While not on the ocean, Colonial Beach still has plenty of seaside charm. Photo by Mary Carter/Courtesy of Town of Colonial Beach Travel & Tourism
While not on the ocean, Colonial Beach still has plenty of seaside charm. Photo by Mary Carter/Courtesy of Town of Colonial Beach Travel & Tourism

9 Family-Friendly Beaches Near DC

If the thought of cool ocean breezes and sand between your toes is alluring, it's time to consider a trek to one of the family-friendly beaches near Washington, DC. Of course, getting to a bona fide beach requires a (sometimes lengthy) car ride from the capital area, and some nearby shores are still off limits due to the pandemic.

Still, we've managed to gather up some beach intel just for you, with this list of nine seaside options that are open and welcoming out-of-towners this summer.

So pack the car (and the kids) for a beach day trip or a long weekend—the summer possibilities are endless. And keep an eye on the public pool situation—if all goes well, pools might open one day soon.

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Family-Friendly Beaches near Washington, DC

1. Ocean City Beach, Maryland

2 hours, 45 minutes from DC by car
Open daily, 5am-10pm
All of Ocean City's many attractions on the boardwalk, including restaurants, shops, amusement parks, and more, have fully reopened and look forward to welcoming visitors this summer. But please continue to practice social distancing, and use your judgment on what's safe for your family. The beach is open, free to the public, and monitored by the Ocean City Beach Patrol, which is on duty daily from 10am to 5:30pm during the summer. The 10-mile stretch of sand includes two sections dedicated to surfers and boogie boarders.

2. Sandy Point State Park, Maryland

1 hour, 15 minutes from DC by car
Open daily, 7am to sunset
Sandy Point, on the Chesapeake Bay, unfurls over 786 acres, providing plenty of room for social distancing. A portion of South Beach is protected with lifeguards from 10am to 6pm weekdays, weekends, and holidays from Memorial Day to Labor Day. As of May 15, there are no restrictions on capacity and group sizes, and masks are not required indoors or outdoors for those who have been vaccinated. The playgrounds are open, but parents are encouraged to talk to kids about safe playground rules and appropriate distancing before your visit.

3. Colonial Beach, Virginia

1 hour, 45 minutes from DC by car
Visit the website for current hours
Although Colonial Beach is technically on the Potomac River, not the ocean, its relative proximity to DC makes it an ideal choice for a day of sand and gentle surf. The beaches and Town Pier are open for recreation, including swimming, following the latest amended Forward Virginia COVID-19 guidance. On May 28, all capacity restrictions and mask mandates will be lifted in Virginia so you can enjoy all the attractions of the town of Colonial Beach.

RELATED: The Best 2021 Beach Gear for Families with Young Kids

Sandbridge Beach is one of three Virginia Beach shores to explore
Sandbridge Beach is one of three Virginia Beach shores to explore. Photo courtesy of Visit Virginia Beach

4. Virginia Beach, Virginia

4 hours from DC by car
Visit the website for current hours.
Virginia Beach's three beach options—Sandbridge, Chesapeake Bay, and Oceanfront Resort—are all free and open to the public. You can also visit First Landing State Park (1.25 miles of beach) and False Cape State Park (six miles of beach).

5. Bethany Beach, Delaware

2 hours, 45 minutes from DC by car
Open daily, 9am-5pm
Bethany Beach is open for the summer, but beware: Parking can be challenging. Delaware has lifted its ban on short-term rentals, so a multiday stay at a location close enough to walk to the beach might be in the cards. Like Maryland and Virginia, social distancing requirements and mask mandates have been lifted for fully vaccinated individuals, but unvaccinated individuals, including children, should continue to wear masks and take precautions.

RELATED: 25 Things to Do with Kids in Virginia Beach

Town of Dewey Beach
Enjoy weekly activities, including bonfires, at Dewey Beach. Photo courtesy of the Town of Dewey Beach

6. Dewey Beach, Delaware

2 hours, 40 minutes from DC by car
Open daily, 5:30am-1am
Just slightly south of Rehoboth is a quieter, less famous stretch of sand: Dewey Beach. Free Monday night movies on the beach and Wednesday night bonfires are back this summer, but please follow social distancing. The town is following the latest state and CDC guidance, so the mask mandate, capacity restrictions, and social distancing requirements have been lifted for fully vaccinated individuals.

7. Fenwick Island, Delaware

3 hours from DC by car
Open daily, 8am-4pm
Fenwick Island, located between Rehoboth and Ocean City, is a great choice for a day of swimming, crabbing, clamming, or a longer family vacation. Its three-mile stretch of barrier island has a rep for being less rowdy and more peaceful than other beachy hotspots in Delaware.

8. Lewes Beach, Delaware

2 hours, 30 minutes from DC by car
Open daily, 6am to midnight
Lewes Beach, situated where the Delaware Bay and the Atlantic Ocean meet at Cape Henlopen, offers miles of beautiful beaches, nature trails, and bird sanctuaries. Keep time open in your schedule to visit Cape Henlopen State Park, a 3,000-acre park featuring famous "walking" sand dunes and lovely nature trails.

9. Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

2 hours, 30 minutes from DC by car
Visit the website for current hours.
Another popular Delaware Beach, Rehoboth prides itself on its mile-long boardwalk. For now, the city of Rehoboth Beach is continuing to require masks in public indoor spaces and outdoors where social distancing can't be maintained, such as the boardwalk, but continue to check its website for updates. Events, such as free concerts at the bandstand, resume this summer and playgrounds have reopened.

This post was originally published in 2020. Writer Meredith Varela contributed to this 2021 update. 

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