Summer is heating up in the Washington, DC area, and that means it’s swimming season.
While the beaches along the Atlantic Ocean are beautiful, traffic on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge can be a nightmare. Why should you spend your beach day fighting the gridlock?
Rivers, lakes and swimming holes throughout Maryland and Virginia offer plenty of natural waterway fun.
Popular beach resorts near Washington, DC
Here are our favorite swimming spots that are a short drive from DC, as well as beaches that are open ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
North Beach, Maryland (Now Open)
Dip your toes in the sand or take a dip in the water on the pristine shores of North Beach on Maryland’s west coast, just south of Annapolis. Looking for some exercise? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the Welcome Center. (Note: There are no lifeguards on duty, so swim at your own risk.)
There isn’t much swell, so North Beach is a good choice for a trip with kids.
View beach fees and buy day passes here.
From where: 9023 Bay Avenue, North Beach, Maryland
Open minded: The beach and baths are open from morning to evening all year round, except in the case of very bad weather.
Distance from DC: 34 miles
Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland (Now Open)
Watch a breathtaking sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay or spend a day swimming in the water. You can also go fishing or crabbing. Grills and picnic tables near the marina make this a perfect spot for an afternoon cookout.
Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Otherwise swimmers go at their own risk.
Effective May 20, 2022, motor boat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals were not available.
From where: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland
Hours: 7am to sunset
Distance from DC: 37 miles
Breezy Point Beach in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland (open this weekend)
Swim, fossil hunt and fish all summer long at Breezy Point Beach. This year, however, only campsite visitors can visit the beach on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Bonus: If you fancy a hike, check out Calvert Cliffs State Park. You have to hike almost 2 miles to reach the beach from the day visitor parking lot. You’ll be rewarded with beautiful, natural views and shallow water for swimming. Bring bug spray.
From where: Breezy Point Beach, 5300 Breezy Point Rd, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
Open minded: Go here for opening times.
Distance from DC: 43 miles
Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Cockeysville, Maryland (Memorial Day opening weekend)
Dive into a freshwater quarry on a rope swing or spend the afternoon swimming in one of the two pools at Beaver Dam Swim Club. When you need a break from the water, head to one of the club’s basketball or volleyball courts, or use the club’s BBQ facilities to cook up your own feast. You can bring your own food and drinks, but alcohol is not allowed. There is also a snack bar. See admission prices here.
From where: 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, Maryland
opens: Open from Sunday May 29th
Hours: weekends and holidays 10am to 7pm; weekdays 11:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m
Distance from DC: 57 miles
Tubing in the Harpers Ferry area (now open)
Float along the pristine Shenandoah River and enjoy beautiful views of downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia after renting an inner tube. Two outfitters can provide tubes and personal flotation devices and drive you to shore. Floating coolers can be rented.
The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (37410 Adventure Center Lane, Purcellville, Virginia) has opened for 2022. There you can also visit ziplining, rafting or a high ropes course. Accommodation is available on site via cabins and camping by the river or on the mountain.
River Riders Family Adventure Resort (408 Alstadts Hill Rd, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) is also open for 2022. In addition to tubing access, you will also find an adventure park and campground.
Hours: Choose a timeslot when booking your adventure
Distance from DC: Approximately 60 to 65 miles
Virginia’s Northern Neck Region
Virginia’s Northern Neck region offers several beaches, quaint inns and numerous shops. If you are looking for a bath, check out some of these:
Belle Isle State Park offers cabins and campsites, as well as canoe and kayak rentals.
Colonial Beach has Virginia’s second longest sandy beach and is located on the Potomac River. Here you can find information about the beaches.
Naylor’s Beach Campground in Warsaw, Virginia has day admission for a swim or makes it a weekend trip to the campground. It opens on Memorial Day weekend.
Distance from DC Mileage varies by destination. Colonial Beach is 63 miles from DC
Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland (Memorial Day opening weekend)
Hunting Creek Lake in Cunningham Falls State Park has three designated swimming areas where you can cool off. Would you like to extend your stay? Turn it into a weekend getaway by renting a nearby RV cabin.
From where: William Houck Campground, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, Maryland
opens: Memorial Day weekend
Distance from DC: 70 miles
You can swim or fish (or both) at surprisingly nearby Lake Anna, one of Virginia’s largest freshwater lakes. Unsupervised swimming is possible during the season.
If you’re just doing a day trip, you’ll want to arrive early as the car park closes when it’s full, but you’ll also find plenty of accommodation nearby.
Other nearby attractions include vineyards, antique shops, golf, historic sites and Kings Dominion Theme Park.
From where: 6800 Lawyers Road, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia
opens: Unsupervised swimming possible
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Distance from DC 84 miles
James River Park System: Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Virginia (open year-round)
The James River Park System (including Pony Pasture Rapids Park) runs on both sides of the James River as it flows through Richmond, making it the only US city, according to the city, to have Class IV whitewater rapids right in the middle of downtown Has. Follow these safety tips and guidelines when you visit.
Enjoy kayaking, tubing, hiking, rock climbing, swimming and just about any other outdoor activity you could wish for. Here is a full list of things to do and suggestions for other swimming opportunities in the James River Park System.
From where: Pony Pasture Rapids, 7200 Riverside Drive, Richmond, Virginia
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Information about swimming: Find information about Pony Pasture Rapids here
Distance from DC: 111 miles
Rocky Gap State Park in Flintstone, Maryland
The main attraction of the 3,000-acre Rocky Gap State Park is Lake Habeeb, which features two public beaches surrounded by scenic Evitts Mountain. Camping, cabins and hot and cold meals are also available. Admission is $4 for Maryland residents and $6 for out-of-state visitors on weekends and holidays. Visiting during the week is cheaper.
From where: 12500 Pleasant Valley Road NE, Flintstone, Maryland
Distance: 131 miles
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