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Maryland's coastline can't be beat - and vacationers have been trekking here for decades to prove it. Whether it's the fun vibrancy of Ocean City or the charming and serene nature of Chesapeake Beach that attracts you, you're bound to love the time you'll spend frolicking on the beaches of the Old Line State. Most coastal Maryland towns come complete with historic city centers, breezy boardwalks and colonial architecture - after all, there's a reason that the state's largest and most famous city - Baltimore - has been dubbed "Charm City." If the charm isn't enough to lure you in, the brisk and airy Atlantic weather is sure to do the trick. The best part? All of these top beaches in Maryland are public.
Ocean City Beach
During the wintertime, Ocean City's population maxes out at about 7,000 people; but during the summer, that number spirals up to nearly 300,000. This gorgeous seaside city is home to about 10 miles of pristine beaches, all of which are notoriously family oriented and totally free. Ocean City Beach is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., so you can spend the entire day lazing in the sun.
Did you know that you can surf in Maryland? Two sections of the beach are reserved for surfers, and these sections rotate every day (so you can truly get a feel for the entire beach over the course of a week). In addition to surfing, you can sunbathe, build sandcastles, swim or set up an umbrella and just enjoy a quintessential day at the beach. If you get tired of the sun, stroll up to the famous Ocean City Boardwalk, where you can enjoy a truly all-American beach experience.
If you're visiting Ocean City during the winter, you'll still have plenty to do at this diverse beach. Got an equestrian in the family? If you're visiting Maryland in winter or early spring, you can ride up and down the beach - just stop by the City Clerk's office to get a permit and set up a reservation. You can also take your pets with you to peruse the beach between October 1 and April 30.
Chesapeake Beach is a small town of about 5,700, just south of Annapolis, and as such boasts a certain charm that is impossible to recreate in larger cities. The town is home to the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum and the Chesapeake Beach Water Park, but we doubt you'll ever need to leave the town's gorgeous coastline, as Brownie's is easily one of the top beaches in Maryland.
The town of Chesapeake Beach comes equipped with a variety of serene and gorgeous beaches, the most notable being Brownie's Beach in Bay Front Park. Though admission to this public beach isn't free (the fee maxes out at close to $15 for out-of-county adult residents), you'll find that spending time at this secluded locale is well worth the price. Encompassing a portion of the Chesapeake Bay's western shore, the beach is home to plenty of entertainment options, including hiking, guided tours, picnicking, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and children's activities.
Assateague Island Beach
Assateague Island is located just eight miles south of Ocean City and near Virginia Beach, making it a must-see for those traveling to the area. Assateague Island is both a state and a national park, giving it a bit of a wild side. This untamed coastal wilderness is home to the famous Assateague wild horses, numerous beaches and biodiverse marshes, so there's something for everyone to see here.
The beach portion of Assateague Island spans about two miles and is open from 9 a.m. to sunset every day. Be forewarned, though: Rip currents are common in this area, so only advanced swimmers should get in the water here. If you're up for the challenge, Assateague Beach offers a unique take on Maryland's waterfront, complete with equal parts relaxation and adventure.
Also located on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, North Beach is a tiny town with a big heart. Maryland provides good access, but so does Chesapeake, VA. The city and its namesake beach have been named "Best Bay Town" and "Best Bay Beach," respectively, according to the town's website.
The beach and its surrounding vicinity are notoriously family-friendly, so this is a great place to bring the kids. The beach's adjacent boardwalk is serene and peaceful, too, so you can truly unwind as you walk along the coast and enjoy all that the Chesapeake Bay has to offer. At North Beach, you can enjoy swimming, fishing, crabbing and sunbathing, in addition to the many activities that the boardwalk offers.
Keep in mind, though, that you'll need to purchase a visitor's pass at the North Beach Welcome Center before heading out. Out-of-county residents will need to pay a small fee, but you'll soon realize that access to this friendly beach is well worth it.