Things to Do DC

10+ Places to Swim Near DC If You Want to Avoid Bay Bridge Traffic

Lakes, rivers and swimming holes just a short distance from D.C.

Summertime is heating up in the Washington, D.C., 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 spend your beach day battling gridlock?

Rivers, lakes and swimming holes throughout Maryland and Virginia offer plenty of fun on natural waterways.

Favorite Swimming Spots Near Washington, DC

Here are our favorite swimming spots that are an easy drive from the D.C. area. They're all open for the season as of Memorial Day weekend.

Mayo Beach in Edgewater, Maryland

Make sure to reserve a free pass before heading to Mayo Beach to enjoy the water in Anne Arundel County. You can play and wade in the shallow water, or bring your own kayak, canoe or sailboard. There are no lifeguards. Amenities include bathrooms and water bottle fill stations.

Where: 4150 Honeysuckle Drive, Edgewater, Maryland
Opens: Daily through July 4, then open only Saturday and Sunday from July 5 to Aug. 15
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in summer
Distance from D.C.: 34 miles

Three-year-old Tyonna Oliver-Terry at the Town of North Beach.

North Beach, Maryland

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Sink your toes into the sand or take a dip in the water at the pristine waterfront of North Beach on Maryland's western shore, south of Annapolis. Looking for some exercise? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard at the Welcome Center. (Note: No lifeguards are on duty, so swimming is at your own risk.)

There’s not much wave action, so North Beach is a good pick for a trip with kids.

See beach fees and purchase day passes here.

Where: 9023 Bay Ave., North Beach, Maryland
Open: The beach and bathrooms are open year-round from dawn until dark, unless there’s serious inclement weather.
Distance from D.C.: 34 miles

A man lies on the beach as his family plays in the Chesapeake Bay trying to escape the heat at Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland on June 29, 2021. (Photo by JIM WATSON / AFP) (Photo by JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images)

Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland

Watch a stunning sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay or spend a day out on the water swimming. 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 weekends. Otherwise, swimmers go at their own risk.

As of May 20, 2022, motorboat, kayak and paddleboard rentals were not available.

Where: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland
Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk
Distance from D.C.: 37 miles

Breezy Point Beach in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland

Breezy Point Beach has swimming, fossil hunting and fishing throughout the summer — however, only campground visitors can visit the beach on Tuesdays and Wednesdays this year.

Bonus: If you’re up for a hike, check out Calvert Cliffs State Park. To reach the beach from the day-visitor parking lot, you must hike nearly 2 miles. You’ll be rewarded with gorgeous, natural views and shallow, swimmable water. Bring bug spray.

Where: Breezy Point Beach, 5300 Breezy Point Road, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
Open: Go here for opening hours.
Distance from D.C.: 43 miles

Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Cockeysville, Maryland

Plunge into a fresh-water quarry via rope swing or spend the afternoon swimming in one of two pools at Beaver Dam Swim Club. If you need a break from the water, hit up one of the club's basketball or volleyball courts, or use the club's grilling facilities to make up your own feast. You can bring your own food and drinks, but alcohol is not allowed. There’s also a snack bar. See admission fees here.

Where: 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, Maryland
Opens: Open starting Sunday, May 29
Hours: Weekends and holidays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; weekdays 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Distance from D.C.: 57 miles

Tubing in the Harpers Ferry Area

Float along the pristine Shenandoah River for gorgeous views of downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, after renting an inner tube. Two outfitters can provide tubes and personal floatation devices, plus give you a ride to the waterfront. Floating coolers are available for rent.

The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (37410 Adventure Center Lane, Purcellville, Virginia) has opened for 2022. While there, you can also go ziplining, rafting or take a ropes course. Lodging is available on the grounds via cabins and riverside or mountain-top camping.

River Riders Family Adventure Resort (408 Alstadts Hill Road, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia) is also open for 2022. In addition to tubing access, you’ll also find an adventure park and a campground.

Hours: Choose a timeslot when you book your adventure
Distance from D.C.: About 60 to 65 miles

Colonial Beach in Virginia (Shutterstock)

Virginia's Northern Neck Region

Virginia's Northern Neck region offers multiple beaches, quaint inns and plenty of shops. If you're in search of a swim, check out some of these:
Belle Isle State Park offers cabins and camping, plus canoe and kayak rentals.

Colonial Beach has Virginia’s second-longest sandy beach and sits along the Potomac River. Here’s information on the beaches.

Naylor’s Beach Campground in Warsaw, Virginia, has day admission for swimming, or make it a weekend getaway to the campground. It opens on Memorial Day weekend.

Distance from D.C. Mileage varies on your specific destination. Colonial Beach is 63 miles from D.C.

Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland

Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham Falls State Park has three designated swimming areas where you can cool off. Looking to extend your stay? Make it a weekend getaway by renting a nearby camper cabin.

Where: William Houck Campground, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, Maryland
Opens: Memorial Day weekend
Hours: 11 a.m.- 6 p.m.
Distance from D.C.: 70 miles

Lake Anna State Park in Spotsylvania, Virginia

You can swim or fish (or both) at the surprisingly close Lake Anna, one of Virginia's largest freshwater lakes. Unguarded swimming is available for the season.

If you're just day-tripping, be sure to arrive early because the parking area closes once it hits capacity, but you'll also find plenty of nearby lodging.

Other nearby attractions include vineyards, antique shops, golf, historic sites and the Kings Dominion theme park.

Where: 6800 Lawyers Road, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia
Opens: Unguarded swimming available
Hours: Dawn to dusk
Distance from D.C. 84 miles

James River Park System: Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Virginia

The James River Park System (including Pony Pasture Rapids Park) runs along both sides of the James River as it passes through Richmond, which the city says makes it the only U.S. city to have Class IV white water rapids right in the middle of downtown. Follow these safety tips and guidelines if you visit.

Enjoy kayaking, tubing, hiking, rock climbing, swimming and nearly any other outdoor activity you might want. Here’s a full list of activities, plus suggestions on more places to swim in the James River Park System.

Where: Pony Pasture Rapids, 7200 Riverside Drive, Richmond, Virginia
Hours: Sunrise to sunset
Swimming information: Go here for info on Pony Pasture Rapids
Distance from D.C.: 111 miles

Rocky Gap State Park in Flinstone, Maryland

The star attraction of the 3,000-acre Rocky Gap State Park is Lake Habeeb, which offers two public beaches surrounded by scenic Evitts Mountain. Camping, cabins, and hot and cold food are also available. Entry fees are $4 for Maryland residents and $6 for out-of-state visitors on weekends and holidays. It’s cheaper to visit during the week.

Where: 12500 Pleasant Valley Road NE, Flintstone, Maryland
Distance: 131 miles

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