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A Day at the Beach

Story by Michelle Brosco Christian
Photography by Ed Mann

Can't quite afford a week away at the beach this summer? Not to worry-Southern Maryland has a number of sandy beaches that will make you feel as though you've escaped to paradise.

Whether your ideal beach day includes swimming, picnicking or fishing, our top picks for a day by the water include several local spots. While some beaches offer a wide variety of amenities, others are completely unimproved and natural-but all are beautiful.

If sand is what you're fond of, Breezy Point Beach and Campground in Calvert County offers perhaps the widest public beach in Southern Maryland. The park provides a netted swimming area-critical in Southern Maryland waters in late summer once sea nettles (jelly fish) invade the saltier waters.

Breezy Point is also a very family-oriented beach with shaded picnic areas, grills, volleyball, a playground, bathhouses, and a 300-foot fishing and crabbing pier. A campground offers seasonal, monthly and daily camping. Tents, pop-ups, RVs and trailers can all be accommodated on a daily basis. There's literally something for everyone.

Flag Ponds Nature Park, another broad, sandy beach in Calvert, is a park where the whole family will enjoy either swimming or hunting for shark's teeth that are regularly washed up on the shore. Named after the plentiful Blue Flag iris, this parkland was set aside to preserve the area's natural beauty.

There are a variety of trails through Flag Ponds; a half-mile trail leads to the beach and a fishing pier, while longer trails lead to two freshwater ponds. The area was once a sheltered harbor, supporting a fishery. A fisherman's shanty still remains, housing an exhibit on the Chesapeake's old-time fishing industry. The half-mile walk to the beach takes you past relics of a pound net fishery operation from the early 1950s. Other park features include beach handicapped parking, picnic tables, a pavilion, bird watching, kayaking and fishing.

Over in Charles County, a short hike down a wooded trail leads to a breathtaking view of Purse State Park, an unimproved 90-acre waterside reserve, which is a perfect site for fossil hunters. The park lies in a remote area, which includes rolling hills, wooded countryside and marshlands. Fossilized sharks teeth, bones and shell fragments are often found at low tide in the rocks and sand along the water's edge. Be sure to check on the low tide at Purse, because at high tide there is very little beach.

Another undeveloped beach area in Charles is Chapel Point State Park on the Port Tobacco River. While the beach is nearly non-existent at high tide, at low tide, a pretty stretch of carmel-colored sand stretches around two coves. Primarily used for fishing and bird watching, the park is a pretty spot for a picnic. An additional bonus-the park is just down the steep hill from historic St. Ignatius Church, which has a fantastic view of the river from its hilltop location.

At the southern-most tip of St. Mary's County lies Point Lookout State Park, where a complete day at the beach is possible. The park is literally surrounded on all sides by water at this peninsula formed by confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. A beautiful long beach allows for swimming and picnicking and the area includes a playground, grills, picnic tables, showers and restrooms.

Well-known due to its history as the location of a Civil War prison camp, imprisoning as many as 52,264 Confederate soldiers, Point Lookout also includes a museum on site recounting this history, and a Marshland Nature Center.

This scenic location at Point Lookout also includes a boat launch, boat rental, camp fire programs, camp sites, cabins, camp store, dump station, fishing, flat water canoeing, hiking trails, hunting, hook ups, pet trail, pavilion and cottage rental.

Surrounded by water, Southern Marylanders are fortunate to have numerous sandy beaches to enjoy, including those listed below.

Calvert County

Bay Front Park (Brownies beach)*
Route 261, Chesapeake Beach

Breezy Point Beach and Campground*
Breezy Point Rd., Chesapeake Beach, 410-535-0259. Entry fee.

Calvert Cliffs State Park*
Route 765, Lusby, www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/calvertcliffs.html

Flag Ponds Nature Park*
Flag Ponds Parkway, Lusby
410-586-1477, 410-535-5327, www.calvertparks.org  Entry fee.

North Beach Public Beach
5th Street & Bay Ave., North Beach
410-257-9618 o 301-855-6681; www.nbeachmd.com. Entry fee.

Charles County

Chapel Point State Park
Chapel Point Road off Route 6 in Port Tobacco, 301-743-7613

Purse State Park*
Route 224, Nanjemoy

St. Mary's County

Elms Beach Park
49300 St. James Church Road, Lexington Park, 301-475-4200, ext. 1800; www.co.saint-marys.md.us/recreate/

Greenwell State Park
25420 Rosedale Manor Lane, Hollywood, 301-872-5389; www.greenwellfoundation.org

Myrtle Point Park
24032 N. Patuxent Beach Road, California, 301-475-4200, ext. 1800; www.co.saint-marys.md.us/recreate/

44701 Lighthouse Road,
Piney Point, 301-769-2222;

Point Lookout State Park
11175 Point Lookout Road, Scotland, 301-872-5688; www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/pointlookout.html; 1-888-432-CAMP(2267) or http://reservations.dnr.state.md.us for rental reservations. Entry fee.

St. Clement's Island State Park
38370 Point Breeze Road, Colton's Point, 301-872-5688; www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/southern/stclements.html

Safety Note

Regular cliff collapses make cliff digging unsafe and it is not recommended, nor is it allowed at most county or state parks.

*Noted as one of the best fossil collecting beaches in Southern Maryland.

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