September 05, 2011

East Coast Beaches and the Atlantic Ocean

I grew up on the ocean.  The smell of the salt water, the feel of the ocean breeze, the fog rolling in, the sound of the crashing waves and the barking of the seals - this is what I grew up with.  This is the view from my bedroom window at my parent's house.

Sunset over Catalina Island.

I love the ocean and really miss it when I don't get to see it regularly.  When we lived in Berkeley, we were close enough to smell the salt air and feel the fog and get to see the Bay.  And we could always hop in the car and easily drive out to Fort Funston or Baker Beach or Ocean Beach or Muir Beach if we needed a closer fix.

But living near DC, the ocean is pretty far away.  Of course, there's the Potomac River which leads to the Chesapeake Bay which eventually leads to the Atlantic Ocean - but it's still pretty far away (which is probably why we didn't feel much from Hurricane Irene).

When the kids were at Camp Grandma and Bompa, K. and I decided to check out the oceans on the east coast.  We got up early one Saturday and drove northeast past Annapolis to take the Bay Bridge (not the Oakland Bay Bridge). By the way - the road we were traveling on is Highway 50 - the same Highway 50 that we drive on in California from Sacramento east.

Once we had crossed the Chesapeake Bay, we headed to the coast, passing farmland and some farm stands (great peaches!) and eventually reaching Rehoboth Beach.  This part of the East Coast is called the DelMarVa Peninsula.  It's a peninsula that has parts of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia - hence the name.  We checked out many of the beaches and beach towns along the way - from Rehoboth to Ocean City.  We found them all fairly similar, differing mainly by whether they were more family oriented or more singles oriented. All the beaches were filled with lots of people and lots of umbrellas.  There were boardwalks with lots of fried foods and frozen treats.  It felt very crowded and with not many people swimming.

Rehoboth Beach

Ocean City was notable for the number of large hotels - it resembled the Las Vegas Strip (but without casinos).  There were also more miniature golf places than I've ever seen - and more than there were McDonalds!  And lots of places offering crab.

The best part of Ocean City (for me), was to get to see the counterpart of the sign I'd grown up with.

This is what I see when I drive to my sister's house.

And this is what I got to see in Ocean City.

From Ocean City we drove south into Virginia.  The towns on the Virginia peninsula are just wonderful - small, quiet, beautiful.  The beaches are quite lovely - quiet and secluded - much more our cup of tea.  We definitely want to go back for a relaxing weekend.  At one point we even got to see Chincoteague - a town I'd read about as a child in Marguerite Henry's book - Misty of Chincoteague.

Eventually we came to the tip of the peninsula and went on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.  It's an amazing span and tunnel - although a little scary with the tunnels.

The bridge ends up in Norfolk, Virginia - very near Virginia Beach.  We had dinner there (soft shell crabs!) and headed home.  Virginia Beach seemed like a place we'd like to return to and bring the kids.  It didn't seem to have quite the hubbub of Ocean City, and also was closer to where we're living now so we could possibly make a day trip out of it.

Which is what we finally did this Labor Day weekend.  On Saturday we got up early and headed to Virginia Beach.  It was so nice to smell the salt air when we got there!  We rented a 4-seater bicycle carriage and checked out the boardwalk.

N. loved checking out the boardwalk!

We got to go on a few rides and then we headed to the beach.  It was absolutely wonderful to go swimming in the ocean again.  It had been far too long!  And, much to my surprise, people are right - the Atlantic is warmer than the Pacific.  The kids were full of such joy as they played in the ocean.  It made me so happy to see them enjoy the ocean and its power so much. We played in the waves for a long time, and then rinsed off and headed home.   A great day at the beach!


  1. Glad you got to compare the coasts. Hope you enjoyed Chincoteague. We stay there every summer and absolutely love it.

  2. My favorite is camping in Assateague Island National Park during the spring/summer (you have to book in January to grab a spot though). Sooooo peaceful and the wild horses are lovely!