It’s sort of an existential question for the 21st century: If you go on vacation and don’t post vacation photos to your various social media accounts, did you even go on vacation at all?
These days, sun-infused pictures of fruity cocktails and sandy shores kissed by ocean waves are pretty much standard fare on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and elsewhere. So much so that certain images have become almost obligatory: the pedicured toes propped up on a chaise lounge, a cool drink on the chair-side table; or a sweat-dappled, smiling selfie at the top of a mountain, with a green canopy of trees in the background.
Recently the photo-sharing app Instagram introduced a feature that allows users to publish multiple photos in a single post—a total gamechanger that’s likely to only increase the number of images people share from far-flung destinations.
Of course, there are those who say we’re now in a culture of oversharing when it comes to vacation photos, but they’re probably just jealous. The majority of travelers plunge boldly ahead, encouraging legions of cubicle-dwellers to get out of town themselves. A recent Adweek study revealed that 52 percent of Facebook users are actually inspired to make their own travel plans after seeing travel-related content pop up on their newsfeeds.
For those who worry that all this photo- taking requires beautiful vistas, fear not: Even if you’re not able to travel to the Caribbean or Mediterranean, there are plenty of wonderful, picturesque beach towns right here in the Mid-Atlantic region. Below, we’ve chosen 15 of our favorites (in no particular order) and offered some practical advice if you decide to check them out.
As for turning you into the next Instagram viral-vacation sensation, well, that’s up to you.
Chincoteague Island (VA)
Wild ponies abound in this scenic little spot (it’s only 7 miles long and 3 miles wide) that Forbes once said was better than the Hamptons.
Where to stay: You won’t find big commercial resorts here, but there are plenty of other options. The Waterside Inn has spectacular water and sunset views, a flower garden and warm Belgian waffles for breakfast.
What to eat: To satisfy your sweet tooth after a relaxing day at the beach, head over to Island Creamery, which BuzzFeed named Virginia’s most popular spot on its list of where to get ice cream in every state.
Beach tip: Rent a kayak or canoe, and you might find yourself with a stingray or two keeping your watercraft company.
Photo finish: Head to Robert Reed Downtown Park to get a picture of the popular “LOVE” chairs.
Matapeake State Park (MD)
An hour’s drive from Baltimore, this spot has plenty to offer the whole family—especially if your family includes four-legged friends, who are welcome at their very own Dog Beach.
Where to stay: Treat yourself at the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, which has amenities like a spa and luxurious guest rooms. Its two restaurants (one of which is open to the public) offer an easy, delicious dining experience.
What to eat: For a break from the seafood you’ll surely indulge in, the highly rated Rustico Restaurant & Wine Bar in nearby Stevensville offers authentic Italian fare.
Beach tip: In addition to the park’s public swimming beach, you can head to the outdoor amphitheater for events or to the family picnic area to cool off.
Photo finish: Everyone loves a cute animal photo. Head to Dog Beach and start snappin’!
Rock Hall Beach (MD)
Also known as Ferry Park, this beach is small but picturesque—and quiet. There are great restaurants and other things to do in the town, but the sunset views are a main highlight.
Where to stay: The Osprey Point Inn, Restaurant and Marina will check a lot of boxes. It has easy access to the Chesapeake Bay plus a restaurant, picnic area, swimming pool and other amenities to make your stay worthwhile.
What to eat: Try the fruit pizza from Dockside Cafe for an unusual breakfast experience.
Beach tip: Pack a picnic basket and enjoy your lunch at one of Rock Hall’s many picnic tables.
Photo finish: Sunsets are the main attraction for this picturesque spot two hours from Baltimore. It won’t disappoint.
Lewes (pronounced “Louis”) was founded in 1631, and locals take great pride in the town’s history. It’s certainly quieter than Rehoboth, and tourism officials boast the sun, sand and sea are still the town’s biggest attractions.
Where to stay: You can indulge the town’s historic vibe at the boutique Hotel Rodney, a hallmark of downtown Lewes. Or try the distinctly funky and more modern Dogfish Inn (owned by Dogfish Head), which was designed with the craft beer-lover in mind.
What to eat: The Crooked Hammock Brewery not only has an outdoor patio, but you can eat while lying in a hammock if you want. Lots of fun for the kids.
Beach tip: Just relax! A quieter spot for those who want the beach but not “the beach,” as the official Lewes website says, this is a good spot to do nothing in particular.
Photo finish: Wake up early and head to nearby Henlopen State Park to watch the sun rise over the water and lighthouse.
