If you haven’t had time to plan anything yet for Spring break, but want to make sure you get a little separation from the city, check out these three ideas that are barely a tank of gas away from Washington and surrounded by water.

Photo: Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake

Annapolis, Md
The Chesapeake Bay is the heart and soul of Maryland. Famous for its blue crabs and mouthwatering oysters, her sandy shores and nippy, fresh waters are a playground for water lovers.

Both Maryland and America’s Sailing Capital, Annapolis is a charming historic town and a great place to visit with kids. Founded in 1649, its colonial city center is small and easy to navigate. But the highlight is that it’s surrounded by a bustling waterfront full of boats. Kids love to walk around, grab an ice cream cone and just gaze at the beautiful vessels.

Annapolis is also home to the U.S. Naval Academy. You can take a guided tour of the Academy, to see what life is like as a midshipmen, or just walk around campus. Make sure to check out the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, where you can get information about what to see on campus and admire some of the naval artifacts at the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

If you really want to give them the ride of a lifetime, jump aboard a pirate ship that tackles the “rough” waters of the Chesapeake Bay with Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake.  Rides start April 8th, and your littles can experience being a proper pirate on-board a stately ship searching for buried treasures.

The Annapolis Maritime Museum is a great resource to teach kids about the deep maritime heritage of Annapolis. The Museum is home to McNasby’s Oyster Packing Company, the last remaining oyster packing plant in the area. Located on the waterfront, the Museum teaches visitors how to harvest oysters, allows them to climb aboard a native workboat and explore artifacts. There is also an 850-gallon oyster tank that kids love to observe.

Photo: Island Creamery

Chincoteague, Va
Chincoteague, Virginia is one of the most unspoiled beach towns in America. Located off the coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a bridge connects it to Assateague Island, where you’ll find the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

The peaceful island is home to the multitude of legendary wild ponies celebrated in the classic children’s book Misty of Chincoteague. The wild ponies are hard to miss as you meander through the refuge. If your kids are longing for that equestrian experience, head over to the Chincoteague Pony Centre where they can ride or pet ponies and even see a pony show.

Have an adventure with the Indiana Jones of Chincoteague”, Capt. Barry on one of his Back Bay Cruises. Spend two hours with him on an eco-adventure digging in the mud for sea creatures at a sandbar, pulling crab pots, navigating to Shell Island, and hunting for jellyfish and Chincoteague’s famous Salt Oysters. This experience is sure to hit a home run with any kid!

No beach vacation is complete without ice cream! The Island Creamery has some of the best homemade ice cream in Virginia. They use fresh cream and milk from Lancaster County, Pa cows, and add locally grown treats. Everything is then spun in an Emery Thompson batch freezer. This fresh, delicious yumminess is not to be missed!

Need to shave off some calories from the ice cream? Climb a lighthouse!! The Assateague Lighthouse is about 1/4 mile away from Chincoteague. You can bike or walk on the trail that leads from Chincoteague over to Assateague Island. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is responsible for maintaining the lighthouse and the top is accessible to visitors. Climb the lighthouse and let your kids see one of the most remarkable landmarks in Virginia.

Photo: Oxford Bellevue Ferry

Maryland’s Eastern Shore
The beaches and islands of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, make for a peaceful yet exciting vacation.  Discover its picturesque small towns, learn from its nature preserves, or just hang out on its sandy beaches.  The Eastern Shore has several great attractions that are kid-friendly and sure to please everyone in your family.

The Hyatt Chesapeake Resort is the ideal place for families to stay on the Eastern Shore. This is a very kid-friendly resort where families can enjoy s’mores at the outdoor hearth, swimming in the indoor pool, playing mini-golf, and walking by the marina. There’s even a Camp Hyatt and a number of restaurants on property. The resort is located in Cambridge, Md which is a tiny jewel and not to be missed! Cambridge was settled in 1684 and is one of the oldest towns in Maryland. Its historic downtown has quaint shops and restaurants and festivals abound throughout the year.

A MUST DO when visiting the Eastern Shore is to take the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. It’s a short 15-20 minute ferry ride that crosses the Tred Avon River between Bellevue and Oxford, Md. Only 6 cars fit on the boat, and kids love getting out of their cars and just seeing everything around them. Consider taking your bikes on the ferry and riding through charming, tree-lined Oxford. Grab a scoop of ice cream at award winning Scottish Highland Creamery and just enjoy the fresh air.

Not to be missed is the Harriet Tubman Byway which preserves and tells the story of where Harriet Tubman lived and fled from. At the heart of the Byway is the newly opened Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor’s Center. Kids can learn through interactive exhibits, tours and educational programs. The Byway stretches over 100 miles and visitors are welcome to bike, walk or even paddle boat through it.

What is your favorite nearby water town to visit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

–Guiomar Ochoa