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6 Fabulous Beach Bars About an Hour’s Drive From D.C.

Soak up the last weeks of summer at a sandy spot for frozen cocktails, fish tacos, and waterfront views

Dockside Restaurant & Tiki Bar in Colonial Beach, Va.
Dockside Restaurant & Tiki Bar/Facebook

Nothing says “I’m on vacation” quite like a beach bar. And often D.C. residents don’t have the time or resources to head all the way to Turks and Caicos (or even the Outer Banks) to get their fix.

A few bars fall into this category inside the Beltway (think everyone-is-welcome Arlington gay bar Freddie’s Beach Bar, boater’s paradise Island Time Bar & Grill at Columbia Island Marina, or Falls Church surf-y stalwart Clare & Don’s), and some arguably in the metro area, like MacDowell’s Beach in Leesburg. But realistically, you’re going to have to drive at least a little in order to reach sand, frozen drinks, and even a wave or two.

Here are a handful of destinations that aren’t too far of a trek (note that while many self-identify as tiki bars, a genre with a complicated history, this is more in the straw-hut-on-the-beach sense, versus elaborate Polynesian decor or historically-influenced rum drinks).

1. Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar (distance from D.C.: 67 miles)

This beachfront Colonial Beach, Va. haunt has plenty of sand, some outdoor games, and a menu of steamed shrimp, fish sandwiches, and tuna tacos. To drink, expect beers, orange crushes, and laid-back punches.

2. High Tides/Black Pearl Tiki Hut (distance from D.C.: 65 miles)

Another option in Colonial Beach, this bar frequently attracts live music (the “tiki bar” component is right on the sand) and serves a decent pina colada. Find a more extensive food menu at High Tides next door.

3. Tiki Bar Solomons Island (distance from D.C.: 63 miles)

The decor, from large statues to palm trees, is probably the most classic tiki-influenced of the bars assembled on this list.
Tiki Bar Solomons Island

This Maryland destination offers crab egg rolls, bacon-wrapped shrimp, and bourbon sea scallops, along with just about any flavor crush, from sour berry to creamsicle. You’ll find a few tiki-leaning beverage offerings here like mai tais and the coconut rum-based Kokomo.

4. Sunset Cove Middle River (distance from D.C.: 55 miles)

Sunset Cove has the feel of a bayside bar without the drive across the Bay Bridge. Try Maryland’s beloved rockfish in all forms (tenders, tacos, wrap), plus the spicy-sweet Sunset Shrimp appetizer with Thai chili aioli. Wash it all down with a variety of crushes, mojitos, or an ice cold can of Natty Boh.

With tables and chairs right in the sand, palm trees overhead, boats pulling up to the bar, and weekend live music, Sunset Cove’s vacation vibes are strong.
Sunset Cove/Facebook

5. Hard Yacht Cafe (distance from D.C.: 46 miles)

There are a ton of great dock bar options in Dundalk (a bayside bar crawl is a summer Saturday well spent), but the consistent classic is Hard Yacht Cafe. This waterfront spot has a Key West sensibility and vibrant Adirondack chairs aplenty, an everyday brunch menu of omelets, bowls, and bloody marys, plus BYO burgers and nachos. Top that with nightly live music and colorful crush cocktails and your troubles are over, dude.

Waterfront offerings at Hard Yacht Cafe.
Hard Yacht Cafe/Facebook

6. The Kentmorr Beach Bar and Grill (distance from D.C.: 48 miles)

Kent Island, Maryland’s bayside crab house reopened this summer with a new owner: D.C.’s Atlas Brew Works. A tropical-themed beach lined with hammock swings serves freshly squeezed crushes, pineapple painkillers, and brick-oven pies.