So you’re in the Mid-Atlantic region and you want to go to the shore (it’s referred to as the beach on the West Coast, the shore on the East Coast). But because you (secretly) watched too many episodes of Jersey Shore, perhaps you’re hesitant to hit the sands…
Here’s a solution: hit the Delaware and Maryland seashores. You can find Jersey Shore-esque beaches and shore towns if you try. But the operative word is try: most beaches in Delaware and Maryland are quiet, relatively uncrowded (with a few pretty much empty), but still within reach of a happening boardwalk or two. And they all offer the soft sand, wide beach, and sand dunes you’re looking for.
Your First Stop Should be the First State
Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution and it’s been known as the First State pretty much ever since. Its beaches are top notch as well, offering some of the most beautiful shorelines protected as state parks, yet still open to the public. You’ll see some good crowds at one end of the state, but travel just a few miles south, and you can enjoy 100 feet or more of sand between you and the next family, if you choose.
The best known beaches in Delaware are those in the towns of Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach (very close to each other) and Bethany Beach, near the Maryland border.
Rehoboth Beach, located on the northern end of the state’s seashore, is known as the “Nation’s Summer Capital,” due to the number of Washington, DC tourists – including Congressmen and their aides – who flock there in the summer.
Rehoboth has a one-mile long boardwalk that’s decidedly family-friendly. You will find some bars, but they are relatively few and far between. The rides and games at the main boardwalk amusement center, Funland, are focused on children (the prices to play games such as Wac-a- Mole, Flushing Meadows, Frog Bog, and others are very affordable – as in $1.00 or less) and there are several games where just playing can win a young one a small stuffed animal.
The beach is free and provides lifeguards plus umbrella and water toy rentals. It can get pretty crowded in the summer and parking can be challenging. Because it’s a small, resort town – the largest one in Delaware – and parking close enough to walk to the beach is very expensive, Delaware Area Rapid Transit (DART) does offer bus service directly to the beach form a park-and- ride location.
While Rehoboth is for families, Dewey Beach – just to the south – is for young adults or those who are looking for more of an adult nightlife scene. The beach is less crowded, but has no boardwalk. Many visitors go to Rehoboth’s beach during the day and head to Dewey for the nightlife.
Between Dewey Beach and Bethany Beach on the south end of the Delaware’s coastline (a much smaller, “higher end” beach town, with a short boardwalk) is the gem of Delaware’s beaches - the Delaware Seashore State Park, It has six miles of dunes, beach and ocean. If you prefer shallow water and no waves, Rehoboth Bay is just on the other side of the Seashore across the Coastal Highway. The beaches are smaller and there are no dunes, but the water is warmer than the Atlantic and stays shallow for dozens of yards offshore – you can watch horseshoe crabs (known as “living fossils”) swim between your legs!
The Seashore offers a large parking area ($10.00 per day for out-of- state residents with year-long passes also available) and a bathhouse and snack bar at its northern end. But if you really want to get away from the crowds, venture a bit further south to one of the other parking lots, park (again, $10.00 per day), walk the path over the dune to the beach and enjoy! These Seashore beaches aren’t protected by lifeguards and have no snack bar or bath facilities (they do have porta-johns), but the peace and solitude are not to be missed.
Oh, and before we forget: if you love shopping, Rehoboth’s Tanger Outlets are THE place to go. Located just a few miles outside downtown Rehoboth (you’ll pass by them on the way to town), the three outlets offer name-brand retailers such as Ann Taylor, Nike, J Crew, Coach, Van Heusen, and dozens of other mid and high-end merchants.
RV Camping in Delaware
Delaware is the second-smallest state in the country (after Rhode Island) and so it doesn’t have a lot of RV campgrounds near the coast. However, one campground on the isthmus in Rehoboth Bay is within walking distance of the shore.
For help in finding RV camping sites in Delaware, check out RV Park Reviews’ Delaware section.
Plenty of Free Things to do at the Shore in the Free State
Maryland (known as the Free State because it was the first state to abolish slavery), is well-known for the Ocean City Boardwalk (almost always rated as one of the top 10 boardwalks in the U.S.).
The first boardwalk in Ocean City was built in 1902 and since then has grown to 2.5 miles in length – quite the nice walk for your daily walking constitutional!
The boardwalk has at least two amusement parks (with roller coasters and Ferris wheels), three game arcades, dozens of restaurants and bars, plenty of clothing stores and lots of souvenir shops. It’s just an awesome place to sit and people watch!
The boardwalk is surrounded on the shore side by many tall hotels, so the beach right in front of the boardwalk can be very crowded on a summer’s day. The beach is free and open to the public from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. and offers the Ocean City Beach Patrol (lifeguards) from 10:00 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. The boardwalk provides eight free, public restrooms and three rinse-off stations.
Boardwalk trams are available ($3.00 per person, one way; $6.00 per person for all day, any direction, as many times as you like) to take you up and down the boardwalk.
As with many shore resort towns, if you can leave the car at your campground or in a park-and- ride lot, all the better – traffic is horrendous in Ocean City and parking lots can become expensive (Important note: Ocean City has a pretty strict ordinance when it comes to oversized vehicles such as RVs. You can read it here. If possible, it’s best to leave the RV at your campground).
Leaving the RV at your campground means you can take advantage of Ocean City’s Coastal Highway Beach Bus and the West Ocean City Park & Ride Shuttle Service. Read more about these services here.
Because, You Know, Wild Ponies!
Just a few miles south of Ocean City (no more than a half-hour drive), is Assateague Island. This barrier island is a state park in the north end and a national park in its south end. It’s likely best known for the wild ponies that live there (they actually are small horses, but are called ponies because of their slightly smaller height). Seeing the ponies foraging for grass on Assateague’s bay side – or even tramping down beach umbrellas as they search for the good stuff they know is in coolers on the beach – is a wonderful sight. The ponies are protected – no touching! Besides, they’re known for kicking and biting. They are wild, after all.
The national park section of Assateague does offer RV camping (but no hookups). Spaces are relatively few and reservations are required March 15 to November 15. Reservations are available on a first-come, first-serve basis the rest of the year.
You could bring your RV to the state park side and enjoy the beach during the day, complete with lifeguards, snack bar and bathhouse. Parking is $6.00 for out-of- state vehicles during the summer season.
RV Camping Near Ocean City
As for RV camping near Ocean City and Assateague Island, you’ll have plenty of parks to choose from, but none other than the one in the national park on Assateague is anywhere near walking distance of the shore.
Check out RV Park Reviews’ listing of RV parks near Ocean City to get started with your research.
Delaware and Maryland together offer “only” 59 miles of Atlantic shoreline between them (Delaware has 28; Maryland has 32), but those few miles are packed with some of the most beautiful beaches in the country. Those beaches also are a lot less crowded than those in other Atlantic states! They both are well worth a long visit in your RV.
Free Checklist on RV Fire Safety
We care about your safety at Explorer RV, so take a moment to download our fire safety checklist from industry expert, Mark Polk, of RV 101 Education. Learn the most common causes of RV fires and how to use fire extinguishers properly, protecting your life and your RV.