Many people know Ocean City, Maryland (OCMD) for the boardwalk, nightlife and fun-filled beaches. While I’ve grown up enjoying all of that, my favorite part of OCMD is just over the Route 50 bridge. Away from the hustle and bustle is the quieter, more relaxed West Ocean City, MD with a laid-back, local feel. And while we love trying new beach destinations, West Ocean City, Maryland is the one place we keep returning back to each year.
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How to Get to West Ocean City
There aren’t any major airports near the Ocean City area unless you count the small municipal airport in West Ocean City. (Which, speaking from experience, is an amazing place to go sky diving!) Aside from the Salisbury Regional Airport, the next closest airports are Baltimore and Philadelphia. All of that said, if you’re not visiting from across the country or outside of the US, your best option to get to OCMD is usually to drive. For most families, taking a road trip is usually a must with all the stuff that comes along with a beach vacation anyway. (See our post on surviving long car rides with a baby for more tips!)
Where to Stay in West Ocean City
Vacation Home Rentals in West Ocean City
If you’re staying in the area with a larger group, I definitely recommend renting house or condo. The best area to look for rental homes is near Route 50, ideally east of Route 611 to make sure you’re still close enough to the water. Just search for West Ocean City, MD on AirBnB (use my referral link to get credit toward your first stay!) or HomeAway to find a range of options. We historically have stayed with family off Sunset Avenue by the marinas, and more recently a little further west near Berlin.
Hotels in West Ocean City
- Francis Scott Key Family Resort has been my family’s go-to for years. We typically used this for overflow as our families were growing and there wasn’t enough room to fit everyone into one place. The rooms are modest and no frills but always clean and cozy. The best part about this hotel is the indoor pool and water park area, which is great all year round. (Also a bonus if you want a day out of the sun for the little ones!)
- Holiday Inn Express & Suites West Ocean City and Ocean City Comfort Suites are both newer, budget-friendly hotels in West Ocean City. Both hotels offer pools and have suites available. (Full disclosure, I have only seen them from the outside.)
- There is also an endless number of hotels and condos available in the main part of Ocean City, MD if you want to be closer to the action. Visit Ocean City’s official website for accommodation options.
Camping in West Ocean City
Frontier Town has one of the best campgrounds for kids, with access to everything from a water park to miniature golf to a western themed park just steps from your tent or camper. This is definitely the place to go if your family has an RV or is otherwise interested in camping!
What to Do in West Ocean City, Maryland
Beaches in the West Ocean City Area
While the main part of Ocean City, MD offers miles of beautiful shoreline, there are a couple alternatives when staying in West Ocean City. My two favorite beaches in the area are Assateague and Homer Guldesky Park (aka “Stinky” beach.)
Assateague National Seashore, Maryland is about a 5-10 minute drive depending on where in West Ocean City you’re coming from. Most people know Assateague for the wild horses, and its one of the main reasons why we love this beach. Although the number of horses you see can vary drastically depending on the time of year and day, you’ll often spot them along the road or sometimes right on the beach. Visitors are discouraged from petting or feeding the horses, but they’re quite the sight to see even from a distance.
The Assateague National Seashore also has the benefit of public bathrooms, changing tables for babies, and outdoor showers to rinse off all that sand. The beach even offers a snack stand and convenience shop if you need anything while you’re there. The beach starts to fill up around 10am, so our favorite time to get there is around 9 when there’s no line at the gate to get in. Note: Since this is a national park, there is a fee of $20 for a pass that can be used up to 7 days, but it’s definitely worth seeing it at least once during your stay.
Homer Guldesky Park (affectionately known by the locals as “Stinky Beach”) is a somewhat hidden beach located in a subdivision of West Ocean City. This beach is perfect for those days where you want to be by the sand and water but don’t want to deal with fighting the crowds. While it’s a small beach, it’s perfect if you just want to sunbathe or if you have little ones who aren’t going in the water much anyway. Many people bring their dogs to this beach and my son LOVES all of the dogs he gets to see here. Note: The parking lot (if you can even call it that) is tiny so people usually park each other in. If it happens to you, just walk around an ask (or yell) for the owner of the car you need to move. Don’t worry, it’s totally expected and just about the only time you don’t need to feel like a jerk for parking someone in.
