We sussed out the best low-key beaches that boast big coastal charm so you don’t have to socially distance your family from the sea and sand this summer. Grab your swimsuitssunscreen and sunglasses and head to one of these 7 beaches that are packed with family-friendly fun without being so, well, packed!

photo: iStock

Betterton Beach
Located under two hours from the District on the Chesapeake Bay, Betterton Beach in Kent County, MD offers five acres of sand and shore along with a boardwalk, picnic area and fishing jetty. Once you get to Betterton – population of about 350 – you can head to the mouth of the Sassafras river for a quick, uncrowded getaway.

Ericsson Ave.
Betterton, MD
Online: kentcounty.com/betterton-beach

Assateague Island
Looking for a beach getaway where wild horses share the sand with you? If so, Assateague Island (in MD) are for you! You access Assateague and its 37 miles of beach through either Ocean City, MD or Chincoteague, VA.  Be sure to pack these kid cameras so they can capture the abundent wildlife. This island features tranquil beaches, wild horses and at less than four hours away, is a great choice for an off-the-beaten-path beach vacation.

Assateague, MD
Online: assateagueisland.com

photo: tung256 via Pixabay

Elk Neck State Park
Elk Neck State Park has a pristine sandy beach and warm waters to float and play in. Don’t forget the life jackets; this beach has a kayak and canoe launch. There are also campgrounds and hiking trails throughout the park and a lighthouse to explore. While some of the trails remain closed, the beach is open. Located only two hours from DC, Elk Neck is a great option to get away while still staying close by.

4395 Turkey Point Rd.
North East, MD
Online: maryland.gov/elkneck.aspx

Calvert Cliffs State Park
Less than an hour and a half from DC, Calvert Cliffs has 24 miles of shoreline on the Chesapeake Bay. The cliffs that dominate the landscape were formed 20 – 30 million years ago, and fossil hunting is another popular activity throughout the park. Prehistoric sea creatures, shark and whale fossils have all been found in the cliffs.

10540 H. G. Trueman Rd.
Lusby, MD
Online: maryland.gov/calvertcliffs.aspx

photo: Derek Thomson via Unsplash 

Sandbridge Beach
Virginia Beach typically doesn’t come to mind when people think of “off the beaten track” beaches. And it’s true that the boardwalk area of Virginia Beach is usually jam packed. That’s not the case for Sandbridge Beach. Located 15 minutes south of Virginia Beach, Sandbridge is quieter, calmer and less crowded than its more well-known neighbor.

Sandfiddler Rd.
Virginia Beach, VA
Online: virginia.org/SandbridgeBeach/

Chic’s Beach
This idyllic beach situated on the Chesapeake Bay is where Virginia Beach locals go to avoid the crowds of the busier oceanside sun, surf and sand destinations. Giving off a relaxed, family-friendly vibe, Chic’s Beach has calmer waters that are perfect for kids to enjoy with the serenity and views that grown-ups are looking for. Be sure to pack the bodyboards and enjoy these gentle waves.

Virginia Beach, VA
Online: visitvirginiabeach.com/chesapeake-bay/

Cape Henlopen State Park
Delaware’s beaches can get crowded during the spring and summer months – and with good reason. They’re not far from DC, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York. With several different beach towns each with their own personality, there’s something for everyone, which is why… they can get so crowded. Luckily, you can still find quiet places to wander and a sliver of beach to call your own at Cape Henlopen State Park. Enjoy listening to the waves and the shorebirds from the beach or hiking to the end of the point and feel like you’re standing on the edge of the world. You would hardly know that Rehoboth, Dewey and Bethany beaches were all a very short, crowded drive away.

15099 Cape Henlopen Dr.
Lewes, DE
Online: visitdelaware.com/cape-henlopen-state-park/

—Chris McGurn

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