Summer is heating up in the Washington, DC area, which 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 day at the beach battling traffic jams?
The rivers, lakes, and swimming holes of Maryland and Virginia provide plenty of natural waterway fun.
Favorite Swimming Spots Near Washington, DC
Here are our favorite swimming spots that are easily accessible by car from the DC area, as well as the beaches that are open before Memorial Day weekend.
North Beach, Maryland (Open Now)
Dip your toes in the sand or dip in the water on the pristine waterfront of North Beach on Maryland’s west coast, south of Annapolis. Looking for some exercise? Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard from the Visitor Center. (Note: no lifeguard is on duty, so swimming is at your own risk.)
There’s not much wave action, so North Beach is a good choice for a trip with kids.
Or: 9023 Bay Avenue, North Beach, Maryland
To open: The beach and the toilets are open all year round from dawn until dusk, except in the event of bad weather.
DC distance: 34 miles
Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis, Maryland (Open Now)
Admire a magnificent sunrise over the Chesapeake Bay or spend a day on the water swimming. You can also go fishing or crabbing. Grills and picnic tables near the marina make it a perfect spot for an afternoon BBQ.
Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day through Labor Day weekend. Otherwise, swimmers go there at their own risk.
As of May 20, 2022, powerboat, kayak, and paddleboard rentals are not available.
Or: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, Maryland
Hours: 7 a.m. to dusk
DC distance: 37 miles
Breezy Point Beach in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland (open this weekend)
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, head to Calvert Cliffs State Park. To reach the beach from the day visitor parking lot, you have to walk almost 2 miles. You will be rewarded with beautiful, natural views and shallow, swimmable water. Bring insect repellent.
Or: Breezy Point Beach, 5300 Breezy Point Rd, Chesapeake Beach, Maryland
To open: Go here for opening hours.
DC distance: 43 miles
Beaver Dam Swim Club in Cockeysville, Maryland (Opens Memorial Day weekend)
Dive into a freshwater quarry on a swing or spend the afternoon swimming in one of Beaver Dam Swim Club’s two pools. If you need a break from the water, head to one of the club’s basketball or volleyball courts, or use the club’s grills to cook up your own feast. You can bring your own food and drinks, but alcohol is not allowed. There is also a snack bar. See admission fees here.
Or: 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville, Maryland
Open: Open from Sunday May 29
Hours: Weekends and public holidays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
DC distance: 57 miles
Tubing in the Harpers Ferry area (Open now)
Float along the pristine Shenandoah River for great views of downtown Harpers Ferry, West Virginia after renting an inner tube. Two outfitters can provide inner tubes and personal flotation devices, in addition to driving you to the water’s edge. Floating coolers are available for rental.
the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (37410 Adventure Center Lane, Purcellville, Virginia) opened in 2022. While you’re there, you can also go ziplining, rafting, or take on a ropes course. Lodging is available on the ground via cabins and camping by the river or at the top of the mountain.
River Riders Family Adventure Resort (408 Alstadts Hill Rd, Harpers Ferry, WV) is also open for 2022. In addition to tubing access, you’ll also find an adventure park and campground.
Hours: Choose a time slot when you book your adventure
DC distance: About 60 to 65 miles
Virginia North Neck Region
Virginia’s Northern Neck area offers several beaches, quaint inns and many shops. If you are looking for a swim, check out some of them:
Belle Isle State Park offers cabins and camping, as well as canoe and kayak rentals.
Colonial Beach has the second longest sandy beach in Virginia and sits along the Potomac River. Here is information on the beaches.
Naylor Beach Campground in Warsaw, Virginia has a day pass for swimming, or make it a weekend camping getaway. It opens on Memorial Day weekend.
DC distance Mileage will vary depending on your specific destination. Colonial Beach is 63 miles from DC
Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham Falls State Park in Thurmont, Maryland (opens Memorial Day weekend)
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 an RV cabin nearby.
Or: William Houck Campground, 14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont, Maryland
Open: Memorial Day weekend
DC distance: 70 miles
You can swim or fish (or both) at surprisingly nearby Lake Anna, one of Virginia’s largest freshwater lakes. Unsupervised swimming is available for the season.
If you’re just taking a day trip, be sure to arrive early as the car park closes once it reaches capacity, but there are also plenty of accommodations nearby.
Other nearby attractions include wineries, antique shops, golf, historic sites, and Kings Dominion theme park.
Or: 6800 Lawyers Road, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia
Open: Possibility of unsupervised swimming
Hours: From morning to night
DC distance 84 miles
James River Park System: Pony Pasture Rapids Park in Richmond, Virginia (open year-round)
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 US city to have Class IV whitewater rapids right in the city center. Follow these safety tips and guidelines if you visit.
Enjoy kayaking, tubing, hiking, rock climbing, swimming, and almost any other outdoor activity you could want. Here’s a full list of activities, plus suggestions for other places to swim in the James River park system.
Or: Pony Pasture Rapids, 7200 Riverside Drive, Richmond, Virginia
Hours: From sunrise to sunset
Swimming Information: go here for more information on Pony Pasture Rapids
DC distance: 111 miles
Rocky Gap State Park in Flinstone, Maryland
The 3,000 Acres star attraction Rocky Gap State Park is Lake Habeeb, which offers two public beaches surrounded by the scenic Evitts Mountain. Camping, cabins and hot and cold meals are also available. Entrance fees are $4 for residents of Maryland and $6 for out-of-state visitors on weekends and holidays. It’s cheaper to visit during the week.
Or: 12500 Pleasant Valley Road NE, Flintstone, Maryland
Distance: 131 miles
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