Beaches off the beaten path… and other places to swim

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northbeachWUpdated May 31, 2017

By Betsy Stein

I will never forget the first time I took my kids to Sandy Point State Park.

They were preschoolers at the time, and it was a hot spring day. Temperatures were predicted to soar into the 90s and the leaves weren't even on the trees yet. Grasping for an activity that wouldn't involve sweltering, I thought of Sandy Point—a Cheapeake Bay beach I had read about but never been to.

I packed up the swim belts, buckets and shovels and off we went for a day on the bay. Having never been to a beach on the Chesapeake Bay, I was shocked at what we had right in our back yard. The kids had a blast and I sat back in my chair, relaxed and marveled at the fact that in less than 30 minutes from Catonsville, I was on a beach.

That is the beauty of living so close to the bay; we have access to many beaches off the beaten path. And if the jellies are getting bad, and the bay is not your thing, there are a number of lakes little more than an hour away with fresh, cool water and sandy beaches perfect for families.

Check out our list below for places to build a sandcastle or just beat the heat this summer.

Places to swim in Maryland


Beaver Dam

Baltimore County

At Beaver Dam Swimming Club in Cockeysville, your family can swim in the two pools, play beach volleyball and swing from a Tarzan swing or jump off the small cliffs into the freshwater rock quarry. There is also a snack bar and grills for picnics.

Admission: Adults: $15-$18, children 11 & under: $13–$14

Lifeguards on duty when club is open. 10820 Beaver Dam Road, Cockeysville or 410-785-2323


Betterton Beach

Kent County

This 5-acre, family-oriented, waterfront park has 300 feet of beach for swimming and 700 feet of shoreline access. There is a bathhouse with public restrooms and a short boardwalk, with benches, lighting and handicap access. A picnic pavilion is located on a bay view bluff. There is also a fishing jetty, public pier and parking. The beach is near the mouth of the Sassafras River in the northwest part of Kent County, which lowers the salinity and makes the water free of sea nettles.

Admission: Free

No lifeguards. Swim at your own risk.

Main Street, Betterton or 410-348-5522

Brownies Beach (Or Bay Front Park)

Calvert County

Bay Front Park is on the Western Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, a half-mile south of the town of Chesapeake Beach. It is one of the few publicly accessible beaches on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay and is a good place to collect small fossils. It is a very small, quaint, back-to-nature beach with no jellyfish netting, beach house or concessions.

No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk.

Admission: Memorial Day to Labor Day is free for town residents, $5-$8 for county residents and $9-$18 for non-county residents.

Half mile south of Chesapeake Beach on Route 261. or 410-257-2230

Breezy Point Beach

Calvert County

There is a half-mile sandy beach with a netted swimming area, shaded picnic space, grills, volleyball, a playground, bathhouses, and a fishing and crabbing pier. Camping is also an option. Open May through October, 6 a.m. to dusk.

No Lifeguards. Swim at your own risk.

Admission: Weekends and holidays Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends, $6-$10; weekdays and off-season weekends, $4-6. Cash only.

5300 Breezy Point Road, Chesapeake Beach or call 410-535-0259

Cunningham Falls State Park

Frederick County

The William Houck Area, located three miles west of Thurmont on Route 77, has a lake, falls and camping. Swimming is allowed in three designated areas of Hunting Creek Lake that have sandy beaches, but swimming is not allowed at the falls. Arrive early as the park often reaches capacity by mid- to late-morning on weekends and holidays, and visitors can be turned away.

Lifeguards on duty daily, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Admission: $3 per person during the week, $5 on weekends and holidays, Memorial Day to Labor Day.

14039 Catoctin Hollow Road, Thurmont or 301-271-7574

Cascade Lake

cascade lake1

Carroll County

Check out this 6-acre lake, nestled among 70 acres of rolling hills and wooded areas. Cascade Lake is spring fed with a gently sloping sandy bottom. There is a large roped-off area for swimming, which includes various size waterslides, and platforms for jumping. There is also a Spray 'N Playground.

