Washington, D.C., offers a lot of water sports like kayaking in the metro area, but unfortunately, there are no public beaches in the District. Residents who want to visit an ocean beach will need to jump in their vehicles or find public transit out of town, but luckily, there are all kinds of public beaches a relatively short drive from the city.
Sometimes you just need a day trip to lie in the sand and soak up the sun, whether that’s at an ocean beach or by D.C.’s beautiful rivers. Either option promises a nice day to catch some fish, dip your toes in the water, or just catch some sun and relax.
This guide to the best beaches in D.C. includes seven stunning ocean beaches less than a 3-hour drive from the heart of the city and two riverside spots for when you want a shorter drive. Grab your swimming gear, sunblock, a Frisbee, and other essentials, and check out these fun locations.
Chain Bridge Flats and Little Falls
Little Falls is one of the most beautiful spots along the Potomac, and it’s right by Chain Bridge. This area is just under 5 miles from the Circle Arms Apartments, and although you aren’t allowed to swim here or in any rivers running through D.C., you can enjoy playing and hiking along the rocks while you take in the beautiful scenery.
Fletcher’s Cover sits just 3 miles from The Archer apartments, and it offers the chance to hang out by the water without leaving the city. This mini harbor is near Foxhall Crescent, and it has great fishing and other recreational opportunities. Swimming is also forbidden here, but there’s a boathouse where you can rent canoes and rowboats if you want to get into the water.
Sandy Point State Park
Sandy Point State Park sits on the northwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The beach offers beautiful views and has been attracting visitors since 1952. There are food and beverage concession stands, a marina store, picnic areas, bathhouses, and playgrounds.
The park charges a very modest day-use admission fee per person, and you can also rent a pavilion or a boat if you want to enhance your fun. This public beach opens at 7 a.m. all year long and closes at dusk, but you can fish after closing time if everyone in your party is actively fishing.
Sandy Point State Park is less than an hour’s drive from D.C., and if you live in Chillum Terrace, it’s just a 47-mile drive.
Colonial Beach is just 65 miles from D.C., meaning that it’s roughly a 1.5-hour drive from most our apartments. This beach is called the “playground of the Potomac, and it offers great opportunities for walking, bicycling, hiking, swimming, and more.
You can pick a secluded part of the beach and camp along the shores of the Potomac River for the day, or, if you prefer a busier atmosphere, you can hang out on the boardwalk of the Ferry Landing District. Waterfront restaurants, food trucks, playgrounds, tourist shops, and other amenities make Colonial Beach a fun destination.
Assateague Island National Seashore
The Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland is about a 2.5-hour drive from D.C., but this public beach is well worth the drive. Hundreds of wild ponies live on this beach, offering visitors a rare chance to see these creatures up close.
There’s a daily fee to access this beach, but the National Park Service also offers several fee-free days every year. Fees are assessed per vehicle, but people who enter on foot or bicycle can come in for free. Activities include kayaking, using over-sand vehicles (OSV) in designated areas, camping, and more. There are also ranger-guided programs and a junior ranger program for kids who want to learn more about this unique area.
Chesapeake Beach is a resort town in Maryland that features a beach, public boating ramps, a water park, many excellent seafood restaurants, and boating excursions into the bay. This quiet town of fewer than 6,000 residents is a great spot for a weekend trip. It’s less than an hour away from The Circle Arms and many other apartments in the metro area, so the town is also a perfect day trip.
The public beaches at Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, Maryland, are just under a 2-hour drive from Washington D.C. This state park features beautiful scenery on a peninsula between the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, and the park offers fishing, boating, hunting, hiking, camping, and more.
There was a Civil War prison on this site, and the park has a museum to help you explore the area’s interesting history. You can buy a day pass or annual pass to this state park, but expect to pay extra for the museum or other activities.
People looking for the best freshwater public beaches in Washington, D.C., should check out Cunningham Falls. The falls are located in the Catoctin Mountains, and the park consists of two separate areas that offer gorgeous scenery and fun activities.
Day use areas offer opportunities for lake swimming, fishing, and hiking, as well as playgrounds for children. There are also two campgrounds with campsites and cabin rentals if you want to spend the night, and best of all, this spot is just over an hour’s drive from D.C.
Breezy Point Beach
Breezy Point Beach is also just over an hour’s drive from the D.C. metro area. You can fish, crab, sunbathe, or swim on this beach, and there are picnic areas with charcoal grills if you want to bring some steaks, burgers, tofu, or other grillable eats. There’s also a playground for kids and a stand for snacks and concessions.
The daily rate is assessed per person, and this beach is more expensive than most of the other public beaches in D.C., but you can save money by coming on Tuesdays or after 5 p.m.
Public beaches are great for summertime fun, but they’re also a great year-round destination for sightseeing, jogging, collecting shells and rocks, metal detecting, and more. Put these beaches on your radar for the next time you’re ready to get out of town and have some fun.
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