Cape Charles, Virginia
Maybe Cape Charles doesn’t usually draw large crowds due to its location on the southern end of Virginia’s east coast. It’s a bit far from the Washington, DC metro area, 238 miles from Bethesda, but it might be worth the trip.
The beach sits on the Chesapeake Bay, rather than the Atlantic Ocean, which means calm, shallow waters and the gentlest waves. You probably won’t find any surfers, but you may see families with young children splashing around in the pool-like waters. The conditions are also ideal for some water sports; you can rent stand-up paddle boards and kayaks from SouthEast Expeditions. Or you can fish from the pier.
An art exhibit near the fishing pier that spells out the word “love” is a popular spot for photos. A Virginia landmark highlights how the sign, which rests on paddles in the sand, reflects the city. The “L” is made of sea glass and shells in an ode to the Bay community, while the “O” is a tractor tire in celebration of agriculture. The “V”, made up of kayaks, represents outdoor adventure activities, and the “E”, made up of crab pots, represents aquaculture.
Cape Charles, with a population of around 1,000, is just 2,817 acres, which means everything is close by. Some visitors park their cars and rent golf carts for their stay.
Walk a few minutes to town to admire the historic architecture. You’ll find one of the greatest concentrations of turn-of-the-century buildings on the East Coast, a feature that listed the Cape Charles Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. Expansive front porches of many homes, where residents sit to watch the sunsets.
Some houses have been transformed into quaint bed and breakfasts with southern charm, but there are also plenty of inns and hotels. The Northampton Hotel on Mason Avenue has been recently refurbished and boasts of combining the historic with a modern twist. The Cape Charles Hotel, also on Mason Avenue, has private balconies with harbor views.
Cape Charles is close to nature and eco excursions, such as hiking in Virginia’s East Coast National Nature Preserve or kayaking in Kiptopeke State Park.
Matoaka Beach, Maryland
Southern Maryland is where you’ll find Matoaka Beach and its picturesque views of the Chesapeake Bay. Located in St. Leonard, about 70 miles from Bethesda, this is truly an off the beaten path beach – you have to walk a small path from the parking lot to get to the water. There is no commercial development and there are no restaurants. The only accommodation is camping in rental cabins on the beach. The private beach that once served as a Girl Scout camp is open to the public daily for a nominal fee: $5 on weekdays and $10 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
This is a beach for true nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts who want to spend the day kayaking (bring your own), fishing, and swimming. Much like the more well-known and nearby Calvert Cliffs, this is also where people come to pick up the shark teeth that fall from the nearby cliffs. The origin of these millions of years old fossils is a lesson in Maryland history. They were preserved in the cliffs from a time when the state was under water.
This beach is ideal for a day trip, but the more adventurous and those who prefer the feel of a private island may choose to stay longer.
Bowers Beach, Delaware
The search for a “sleepy beach town” to visit?
It’s Bowers Beach, says Nancy Bradley, who works at JP’s Wharf seafood restaurant in town (technically it’s in Frederica, but it’s considered part of Bowers Beach).
“You come here for a quiet experience,” Bradley says of Bowers, located about 105 miles from Bethesda on Delaware Bay between the St. Jones and Murderkill rivers.
With its motto “The Way Life Used to Be”, the city clearly avoids the commercialization of the most popular beaches. Visitors can rent bungalows in town, but there are no hotels.
A walk through Bowers is like stepping into a time warp. Much of the town consists of small houses reminiscent of its once bustling fishing community. Although the local fishing industry isn’t as thriving these days, many city dwellers still live off the water beyond their backyards. JP’s prides itself on serving fresh local catch, from oysters to redfish and trout.
The calm waters of Delaware Bay provide excellent conditions for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding. Bowers is also ideal for those who prefer to laze around and take leisurely walks on the beach.
There are three parks in the city where visitors can play pétanque or shuffleboard, have a picnic or find a quiet place to read or meditate. The Bowers Beach Maritime Museum on Main Street, open weekends from Memorial Day through Labor Day, tells the story of the town, boatman culture and coastal history. Bowers Beach is just 205 acres, putting all attractions within walking or driving distance.
Bowers Beach also offers activities for nature lovers, including bird watching and horseshoe crab spawning season. Every May and June, millions of Atlantic Horseshoe Crabs descend on the shores of the East Coast to spawn. Delaware Bay is at the center of it all, including Bowers Beach, where crabs cover the sand like a blanket.
This is the only time of year when the beach is crowded.
Betterton Beach, Maryland
In 1976 Kent County bought the land that makes up what is now Betterton Beach and turned it into a public waterfront park. The beach is nestled at the end of a residential community and feels like an extension of that neighborhood, like a local park that has a beach.
The 5-acre bayside beach, located at the mouth of the Sassafras River and about 99 miles from Bethesda, is particularly popular among locals, but can also be a good place for foreigners to spend a day. calm on the water. The drive to Betterton Beach takes less than an hour after crossing the Bay Bridge, faster than the busy drive to Ocean City.
Betterton is a good place to watch the water and relax. There is a public bath and a pavilion for picnics and barbecues. On the boardwalk, which is not commercially developed, you can stroll or watch the sunset from one of the benches. Betterton is ideal for families with children looking for smaller crowds and calmer waters for swimming. Those looking to stay overnight won’t find hotels in Betterton but can search for Airbnb options. There are hotels in nearby towns, such as Chestertown.
Although the beach doesn’t offer many tourist attractions, the nearby Betterton Heritage Museum provides insight into the town’s history as a fishing village. It features decoys sculpted by Charlie “Speed” Joiner and a collection of postcards from the 1880s, according to the museum’s website. It also houses one of the few existing arches once used as overnight accommodation for boatmen.
Andrea K. McDaniels is the managing editor of The Baltimore Banner, a digital startup slated to launch in June. She is looking forward to a beach vacation this summer.