Open Tuesday to Sunday June 10-Aug. 27, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and until 7 p.m. weekends/holidays.

Lifeguards on duty.

Admission: $8-$15.

2844 Snydersburg Road, Hampstead or 410-374-9111

Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert County

Calvert Cliffs State Park is a day-use park featuring a sandy beach, unique fossils, recycled tire playground, a freshwater and tidal marshland and 13 miles of hiking trails. The massive cliffs dominate the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay for thirty miles in Calvert County and were formed over 15 million years ago. Today, these cliffs reveal the remains of prehistoric species including sharks, whales, rays, and seabirds that were the size of small airplanes. There is 2-mile hike from the parking lot, along an unimproved trail, to the cliffs/beach area. The beach is about 1/4 mile long.

Admission: $5 per vehicle for in-state residents and $7 per vehicle for out-of-state residents.

No lifeguard on duty. Swimming is not suggested.

9500 H. G. Trueman Road, Lusby or 301-743-7613

Click next below for more beaches off the beaten path.

Elk Neck State Park

Cecil County

The park boasts 2,188 acres of sandy beaches, marshlands, and heavily wooded bluffs overlooking the North East River, the Elk River and the Chesapeake Bay. A sandy beach at the North East Beach Area offers swimming access on the Chesapeake Bay with shallow waters perfect for young children. There's also a canoe and kayak hand-launch area nearby plus picnic tables, grills, a playground, a restroom with showers, and a seasonal convenience store offering cold drinks, snacks, ice cream, sunscreen, souvenirs and beach supplies.

No lifeguard. Swim at your own risk.

Admission: Weekends, $3 per person for in-state vehicles and $5 for out-of-state; weekdays, $3 per in-state car, $5 for out-of-state car.

4395 Turkey Point Road, North East or 410-287-5333

Flag Ponds Nature Park

Calvert County

Flag Ponds Nature Park offers a remarkable variety of natural environments—from sandy beach, to freshwater ponds, to the forested heights of Calvert Cliffs. A short, half-mile hike from the parking lot brings you to the sandy beach where there is swimming and fossil hunting. A bathhouse is available. There are also observation platforms at two ponds, a fishing pier on the Chesapeake Bay and a visitor's center with wildlife displays.

No lifeguards on duty. Swim at your own risk

Admission: $5 for county residents, $8 for non-county residents April to October.

1525 Flag Ponds Pkwy, Lusby or 410-586-1477.

Greenbrier State Park

Washington County

A 42-acre, man-made lake located in the Appalachian Mountains offers swimming, sunbathing, boating and fishing opportunities. Camping, boat rentals, a camp store, flat water canoeing, hiking trails, picnic area and a playground are at the park.

Lifeguards on duty 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Admission: Weekdays, $3 per person; weekends/holidays, $5 per person Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. Out-of-state residents add $2 to all day use service charges.

21843 National Pike, Boonsboro or 301-791-4767

Gunpowder Falls State Park, Hammerman Area

Baltimore County

As Gunpowder's featured day-use park, Hammerman offers a swimming beach, food concessions, four picnic pavilions, picnicking, playgrounds, canoe/kayak and sailboat rentals, fishing, short hiking trails and two short water trails. There is 1,500 feet of beach on the banks of the Gunpowder River.

Lifeguards on duty 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Memorial Day through Labor Day. Swim at your own risk when lifeguards are not on duty.

Admission: $3-5 per person ($5-7 per-person for out-of-state residents)

The beach parking lot often fills to capacity. Alternative parking is usually available at the Dogwood parking lot, but be prepared to walk.

7200 Graces Quarters, Chase or 410-592-2897

Hart-Miller Island State Park

Baltimore County

Hart-Miller Island is located in the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of Middle River and is accessible only by private boat. The western shore of the island offers safe mooring, wading and access to a 3,000-foot sandy beach. There are campsites and hiking trails, and your family can fish, picnic and swim. Other than the west side, much of rest of Hart-Miller Island is closed to the public.

