The Chesapeake Bay has an amazing range of beaches, from natural-and-woodsy to boardwalk-and-funnel cakes. There are beaches just for dogs. Beaches with volleyball nets for the sportier set. And, beaches you get to only by boat. We call those ‘secret beaches.’
ChesapeakeLiving has assembled a map of Chesapeake Bay Beaches that we’ve visited so far. It’ll be updated as we review more beaches. Descriptions & links to a full review are below. Find the best Chesapeake Bay beach for you!
Point Lookout State Park is bordered by a beach. The Potomac River side of the peninsula is for people who want to swim, while the Chesapeake Bayside is for dogs.
Calvert Cliffs State Park requires a major hike through the woods to get there, but it’s worth the trek. An all-natural beach with shells and sharks teeth, where dogs are allowed!
Flags Ponds Nature Park has a huge sandy, natural, swimming beach known for sharks teeth and other fossils found on the shoreline. It’s an excellent beach for families, and dogs are allowed (on a leash).
Breezy Point Beach has a wide-open swimming beach with full facilities and easy access. And, netted off to reduce jellyfish in the main swimming area.
The Chesapeake Beach town beach is called Brownie’s Beach (the locals’ name for the beach) or Bayfront Park beach (the official name of the park).
6. North Beach
North Beach feels like a small Delaware or New Jersey beach town that has been transplanted on the Chesapeake Bay’s western shore. There’s a sandy beach, boardwalk, and traditional beach shops.
Sandy Point State Park has a large, wide beach with amazing views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge as huge cargo ships slip down the Bay’s shipping channel. It has full facilities and a large parking lot.
8. Downs Park
Downs Park has a beautiful view of the Chesapeake Bay a few miles outside Annapolis, Maryland. But the beach is for viewing and walking, not swimming. Only dogs are allowed to swim here.
Hammerman Beach in Gunpowder Falls State Park is one of the biggest full-service beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. And because it’s where Gunpowder River enters the Bay, Hammerman is jellyfish-resistant all year round.
Elk Neck State Park has a stadium-style beach where the Elk River converges with North East and Susquehanna rivers to form the top of the Chesapeake Bay. It is a full-service beach. And because it’s at the top of the Bay with its freshwater, jellyfish are rare.
11. Betterton Beach
Betterton Beach, a former Victorian resort destination, is just a small Maryland town now but has a big, beautiful beach at the bottom of picturesque Chesapeake Bay cliffs. The town park has a bathhouse, parking, and shady picnic tables on the grass around the beach.
12. Tolchester Beach
Tolchester Beach was also a Victorian resort that’s vanished. Tolchester Marina has turned that former beach into a summer hot spot for boaters with a tiki bar and bands. It’s a bit challenging to reach by car, but a fun day trip.
13. Ferry Park Beach – Rock Hall
Rock Hall’s Ferry Park was the dock for a water ferry that crossed the Chesapeake Bay from Baltimore to Rock Hall before the Bay Bridge was built. It’s now a small-town swimming beach that shines at night with magnificent sunsets across the Bay.
(#20) Ferry Point Park Beach – Kent Island
Kent Island’s Ferry Point Park is a hidden gem. It’s down a one-mile walking path from the island’s visitor center. The only facilities are in the center. Dogs are allowed leashes. No swimming, but there’s room to lay a towel and enjoy the western view across the Chesapeake Bay.
Terrapin Nature Park is a beautiful 276-acre park on Kent Island facing West toward Annapolis across the Chesapeake Bay. It has a long, narrow beach that starts just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
15. Matapeake Beach
Matapeake Beach has both a human beach and a dog beach. Both overlook the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The human side is wide and scenic, while the dog side is narrow and long but great for great leaps and bounds through the water by any size dog.
16. Strand Beach
Oxford, Maryland, has renovated its public beach on the Tred Avon River. Strand Beach is now shorter, but wider, and has more amenities including parking, changing rooms, and an outdoor shower for rinsing off after a day in the water.
17. Deale Island Harbor Beach
This small, sunset-facing beach is gorgeous. The emerald water is a combination of clear marsh water and briny Fishing Bay. It washes over a wide, winter-white sand beach. It’s all-natural and there are absolutely no amenities.
18. Wellington Beach
Crisfield’s Wellington Beach is a small, off-white sand beach on the edge of a peninsula in Chesapeake Bay’s Pocomoke Sound and has fantastic sunsets. No fee. Parking is nearby.
19. Tangier Island
With its white sand and clear, emerald water, Virginia’s Tanger Island has the most beautiful beach in the Chesapeake Bay. The only problem is you have to take a boat to get there. The good news is there’s a daily shuttle during the season.
About Chesapeake Bay Sand and Water
Why is beach sand different colors around the Chesapeake Bay?
The color of several Chesapeake Bay beaches really is orange. Sand colors run from deep orange to nearly white. It all depends on the minerals in the area rocks.
The Sandy Point beach has the deepest orange and that’s not pollution. It comes from rock that’s high in iron. The sand is colorful, not dangerous. Tilghman Island has the whitest sand, meaning the grains have a lot of quartz in them.
Quartz rocks are easier to find on the Eastern Shore than on the Western Shore.
Virginia beaches in the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay tend to have a lot of quartz, but some of Virginia’s sand is colored by iron to a deep yellow-orange.
Is Chesapeake Bay Water Safe for Swimming?
The Chesapeake Bay is like a giant reservoir with lots of rivers constantly pouring fresh water into it. But at the same time, the Ocean is pushing salty water in with the tide. That turns the Bay briny. That ebb and flow change the type of fish you’ll see, how clear the water is, and the debris in the water.
The Bay will seem dirtiest after major rain. The rivers wash mud and debris into the center, the water gets denser and fish go deeper to get away from it. Oysters and clams get to work cleaning it up.
Maryland and Virginia state officials are constantly monitoring water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. They issue warnings if any swimming area is unsafe.
Maryland created a website for the public called Eyes on the Bay.
In Virginia, Chesapeake Bay water quality monitoring is handled by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Then there are the jellyfish that visit every summer. There are monitors for that too.