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An Oasis on the Bay: Your Guide to Sandy Point State Park

Just miles from downtown Annapolis, the pristine shores of Sandy Point State Park are a respite from the urban bustle, a perfect getaway for a leisurely afternoon soaking in the sun, swimming in the refreshing waters, trying your luck at fishing, and hiking the scenic trails that wind along quaint ponds and dense forests, extending to miles-long ribbons of sand on either side of the point. The 786-acre park is only a 15-minute drive from our Annapolis bed and breakfast, so with the warm days of spring and summer just around the corner, plan your day trip to this gem of a beach nestled along the gorgeous waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

couple enjoying the nice weather on Annapolis pier

Inviting Waters – Escaping the Heat and Swimming at Sandy Point State Park

As soon as you cross the bridge over the Severn River and arrive at the picturesque shoreline of Sandy Point State Park, natural beauty abounds in all directions. Two separate beach areas – East Beach and South Beach – extend from the point jutting into the Chesapeake Bay, with expansive views of the bay waters framed on the skyline by the 4-mile-long William Preston Lane, Jr. bridge, an architectural marvel. Both beaches offer excellent swimming zones, designated by floating buoys and staffed by lifeguards from 10 am – 6 pm between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Between dips in the water, get snacks just steps away at the concessions stand, which has the usual menu items like burgers and hot dogs but also surprises like seven flavors of Italian ice (try the mango or pina colada on a balmy summer afternoon) and smoothies.

By early June, the water temperature is already regularly climbing into the low 70s, eventually getting up to the high 70s by August, making it one of the most welcoming waterways for swimming. The calm waters and shallow, gently sloping bottom also make it an ideal beach for introducing children to swimming in the ocean – it’s been a summer destination for generations of Annapolis-area families for decades. The only minor nuisance arises in late summer when jellyfish float in on the currents when they hit their warmest point – but lifeguards and Sandy Point State Park staff are diligent about posting warnings when jellyfish pose a risk.

Swimming at Sandy Point State Park reaches its most impressive peak during the annual Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, held on the second Sunday of June (June 9th, 2024). The 4.4-mile open-water swim – starting at Sandy Point and ending on the opposite shore – began in 1982 when 21-year-old Brian Early swam the expanse to honor his father, who had recently died of diabetes. In the decades since, thousands of swimmers have joined the annual summer tradition, raising millions of dollars for charities. If you’re an open-water swimmer, it’s a rite of passage, and even if you just come to spectate, it’s an inspiring celebration of the human spirit and the dedication it takes to train and complete the adventurous bay crossing.

Into the Forest and Out on the Jetty – Exploring the Trails and Tossing a Line

Although swimming is the most popular pastime at Sandy Point, don’t miss the opportunity to explore the park’s natural landscapes on foot, and if you’re into fishing, drop a line into the bountiful Chesapeake Bay waters. For an easy hike, head out on the Symbi Trail, which starts and ends near the Mezick Ponds – in addition to the two main beaches, there are also two ponds just a couple minutes’ walk from the shore, a true water lover’s dream. The trail winds through shaded forests and marshes, showcasing the diversity of natural habitats spread throughout the park. If you’re a birder, bring the binoculars and your guidebook, as you’ll be spotting one avian species after another, whether the wood ducks, grebes, sandpipers, and osprey of spring or the breathtaking terns, herons, and egrets of summer. Extend your hike by venturing into the adjacent Corcoran Woods, a 215-acre environmental preserve with trails through the dense and beautiful tree canopy, all the more vibrant when autumnal colors settle in.

Whether an experienced angler or fishing the Chesapeake for the first time, Sandy Point State Beach offers endless options for trying your luck with a line off the shore or from one of the 22 boat ramps. Stop by the marina store for bait and tackle before heading to one of the rock jetties that extend out from the East Beach, where you can get out to deeper water, perfect for fishing with minnows and pulling in everything from white perch and founder to catfish and bluefish. But perhaps the “best catch” is striped bass, prized among seafood connoisseurs for its not-too-fishy and delicate flavor. If you do plan to fish, pick up a Chesapeake Bay Sport license beforehand, which is available to purchase online.

More Than a Beach – Historical Importance Sandy Point State Park

Although, on the surface, it may look like other popular Chesapeake Bay summer spots, Sandy Point State Park has a unique place in the annals of our state’s past. Its history has many chapters, from when it was a thriving tobacco plantation during colonial times centuries ago and later a horse-breeding farm. But in 1952, after opening as a state park, it took on even more social relevance as one of the only beaches in all of Maryland where African-American families could gather (along with a few other select beaches like Elktonia, Sparrow’s, and Carr’s). 

During its first four years after opening, Sandy Point had segregated beaches, but this policy was eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in 1956, integrating the East and South Beaches. A landmark precedent, this set in motion the dominoes that would soon fall in desegregating other beaches around the country, establishing Sandy Point as one of the critical turning points in the civil rights movement.

Teenage boy sailing with an older adult near Annapolis

Today, that wave of tolerance continues rippling with efforts to make the park more inclusive and accessible for all, including adding bilingual nature interpreters recently to accommodate Spanish-speaking families who make up over half of the annual visitors to the park.

Stay with us and spend a day on the beautiful shores of Sandy Point State Park, one of the best beaches on the Chesapeake Bay!