Things to Do DC

Top 10 beaches within driving distance of DC

Find the best beaches near Washington, D.C., whether you're headed to Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey or North Carolina

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No, Waikiki isn't on this list. We're looking at the best beaches within an easy(ish) drive of the D.C. metro area.

The best public beaches near D.C., Maryland and Virginia have soft sand, waterparks, amusement parks, water sports, camping, movies on the beach — there's something for every traveler. Get ready to vacuum the sand out of your car!

In order of estimated distance, from closest to farthest:

Getty Images: Louis Dallara

Assateague Island, Maryland

Just a short 2.5-hour drive from Washington D.C., Assateague Island is a beach lover's paradise with a twist – wild horses! The creatures roam freely, adding a magical touch to your visit. With miles of pristine shoreline, it’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and beachcombing. There's one tiny but important catch: Assateague is notoriously buggy! Bring extra bug spray and clothing that covers plenty of skin.

Love kayaking, birdwatching, or hiking? Assateague’s got you covered with its diverse ecosystems of marshes, dunes, and forests. If you're up for a night under the stars, the campgrounds offer a cozy spot with waves lulling you to sleep and wild ponies as your neighbors (They're hungry and will visit your campsite for food, so take precautions). Don't miss the chance to fish or crab, and remember, Ocean City, Maryland, is just around the corner for a quick trip to the bustling boardwalk. Assateague Island is the ultimate getaway for nature lovers seeking a fun escape from the city.

DISTANCE: about 116 miles from downtown D.C.

Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

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 still definitely will be quite happy here. Head 30 minutes north to Cape Henlopen State Park to swim on undeveloped beaches, fish, crab and more. Nearby Dewey Beach offers a slightly quieter atmosphere from busier, more crowded cousin Rehoboth.

DISTANCE: about 120 miles from downtown D.C.

Bethany Beach, Delaware

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: about 125 miles from downtown D.C.

Fenwick Island, Delaware

Fenwick Island, Delaware, is a charming coastal destination perfect for a relaxing beach getaway. Located about a 2.5-hour drive from Washington D.C., it offers a serene escape with less crowded beaches compared to its neighboring towns. Fenwick Island State Park provides pristine sandy shores ideal for sunbathing, swimming, and picnicking. The area is also popular for water sports like kayaking and paddleboarding. Visitors can explore the historic Fenwick Island Lighthouse or enjoy family-friendly activities such as mini-golf and go-kart racing. The town features quaint shops, seafood restaurants, and cozy accommodations, making it a great spot for a weekend trip.

DISTANCE: about 132 miles from downtown D.C.

Ocean City, Maryland

Ocean City, Maryland, 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 just swim. You can also catch free concerts and movies many nights during summer, along with fireworks on Mondays. Like Bethany and Rehoboth, Ocean City is among the closest beach destinations for D.C.-area residents.

DISTANCE: about 145 miles from downtown D.C.

Sea Isle City, New Jersey

Sandwiched between more densely populated Ocean City, New Jersey, and Avalon, Sea Isle City is a Jersey Shore gem. The island town has a nice mix of laidback vibes, family fun and great bars — like favorite Ocean Drive — to party with friends. The town's tagline, featured prominently on the water tower when you arrive, is "Smile, You're in Sea Isle." There's a 1.5-mile promenade fronting the white sand beaches of the Atlantic coast. You'll find plenty of boating and fishing opportunities in the back bay, and Atlantic City and The Wildwoods are a short drive away via the Garden State Parkway. Sea Isle City doesn't have many hotels, so booking a summer rental is key.

DISTANCE: about 180 miles from downtown D.C.

Wildwood and Cape May, New Jersey

Getty Images: Colorful Victorian style houses in seaside town of Cape May, NJ

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:  about 185 miles from downtown D.C.

Ocean City, New Jersey

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: about 192 miles from downtown D.C.

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Aside from outdoor activities from fishing to kayaking to dolphin watching, 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. Accommodations include everything from high-rise hotels to nearby campgrounds.

DISTANCE: about 210 miles from downtown D.C.

The Outer Banks Beaches, North Carolina

Getty Images: Cape Lookout National Seashore in the Outer Banks North Carolina. High angle view of coastline and ocean with copy space in sky.

The gorgeous beaches of the Outer Banks are worth the drive (and the OBX sticker you'll want for your car). While not exactly close to D.C., Kitty Hawk Beach and Kill Devil Hills are the most accessible, near the Wright Memorial Bridge. Enjoy swimming, surfing, chartering a boat, or fishing off Avalon Pier. Explore historic sites like the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the lost colony on Roanoke at nearby Manteo. Despite being very developed, these beaches offer plenty of accommodations. Head to nearby Corolla for a chance to see wild ponies or dolphins and enjoy beach driving. Further south, Cape Hatteras National Seashore boasts 70 miles of mostly undeveloped beaches, perfect for surfing, visiting lighthouses, and even beach driving or bonfires at Ocracoke Beach.

DISTANCE: about 270 to 290 miles from downtown D.C.

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