Washington, DC is a few hours drive away from several beaches. Destinations along the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean offer the region a wide selection of activities including everything from swimming to boating to crabbing to viewing wildlife. Whether you prefer to load up your beach wagon for a quiet getaway or an active vacation, you can find it within a short drive from the capital region.
See the following to learn about the best beaches near Washington, DC.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland
Assateague Island is most known for the more than 300 wild ponies who wander the beaches. Since this is a national park, camping is allowed but you’ll have to drive to nearby Ocean City, Maryland or Chincoteague Island, Virginia to find hotel accommodations. This is a great place for bird watching, seashell collecting, clamming, swimming, surf fishing, beach hiking, and more. For visiting tips and to learn much more about this spectacular destination along the Maryland coastline, see Assateague Island - A National Seashore Visitor's Guide.
Distance from DC: 140 miles, 2.5-3 hour drive
Bethany Beach-Fenwick Island, Delaware
Bethany Beach and Fenwick, Delaware call themselves “the Quiet Resorts”. They are family-oriented beach towns with lots of amenities and a more relaxed atmosphere than their neighboring resorts of Ocean City, Maryland and Rehoboth, Delaware. To learn about places to stay and things to know, see A Bethany Beach Vacation Guide.
Distance from DC: 128 miles, 2.5-3 hour drive
Cape May, New Jersey
Cape May, New Jersey is a historic beach town with many cozy bed and breakfasts making it one of the most romantic beach resorts in the country. There are also hotels geared toward families, but Cape May has mostly small and cozy accommodations. A fun way to get to this resort is to take the Cape May-Lewes Ferry. For more information, visit www.capemay.com.
Distance from DC: 187 miles, 3.5 hour drive
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Chincoteague, Virginia is a great place for hiking, biking, lighthouse tours, guided wildlife tours, swimming, boating, fishing and more. Be sure to visit Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge which is one of the top five shorebird migratory staging areas in the United States. For visiting tips and to learn much more about this spectacular Virginia beach, see Chincoteague Island, VA (Visiting Tips, Events & More)
Distance from DC: 170 miles, 3-3.5 hour drive
Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach, Delaware
Rehoboth, Delaware is a bustling beach community with a small town atmosphere, featuring a mile-long boardwalk including arcades, a small amusement park, bandstand musical entertainment, and lots of shopping and food vendors. Dewey Beach, just down the road, is unique with the ocean on one side of the street and the bay on the other. The area is popular for water sports such as skimboarding, windsurfing, and catamaran sailing. For more information, visit www.beach-fun.com
Distance from DC: 120 miles, 2.5-3 hour drive
Lewes, Delaware is a small historic beach town with restaurants, shops, museums and bed and breakfasts. The public beach is on the Delaware Bay and has very little wave activity which makes it a good beach for young children. A short drive will take you to Cape Henlopen State Park where the Delaware Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean and the beach has sand dunes, nature trails, recreation and designated swimming areas. For more information, visit www.lewes.com.
Distance from DC: 117 miles, 2.5 hour drive
Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City, Maryland, with its 10 miles of white sand beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, is the ideal place for swimming, surfing, kite flying, sand castle building, jogging, etc. The resort is a bustling beach town with amusement parks, arcades, miniature golf courses, shopping malls, an Outlet shopping center, movie theaters, go-kart tracks and the famous three-mile Ocean City Boardwalk. You will find a wide range of accommodations, restaurants and nightclubs. To learn about places to stay, things to do and more, see An Ocean City, Maryland Visitor's Guide.
Distance from DC: 140 miles, 3 hour drive
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is a major beach resort with miles of beaches along the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors enjoy a wide range of activities on the beach as well as the boardwalk, restaurants, shops, nightclubs, and performing arts. Virginia Beach is especially known for great golf courses and wildlife viewing at its state parks. For visiting tips, attraction information and more, see a Virginia Beach Vacation Guide.
Distance from DC: 209 miles, 3.5-4 hour drive
Sandy Point, Maryland
Sandy Point State Park is the closest beach to the Washington, DC area. The park is located in Anne Arundel County, Maryland on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and offers recreational activities including swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and windsurfing. Read more about Sandy Point.
Distance from DC: 37 miles, 1 hour drive
Point Lookout, Maryland
Point Lookout State Park is located at the most southern point of Maryland on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay. Enjoy great views as well as swimming, fishing, boating and camping. Point Lookout is a historic site, the location of a prison camp during the Civil War. Visit the Civil War Museum/Marshland Nature Center and learn about the area’s history and its wildlife.
Distance from DC: 83 miles, 2 hour drive
More About Exploring Delmarva Beaches and the Chesapeake Watershed
Delmarva Beaches and the Chesapeake Watershed area is a spectacular region to enjoy a wide range of scenery and recreational activities such as boating, swimming, fishing, bird watching, biking and golf. For more information about the region, see a Guide to the Chesapeake Bay.
Need an overview of the area?
- See a Map of the Maryland Eastern Shore
- See a Map of the Virginia Eastern Shore
- See a Map of the Chesapeake Bay