Betterton Beach

Betterton Beach, Maryland
Betterton Beach from the hilltop pavilion

 

Betterton is a beach resort town that used to be somebody. Now, it’s a village at the end of a long peninsula with little nearby but farms. The summer town hung on through the years when such places were out of vogue and is turning into a year-round retirement community with homes on top of the hill overlooking the bay. For visitors, there’s a good-sized swimming beach at the bottom of the hill. 

100 Main Street, Betterton, MD 21610

Directions: MD-213 north to MD-297[Worton Road] turn left; continue to MD-298 [Lambs Meadow Road] turn right; continue to MD-292 [Still Pond Road] turn left; follow to Betterton.

Betterton Beach, MD
Betterton Beach “Jewel of the Chesapeake” before the Bay Bridge was built (photo courtesy Town of Betterton)

Betterton was a big Chesapeake Bay summer beach resort at the end of the 1800s through the 1940s; a major stopping point for ships going up the Chesapeake Bay and through the Chesapeake-and-Delaware Canal, which connects to the Delaware Bay and on to Philadelphia and New Jersey. The town sits on top of cliffs overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. Back in the day there were several hotels, restaurants, dance halls, bowling alleys and amusement arcades. The town’s tourism withered when the Bay Bridge was built and steamships stopped running out of Baltimore. The big hotels are gone, only a few Victorians remain. But the beach is still there.

Betterton Beach, MD
Betterton Beach

The Betterton Beach Waterfront Park is five acres of landscaped waterfront near the mouth of the Sassafras River, where fresh water currents lower the salinity of the upper Chesapeake Bay. That keeps Betterton Beach free of sea nettles, common in late June or July. It has a bathhouse with public restrooms. There are tree-covered benches and picnic tables near the beach and a picnic pavilion on a bluff overlooking the beach. The swimming beach is about 300 feet of the 700 feet of shoreline access.

Betterton, MD, beach bathhouse
Betterton Beach bathhouse

The park has a large parking lot next to the beach. There is a fishing jetty with a surface walk and a public pier. Boating is allowed from a public landing and pier. Be aware there are no stores — no convenience store, general store, nothing — in town.

There are now two year-round restaurants in town. Barbara’s By The Bay is across the street from the beach park. It has a tasteful, friendly bar and a deck where you can enjoy your meal prepared by chef Barbara Esmonde while looking out over the scenic northern Chesapeake Bay. The other restaurant in town is Marzellas, a pizza place on the main road coming into town, but check to see if it’s open. The nearest general store is three miles away in Still Pond, Maryland. Chestertown is the largest nearby town, about 12 miles away.

Betterton, MD view from top of hill
View from top of the cliffs where the homes are located, overlooking the Chesapeake Bay.

Betterton has fewer than 400 year-round residents. But while Tolchester Beach, a similar turn-of-the-century beach resort, died out, Betterton survived. Town leaders, with the help of state funds, turned Betterton into a summer-home/retirement getaway village.

Betterton Heritage Museum Fisherman's Shanty
A renovated fisherman’s shanty outside the Betterton Heritage Museum

The main attraction is that mid-sized public swimming beach. The small Betterton Heritage Museum is just up the hill from the beach in a former Catholic church turned into the community hall. Outside the hall is a rehabbed fisherman’s shanty that you can walk through.              


 

 


3 thoughts on “Betterton Beach

  • March 7, 2017 at 8:36 am
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    I remember going to Betterton with my grandparents when I was about 12 years old. We stayed for a weekend in the Hotel there and enjoyed their little boardwalk. Had my first soft crab sandwich ever, in a little bar that my grandparents took me to just before leaving on the boat back to Baltimore. Still love soft crabs to this day. Remember this trip very fondly as both grandparents have passed on and I miss them dearly!!!

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  • August 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm
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    I remember as a child coming to Betterton. We would take the Bay Belle out of Baltimore. Recall eating at a restaurant and pulling plastic ducks from the games on the boardwalk. Those times are long gone but memories are forever. Will be visiting one day soon.

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    • January 12, 2016 at 10:30 pm
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      my parents took me to Betterton Beach in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. My mother’s family vacationed there since the 1930’s. I remember eating dinners in the Hotel Rigbee. We went to Mass at the Catholic church.

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