Beaches Near Philadelphia to Cool Off

If you’ve ever spent the summer in Philly, you know it gets hot. Like, unbearably hot. Luckily, we city slickers don’t have to suffer through the sweat because there are over a dozen beaches at our disposal. The best beaches near Philadelphia offer warm sand, wooden promenades, and salty waves. Even better: they’re all within about two hours or less of the city limits.

Digging our toes into the sand on a nice day is one of our favorite things to do, so we’ve spent a lot of time exploring what the region has to offer. Here’s a look at some of our favorites.

(Note that many of the beaches, especially in New Jersey, require an admission fee, so check before you go if you’re hoping to see the sand for free.)

Our top choices…Visit Margate for calm waters and pristine sand, but head to Bethany Beach if you want bigger waves but a quieter scene. Ocean City, New Jersey is ideal for families and its proximity to the boardwalk. If you want something a little more upscale, Avalon is your place. For sunsets, sand, and general ambiance, the beaches of Cape May are our pick.

Brigantine

Beach on a sunny day with building in the distance.
Brigantine Beach on a quiet day

Just a little over an hour from Center City, Brigantine Beach is the closest beach to Philadelphia. The 3-mile-long stretch of sand across the bridge from Atlantic City is the perfect spot for a quick day trip from Philly. Certain sections allow surfing, kite flying, and jet skis (with a permit), so there are lots of way to enjoy the surf and sand here.

When you’re not soaking up the sun and saltwater, pop over to the Brigantine Historical Museum for a look into the past or grab some local produce from the Brigantine Farmers Market.

Margate 

Lifeboat painted with "Margate City" on a sandy beach.
The sand of Margate City

Margate City is just one hour and ten minutes from Philly making it a no-brainer to visit on the hottest days of the summer. The water here is shallower than at many local beaches, so the waves are gentler. As a result of the calm seas, there are often lots of families that settle in here on warm days. Unlike several of the popular towns nearby, there are no shops along the boardwalk–just lots of pristine beach.  

The Margate beach is a great place to lay out, swim, or just watch the sandpipers follow the waves (it’s an oddly intoxicating movement). When you’re ready for something else, check out Congo Falls adventure golf or the town’s main attraction, Lucy the Elephant–a six-story elephant structure that is the oldest surviving roadside tourist attraction in America. Grab a table at Steve & Cookie’s By the Bay before you head out!

Sea Isle City

A Philly favorite, Sea Isle City is a small beach town right next to Ocean City. Accentuated by a beachfront promenade, packed with stores and cafés, the beach is not the only attraction in town. If water sports are your thing, the area has designated beaches for kayaking, kiteboarding, rafting, and surf fishing. Don’t forget to get a beach tag from an inspector, unless it’s Wednesday, which is free.

After a long day of surf and sun, enjoy a quick slice from Uncle Oogie’s or a seafood feast from Mike’s Seafood. If you’re looking to keep the fun going all night, the bar and club scene is not too shabby either!

Ocean City, New Jersey

Fishing pier on the beach at sunset/
Ocean City at sunset

The perfect destination for a family vacation, Ocean City, New Jersey, has 8 fabulous miles of coastline. This dry town–no alcohol of any kind sold within its borders–gets very busy in the summer when visitors flock to the beaches and boardwalk attractions. We love it for the sand and the variety of things to do.

You can surf in designated spots or swim at one of the 14 beaches in town. The most popular area is to the north of the boardwalk, near the sand dunes.

In addition to the beach, there are plenty of activities in OCNJ to occupy your time, including Gillian’s Wonderland Pier and Totally Tubular Aqua Park. Start your day off at Augie’s Omelette and Waffle and then ride the rides, or take it easy and relax on the beach like Bill and Sue in that famous Beach Boys song on your NJ playlist.

Avalon

People on a beach on a summer day.
People enjoying Avalon beach on an early summer day

One of the more upscale beaches of the Jersey Shore, Avalon’s beaches are extremely clean, jutting out into the ocean a mile farther than any of the nearby towns’ beaches. Positioned on the north part of Seven Mile Island, the white sand here seems to stretch on forever. It’s one of the places we visited first when we moved to Pennsylvania because it was a favorite of so many people we knew.

Looking to catch your lunch? Check out the Miss Avalon fishing charter for full-day and half-day trips. If that’s too much work, grab a donut from Kohler’s Bakery or a turkey club wrap from Avalon Brew Pub.

Cape May

White lighthouse with a red top overlooking a sandy beach.
Cape May lighthouse on the sand

If you’re a fan of early Victorian architecture, you will love the town of Cape May. From its pristine beaches to its blossoming arts community, it is one of the nation’s oldest vacation resort destinations. Its beaches span 2.5 miles of coast, some adjacent to the promenade and gorgeous homes. There is no bad spot to enjoy the sand here, though it can get very busy. We’re partial to Sunset Beach at Cape May Point.

Away from the surf, explore all the fun things to do in Cape May. This small beach town accommodates every visitor with preserved monuments for the history buff, gourmet eateries for the foodie, whale and dolphin watching for the animal lover, and expansive vineyards for the lush. Pop by Cape May Winery for lunch or see what music is on at Hawk Haven — their regular Rootstock concerts are some of our favorites.

