Located in the middle of the East Coast, Maryland is famous for its crabs and long coastlines on the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. The Old Line State has over 3,100 miles of shoreline (method NOAA | 31 miles method CRS) and a few of the best lesser-known beach towns, so waterfront lovers will never be short of options.
Maryland’s beaches live up to the state’s moniker, “Little America”, and offer fun activities for people of all ages. Many coastal towns are nestled in quiet areas that are great for living year-round but still close to bigger cities with more amenities.
In several of the state’s coastal regions, you will find opportunities for whale or dolphin watching, beachcombing and sunbathing, boating, surfing, and kayaking. When you’re ready to start exploring all this beautiful region presents, hit the road and visit one of these lovely oceanside communities.
Here’s a look at the top beach towns in Maryland to live and visit, in no particular order:
Ocean City, MD
When looking for a fun spot to visit on the East Coast, go no further than Ocean City, a popular summer destination near the Atlantic Ocean and the Isle of Wright Bay. The city is known for its lively boardwalk, several restaurants, stores, and other activities, and its beautiful beach.
Ocean City’s original name, “The Ladies’ Resort to the Ocean,” dates back to before 1870. Opened on July 4, 1875, the Atlantic Hotel was the town’s first central hotel and was initially controlled by the Atlantic Hotel Company until being purchased by Charles W. Purnell in 1923.
Most people agree that the Atlantic Avenue Boardwalk in Ocean City, which has been a tourist attraction since it opened in 1902, is one of the best of its kind in the U.S. The city’s population was 6,844 as of the 2020 census, although it attracts between 320,000 and 350,000 tourists on summer weekends and as many as 8 million yearly.
Ocean City is a great place to enjoy the beach since it has 10 miles of sandy shores. The beach season in Maryland officially begins on Memorial Day, and the most popular time to visit Ocean City is between May and September.
Swimming, tanning, and surfing are just some of the activities that draw tourists and locals alike to Maryland’s beaches. Two beaches are set aside daily for surfers, switching locations according to the weather and the waves.
Chesapeake Beach, MD
Founded in the early 1900s as a vacation village, Chesapeake Beach is a beautiful city in Calvert County, Maryland. Stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay may be enjoyed year-round on the city’s boardwalk, pier, and waterfront, and delicious locally caught crab and fish can be had at any of the many excellent seafood restaurants.
As part of the “Little Nevada” region of southern Maryland in the early 20th century, this spot saw a lot of traffic from Washington, D.C. locals due to the presence of slot machines. Even though there were efforts to curb gambling, the 1920s weekend crowd averaged over 10,000 people.
There are still places like the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum where tourists may get insight into the area’s past. Although it only had a little more than 300 inhabitants in 1940, the town is now home to 6,356 people (as of the 2020 census) and attracts numerous tourists every year.
While much of the town is backed by a steep cut-off to the water, Brownie’s Beach is a pleasant local shore that’s great for hunting for shark teeth, seashells, and sea glass. Nicknamed “Twin Beaches”, Chesapeake Beach is also home to some marinas, a bayfront park, charter fishing, and boat ramps, all of which are great options for anyone looking to spend some time outside.
Annapolis, the state capital, is a bustling metropolis where multiple centuries of architecture and nautical culture meet the modern world. There’s a wide variety of activities, from sightseeing to wine tasting to boating on the Chesapeake Bay.
In the 17th century, Annapolis was a small town but grew quickly in the 18th and 19th centuries. For a short time after the American Revolutionary War, it was even the capital of the United States. The United States Naval Academy was built in 1845 on the site of Fort Severn.
It’s now on land that was taken from the Severn River and the Chesapeake Bay. While there were just 8,585 residents in Annapolis in 1900, there are now 40,812. (2020 census).
Historic buildings, art galleries, restaurants, stores, and hotels may all be found in Annapolis’ downtown area. Located on the northwest side of the Chesapeake Bay, Sandy Point State Park is a 786-acre jewel with swimming, fishing, crabbing, picnicking, and boat-launching places. The Quiet Waters Dog Beach is another option for those looking for a beach close to the city where their canine companions are allowed to run free.
Nestled at the mouth of the Patuxent River, the popular boating destination of Solomons Island is just over an hour and a half’s drive from the nation’s capital. Because of its pleasant atmosphere, beautiful gardens, and first-rate fishing charters, this coastal town has been named one of the happiest in the United States.
Solomons got its name from Isaac Solomon, a merchant from Baltimore in the 1800s who opened a cannery there after the Civil War. His residence still exists on the island’s front. The island served as a training ground for amphibious assault troops during World War II, and many subsequent military strikes, including D-Day and Guadalcanal, benefited greatly from the lessons learned at Solomons.
