There are so many great beaches near Washington DC that I asked 5 fellow local bloggers to share their favorites! Below are all their best tips for things to do, kid-friendly spots, restaurants, and hotel recommendations for fun in the sun.
Table of Contents
- Virginia Beach, Virginia
- Cape Charles, Virginia
- Colonial Beach, Virginia
- Chincoteague, Virginia
- Assateague, Maryland
- Bethany Beach, Delaware
- Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
- Kitty Hawk, OBX North Carolina
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Virginia Beach, Virginia
By Erin Gifford of Go Hike Virginia
Beach Distance from DC: 3 hours 30 mins without traffic, 210 miles
Virginia Beach is a kid-friendly beach destination that wows with colorful murals, a three-mile-long boardwalk, surfing waves, and loads to do outside. Hike or bike at two state parks or paddle gentle waterways in search of bottlenose dolphins and river otters. Just 3.5 hours from Washington, DC, Virginia Beach is an all-around fabulous coastal escape, even when all you have is a long weekend.
On arrival, take a selfie with 34-foot-tall King Neptune at the 31st Street beach entrance. It’s an absolute must-do. A horse corral at this entrance allows for guided horseback riding excursions on the sandy beach. At the end of the boardwalk, kids can burn off energy on climbing structures and slides at 15,000-square-foot Grommet Island Beach Park.
Off the beach, fly a kite at Mount Trashmore, a city park that was once an abandoned landfill. Stroll the ViBe Creative District for vibrantly-colored murals, like the “Greetings from Virginia Beach” mural on 19th Street. Stop in Lolly’s Creamery for a scoop of Real Deal Vanilla or Double Dark Chocolate.
At First Landing State Park, a hike along the Bald Cypress Trail guides families across a freshwater swamp that awes with curious bald cypress trees. It’s one of the best hiking trails in Virginia Beach. Bring your bikes too to cruise the six-mile Cape Henry Trail at this state park. Settle in at the Holiday Inn & Suites Virginia Beach-North Beach, which has an indoor lazy river pool and a splash lagoon.
Learn More: I also included our Virginia Beach trip in a roundup of Spring Break Trips in Virginia.
Hotel Recommendation from Jennifer:
We loved our stay at The Residence Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront. It is right on the Boardwalk so once we parked, we didn’t need our car again. The best part is each suite has oceanfront views and we had the best sunrises each morning! For these times, I really liked their cleaning protocols, kitchen in each suite, and social distancing measures. Breakfast is included but it is takeaway now (like breakfast sandwiches, bottles of juice, milk, water, etc.)
Cape Charles, Virginia
By Julie at FuninFairfaxVA.com
Beach Distance from DC: About 4 hours, 215 miles
Take a scenic drive down Virginia’s Eastern Shore and you’ll reach the quaint town of Cape Charles. Here you’ll find eclectic local shops, tasty restaurants, and a pretty beach that’s perfect for families. The Cape Charles Beachfront is an open stretch of sandy shore on the Chesapeake Bay. Waves are gentle, parking and entrance are free, and the town is just a few steps away. The combination makes this a great destination for young children or a relaxing adult getaway.
If you have kids ages 8 or older, you can stay at the Northampton Hotel and you’ll be right in the center of town, walking distance to all the fun. Or book a room at Bay Haven Inn, a lovely downtown B&B. When you need a break from the beach, pop into local shops for clothing, home goods, specialty foods, and art. Head to Cape Charles Brewing Company for a meal and craft beer, and to Brown Dog Ice Cream for a summer treat. And be sure to visit the beachfront LOVE sign—one of the best spots for a family or group photo.
Cape Charles is about 4 hours south of Washington DC, on the southern end of the Delmarva Peninsula. Route 95 to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel is the fastest route. But you’ll have a more scenic and relaxing drive if you follow Route 50 and 13 down the Eastern Shore.
Colonial Beach, Virginia – one of the closest beaches near Washington DC
Beach Distance from DC: 1 hour 20 mins without traffic, 65 miles
Colonial Beach is a small but family-friendly beach trip on the Potomac River. The town brings in the sand for a very wide beach to enjoy. You can also rent bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards. Note: not many waves on the Potomac and sometimes the water quality is not so good for swimming. Check the town website for info on whether swimming is permitted when you are visiting.
