The Top Beaches in Maryland

These Maryland beaches make for perfect summer fun on the shore.

Calvert Cliffs State Park, Maryland
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Offering waterfront real estate along both the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, the state of Maryland has plenty to offer for a coastal getaway. This Mid-Atlantic destination is beloved for its popular beach towns, and many families make annual pilgrimages to places like Ocean City for long summer weekends.

The top beaches in Maryland stand out because they're so much more than attractive stretches of coastline. We also looked for destinations with lots of activities, like boardwalks to stroll, kayaking, surfing, paddleboarding, and so forth. Of course, they also deliver an Instagram-worthy view, whether they're surrounded by sandy dunes or marked by a picturesque lighthouse.

If you're planning a trip to coastal Maryland, consider one of these 16 standout destinations.

Assateague Island National Seashore

Horses grazing, Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland, USA
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This uninhabited stretch of land (a whopping 48,000 acres) is best known for its incredible wildlife — specifically the hundreds of wild horses that roam around the park's beaches. While you cannot ride the wild horses on Assateague, you are welcome to bring your own horse for a beachfront stroll.

Visitors can also watch the dolphins plying the waves, or spend long summer days fishing or clamming. The plankton-rich waters are home to a number of fish species, sea turtles, and even whales. Assateague is perhaps Maryland's nicest beach for nature.

Assateague Island is divided into two sections: one belonging to Maryland and the other to Virginia. In the Maryland district, you can camp among the wild horses under a sky full of stars. Just be sure to use long tent stakes to ensure your shelter stays firmly anchored in the sand and wind.

Calvert Cliffs State Park

Though technically a natural bay and not a beach, Calvert Cliffs still earns a spot as one of Maryland's top beaches due to its incredible views and unique history. Surrounded by picturesque sandy cliffs, this quarter-mile-long stretch of beach is perfect for swimming and fishing.

The real draw, though, is what you might find hidden on its sandy shores. More than 600 species of fossils — some dating back 20 million years — have been found at this destination that will excite paleontology enthusiasts or really anyone who's watched "Jurassic Park." The park permits visitors to keep any fossils they might uncover on the beach, but Leave No Trace principles advise to "leave what you find."

Ocean City Beach

Ocean City, Maryland
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Ocean City Beach is widely considered Maryland's best. It's certainly the most popular, luring in locals and vacationers alike with plates of steamed crab and attractions galore. The resort town reports that it hosts eight million tourists per year, mostly during summer. This beach can be good for either a quiet getaway or an action-packed family vacation thanks to its two semi-contrasting ends. On the north end, aka "condo row," you'll find a far more relaxed vibe than the bells and whistles the south is known for. However, the south end is where the famed Thrasher's French Fries and Ocean City Boardwalk are. Complete your walk along said pedestrian path with a spin on the antique Trimper Rides carousel.

North Beach

About a mile from the town of Chesapeake Beach, which doesn't have a public beach of its own, North Beach stretches across the bay's western shore. Stroll or cycle along the boardwalk, stopping for an ice cream or funnel cake to enjoy in the sun. Cast a line off the pier, or walk out just to look for bald eagles and Canadian geese. When you get hungry, claim a table overlooking the water at Skipper's Pier Restaurant & Dock Bar, a casual seafood joint serving fish tacos, grouper grilled cheese, and Chesapeake Bay oysters charbroiled or on the half shell.

Over at Chesapeake Beach, there are even more activities to enjoy, like a water park, dining options, and the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum.

Sandy Point State Park

Red Sand
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A major draw of this beach is its gorgeous views stretching out over Chesapeake Bay to the Bay Bridge and beyond. In the summer, the beach is staffed by lifeguards, making it a safe option for young swimmers (though the Department of Natural Resources warns that jellyfish frequent the water later in the season). Sandy Point is also a magnet for anglers, partly due to the seasonal availability of boat rentals and a supply-stocked marina store. The beach is part of a state park on the western shore of the bay and also has an abundance of hiking trails, picnic areas, and playgrounds to break up beach days.

Breezy Point Beach & Campground

Breezy Point Beach is set just north of Plum Point, separated from it by Plum Point Creek, on the Chesapeake Bay's western shore. This charming stretch of sand offers all the classic beach activities: camping, swimming, fishing, and picnicking. But you can also comb the land for fossils, shark teeth, and sea glass, or spend an afternoon crabbing for your dinner. The beach is seasonal and often hits capacity in the summer months (at which point visitors will be turned away), so plan accordingly and arrive early if you're thinking of visiting Breezy Point on your Maryland vacation.

