Assateague Island National Seashore, 7206 National Seashore Lane, Berlin, (410) 641-1441, nps.gov/asis. Want to go to the beach, but want to avoid the scads of people who come and go each week? Lucky for you snobs and/or hermits, there's Assateague Island! Without the amenities of OC's various hotels and motels, you're free to camp, canoe, and swim at beaches or whatever other nature-centric activities you have in mind. Upside: wild horses! Downside: wild horse-flies.
Deep Creek Lake, 898 State Park Road, Swanton, (301) 387-5563, dnr.state.md.us. Salt water's gross, am I right? Head over to Western Maryland for freshwater boating, fishing, and swimming that doesn't leave you with burning eyeballs. And since you're in the Allegheny Mountains, you could try your hand at hiking, biking, and whatever other outdoor activities rhyme with hiking.
Dewey Beach, Dewey, Del., deweybeach.com. The perfect beach town for parents who don't want to expose their children to the debauchery of Seacrets. For the most part, it's a quiet, scenic little place, perfect for families who don't want to slingshot from beach to boardwalk to mini-golf back to beach. And it's got a restaurant with a big shark sticking out of its facade. That's worth something, right?
Elk Neck State Park, 4395 Turkey Point Road, North East, (410) 287-5333, dnr.state.md.us, Maryland vehicle $3, out-of-state $5. Check out this beautiful spot on the northern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Come for a picnic, engage in some boating, or just wander around and enjoy some of the best nature options Maryland has to offer.
Hart-Miller Island State Park, 2813 Jerusalem Road, Kingsville, (410) 592-2897, dnr.state.md.us. Although there's no fee for admission, getting to this park can be an expensive endeavor. You need a boat, and we hear those can be pricey investments. But if you have a seafaring vessel, enjoy the quiet swimming and camping on an island just outside the city that, until recently, was where they threw all the muck from the Inner Harbor.
North Point State Park, 8700 North Point Road, Edgemere, (410) 477-0757, dnr.state.md.us, Maryland vehicle $3, out-of-state $5. North Point is a hodgepodge of cool stuff to do. You've got your typical wetland fare-check out the wildlife, maybe try some fishing-but it's also chock-full of history. There are trails that were used by troops during the War of 1812, and the park's pavilion and amenities are built among the ruins of an early 20th-century amusement park. What more do you need?
Oregon Ridge Beach, Oregon Ridge Park, (410) 887-3780, baltimorecountymd.gov, $2-$8. Now it's not a natural beach, per se-Baltimore County built it from a former iron ore quarry-but it's still pretty neat. So why brave the Bay Bridge traffic and head to the shore when you've got a perfectly nice freshwater option just down the road in Cockeysville?
Rehoboth Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Del., rehoboth.com. Let's do some comparisons. Rehoboth is a quiet town originally founded as a Methodist retreat, while Ocean City is a bustling beach town. Rehoboth has a beach, and so does Ocean City. Ocean City has fries and funnel cakes, Rehoboth has saltwater taffy. So if you want a quieter getaway for the refined taste, consider crossing the border.
Rocky Point Beach, 2200 Rocky Point Road, (410) 887-3873, baltimorecountymd.gov, $8, weekdays $7, children free. Who knew there were so many beaches? This one, outside of Essex, has a little bit of everything: playgrounds, volleyball, a picnic area, and even a fishing pier; and is perfect for a one-day dose of what a vacation might be like if you weren't a complete workaholic.
Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E. College Parkway, Annapolis, (410) 974-2149, dnr.state.md.us, $5, weekdays $4. With a view of the western side of the Bay Bridge, this spot is the perfect alternative for when you realize that it was idiotic to try to get to OC on Friday during the evening rush hour. It's got beaches, a picnic area, and you can check out a historic lighthouse that's been retrofitted to run on solar energy.
Smith Island, 20846 Caleb Jones Road, Ewell, (410) 425-3351, smithisland.org. Contrary to popular belief, Smith Island is not just a giant cake factory. You can try your hand at paddling and fishing or just explore the island, complete with museums and that iconic Tidewater accent.
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