Great restaurants, four-star hotels, interesting shops and other tourist attractions line Baltimore's Inner Harbor, but the water is not safe for swimming. Plans have been proposed to clean up the harbor and make it safe for swimming by 2020. In the meantime, a network of state and county parks offer both salt and fresh water swimming for Baltimore's residents and visitors. In addition to the beaches, the parks offer fishing, crabbing, hiking and other recreational activities.
Gunpowder State Park
Gunpowder State Park, located in Kingsville about 18 miles north of Baltimore, offers a 1,500-foot stretch of swimming beach on the bank of the Gunpowder River. Lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day and during the off season, visitors swim at their own risk. A pavilion equipped with a playground, showers, bathrooms and a concession stand are next to the beach. The park also offers miles of biking and hiking trails and trout fishing.
Sandy Point State Park
Located in Annapolis, about 45 minutes south of Baltimore, Sandy Point State Park has several long beaches for sunning and swimming. Grassy picnic areas with playgrounds, bathrooms and showers are located near each beach. In addition to swimming the park offers sites for boating, fishing and a special pier exclusively for crabbing. Bikers and hikers have a choice of two trails within the park. Open year round, the park has a small admission fee and parking fee.
Oregon Ridge Beach
Voted Baltimore’s best place to swim in 2007, Oregon Ridge Beach is set on an old quarry now filled with water from a natural spring. The beach is part of a 1,100-acre county park in Cockeysville, about 17 miles north of Baltimore. Lifeguards are on duty and the shallow and deep ends of the quarry are clearly marked. A bathhouse with bathrooms, showers, a first-aid station and concession stand are located a few yards from the sand. A picnic area equipped with grills is adjacent to the beach. The county changes a small entrance fee to the park.
Miami Beach is a small, sandy beach on Chesapeake Bay nestled in a 60-acre county park in Bowley’s Quarters, about 13 miles from Baltimore. Open daily, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the beach has lifeguards on duty at all times. Facilities include a bathhouse, bathrooms and a concession stand. The park also offers a playground and nature trail. There are small fees for parking and admission.
Rocky Point Beach
Less than 10 miles from Baltimore, Rocky Point Beach looks out on Chesapeake Bay from the mouth of the Back and Middle rivers. The 300-foot beach is part of a county park that includes shady groves and picnic areas, a volleyball court and a fishing pier. Lifeguards are on duty and swimming is allowed from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Visitors pay a small admission to enter the park, which offers opportunities for watching eagles, osprey and blue herons.