of amenities and attractions offered by each is impressive, including state parks, boardwalks, live entertainment, amusement rides, fishing, golf, shopping, historical and maritime sites of interest, and varying degrees of nightlife.
Never let it be said that the only cuisine available is seafood, as each beach town features eclectic gourmet restaurants, creperie and Mexican tapas cafes competing against the normal variety of binge victuals, such as pizza, fries, saltwater taffy, and ice cream.
So, now that you’re already thinking about getting on your smartphone to browse travel sites, we’ll further lend a hand toward your planning by providing a little information on Delaware’s top beach town destinations.
Actually an overlooked, petite gem filled with hidden, picturesque natural treasures, the landscape of Fenwick Island, subtly pinched between the boundary of Maryland and Delaware, gives rise to visions of maritime history, rather than offering participation in the latest electronic festival.
It’s quiet, with beaches subdued in a fashion eliciting the charm and brilliance created by the expanse of blue sky mirroring the azure ocean. If you desire a loud party, or club, you would be better off satiating your appetites at Rehoboth, or Dewey Beach.
That being said, the calming environment of Fenwick Island is sought after by those seeking a retreat from the bustle of the real world, delighting in the allure of simple pleasures such as the Fenwick Island Lighthouse and Fenwick Island State Park.
So, let’s say you enjoy the peace and serenity of Fenwick Island, but you’re in search of a few more resources and attractions. It sounds as if Lewes, the least populated and most reserved region of the Delaware shore, located adjacent to the mouth of the Delaware Bay, is just the place for you.
Lewes has a long, esteemed past, echoed by rich maritime history. The town, the oldest city in Delaware, has gone to great lengths to preserve its heritage through the historic district and downtown area, while promoting its small town charm to visitors through vintage restaurants, shops, museums, and bed and breakfasts.
Lewes is well known for luscious, wide beaches, lapped by both calm Delaware Bay waters, and the Atlantic Ocean surf in Cape Henlopen State Park, just north of Rehoboth. The park has two beaches, a campground, and an 18-hole golf course, in addition to offering fishing, bike and hiking trails, horseback riding, paddle boarding, and even a boat cruise down the Lewes Canal.
Most of the action in Lewes takes place on 2nd Street, featuring restaurants, shops, hotels, the famous Historic Lewes Farmers Market, offering produce from local farms and dairies, and a plethora of seafood, Italian, and Mexican cuisine available to hungry vacationers.
Every time a survey is done, the results are the same: Washingtonians with families prefer the gorgeous beach community of Rehoboth, with its amazing, mile long boardwalk bursting with amusements, arcades, rooftop miniature golf courses, T-shirt shops, live bandstand musical entertainment, and food vendors galore.
In addition to all the glorious beach and ocean activities one can imagine, D.C. visitors can ride bikes along the boardwalk, listen to open air concerts, take the kids over to Funland, ride bumper boats, visit an indoor arena bounce house, or have some delicious fun on the giant waterslides at Jungle Jim’s.
There are always activities geared toward families, and outside of its beach, boardwalk and related amusements, Rehoboth is also known for its tax free shopping opportunities amidst hundreds of factory and designer-brand outlets, retail stores, and boutiques.
The food scene in Rehoboth has spilled out beyond the Thrashers fries and Dolles popcorn found on the boardwalk. Many are thronging to Chesapeake & Maine, in order to sample their seafood and beer, as well as restaurants such as the Cultured Pearl, and Jam Bistro, preparing expertly crafted cuisine while providing a casual neighborhood atmosphere.
The available choices are plentiful, and Rehoboth Beach definitely has what D.C. vacationers want, offering a little something for everyone.
In contrast to the actionable hustle and brusque liveliness of Rehoboth Beach, D.C. parents with children often seek out Bethany Beach, known for its quieter, more relaxed atmosphere, but also its proximity to the boardwalks, arcades, and rides of larger beach resorts, essentially allowing an inundation into two worlds.
Somewhat like Fenwick Island, Bethany is seen as a smaller, quaint beachside retreat, and a more wholesome vacation spot compared to Dewey. Abundant retail shops and restaurants are situated along Garfield Parkway, the principle passage through the downtown area, all leading to the boardwalk and beach, which are very well tended, and excruciatingly cultivated by the community.
D.C. beachgoers will find the usual fare and amusements along the less than mile long Bethany Beach Boardwalk, including seafood, sandwiches, fries, saltwater taffy, caramel popcorn, crepes, and ice cream. Although the boardwalk is short, it is always busy, populated with bike riders in the morning, and couples strolling with their children in the evening.
Bethany’s wide sand beaches are known for their pristine character, and obsessive cleanliness, although there have been many recent problems with beach erosion, propelling the construction of protective dunes along the Atlantic Ocean path.
None of this bothers the residents and tourists, as they steadfastly engage in swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, kite flying, and surf fishing. Bethany has always been a somewhat aristocratic, upper class beach town, lacking water parks and amusement rides, instead offering clamming, crabbing, sailing, windsurfing, and kayaking, in addition to enjoying planned night activities such as films, live music, and bonfires.
Well, D.C. tourists have all heard the tales about the mischievous, notorious Dewey Beach, about the parties, and the wild nightlife. Dewey has gotten its reputation as a social scene hot spot due to the throngs of vacationing college age students populating the bars and clubs along the strip during the summer months.
And there is certainly also a multi-generational aspect, as parents who once reveled in Dewey are coming back with their children, celebrating after-hours culture together. That being said, Dewey is working to change that image by focusing on its softer side, appealing to families by promoting its beach, and many available amenities and attractions.
Dewey Beach is unique, being 1-mile long and three blocks wide, with the Atlantic Ocean on east side of the thoroughfare, and Rehoboth Bay on the west side. Visitors generally walk straight from their rental properties to the sun and surf, engaging in watersports such as boogie boarding, catamaran sailing, skim boarding, and windsurfing.
The Dewey beach life is usually very laid back, and the calm bay waters foster paddle boarding and kayaking during the day, with hosted promotional movies and bonfires during the evening.
Although Dewey has no boardwalk, Rehoboth has a great one, and is just a short drive away. Dewey features many waterfront bars, restaurants, and shops along the Coastal Highway and the bayfront, revered as great venues to watch the sunset.
Are You Ready?
So, why not? Make your arrangements, pack your bags, and hit the road. You have our top picks for the most popular D.C. summer beach getaways and attractions, destinations reachable within hours.
Whether you’re strolling the long seashore of Maryland’s Ocean City, or relishing the sunset from Rehoboth’s boardwalk, there’s an exquisite experience waiting for you to savor.