Looking for some summer fun and a great way to cool off in the Washington, D.C. area? Grab your swimsuit and take a short drive to one of these great lakes and swimming spots in the capital region. Throughout the summer, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and swimming at the following sandy beaches, swimming holes, and small lakes in suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia, and Delaware. Enjoy a day trip and the great outdoors.
Cunningham Falls State Park
Located west of Thurmont, Maryland, Cunningham Falls State Park is a little over an hour's drive from downtown D.C. The park, nestled in the Catoctin Mountains, features a 78-foot-high waterfall you can reach via a couple of different hiking trails. You'll also find a sandy beach and 44-acre lake—perfect for swimming, boating, and fishing—as well as campgrounds, playgrounds, picnic areas, and even more trails for both beginning and experienced hikers.
Sandy Point State Park
Open since 1952, Sandy Point State Park is located in Annapolis, Maryland, on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In addition to gorgeous views of the Chesapeake Bay and historic Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, the 786-acre park offers a wealth of recreational activities, including swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating, and windsurfing. A popular destination for families during the summer months, the park also features a nature center that houses local wildlife like snakes and frogs.
Point Lookout State Park
Point Lookout State Park is a historic site, having operated as a prison camp for more than 52,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. Flash forward some 150-odd-years, and today it serves as a peaceful park on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay. Dive into the area's storied past at the on-site museum, which also doubles as a nature center. In addition to great views, visitors can enjoy camping, boating, fishing, swimming, and sunbathing on the beach.
Lake Anna State Park
Activity at Lake Anna State Park centers around the 13,000-acre lake, one of the largest lakes in Virginia. About two hours southwest of Washington, D.C., the park has a guarded swimming beach (available for a fee) as well as hiking, biking, and horseback riding trails. You can book a stay in one of the cabins, lodges, or yurts, or you opt to pitch your tent at the campground.
Lake Arrowhead Beach
Lake Arrowhead Beach is a 34-acre lake in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley, near the day trip destination Skyline Drive. A prime spot for fishing and boating, the area has a white sand beach for swimming. Two miles of hiking trails take visitors through wooded areas, one of which circles the entire lake. There are picnic shelters, playground areas, and handicapped-accessible restrooms. Admission to the beach costs $5 for visitors ages 13 and up, and $3 for children between the ages of three and 12.
An approximately two-and-a-half-hour drive from downtown D.C., Rehoboth Beach, Delaware promises the quintessential day at the beach for D.C. locals. Billed as the "Nation's Summer Capital," the city's mile-long coastal boardwalk features shops, restaurants, and festivals that take place year-round. If live music is your jam, be sure to come during the summer; the bandstand hosts free concerts (as well as movie nights and variety acts) Friday through Sunday from May to August.
Ocean City Beach
Nearly three hours from D.C., Ocean City, Maryland is a bit further afield, but it's worth the drive if you like to surf thanks to designated "surfing beaches." After riding the waves, stroll or bike down the boardwalk and choose your pick of restaurants, bars, and breweries. While you're there, hit up an arcade or two, ride a roller coaster, or take a moment to learn about the city's history at the Life-Saving Station Museum.
About 150 miles away from Washington, D.C., Virginia Beach is by no means a day trip—but it does promise an idyllic weekend getaway from the nation's capital. The city is home to three beaches, with a three-mile boardwalk that offers up a host of live entertainment, shops, restaurants, and oceanfront hotels. Be sure to hit up the Atlantic Fun Park, check out a museum or two, and take a picture of the iconic King Neptune Statue.