Bethany Beach (DE)
This is a real-deal beach town, but it’s not at all touristy. Starting in mid-June, Bethany offers movies on the beach and a farmers’ market, celebrating its 10th year this summer.
Where to stay: Stay right on the beach at the Addy Sea, a charming bed-and-breakfast.
What to eat: Dive into some ribs at Bethany Blues BBQ Pit or find vegetarian and gluten- free options at Off the Hook, which offers a variety of American fare.
Beach tip: Take a stroll on Bethany’s cute boardwalk, just a little more than a quarter-mile-long.
Photo finish: The Indian River Inlet Bridge makes for a great shot from afar, but also offers terrific views of both bay and ocean if you walk across it.
Dewey Beach (DE)
Drive north from Bethany along the Coastal Highway and you’ll find Dewey Beach, which is popular for its nightlife options—restaurants, live music, nightclubs—and its watersports.
Where to stay: There are lots of places to stay in Dewey, many of them right on the beach. Try a midweek getaway at the Bay Resort Motel or Atlantic View Hotel for reduced rates.
What to eat: Have a hearty breakfast at the local favorite The Starboard and try its famous (and geographically relevant) “Eggs Delmarva.”
Beach tip: Look out for fun free summer activities, like Movie Mondays and bonfires on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Photo finish: True to its name, Sunset Park in Dewey reliably serves as a gorgeous spot for a sunset photo.
Rehoboth Beach (DE)
Perhaps the most well-known beach town in Delaware, the LGBTQ-friendly Rehoboth has charmingly artsy boutiques and restaurants. It’s great for a beach day, and also for wandering through the town.
Where to stay: There’s no shortage of options in Rehoboth, unless it’s high season. Avian enthusiasts will like the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, which has caged birds in the lobby, offers oceanfront rooms and has rooftop spas with under-the-stars hot tubs.
What to eat: Go to nearby Milton for a visit to the renowned Dogfish Head brewery and distillery, which also has a restaurant. Take a tour and then enjoy a burger or sandwich with your craft beer. Try the Festina Peche for a refreshing summery drink.
Beach tip: Take a walk along Rehoboth’s boardwalk, which was named one of the country’s best by National Geographic.
Photo finish: The retro, stylized orange-script Dolles Salt Water Taffy sign that juts into a blue sky is a favorite with Instagrammers.
North Beach (MD)
Only an hour from Baltimore, one of North Beach’s strengths is its proximity. Here you’ll find beautiful sunset views on the boardwalk and unique events throughout the summer, such as farmers’ markets, concerts, crafts, bonfires, movies and more.
Where to stay: Release your inner artist when you stay at the The Seahorse Guest Cottage, complete with a separate studio building located behind the cottage. This charming, recently renovated guest cottage is on a quiet street within walking distance to the main attractions like the Chesapeake Bay and the North Beach town boardwalk, beach and pier.
What to eat: Enjoy jazz nights and wine at the Westlawn Inn, a spot with upscale American fare and porch seating to take in the summer breeze. The fried red tomato appetizer with spiced crabmeat, mustard sauce and crispy bacon is a crowd-pleaser.
Beach tip: There are no lifeguards on duty at North Beach, so be mindful if you decide to take a dip. Also, “thongs, G-strings, Swiss strings or micro bikinis are not permitted anywhere in the waterfront area,” according to regulations. Noted.
Photo finish: Wetlands Overlook Park boasts plenty of wildlife and is dotted with Insta- ready gazebos.
Breezy Point (MD)
This spot works both for those who want to relax and those who want to play: There’s a campground here as well as a beach. The pier is perfect for fishing and walking by the water. There’s also a playground, volleyball net, grills and areas for picnics.
Where to stay: The Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa offers packages for ultimate relaxation, along with access to the marina, a casino and three restaurants. Or you can reserve a campsite for a more rustic experience.
What to eat: From seafood to burgers, you’ll find whatever you’re craving at restaurants such as Anglers Seafood Bar & Grill or the Dry Dock. Bonus: Deck seating is available at several eateries, so you can enjoy the bay breeze with your lobster.
Beach tip: Get to this beach early as it tends to fill to capacity—especially on weekends. Also, keep an eye out for jellyfish warnings.
Photo finish: Check out Breezy Point Marina; the sun setting over the docked boats makes for a pretty scene.
Sandy Point State Park (MD)
This idyllic spot on the northwestern shore of the Chesapeake has multiple lengthy beaches with scenic water views. It’s also great for hiking, bird-watching, fishing and crabbing, and wildlife viewing.
