Real Estate  |  Travel

Where to Buy the Perfect Getaway House Near Washington

St. Michaels, known for historic houses and quaint shops, is two hours away. Photograph by Jon Bilous/Alamy.

Our eight favorite options for second-home budgets big and small, all within a four-hour drive or less:

$ = Bargain budget $$ = More to spend

If you want to relax and recharge:

$ Urbanna

The Virginia town attracts second-home buyers from all over the East Coast thanks to its low-key vibe and a location on the unspoiled Rappahannock River, great for fishing and boating. The historic district includes buildings dating to the 18th century.

Prices: A waterfront house on hundreds of acres commands around $3 million, while a rustic cottage with a water view can be as little as $100,000.

The drive: Three hours.

$$ St. Michaels

The quaint waterfront destination is a trove of shops and restaurants. Dubbed the Town That Fooled the British because it escaped capture during the War of 1812, the Eastern Shore village today is defined by the many international transplants who call it home.

Prices: A three-bedroom historic house runs about $600,000; a waterfront spread with a guesthouse can exceed $3 million.

The drive: Two hours.

If you want to explore the outdoors:

$ Lost River

Easy access from the Beltway, combined with the beautiful Shenandoah Mountains, makes the West Virginia spot a magnet for Washingtonians who love to hike, bike, and fish in a pristine setting.

Prices: A cabin in the woods goes for about $100,000, while a large stone-and-cedar mountain house can fetch $475,000.

The drive: Two hours.

$$ Deep Creek Lake

The Western Maryland destination is beloved by those who boat, canoe, kayak, and waterski. Other activities include skiing, hiking, and biking the Eastern Continental Divide—even dogsledding.

Prices: Although prices can soar to $5 million for waterfront mansions, simple houses on the lake go as low as $250,000.

The drive: 3½ hours.

If you want to take in the arts:

$ Berlin

The Maryland town is ten miles from rowdy Ocean City but feels much farther. It’s a hub for galleries and antiques shops and is home to one of the Eastern Shore’s best piano bars, in the historic Atlantic Hotel.

Prices: A three-bedroom home runs about $300,000; golf-course condos go for as little as $180,000.

The drive: Three hours.

$$ Easton

Artists from around the world have made this Eastern Shore town home, studding it with galleries and studios. The Academy Art Museum, whose collection includes Rembrandts, and the historic Avalon Theatre are anchors.

Prices: Waterfront homes can top $1 million, while two-bedroom condos can go for less than $300,000.

The drive: 1½ hours.

If you want to entertain the kids:

$ The Poconos

The Pennsylvania mountains are made for families. You can ski or snowboard in winter and field-trip to waterfalls, water parks, and zipline courses in summer. The rest of the year brings fruit picking and scenic railroad rides through Lehigh Gorge.

Prices: A two-bedroom ranch can be as little as $50,000, while a sprawling house with a pool runs close to $300,000.

The drive: Four hours.

$$ Rehoboth Beach

Washington’s favorite Delaware getaway is all about seaside fun: boardwalk arcades, saltwater taffy, boogie-boarding. But it also offers a sophisticated restaurant scene for parents (we love Henlopen City Oyster House) plus live-music venues.

Prices:Cottages several blocks from the beach start around $350,000; seven-bedroom waterfront homes reach $4 million.

The drive: Three hours.