Craving a day by the beach, but don’t feel like scrambling for a hotel reservation? Pack up your mini mermaids and mermen and head to one of these waterways (with family friendly boardwalks, shops, and restaurants nearby) for a there-and-back day trip. Best part? You don’t even need a full tank of gas to get there.

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Cape Henlopen State Park
Known as the first town in the first state, Lewes is an historical beach city that offers all kinds of charms to visitors. It’s just as perfect for a romantic getaway as it is for a family beach excursion. You can spend all day romping in either the Delaware Bay or the Atlantic Ocean (the town of Lewes is located on Cape Henlopen which separates the two). Cape Henlopen State Park is a great place for families to relax and enjoy a day on the sand but it’s not the only beach in town. You can find your happy, sandy place at one of the other area locations. Also, dogs are welcome!

15099 Cape Henlopen Dr. (Lewes, De)
302-645-8983
Online: destateparks.com

South Beach at Sandy Point State Park
It’s not on the actual ocean, but that’s what makes it awesome. The waves are easier for little people to manage and the breeze from the bay keeps it comfortable. Located in Sandy Point State Park, the sandy beach areas provide visitors with access to the Northwestern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Portions of the beach are patrolled by lifeguards during the day and the beach also has other amenities, like a snack shack and a marina, as well as access to a ton of other activities, like camping, boating, bird watching, fishing and crabbing.

1100 East College Pkwy. (Annapolis, Md)
410-974-2149
Online: dnr2.maryland.gov

colonial beach municipal pier

Colonial Beach
Located in the Northern Neck of Virginia and known as the birthplace of our nation’s first president, Colonial Beach is a quaint but quirky little beach town that welcomes tourists for beachy vacations and special events throughout the summer months. Colonial Beach—situated on Monroe Bay and the Potomac River—families can enjoy sand and water romping on the second longest beach in the state. The marina is a great place to also enjoy shopping, boating, fishing, and crabbing. A fun twist for visitors is that you can park your car and get around town on the Colonial Beach Trolley.

6 N Irving Ave. (Colonial Beach, Va)
804-224-8145
Online: colonialbeach.org

Solomon’s Maryland
Solomon’s Island, another Chesapeake Bay city is a great place for a family beach adventure. It’s not a go to for those who want to enjoy sunbathing and sandy beach play, but this beach town is an awesome place to partake in boating, and fishing, and even some jet skiing fun. For those looking for adventure and who don’t mind a hike, you can head to Calvert Cliffs State Park and hunt for fossils. Kids love combing the hills for ancient shark’s teeth and other hidden treasures. Families who who like history can spend an afternoon exploring one of the local historic lighthouses like the Drum Point Lighthouse and the Cove Point Lighthouse, which are both open for tours.

Online: solomonsmaryland.com

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Breezy Point Beach and Campground
Noted as one of the widest public beaches in Southern Maryland, Breezy Point Beach, located on the Chesapeake Bay, offers a roomy shore front area for families to spread out and enjoy a day on the sand. You can buy food for the day from their concession area or plan to bring your own to eat and grill at one of the picnic areas. Best part? They have a netted swimming area to keep little swimmers safe from the jellyfish that tend to invade the waters in the later summer months.

5300 Breezy Point Rd. (Chesapeake Beach, Md)
410-535-0259
Online: co.cal.md.us

What nearby beach does your family like to visit? Tell us in the comments section.

—Amanda Rodriguez

Photos courtesy of Cape Henlopen State Park via Facebook, Colonial Beach via Facebook, bklynpolar via Creative Commons