Where to stay: About 20 minutes away by car, the Loews Annapolis Hotel is close to non-beachy attractions like the Naval Academy, plus within walking distance of tons of restaurants and shops.
What to eat: Breakfast enthusiasts will love Iron Rooster in Annapolis, known for their homemade pop-tarts in a new flavor every day. For dinner, try the crabcakes from Boatyard Bar and Grille. They ship their crabcakes around the U.S. but you can enjoy them in person.
Beach tip: Enjoy your lunch or a snack on the grassy picnic areas next to the swimming beach. Grills and tables available.
Photo finish: Head to the marina to get a pretty view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Perfect time to use the bridge emoji in your caption.
Cape May (NJ)
This unique historic town is known for its painted Victorian homes, exquisitely preserved by a town full of preservationists; its quaint shopping; and its pretty beaches.
Where to stay: Many of the colorful houses have been turned into antique-strewn B&Bs, which are lovely. Or stay in one of the town’s 19th-century hotels, like the Chalfonte or Congress Hall, which both offer a less cloistered experience.
What to eat: The Lobster House is the classic Cape May go-to, for seafood that’s as fresh as it gets. Or schedule your trip for the first week of August, when the Cape May Craft Beer & Crab Festival takes place.
Beach tip: Bring your cooler for snacks and sodas, but leave the alcohol at home.
Photo finish: Snap a pic of the historic 1858 Cape May Lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can go inside and climb to the top for some gorgeous panoramic views.
Chesapeake Beach (MD)
Beaches here are more secluded, but there is a water park for kids who prefer slides to sandcastles. The beach itself is serene, with beautiful views perfect for a sunset picture.
Where to stay: Airbnb has some nice listings for this area, including the “Fun Chesapeake Waterfront Cottage,” in nearby Deale, which accommodates up to eight people.
What to eat: The crabcake sandwich at Rod ’n’ Reel Restaurant reportedly gives you exactly what you’re looking for.
Beach tip: One half-mile south of Chesapeake Beach, you’ll find Bay Front Park (aka Brownie’s Beach), if you’re looking for another spot to explore.
Photo finish: The views from Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa—with its white picket fence along the boardwalk—provides a serene, clean shot of the ocean that’s perfect for Instagram’s Clarendon filter.
Calvert Cliffs State Park (MD)
Come for the hiking and fishing; stay for the fossil collecting. Kids will think shark teeth and arrowheads are a welcome change from seashells.
Where to stay: For a truly unusual experience, check out the Keeper’s Cottage at the historic Cove Point Lighthouse. This two-and-a-half story keeper’s duplex gives a sense of what lighthouse life would have been like—but enhanced with Wi-Fi and central air.
What to eat: The mom-and-pop charm of the Frying Pan Restaurant in enhanced by a plethora of options and generous portions.
Beach tip: Swim at your own risk—there are no lifeguards.
Photo finish: The cliffs, not surprisingly, are the highlight of this destination, so opt for a view overlooking the bay after you’re done with fossil-hunting.
Point Lookout State Park (MD)
Soak up the beautiful views at Point Lookout while learning about American history; the park was a prison camp for Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. With a museum on-site, and marshland and water views, it’s a perfect day-trip destination.
Where to stay: Given Point Lookout’s location on the southernmost tip of the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll have to drive a bit to find hotels, but there are plenty of options on Airbnb, including waterfront homes close to Historic St. Mary’s City.
What to eat: The nearby Courtney’s Restaurant & Seafood, housed in a former cannery, offers fresh-caught fare and a personal touch.
Beach tip: Make sure you get a camp loop map from the park’s headquarters; it shows hiking trails, windsurfing spots and pet-friendly areas.
Photo finish: Try a distance photo of the Point Lookout Lighthouse, which is known for its rumored paranormal activity.
Rocky Gap State Park (MD)
With 3,000 acres of spectacular forest and lakeside scenery for visitors to enjoy, there’s plenty to do in this park—including activities in and around Lake Habeeb and on rugged mountain trails along a gorge.
Where to stay: Book a room at the Rocky Gap Casino Resort right on the lake and try your luck after a day of standup paddleboarding. There’s also a golf course and spa plus entertainment and in-house restaurants.
What to eat: Get an unbeatable view of the water and scenery while you eat buffet-style at Lakeside Restaurant.
Beach tip: Watersports fans will appreciate the canoe, kayak and paddle-board rentals that are popular with lake visitors.
Photo finish: Climb one of Rocky Gap’s many hiking trails to the top of Evitts Mountain, where you’ll get a fantastic view of the hemlock forest and Lake Habeeb.