10 Ideas for Getaways That Get You Out on the Water Around Washington, DC

Boats, tubing, lakes, and waterfronts.

Keep an Eye Out for Eagles

Adjacent to a federal refuge for bald eagles, Mason Neck State Park in Lorton offers beautiful vistas and chances to spot not only those majestic birds but al-so swans, turtles, and other wildlife, from a rented canoe or kayak. See dcr.virginia.govDistance from DC: 27 miles.

Take a Sunset Sail

The 74-foot Woodwind and Woodwind II in Annapolis are replicas of wooden schooners built in the early 1900s. Relax while cruising across Annapolis Harbor and looking back at the city as the sun sets over the capitol dome. See schoonerwoodwind.comDistance from DC: 35 miles.

Explore Sunken Sinks

Glide through the naval graveyard of Mallows Bay, Maryland, where a “ghost fleet” of more than 100 wooden World War I–era ships lie submerged. Sign up for a guided kayak tour ($49 or $75) at charlescountyparks.comDistance from DC: 43 miles.

Go Tubing

Near Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, River Riders and River & Trail Outfitters both offer tubing, either on a relatively quiet stretch of the Shenandoah or on thrilling whitewater in the Potomac. River & Trail also has multi-day packages that combine tubing, rafting, biking, and other adventures. Distance from DC: 70 miles.

Sit by a Dock on the Bay

On the edge of the Chesapeake, minimalist-chic, dog-friendly Wylder Tilghman Inn offers lots of ways to enjoy the water: Gaze at it from the porch of a waterfront room, from a hammock, or while playing a lawn game. Or hop aboard a canoe, kayak, paddleboard, or sunset cruise. There’s also a heated saltwater pool. Distance from DC: 95 miles.

Paddle and Pedal

Dubbed one of the “last great places” by the Nature Conservancy, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland, teems with bald eagles and waterfowl. To best see it, rent a kayak or bike, or take a guided trip, with Blackwater Adventures. Consider an overnight stay at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay resort. Distance from DC: 99 miles.

Enjoy a Waterfront Room

Most rooms at the Tides Inn, on Virginia’s Northern Neck, come with waterfront views of charming Carter’s Creek, and the resort itself offers a boatload of ways to get out on it, including electric Duffy boats, sailing lessons, and paddleboard yoga. See tidesinn.comDistance from DC: 142 miles.

Catch a Wave in Cape May

Whether you have a board or not, enjoy the surf-inspired decor at the eco- and dog-friendly Boarding House in this quaint Jersey Shore town. Though the beach is a 15-minute walk or 5-minute bike ride away, guests at the 11-room retreat get complimentary use of beach chaises, towels, and an umbrella at the Montreal Beach Club. Distance from DC: 142 miles (taking the ferry from Lewes, Delaware) or 189 miles driving around.

Rent a Place on a Lake

There are many ways to make a splash at Deep Creek Lake, Maryland’s largest. You can rent just about any kind of watercraft—standup paddleboard to pontoon boat. The town of McHenry has houses, con-dos, and cabins for rent; hotels; the waterfront Lake Pointe Inn; and Wisp Resort. Distance from DC: 180 miles.

Try Whitewater Rafting

Head to the country’s newest national park, the New River Gorge in West Virginia, to experience some of the East Coast’s best whitewater—from gentle waves to wilder rapids. You can book outings, as well as rent cabins or camp, at Adventures on the Gorge, ACE Ad-venture Resort, and River Expeditions. Distance from DC: about 300 miles.

This article appears in the May 2021 issue. 

Editor in chief

Sherri Dalphonse joined Washingtonian in 1986 as an editorial intern, and worked her way to the top of the masthead when she was named editor-in-chief in 2022. She oversees the magazine’s editorial staff, and guides the magazine’s stories and direction. She lives in DC.