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 heat in the Washington, D.C., area means that swimming season is in full swing.

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 (Go here if you're looking for pools and splash parks!).

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 on a Saturday, Sunday or other busy days (weekend passes become available on Mondays). 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
Distance from D.C.: 34 miles

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

North Beach, Maryland

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
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 (remember to get a Chesapeake Bay Sport fishing license). Grills and picnic tables near the marina make this a perfect spot for an afternoon cookout.

Lifeguards are on duty on parts of the beach from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekends. Otherwise, swimmers go at their own risk.

Where: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland
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. You can check the beach's Facebook page or call 410-535-0259 to ensure it hasn't reached capacity. Here's information about fees and amenities. Jet ski rentals are available nearby!

As of June 2024, the beach is undergoing restoration. So, expect some of the beach areas near the campground to be blocked off.

Where: Breezy Point Beach, 5300 Breezy Point Road, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
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
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 (and floating coolers, for an extra fee), plus give you a ride to and from the waterfront. Both allow you to choose your own adventure: float along flat waters or rip down beginner class I to III rapids.

The Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (37410 Adventure Center Lane, Purcellville, Virginia) has everything you need for a day on the water, plus ziplining, rafting or take a ropes course at its home base. 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 the season. In addition to tubing access, you’ll also find an adventure park, a campground and several cabins for rent.

Distance from D.C.: About 60 to 65 miles

Greenbrier State Park

A white sandy beach on a 42-acre man-made freshwater lake draws crowds from Memorial Day to Labor Day. You can rent rowboats and paddleboats by the hour or go fishing for trout, largemouth bass and bluegill with a Maryland Angler's License. The park also features 11 miles of hiking trails.

Where: ​​​​​21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, Maryland
Distance from D.C.:
About 60 miles

Colonial Beach in Virginia (Shutterstock)

Virginia's Northern Neck Region

Virginia's Northern Neck region, where the Potomac River, Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay meet, offers multiple beaches, quaint inns and plenty of shops. If you're in search of a swim, check out some of these:

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. Lifeguards are on duty at times between 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., but if lifeguards aren't on duty, you may swim at your own risk. Arrive early to make sure the park doesn't reach capacity.

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
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. Lake Anna has reported some issues in 2024 with algal blooms and potential water contamination, but it remains a popular summer destination. You can track swimming advisories here.

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
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, a rare opportunity to hit up real rapids in a U.S. city.

Enjoy kayaking, tubing, hiking, rock climbing, swimming and nearly any other outdoor activity you might want. Here’s what to know about swimming in the James River Park System.

Where: Pony Pasture Rapids, 7200 Riverside Drive, Richmond, Virginia
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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