Discover a Bay Beach

There’s no better way to know the Chesapeake

Bay beaches are tucked away in coves throughout Chesapeake Country. With tides and waves, soft sand, salty air and cooling breezes, they’re a nature lover’s paradise.
    Our beaches are sown by the Bay with fascinating finds: shells, stones, driftwood, sea-glass frosted and smoothed by years of ocean tossing and tumbling. If your beach is within the range of Calvert Cliffs, Miocene fossils make for exciting and rare treasure finds.
    When you stumble upon a Bay beach either by land or by sea — often merely footsteps wide — you’ll find peace and tranquility with a back-to-nature vibe harder to come by at the ocean’s bigger beaches.
    Beaches are public up to mean high tide, so if you come by water, they are still free. But by land, all public beaches in Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties change admission.
    Bay beaches attract locals and day-trippers, not beachgoers spending nights and lots of money.
    Calvert’s Breezy Point is one of the few beaches where you can extend your vacation past a day. Its 83 popular seasonal campsites — rented from May 1 to October 31 at fees ranging from $2,100 to $2,800 — are awarded by lottery in January. There’s also day camping, a full service marina, a 300-foot fishing pier, a half-mile sandy beach and a swimming area netted to keep out jellyfish.
    “We are a self-supporting operation,” said Doug Meadows, Calvert County Parks and Recreation Division Chief. “There is no county tax money budgeted for Breezy Point. Every penny we take in goes back into the beach budget for improvements, employees, basically everything.”
    The Calvert County towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach grew up around the great Chesapeake Beach resort that opened in 1900. Both towns still have beaches, though nowadays their scale is smaller.
    Chesapeake Bay Front Park, familiarly Brownies Beach, started charging admission four years ago under Chesapeake Beach mayor Bruce Wahl’s administration, when overflow parking posed a problem. The park is located in a sensitive area and is habitat to native species; its parking lot holds only 24 spaces.
    “The reason for admission fees was simple: to stop overcrowding,” said Wahl. “The beach is developed solely with the town’s taxpayers’ money and is not self-sustaining.”
    Admission fees are used for park renovations — a paved trail to the beach, an elaborate footbridge and upgraded port-a-potties — and the beach patrol.
    The larger beach at North Beach has charged admission since 1998.
    “When I first became mayor,” says Mark Frazer, now serving his third term, “the beach was a mess. It was a free-for-all on weekends.”

How’s the Water?

  The Waterkeepers Swim Guide — a free smart phone app available from the App Store, Google or www.theswimguide.org — shows descriptions and photos of Anne Arundel’s beaches and reports the water quality in its local waterways.
    “The Swim Guide gives our residents the information they need to make informed decisions about the health of our waterways in an easy, user-friendly application,” said Chris Trumbauer, the West/Rhode Riverkeeper.
  The app was created by Canada’s Lake Ontario Waterkeepers and made available to all waterkeepers in North America.

    Admission fees helped re-establish control and make the beach more family-friendly. Fees support payroll, parking and trash removal. The fees also pay off-duty Calvert County deputies to patrol the beach and boardwalk area in the summer. Admission fees to North Beach include parking. As in Bay Front Park, town residents pay taxes but no beach fees.
    Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel and Calvert Cliffs State Park in Calvert are Maryland State Parks and are required to “generate a significant portion of operating funds through service charges.”
    “The rationale is that those citizens who actually use these facilities will contribute somewhat more to the maintenance, operations and security, paying as they go,” explains Barbara Knisely of the Maryland Park Service.
Anne Arundel Beaches
    Downs Park, Pasadena: 236 acres situated on the Chesapeake Bay; five miles of paved and natural trails, playground and playing fields, a fishing pier and dog park and wading but no swimming except for dogs. 7am-dusk; closed Tues; $6 w/discounts per car: 410-222-6230.
    Fort Smallwood Park, Pasadena: Spectacular views of the Patapsco River as it empties into the Bay. Bring a rod and reel and drop a line from the Bill Burton Fishing Pier. Dig into the past at the historic gun battery and old barracks (Battery Hartshorne). Try your hand at horseshoes. Dogs are welcome to join you for a walk, but not in the water or on the pier. 7am-dusk; closed Wed.; $6 w/discounts per car: 410-222-0087.
    Rose Haven Beach: Likely Anne Arundel’s smallest beach, this stretch of Bay beauty on the corner of Albany and Walnut avenues is a rare free Bay beach. At the park, created under the county’s Open Space Program, you can sit on the beach, get into the water, launch your kayak or windsurfer or walk your dog. Parking, like the beach, is small: 410-222-7317.

    Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis: Right under the Bay Bridge. Take a dip in the Bay. Fish or crab. Rent a boat or bring yours to the ramp. Watch birds. But don’t bring your pooch. Dogs are allowed only on the dock as they go on and off boats. 6am-sunset; $5: 410-974-2149.

Calvert County Beaches
    Bay Front Park (Brownie’s Beach), Chesapeake Beach: A fossil lover’s haven due to the natural erosion of its surrounding cliffs. But don’t walk on or beneath the fossil-laden cliffs; they’re unstable. With its back-to-nature feel and wooden footbridge, the park is a nice place to explore, sift sand for fossils and kick back: Free to town residents. $5 for Calvert residents age 3-11 and 55 and up; $6 w/ discounts: 410-257-2230.
    Breezy Point Park: It’s easy to spend a day at the beach with amenities like restrooms and showers, a concession stand and camp sites for those who want to linger longer than a day at this one-half mile sandy beach: $10 w/weekdays, Calvert County residence and age discounts. Season passes for individuals and families: 410-535-0259.
    Weekly specials: Mon. and Fri. Calvert residents pay $1 after 5pm; Tues. $10 per vehicle; Wed. children and seniors free; Thurs. Calvert residents half-price; M-F after 5pm, half-price for all.
    Calvert Cliffs State Park, Lusby: Hike 1.8 miles through woods to the Bay, fish, find unique fossils, roam the freshwater and tidal marshland or hike the 13 miles of trails. No walk to play on the recycled-tire playground at the parking area, $5 per vehicle: 301-743-7613.
    Flag Ponds Nature Park, Lusby: 500 natural acres on the Chesapeake Bay from beach to upland, plus a fishing pier. Dogs permitted with some restrictions. Calvert residents $4 per vehicle; non-residents $6: 410-586-1477.
    North Beach: Sun, swim and fish. Then stroll the boardwalk or explore the town to shop for art and antiques, snack or dine. Free to town residents; Calvert residents $4 w/age and service discounts; out-of-county $12 w/age discounts. Season passes for individuals and families. Umbrellas and chairs rented for additional fees: 301-855-6681.