Beaches in Washington, District of Columbia

Photo by Chesapeake Bay Program

Washington DC is the capital of the United States. Not only is this city home to the three branches of the country’s government, but it also boasts a rich history, diverse urban neighborhoods, lots of green space, and easy access to the water.

Washington city is bordered by the Blue Ridge Mountains, and is located on the Potomac River. “Potomac” comes from the Algonquin word “Patawomeck”, meaning “trading place”–the Nacotchtank people once traded on the river. George Washington called this river the “Nation’s River”, and the body of water has been a designated American Heritage River since 1998. About an hour east of the city by car is the Atlantic Ocean.

To explore the city and access the waterfront, Washington has many options, such as transit, water taxis, and biking. Along Washington’s coast, you will find rocky or grassy banks and sometimes floating docks. On the coasts of Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia, you can enjoy basking on sandy beaches.

Water Monitoring

The Potomac River is monitored by Potomac Riverkeeper Network staff, interns, and volunteers. Water quality is monitored at several locations every week from May to September and is available on Swim Guide on Fridays. The Anacostia River is monitored by Anacostia Riverkeeper staff, interns, and volunteers who test water quality at the river’s access points every two weeks from April to October. Citizen science programs provide data for areas that are not currently monitored by the city.

Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) happen during wet weather and can negatively affect the water quality in the area. DC water has implemented CSO Event Indicator Lights which will inform river users when a CSO event has occurred. A red lights indicate a CSO occurrence, and a yellow light will remain on for 24 hours after the CSO has ended. One of these lights is on the Potomac River’s north shore, near the mouth of Rock Creek. On the Anacostia River, lights are at the Main Pumping Station, DC Water’s Skimmer Boat Yard Facility, Anacostia Community Boathouse, and CSO 019 Tunner Overflow Structure.

Recreation

Popular activities on or by the water in Washington include kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, boating, sailing, rowing, sightseeing cruises, hiking, and biking. Kingman Lake, located on the Anacostia River, is the perfect place to go biking, hiking, birdwatching, or boating, while Fletchers Cove is the perfect place to go fishing or kayaking.

If you’d like to go swimming in some saltwater, the coasts of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia are only about an hour or two’s drive away from Washington. Here, you can swim, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, tube, sail, fish, or even camp by the shimmering waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The Virginia Beach region in Virginia has sandy shores, and is a favourite spot for swimming, kayaking, surfing, jet skiing, boating, playing beach volleyball, fishing, hiking, biking, and camping. If you’d like to swim with supervision, Sandbridge Beach has lifeguards as well as municipal parking and restrooms.

In Delaware, sandy Bethany Beach is known for being much more peaceful than most beach resorts. This family-friendly beach features supervised swimming, surfing, skimboarding, stand up paddleboarding, windsurfing, and a boardwalk.

Climate in Washington

Washington has hot and humid summers with lots of sunshine and cold winters. The city is warmest in July, with peak temperatures reaching an average high of 31 °C (88 °F). Rainfall is evenly distributed throughout the year.

Washington may be the United States’ capital, but it maintains a small-town charm. While this city may be best known for its monuments, landmarks, and museums, it’s also a great destination to enjoy the water.

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