The town of about 2,650 people (2020 census) now has marinas, seafood restaurants, souvenir shops, a promenade, a sculpture park, and the Calvert Marine Museum, where visitors can climb a historic lighthouse, take harbor cruises, and see famous outdoor performances.
The population more than doubles during summer weekends and important holidays. Despite being a seaside respite, Solomons Island no longer has a readily accessible public beach. However, people have discovered a little stretch of sand on the Patuxent River near the parking lot that is occasionally nice to use when the weather allows. Another very close beach, Myrtle Point Park, is in California, MD, just a few minutes away by car.
Oxford, located in Talbot County, is one of the oldest settlements in Maryland and is both a seaside community and a historic colonial port. Boaters, weekenders, and summer locals all go there for the calm serenity, natural beauty, warm summer breezes, and clear water.
In 1683, Oxford was officially founded, and it stayed a thriving town until the end of the American Revolution. Oyster beds ran dry, other enterprises failed or shut down, and the railway and steamships vanished in the 1900s. Besides the watermen who stayed for work, Oxford eventually became a quiet, dreary little town.
These days, it’s home to about 611 people (2020 census) and still boasts a calm atmosphere but welcomes many tourists.
Oxford is home to a few beautiful seashores on the Tred Avon River, perfect for both residents and tourists. The sand beach at East Strand Road and the sand beach at the waterfront park by Morris Street are two of the most frequented public beaches in Oxford.
North Beach, MD
North Beach is a quaint, peaceful East Coast beach hamlet that’s nestled on the Chesapeake Bay. The area has a large beach, promenade, vacation rentals, and beach stores; however, because of its modest size, North Beach relies on neighboring Chesapeake Beach for its spas, nightlife, and gaming needs.
North Beach was first laid out in 1900, incorporated in 1910, and now has a population of 2,146 (2020 census). In the nineteenth century, North Beach and Chesapeake Beach were two rival Victorian resorts.
Residents and visitors have been enjoying the town’s swimming, crabbing, boating, gambling, restaurants, pier, boardwalk, beauty contests, several festivals, looking for shark teeth, and summer breezes for more than 100 years.
There is a total of seven blocks of beach at North Beach. There is a fee for non-residents and locals alike, and the beach can only accommodate 400 people from each group (tourists and locals) at a time. In addition, there is a limit on the size of coolers and other bags to provide space for other beachgoers.
Located in Somerset County, Crisfield is the most southern town in Maryland and is known for its waterfront and fishing. The city has become a prominent tourist attraction on the Chesapeake Bay due to its reputation as the “Seafood Capital of the World” and its abundance of excellent seafood dishes and daily catch markets.
Formerly known as Annemessex Neck, the area where modern-day Crisfield now stands was home to a small fishing community. The town underwent several changes and became well-known for its seafood trade during the 17th and 20th centuries.
The community continues to thrive due to the widespread renown of its seafood across Maryland and the United States, especially the Maryland Crab. Nowadays, Crisfield has a population of about 2,475 (2020 census) and boasts a pleasant, calm environment.
Wellington Beach is the town’s public beach. The village is well-known as the starting point for trips to the nearby islands of Smith and Tangier. However, the local beach is a real treasure. It’s in a prime spot at the end of a peninsula with a view of Pocomoke Sound at sunset.
Also near Crisfield, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in the Chesapeake Bay, lies the Janes Island State Park. It has a conference area, plazas, picnic spots, expansive campsite, and rental cottages are all located on the mainland.
Located on the tip of a long peninsula of the Chesapeake Bay, the little town of Betterton is home to around 286 people as of the 2020 census. The “Jewel of the Chesapeake” is home to historic Victorians, modern townhomes, and condos with bay views.
Betterton’s written history began in the 17th century. The town grew and prospered in the 1900s because it was a convenient stop for canal-traveling vessels.
These days, the community has many amenities for living and visiting, including a fire station, a park with sports and play facilities, a water tower, and a U.S. post office scattered among the homes. A couple of eateries, a post office, a chapel, and an American Legion Post may be found on the southern edge of town.
Twelve miles to the south, in Chestertown, is where the majority of shopping takes place. Betterton is regarded as one of the best service-oriented beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.
Near the shore, you’ll find several picnic tables and chairs shaded by trees, a picnic gazebo, and a volleyball net on the sand. There is a sizable parking area with close restrooms and changing facilities. On the other side, fishermen like to use a public pier and a surfaced path, and you can launch and dock your boat here.
This stretch of the East Coast is sure to win your heart, regardless of whatever top beach town in Maryland you choose to visit. Have a wonderful time exploring “Little America”.