Four sandy strands, all within a 90-minute drive, for when you don’t want to schlep all the way across the Delmarva.
Within forested Cunningham Falls State Park in Maryland, this 75-acre manmade lake features three small beaches. The two closest to the entrance are generally crowded on weekends but do share kayak and canoe rentals, a changing room, and a snack bar. It’s also a short hike from the snack bar to the park’s 78-foot-tall cascading waterfall. Or drive around the lake for a more laid-back experience on its northern end. (There is a bathroom, but no boat rentals or changing facilities.) 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont, Md.; 301-271-7574.
Adjacent to the town of Chesapeake Beach, Maryland, on the western shore of the bay, this family-friendly beach boasts a half-mile-long boardwalk, making it feel like a miniature version of Ocean City. And unfortunately, like Ocean City it can be packed on weekends. Our advice: Go on a weekday, if you can, to really enjoy not only the water and the sand but the shops and cozy restaurants, too, such as Neptune’s Seafood Pub (8800 Chesapeake Ave., North Beach; 410-257-7899). For more on the town, see northbeachmd.org.
On this beach near Annapolis, you can look out at a beautiful view of the Chesapeake and the Bay Bridge—plus watch the traffic on the bridge heading to and from the ocean beaches. At the state park it’s part of, there’s not only a beach but also a playground, a concession stand, boat rentals, and a large grassy area perfect for picnics. 1100 East College Pkwy., Annapolis; 410-974-2149.
North of Baltimore along the wide Gunpowder River, this 1,500-foot-long beach has a lifeguarded section with calm waters for swimming and an area to the south where Ultimate Watersports (410-335-5352) offers lessons and rentals. It’s a great spot for sailing and windsurfing: Consistent breezes funnel up the river from the bay on warm summer days. There’s also kayaking and standup-paddleboarding lessons and rentals. 7200 Graces Quarters, Middle River, Md.; 410-592-2897.
This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.