Deep Creek Lake

Vacation Resort Lake

This 1,800-acre state park includes an artificial lake surrounded by sandy shores and forest. With swimming beaches, 20 miles of hiking and biking trails, a campground, and a hands-on Discovery Center that teaches visitors about the local history and natural resources, it's perfect for beachgoers of all kinds. Deep Creek is the largest lake in Maryland, nestled among mountains in the western part of the state. It's a serene alternative to the crowded coastlines of the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay.

Rocky Point Beach and Park

Situated at the mouths of the Back and Middle rivers, Rocky Point Beach and Park spans 33 acres and has 300 feet of beach. While it isn't huge, it does offer an incredible view of the Chesapeake Bay and Hart-Miller Island, a 1,100-acre island that attracts boaters and birders. With a sailing center, a volleyball court, a fishing pier, and ample picnic tables and shelters, Rocky Point is unsurprisingly a popular summer destination for Marylanders.

Cunningham Falls

Cunningham Falls, in the Fall
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It doesn't have the bustling boardwalk and nonstop amusements of Ocean City, but this lakeside beach-inclusive state park has something the Atlantic shoreline doesn't: the tallest cascading waterfall in Maryland. Cunningham Falls is an impressive 78 feet tall and makes a visit to Catoctin Mountain Park worthwhile on its own. This ridge near the Pennsylvania state line is part of the larger Blue Ridge Mountains and home to the 75-acre artificial Hunting Creek Lake, a hot spot for swimming, boating, and fishing.

Matapeake Clubhouse and Beach

Located on Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay is a public swimming beach marked by a beautiful colonial-style clubhouse used for weddings and community functions. This beach has a little bit of everything: restroom facilities, an outdoor amphitheater, a mile-long hiking trail offering views of the Bay Bridge, a picnic area, and even a separate dog beach adjacent to the public swimming area. Matapeake is just a 20-minute drive over the bridge from Annapolis.

Rocky Gap State Park Beach

Lake Shoreline autumn colors Rocky Gap State Park Flintstone Maryland

Surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains and containing what's locally known as the "bluest water in the state," Lake Habeeb is bordered by shores that beckon campers and beachgoers alike. Here, visitors can admire the cliffs and hemlock forest Rocky Gap State Park is known for while swimming in its distinctively clean water. Those inclined to stay overnight have almost 300 campsites to choose from, including cozy cabin and yurt options.

Point Lookout State Park

Point Lookout State Park is located on the piece of Maryland that separates the Chesapeake Bay from the Potomac River. It's home to a couple of historical attractions, including the Point Lookout Lighthouse and a Civil War museum with exhibits on the former camp for Confederate prisoners. The beach here is often lifeguarded and offers public barbecues perfect for gatherings. There are also camping, hiking, fishing, and boating opportunities.

Hammerman Beach

Serene view of the Gunpowder Falls, in Baltimore County, Marylan
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Nestled in Gunpowder Falls State Park about 30 minutes from downtown Baltimore, this beach — officially called the Hammerman Area — offers concessions, picnic pavilions, playgrounds, and canoe and kayak rentals from Eastern Watersports. The rental shop also provides lessons and runs a calendar of programming during the high season, so beachgoers can take part in yoga, fitness classes, and the like. Otherwise, you can while away the day just swimming in the (mostly jellyfish-free) Gunpowder River and hiking the local trails.

Hart-Miller Island

Hart-Miller Island gives the true island-in-a-lake experience that Kent Island and others accessible by road can't provide. That's because getting there requires riding a private boat across part of the Chesapeake Bay and wading in shallow water from the boat to shore. The barrier of entry keeps this 1,100-acre state park relatively quiet and maintains its locals-only feel. It's great for swimming, fishing, and hiking to bay viewpoints on more than eight miles of trails. You can also camp and rent bicycles — for free! — in the South Cell of the island.

Betterton Beach

This beach is north-facing and located at the mouth of a pastoral peninsula. It's closer to Wilmington, Delaware, than any of Maryland's metro areas and offers a charming small-town atmosphere for a relaxing Bay retreat. Families will have no problem finding a quiet patch of sand to sprawl on, as well as volleyball nets and picnic areas to help keep everyone fed and entertained.

North East Beach

Sunset reflecting on the bay at Elk Neck State Park
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Not to be confused with North Beach more than two hours away, North East Beach is part of Elk Neck State Park, an area on the peninsula popular for outdoor recreation and the historic Turkey Point Lighthouse. Swimming, kayaking, canoeing, and picnicking are common pastimes in the beach area, but the park also has more than 2,000 acres of marshland, forest, and white-clay cliffs to explore when you crave a break from the water. Elk Neck is also conveniently outfitted with a supplies store, beach showers, and a playground.

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