by Christine Doran
I took my kids (aged 8 and 11) to the shore last Thursday. It’s been quite a few years since we tried one of the beaches within day-trip distance of Greenbelt, and I hadn’t been impressed by the oily, staining, orange sand at Sandy Point back then. However, local friends assured me that the other beaches had more natural sand, so I bribed the kids with mini doughnuts and loaded them into the car for the 50-minute drive.
At 10am the traffic was light and heading off the 495 south straight down Route 4 to Route 260, we arrived at Chesapeake Beach. I didn’t see any obvious signs to the beach itself, though, so we ended up turning left and about one minute later we were in North Beach. One beach is as good as another, I thought, so we parked there. I was happy to find plenty of space in the parking lot, and it seemed to be free.
The beach is a small sandy cove cut in half by a pier, defended by rock breakwaters at both ends, and safely netted in to keep swimmers in their place and roaming sharks (or whatever) in theirs. However, the price was steep, especially since I’d forgotten that you have to pay to go the beach at all. Silly me. As an out-of-county resident, it cost me $35 for the three of us. For that price you get a wristband so you can leave the beach and enter again within the day.
I suppose someone has to pay the lifeguards, I thought… but there are no lifeguards. When I waded out to the limit of the netted area I discovered why – at its deepest point the water came only halfway up my thighs.
The sand is coarse near the water and finer further up the beach, with plenty of little stones and shards of shell to keep small kids entertained collecting them. We saw a live blue crab (and a couple of dead ones) and there’s an osprey nesting just off the end of pier. There were geese and ducks on the water too. But the water was a little murky and oily – I suppose that’s to be expected anywhere on the Chesapeake Bay. The kids swam underwater (with goggles) and haven’t come down with any nasty diseases five days later, but I wouldn’t have done that myself. It’s a little slimy underfoot in places and you might want to wear water shoes lest you step on a crab.
There are nice clean bathrooms and a couple of changing rooms, and showers to rinse off when you’ve finished, as well as vending machines for drinks and a place to rent chairs, loungers, or inner tubes. You can fish off the pier if you have a license. For our $35 we got a long list of beach rules including such restrictions as no pets, no smoking, no amplified music, no tents, no large coolers, no thongs, no micro bikinis, and no loitering. (Loitering on a beach – who ever heard of such a thing? I do my beach-going business and I move right along, obviously.)
On a hot Thursday in late June, the beach was quiet and we had plenty of space to play. The kids had a good time and there was a guy selling sno cones when we left who got yet more of my money. I’ll try one of the other beaches next time, but if you’re looking for somewhere safe and quiet where your child cannot possibly drift out to sea, maybe North Beach is for you.
Christine Doran is the author of “Lilac in Black and White” and “Lilac in Scarlet,” fiction set in Ireland for independent readers aged 9-12. Available in print or as ebooks from Amazon.com.