Where to Eat: We ate at Suki the Cuisine a Thai French Restaurant close to the beach. I’ve also heard good things about Dockside Restaurant where you can eat on their boardwalk OR with your toes in the sand on their picnic tables. There are some ice cream shops including Nancy’s Ice Cream Shoppe close to the beach.
Learn More: I wrote more about Colonial Beach in a roundup of 18 Day Trips from DC.
Chincoteague, Virginia – One of the most natural of the beaches near Washington DC
By Terri at FemaleSoloTrek.com
Beach Distance from DC: 3 hours 20 mins without traffic, 170 miles
Sprint on down to Chincoteague Island, Virginia if your family is prancing to get on the beach. Located in Chesapeake County, this barrier island is a three-hour drive from Washington, DC. It is the gateway to the Virginia side of Assateague Island National Seashore as well as the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The National Park Services charges a $20 per vehicle entrance fee. The island features an uncrowded shoreline to chase waves, sunbathe, fly kites, and picnic. You might even see the wild Chincoteague ponies that live on Assateague Island. The island offers numerous woodland trails and roads to bicycle. Bikes can also be rented near the park entrance.
Families will also enjoy investigating the red-striped 142-foot Assateague Lighthouse. This park sets aside land and water as a refuge to protect the region’s fish, wildlife, and plants. Portions of the beach are roped off during nesting time for coastal birds near Toms Cove Hook and Assawoman Island. You won’t find beach condos and six-lane highways. This little retro town offers horse history, locally-owned shops and restaurants, walking tours, and more. It became famous in 1961 when the Misty of Chincoteague movie made history for 20th Century Fox. It is based on Marguerite Henry’s book about the little pony.
Hotel Recommendation: The Hampton Inn & Suites Chincoteague is a perfect hotel for families. It offers a free breakfast a pool and views of the Chincoteague Bay.
By Candice from CS Ginger
Beach Distance from DC: 3 hours 30 mins without traffic, 170 miles
Assateague Island is one of the best beaches near Washington DC because of the beautiful beaches as well as the fun things to do around the island.
The distance from Washington DC depends on if you are visiting the Virginia and Maryland side of the island. The Virginia side is 170 miles and a 3.5-hour drive. The Maryland side is 138 miles and a 3-hour drive.
The Maryland side of the island has beautiful beaches and more camping options in the state and federal campgrounds. The Virginia side has more of a city-like feel in Chincoteague. The lighthouse and additional beaches are also on the Virginia side.
Another fun thing to do there is to look for wild horses. The best time to see the 300 horses that live on the island is from late April through October. A great place to spot the horses is on the Maryland side of the island near the Verrazano Bridge. It is also common to see them roaming the campground and out in the marshes.
Assateague State Park has a beautiful beach where you can play on the beach and swim. You can even have a campfire on the beach so be sure to pack some hot dogs and marshmallows.
The closest hotels to the beaches and fun things to do on the island are in Chincoteague. The Hampton Inn and Suites Chincoteague-Waterfront is a great place to stay. There is an indoor pool and hot tub, perfect for relaxing after a fun day at the beach.
Learn More: I (Jennifer) wrote more about the best places to see the wild ponies, Chincoteague or Assateague.
Bethany Beach, Delaware (our family’s personal favorite of the beaches near Washington DC)
Beach Distance from DC: 2.5-3.5 hours without traffic, 128 miles
We loved our Spring Break in Bethany Beach last year and want to go back! Bethany Beach bills itself as the “Quiet Resort,” probably in contrast to its busier neighbor, Ocean City. But it is definitely not boring! The town is quaint, well maintained, and had tons for us to do at one of the best beaches near Washington DC. The Boardwalk was lovely, there are great playgrounds and mini-golf and the beach is wide and beautiful! There are lovely independent books stores, great food, and plenty of space. Also, you are only around 20 minutes away from other beautiful beaches of Fenwick Island, Rehoboth, Dewey Beach, and more.