Admission: Free, but there is a $6 charge for campsites.

No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk. or 410-592-2897

North Beach

north beach2

Calvert County

Located in the North East corner of Calvert County, North Beach is known as "The Jewel of the Chesapeake Bay." It has a family oriented atmosphere with three large sections of beach for swimming and sunbathing. There is a pirate ship playground on the beach, changing rooms with showers and bathrooms, and restaurants and concessions within walking distance. There is also a fishing pier as well as kayak, paddleboard and bicycle rentals at the Welcome Center on the boardwalk.

No lifeguards on duty but there is a beach patrol. Swim at your own risk.

Admission: Free for North Beach residents, $4-$7 for county residents, and $9-$17 for out-of-county residents.

9023 Bay Ave., North Beach or 410-286-3799

Patapsco Valley State Park

Baltimore/Howard counties

Swimming is permitted all along the Patapsco River except in posted areas. There are many spots perfect for wading and splashing after a hike. One in particular is just a stone's throw from the playground in the Orange Grove area of the park. The Cascade Falls Trail, also in the Orange Grove area of the park just across from the swinging bridge, offers a short hike to a waterfall with a small swimming hole perfect for kids.

No lifeguard on duty. Swim at your own risk; the current can be strong in places.

Admission to the park: Weekdays, $2 per vehicle in-state residents, $4 per vehicle out of state; weekends, $3 per person or $5 per person out-of-state-residents.

5120 South St., Baltimore or 410-461-5005

Point Lookout State Park

St. Mary's County

Point Lookout State Park is located on a peninsula formed by the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. Swimming, fishing, boating and camping are just a few of the activities in this beautiful bay setting. The beach area has grills, picnic tables, and a playground. Facilities include showers and restrooms. Jelly fish may be found in the swimming area.

Lifeguards are on duty 9 a.m.-5 p.m. weekends and holidays Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

Admission: Weekends and holidays, $5 per person; weekdays, $3 per vehicle May-September. Out-of-state residents add $2 to all day use charges.

11175 Point Lookout Road, Scotland or 301-872-5688

Rocky Point Beach

Baltimore County

Since 1969, Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks has owned and operated this 375-acre park. Located at the mouth of Back and Middle rivers, it boasts an expansive view of the Chesapeake Bay, Hart-Miller Islands and Craighill Light. Swimming is allowed Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Restrooms are open when lifeguards are on duty during "beach" season. During the "beach" season, the main park is open from sunrise to 7 p.m. The park includes two pavilions, two playgrounds, sand volleyball, a fishing pier, boat ramps, sailing center, bathhouse and a first aid station. Note that during the early and late beach season on those days when Baltimore County Schools are in session, the beach will be closed for swimming.

Lifeguard on duty.

Admission: Free for children under 12, $5-8 on weekends/holidays and $5-7 on weekdays.

2200 Rocky Point Road, Essex or 410-887-0338

Sandy Point State Park

Anne Arundel County

This 786-acre state park is located along the Northwestern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The park's beaches and picnic areas are well known for their scenic water views. The park provides guests with various activities and services including swimming beaches, picnicking, fishing, crabbing, boating, hiking, youth group camping, wildlife viewing and more. The park also has a marina store and boat rentals. A bathhouse is located near the beach and provides park users with restroom and showers. Snack food, beach and picnic supplies are also available at the South Beach area of the park.

Lifeguards on duty in designated area 10 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m.-8 p.m. weekends and holidays Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Admission: Weekends May 1-Sept. 30, $5 for state residents, $7 out-of-state resident; weekdays May 1-Sept. 30, $4 in-state and $6 out-of-state resident.

1100 E. College Parkway, Annapolis or 410-974-2149

Looking for cool fun for your little one? Check out our story on splash parks and pools perfect for tots.

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