Long Beach Island 

Sandy walkway lined with sea grass leading to a beach.
LBI is one of the most popular beaches (Photo: Michael Moloney/Shutterstock)

Another Jersey beach, Long Beach Island (LBI) is a mixture of luxury summer homes with expensive yachts and quirky amusement parks with miniature golf courses. Barnegat Lighthouse State Park is a must see for its beautiful waterfront views and impressive lighthouses. 

The 18 miles of beaches on LBI are ideal for swimming, surfing, and plenty of sand castle-making. Each of the six municipalities here has its own vibe and its own beach badge. We like the energy of Beach Haven and seeing sunset at Harvey Cedars’ Sunset Park.

LBI, as it’s known, is a popular destination for New York City weekenders – it’s less than two hours from the city and less than 90 minutes from Philadelphia, which makes it a popular stop for people taking an East Coast road trip. Before leaving, treat yourself to breakfast at Uncle Will’s Pancake House.

Wildwood

Rollercoaster and amusement park on a beach.
Morey’s Piers at Wildwood Beach

Wildwood is definitely a party spot, but behind the glaze of booze and beach bashes remains a mid-century modern time capsule with the Doo Wop-style of post-World War II era embedded in its unique architecture. To learn more about the off-beat style that colors the streets of Wildwood, visit The Doo Wop Museum

If you are bringing the kids with you or embracing your inner child, you cannot miss the lively boardwalk, complete with piers, amusement park rides, and, of course, lots of ice cream. 

The beach at Wildwood seems to go on forever, which leaves a good amount of room for the numerous visitors who enjoy the surf here each summer. Throw a frisbee, go for a walk, or just relax in the sun. Even better: no beach tags required!

Ocean City, Maryland

Hotels along sandy beach.
In the summer, forget about having this stretch of sand to yourself! (Photo: Eliyahu Yosef Parypa/Shutterstock)

Buckle up for a bit of a longer ride to Ocean City, Maryland. While this beach shares a name with the New Jersey beach town, this Ocean City is far from dry. A slightly larger strip of sand and saltwater, the 10-mile-long beach is known as one of the best on the East Coast. Rent an umbrella, lounge on the sand, and enjoy the fact that no beach tags are required here.

Ocean City has endless places to eat, drink, and wade, or you can do all three at the same time at a “restaurant” like Seacrets Bar & Grill. This vacation destination is not just for adults, though. If you really want to see your kids’ faces light up, start their morning with Fractured Prune donuts or Uber Bagel and proceed to Jolly Roger Amusement Park

Rehoboth

Overhead view of a coastal town, beach, and ocean.
Rehoboth Beach is one of the best beaches around

So you’re looking for amazing food? Look no further. Rehoboth Beach in Delaware has so much to choose from that they offer an Eating Rehoboth food tour. Complete a day of taste testing by lounging on the sand or going for a walk on the mile-long boardwalk.

The beach in Rehoboth is one of our top picks. It’s gorgeous and has long expanses of clean, guarded ocean all accessible for free. Keep an eye out for dolphins.

If none of that sounds appealing, race your friends at the Midway Speedway Park race track, peruse the local offerings at the Rehoboth Farmers Market, or check out other fun Rehoboth Beach attractions. Or do nothing at all by lounging on one of the best beaches in Delaware!

Bethany Beach

Wooden bench and seagrass on the beach.
Peaceful Bethany Beach in late spring

Calling all surfers! Bethany Beach in Delaware has killer waves and more than enough surf shops to get you all the gear you need. On a good day, you can drive to Bethany Beach from Philly in just over two hours to enjoy the peaceful scenery and cool water. To check out the current conditions, see one of the live beach cams.

It’s one of the quieter, more residential beaches in Delaware, featuring a cute shopping area with local shops and a farmers market. While it can be found in several East Coast beach towns, we can’t forget to mention the deliciousness that is Kohr Brothers soft serve–chocolate peanut butter swirl is our favorite.

Dewey Beach

Ocean waves hitting the sand
Dewey Beach in Delaware

Another Delaware hotspot, most folks head to Dewey to party along the one-mile-long town that’s only two blocks wide. Dewey’s bars and restaurants tend to stay open pretty late into the night, making it ideal for a thriving nightlife scene. 

Along with bars and clubs like the Starboard or Woody’s, Dewey has a variety of fun water sports like parasailing and paddle boarding. For a nice little spot where you can sit on a bench and watch the bay sunset, wander over to Sunset Park. If you’re in town on Wednesday from mid-June to mid-August, don’t miss the family-friendly bonfires on the beach.

Island Beach State Park

Last but not least, Island Beach State Park is under two hours from Center City, making it one of the best beaches near Philadelphia. It is a beautiful, relaxing place to enjoy the Jersey Shore. This eye-catching NJ State Park has beaches, hiking trails, bicycle lanes, fishing sections, a nature center — they’ve got it all!

Over the years, this spot has remained family friendly and relatively quiet, but it also offers visitors the option to partake in light afternoon drinking with a beach bar.

3 thoughts on “Beaches Near Philadelphia to Cool Off”

  1. Bartam ave beach in Atlantic City is the most cleanest beach in Atlantic City
    Very clean sand , bathroom is very clean, shower area to take the sand off , and you can also have food delivered to you at this beach , check it out

    1. Nice beach. I spent my summers at the Baton Rouge beach in Ventnor and now mostly at Little Rock. Great beaches up and down Absecon Island.

  2. I like Atlantic City beach and Ocean City Maryland are the best. I wish I had money to stay again in Maryland but I am in the process of surgery so I can’t stay. I miss Maryland already. It is a great place to visit.

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