Top 10 Beaches Near the DC Area

No, Waikiki isn't on the list -- we're looking at the best beaches within an easy drive of the DMV. Get ready to vacuum the sand out of your car.

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North Carolina's Outer Banks offers 200 miles of unspoiled beaches on barrier islands -- explore Nags Head, Hatteras, Ocracoke Island and more. Go boating, visit historic lighthouses and learn about the lost colony of Roanoke. In some areas, you can indulge in a little beach driving. Then consider (or maybe not) picking up one of those oval OBX stickers ubiquitous on D.C.-area cars. DISTANCE: About 360 miles from downtown D.C.
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We feel like the islands of Assateague (which has land in both Maryland and Virginia) and Chicoteague, Virginia, end up on a lot of Top 10 lists -- but there's wild ponies! On the beach! Set up your tent for beach-front camping. (Just be sure to hide your food from the ponies.) On Assateague's Virginia side, you can join a nature cruise to see the wildlife refuge. One note of warning, though: This is an untamed area, so bring along that mosquito repellent. DISTANCE: 170 miles from downtown D.C.
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You'll find pretty much everything you need from a seaside town in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. We're talking go-karts, mini golf, hang-gliding, boardwalk games and rides for kids -- plus frozen custard, obviously. Rehoboth is also home to some fantastic farm-to-table restaurants, so if boardwalk cuisine isn't your thing, you will definitely still be quite happy here. DISTANCE: 120 miles from downtown D.C.
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We're putting Cape May and Wildwood, New Jersey, together because it's easy to do both in a single weekend. On the southernmost point of New Jersey's barrier islands, Cape May is famous for its eye-popping Victorian mansions and B&Bs (and the historic tours that go along with them). Its neighbor to the north, Wildwood, offers a more typical shore experience on a larger scale than its Delaware counterparts, with a different kind of retro via its 1950s-era motels. You'll also find the requisite boardwalk, tons of rides and two water parks. Just "watch the tram car, please." DISTANCE: 185 miles from downtown D.C.
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One of the closest beaches to landlocked D.C., Dewey Beach offers a slightly quieter atmosphere from busier, more crowded cousin Rehoboth. There's still plenty of low-key fun to be had here, though. Stretch out for movies on the beach (June 17-Sept. 27), rent bikes and take a spin, or grab some marshmallows for Wednesday night bonfires on the beach (June 26 through Aug. 21). DISTANCE: 120 miles from downtown D.C.
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Ocean City is a destination that kids (or your own inner child) will love. Go for water slides, boardwalk rides and haunted houses, or head to the water to parasail, kayak, surf or, you know, just swim. You can also catch free concerts and movies many nights during summer. DISTANCE: 145 miles from downtown D.C.
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Aside from outdoor activities from fishing to kayaking, Virginia Beach also offers a boardwalk full of rides and restaurants, plenty of festivals, bars, clubs and breweries, plus the Virginia Aquarium and the Military Aviation Museum. DISTANCE: 210 miles from downtown D.C.
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Bethany Beach markets itself as a "quiet resort," offering a more serene option away from the party-hardy bustle of some other spots. There's a limited number of bars, but plenty to do in the way of water sports, a farmers' market, a water park, pirate mini-golf, a boardwalk and movies on the beach. Catch free live music at the Boardwalk Bandstand on weekend nights. You can find something to do in Bethany right up until the end of summer, when the town famously bids goodbye to the season with a jazz funeral. DISTANCE: 125 miles from downtown D.C.
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That other Ocean City (the one in New Jersey) offers plenty of family-friendly fun, with a boardwalk that -- although often crowded -- features a ton of rides and all the old faves when it comes to shore food, including pizza and fried Oreos. What else could you want? DISTANCE: 192 miles from downtown D.C.
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Craving fresh seafood? Tilghman Island, a traditional watermen’s village just off the mainland, has just what you're looking for. Sit down for waterfront dining on the Chesapeake Bay and spend the night at a cozy B&B. One note of warning: If you're looking to swim, you'll be disappointed, because there's no swimming area, but you can still sail, fish, kayak or paddleboard. If you absolutely must swim during your trip, consider an inn with a pool, such as the Black Walnut Point Inn. DISTANCE: 90 miles from downtown D.C.
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Didn't see your fave spot listed? Look for it in our other galleries:
n• 10 Places to Swim If You Want to Avoid Bay Bridge Traffic
n• Top 10 Maryland Getaways
n• Top 10 Virginia Getaways
n• Top 10 Weekend Getaways
n• Top 10 Places to Cool Off
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