What are the Best Family Beaches near D.C.?

Several of the amusement rides are popular attractions in the summer on the Ocean City boardwalk.
Several of the amusement rides are popular attractions in the summer on the Ocean City boardwalk. Editorial credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com
  1. Ocean City, MD
  2. Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis, MD
  3. Lewes Beach, DE
  4. Rehoboth Beach, DE
  5. Assateague Island National Seashore, MD/VA
  6. Colonial Beach, VA
  7. Calvert Cliffs State Park, MD

Whether you are ready to hit the Atlantic ocean waves or relax near Chesapeake Bay, there is a perfect beach just waiting for your family! Here are the best beaches for families near Washington, D.C. All beaches listed are within three-hours’ drive or less. 

Ocean City, Maryland

Several of the amusement rides are popular attractions in the summer on the Ocean City boardwalk.
Several of the amusement rides are popular attractions in the summer on the Ocean City boardwalk. Editorial credit: George Sheldon / Shutterstock.com

Approximately 3 hours drive from D.C.

Ocean City has a little something for everyone, no matter what ages. Offering a wide array of water sports–surfing, paddleboarding, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, among others–means lots of ways to spend your day. 

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When you are tired of the waves, cruise the three-mile boardwalk and grab a snack from multiple food options. Arcades and amusements are also available, or check out Ripley’s Believe it or Not!

Events are up and running during the summer months, with concerts, dance parties, fireworks, and movies on the beach. If you want to just relax, check out one of the many great restaurants in town. 

Ocean City offers a variety of lodging options as well, making it a perfect place for a weekend away. 

Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis

The red sandy beach of Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland.
The red sandy beach of Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, Maryland.

Approximately 1 hour from D. C. 

For a Chesapeake Bay beach close to the city, Sandy Point is the perfect option. Sandy Point offers a sandy swimming beach along with amenities such as a picnic area, chair rental, food concessions, bathrooms, and a new playground. Group picnic shelters can be reserved. 

This part of the bay typically experiences fewer jellyfish than beaches in the southern part of the bay. 

The park also offers fishing, boating, and hiking. 

All Maryland State Parks get very busy during the summer months (especially over holiday weekends) so it is a good idea to check that the park is not at capacity before you head out. You can find more information here

Lewes Beach, Delaware

Lewes Beach Delaware
Lewes Beach Delaware. Editorial credit: Brian Doty / Shutterstock.com

Approximately 2 hours, 45 minutes from D.C.

An ocean beach with calm and shallow water, Lewes is an excellent family-friendly option. 

The historic town of Lewes is a nice place for a walk and offers many dining and shopping options (Delaware shopping is tax-free). 

On a rainy day, check out the Zwaanendael Museum, maintained by the town to honor its history and the history of the surrounding area. 

A short drive down the beach is Cape Henlopen State Park, which offers camping, trails, and quiet, sandy beach. Activities in the park also include clamming, paddle boarding, or fishing. You can hike up the dune trail for amazing views of the park, ocean, lighthouses, and a WWII firetower.

If your kids are nature-lovers, the Seaside Nature Center teaches kids about the local ecosystem and has a touch tank for hand-on learning.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

Sunrise at Rehoboth Beach Delaware
Sunrise at Rehoboth Beach Delaware

Approximately 3 hours from D.C.

If you want to head to Delaware beaches but want something with a boardwalk and family-friendly events, Rehoboth might be your best choice. Just up the road from Lewes, Rehoboth offers boardwalk amusements, an arcade, and a famous haunted mansion ride. 

The beach also offers an array of water sports you may want to try, including sailing, surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. 

The town hosts a variety of concerts at its historic bandshell, which has been offering concerts since 1963. During the week you may be able to catch a movie at the beach. 

Rehoboth boardwalk includes many fun snack and dining options, or head into town to one of the excellent restaurants. 

Other great places for families to check out along the Delaware shore are Delaware Seashore State Park, Bethany Beach, and Fenwick Island, all just a short drive away.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Wild Ponies of the Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
Wild Ponies of the Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland

Approximately 3 hours from D.C.

If you want to see wildlife and have a unique coastal experience, Assateague Island should not be missed.

A barrier island along the Atlantic coast, Assateague offers beach activities as well as hiking and biking trails through the marshlands. If you are ready for an adventure, kayak through the marsh, or go horseback riding on the beach. The park also offers ranger-guided programs

Camping is allowed on the beach, but fills up fast. Make sure you make your reservations as soon as possible to snag a spot. You will want to bring your bug spray along with sunscreen. 

If you are lucky, you may encounter the famous wild horses that are unique to Assateague Island. 

Colonial Beach, Virginia

Colonial Beach 
Colonial Beach. Editorial credit: Liz Albro Photography / Shutterstock.com

Approximately 1 hour, 45 minutes from D.C. 

Colonial Beach actually lies on the Potomac River, but it provides the second-largest sandy beach in Virginia along with calm water your family will love. 

The town includes playgrounds and restaurants and a large number of rental options if you want to stay for a few days. The area is known for bird-watching, so keep your eyes out for bald eagles!

For history buffs, you can visit the birthplaces of George Washington and James Monroe just a short distance away.

Be advised that parking at the beach fills up fast and will be easiest to find on weekdays or early in the morning. 

Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland

Beach and cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay at Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland.
Beach and cliffs on the Chesapeake Bay at Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland.

Approximately 1 hour, 40 minutes from D.C.

On the West side of Chesapeake Bay, just south of Chesapeake Beach, lie 24 miles of striking ancient cliffs fronting the bay. Formed 10 to 20 million years ago, erosion has exposed the cliffs and left behind the remnants of many types of prehistoric animals. 

If your family likes fossils, Calvert Cliffs is the place to be. Comb the beach for sharks’ teeth and other fossils and shells. 

If you don’t want to stay at the beach, the park also offers a recycled-tire playground and 13 miles of hiking trails. 

Keep in mind the beach is not patrolled by lifeguards. Dogs are allowed on leash. 

Conclusion

It is difficult to choose the best family-friendly beaches near D.C. because there are so many options! Whether you want a long ocean boardwalk, hiking trails, or bayfront, there is a beach for you. 

See Also

US Beaches

Hi and welcome to my travel blog! Based in London, I work in investment banking in a quantitative field and although I am not part of the travel industry, I have a ton of passion for travel. My blog is a reference guide for my fellow travelers with the same passion as me. Hopefully the blog is easy to navigate and my aim is to bring the most relevant and interesting information before you begin your journey!