We stayed at the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn and could not have been happier! As a mom, I really like staying at a Residence Inn because you get a kitchenette with a dishwasher, microwave, fridge, and all the utensils you need. It has a free hot breakfast and an indoor pool (with a retractable roof for the summer) This was the best Residence Inn we have ever stayed at because it was actually on the beach. You could not be closer to the beach as we could hear the waves from our room!
Rehoboth Beach, Delaware
Beach Distance from DC: 2.5 hours from DC, 121 miles.
Our family stays in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware every summer. Just 2.5 hours from Washington, D.C., it truly is an ideal beach destination for families with young children. The beach here is beautiful and dolphins are almost always a daily sighting. Chair and umbrella rentals on the beach are a huge help to us since we are visiting with lots of little ones. The town of Rehoboth Beach is extremely walkable with tons of local shops, bookstores, and restaurants. Rehoboth boasts 3 miles of beautiful boardwalk including “Fun Land” – a boardwalk amusement park perfect for even the youngest riders. In addition to is beautiful beaches, the city of Rehoboth has 3 wonderful playgrounds for when kids need a break from the sand. Be sure to grab ice cream from Royal Treat – a family-owned breakfast restaurant and ice cream parlor that has been operating for over 40 years. Also, be sure not to miss Frank and Louie’s – an authentic carry-out Italian deli on Baltimore Ave.
If you’re looking to explore a bit more, Cape Henlopen State Park is just minutes away. This is a great spot for hiking or biking and just taking in the scenic views. Cape Henlopen is also home to the Seaside Nature Center – which features a 495-gallon touch tank – it’s a great place to visit with kids, especially on those rainy beach days!
Where to stay: Our family rents a condo when visiting the beach, but we have previously stayed at the Atlantic Sands Hotel. This oceanfront hotel has an outdoor pool right on the boardwalk! You can swim while enjoying unobstructed views of the beach.
Kitty Hawk, Outer Banks, North Carolina
By Cortney of Tin Can Living
Beach Distance from DC: 4.5-5 hours or 270 miles
Looking for a beach getaway this summer? Kitty Hawk Beach in Outer Banks, North Carolina, is the perfect destination! Just a few hours away from Washington D.C. (267 miles), Kitty Hawk offers beautiful beaches, ample activities, and a relaxed coastal atmosphere. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach or enjoy some fun activities, Kitty Hawk has something for everyone!
This is a great beach to visit to soak up some rays. The beach itself is vast and open. It offers plenty of space for sunbathing or building sandcastles with the kids. Kitty Hawk has also recently installed a new “beach nourishment” project that allows beachgoers to enjoy Kitty Hawk’s beautiful beaches at high tide! This means you can have your toes in the sand all day long!
If you’re looking for something a little more active than just lounging on Kitty Hawk Beach, there are plenty of activities to do. Kitty Hawk Surf Co offers lessons and rentals for kayaks and standup paddleboards. Kitty Hawk Kites can teach you how to fly a kite or take you parasailing!
You won’t want to miss spending time at this magnificent beach! Kitty Hawk Beach is the perfect place to relax and enjoy your summer vacation.
Hotel Recommendation: The best place to stay when visiting this awesome area is The Hilton Garden Inn. It is located right on the beach and offers ocean views from many of its rooms. You can’t beat waking up to the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline! The Hilton Garden Inn Kitty Hawk also has an outdoor pool, a sun deck, and direct access to the beach.
Favorite Kids Beach Gear
Just some of the items I always have in our beach bag:
Sun Day Brand Hats – Love the certified Upf 50+ rating, neck veil, and no closure- closure. My kids use these throughout the summer since they were babies. 1 hat lasted 4 years!
I really like the ThinkSport Kids Safe Sunscreen 50 SPF. It is a little white casting but I like that it is water-resistant but still a mineral formula. There is also a ThinkBaby version for 6 months and up.
My favorite swimsuits are Simple Joys by Carter’s. They are UPF 50+ and have a mock turtleneck. My kids don’t overheat in them but also don’t burn. I get these each year.
And a girl’s style (but there are tons more!)