Travel

How to Get From DC to the Beach Without a Car

It's possible to get to Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware beaches without a car—if you plan.

Virginia Beach runs 35 miles—one of the world’s longest. Photograph of Virginia Beach by Cameron Davidson.

There’s nothing like hitting the beach to beat DC’s summer heat. It’s only a few hours drive to popular Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland vacation destinations—but what if, like a lot of District dwellers, you don’t own a car? We mapped out potential vehicles and routes to sandy spots with day trips in mind (though overnights encouraged).

By Bus

Dewey Beach, DE

BestBus offers weekend trips to the popular Delaware beach town between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with service from Dupont Circle and Union Station. They do offer some flexibility with one trip each weekend day, leaving from Dupont Circle at 5:30 PM on Fridays and 7:30 AM on Saturdays and Sundays. Leaving Dewey, buses get back to Dupont Circle at 12:45 AM Saturday morning, 10:45 PM Saturday evening, and 9:45 PM Sunday evening.
Trip time: 3 hours, 15 minutes
Cost: $49.99 one way

Virginia Beach, VA

Greyhound offers service to Virginia Beach once a day at 9:25 AM, but the full-hour layover in Richmond makes it a full day’s travel—best for an overnight.
Trip Time: 6 hours, 15 minutes
Cost: $50 to 67 one way

Chesapeake Beach, MD

If you’re looking for “a beach,” instead of “The Beach,” MTA’s 820 commuter bus picks up from Robert Latham Owen Park—not exactly central, but near the National Mall—and terminates in North Beach, MD on the Chesapeake Bay. While drop off is one block from the water, it’s still about a mile north of Chesapeake Beach proper. There are eight trips available on weekdays leaving DC between 12:15 PM and 5:40 PM.
Time: 1 hr, 36 minutes
Cost: $6 one way

 

Photograph via iStock

By Train

Virginia Beach

This one counts as “by train,” we (kind of) promise. Take Amtrak’s Northeast Regional to Norfolk, then transfer to the connecting bus operated by Amtrak Chartered Motorcoach for the final, barely noticeable 38 minutes.
Cost: $26
Time: 5 hours, 35 minutes

(Bonus: Northeast Regional does go directly to Newport News if you want to hit the bay above Virginia Beach, but not Virginia Beach itself! 4 hours, 25 minutes for $23)

Atlantic City

It’s possible to piece together multiple trains to get to Atlantic City. Ride an Amtrak to Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station, then transfer to NJ Transit, which takes you directly to Atlantic City. Amtrak prices vary, but NJ Transit is $10.75.
Cost: $62 – $96
Time: 3 hours, 26 min (travel time alone without transfer time)

Ocean City, MD

Call this the train-plus method, and one we’re hesitant to recommend, unless you’re one of those “the journey is the destination” people. Take Amtrak’s Northwest Regional from Union Station to BWI Airport, and then transfer to a connecting van operated by BayRunner Shuttle for the final 3 hours and 15 minutes. The shuttle drops off in West Ocean City, which means additional transportation is needed to cross the bay onto the Ocean City, Maryland peninsula.
Cost: $140
Time: 3 hours, 50 minutes

Ocean City. Image via iStock.

 

By Rental Car

Ocean City, MD

Zipcar allows you to pick up and drop off cars within your neighborhood. Since they must be returned to the same location, a day trip to Ocean City from 9 AM to 9 PM on a Saturday starts around $160 a day after taxes. Zipcars are available overnight, but only 180 miles are included in a 24-hour period. At 58 cents for every mile over, its another $60 to cover the 285 mile round trip. Gas is included, the $6 tolls are not.
Round trip cost: $226
Time one way: 3 hours, 5 minutes

 

By Rideshare

Who needs a car in 2022? Then again, a 3 hour and 8 minute Uber or Lyft from DC to Ocean City is about $200 one way (and who knows getting back). You can decide if that’s a viable option—or better yet, have a friend call (and expense) it.

 

By Luxury Transport

Perhaps a party bus is more your style. While a trip to the beach is not specifically listed under Atlantic Transportation Services, a ride in a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Sprinter would definitely constitute “Luxury Group Transportation.” Based in Rehoboth Beach, ATS advertises “transportation to all local and major airports, seaports and train stations,” including Georgetown, BWI, and Washington Dulles to name a few.

Cost: Their cheapest sedan starts at $80/hour but varies by the number of passengers in your party and how much you’re bringing with you to the beach. It also doesn’t include cleaning fees, fuel surcharges, or gratuity.

 

Rehoboth. Photograph by Lexey Swall.

By Helicopter

Sadly due to Covid, Monumental Helicopters has paused service to Delaware Coastal Airport, a ride that took about 45 minutes and cost anywhere from $1,200 to $3,000 depending on your departing airport. The encouraging news for aviation enthusiasts looking to spend superfluously: companies like Uber Copter and BLADE already exist in New York, and are looking forward to “transforming urban aviation” further afield.

*This article has been edited since its original posting.

David Andrews
Editorial Fellow
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