Enjoy the Amusements in Ocean City, Maryland
Aside from the campground, there are several activities here for families. Frontier Town has a large water park, wild west shows, a rope course, gift shop, arcade and ice cream shop. My son and niece loved the General Store (gift shop) and the Pony Espresso & Creamery for ice cream. The ice cream shop has a huge selection of yummy flavors, and it’s reasonably priced compared to some of the more well known spots in OCMD.
The Go-Karts are the main attraction at Baja Amusements. This place offers not just one but several different tracks with different car speeds for children of varying ages. The minimum age to drive any go-karts is 5, with several tracks having a minimum age of 12. Aside from the go-karts, there are a few family friendly rides for children 2+ to ride with a parent. These include the Carousel, Frog Hopper and Wacky Worm Roller Coaster. I’m definitely looking forward to when my son is 2 this next summer to enjoy the rides with him.
The Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk
It’s not a trip to Ocean City, Maryland without at least one visit to the boardwalk. My favorite time to go is in the morning for a walk before the sun gets too hot and the crowds pack in. There’s a really cute playground right on the sand here that’s perfect for little kids, located at N. Division Street and the Boardwalk. Trimpers Rides on the boardwalk also offers a number of rides available for kids of any age. Be sure to look for the afternoon specials on ride wristbands from 1pm-6pm Mon-Fri or 1pm-5pm Sat-Sun.
Sunset Marina & Fishing in West Ocean City
One of the main draws to West Ocean City is the marinas and deep-sea fishing offered from the area. My family fishes out of Sunset Marina which is great for walking around, listening to live music and getting a drink or bite to eat. The Bridge Rooftop Bar offers a more casual atmosphere with amazing views, while Sunset Grille is great for a nice meal. While our son is still a little too young to fish, he loves watching the boats come in. (The best time for this is during the White Marlin Open or one of the many fishing tournaments offered locally.) P.S. That beautiful sunset featured at the top of the page is from Sunset Marina- it’s has that name for a reason!
Shopping in West Ocean City, MD
The Tanger Outlets in West Ocean City are relatively small, making them super easy to navigate. They also have a great selection of kid’s stores to choose from, including Carter’s, Gymboree and Children’s Place. Carter’s even has a building block table and other toys in the back to keep the kids entertained while you shop. Right next to the outlets, there are also a number of stores including Marshall’s, Old Navy and Home Goods.
Visit Berlin, known as the “coolest small town” in America (and also the setting for the late 90s movie, Runaway Bride.) There are so many cute shops, including two of our favorite stores for kids, the World of Toys and Heart of Gold. With the amazing selection of restaurants and things to do, including Burley Oak Brewing Company, it should definitely be on your list of places to visit while you’re in town.
Where to Eat in West Ocean City
When visiting the area, we usually opt for places that take reservations or local places that don’t get super crowded with tourists. The early dinner time with a toddler sure helps to avoid a wait too! Our favorite places are by the water with live music. (As it turns out, those early dinner times also tend to coincide with happy hour!) Below are my favorites, including some hidden gems I’m almost hesitant to share.
The Shark is by far my favorite restaurant in West Ocean City (or really anywhere in OCMD for that matter.) The food is always fresh and the regularly changing menu is super innovative. I’ve never been disappointed with anything I’ve eaten there, whether for brunch, lunch or dinner. In addition to the regular menu, they have a great kids menu along crayons, and with all the sharks decorating the inside it’s a favorite of kids as well. Like many restaurants in the area, they have a great happy hour, and you can use the lounge upstairs to enjoy happy hour food and drink specials with kids. The Shark is also known for it’s $6.99 lunches, with a few specials to choose from daily in addition to a regular menu.
This waterfront restaurant just opened in July of 2018 where Captains Galley was formerly housed. The entire restaurant was completely remodeled and modernized with tons of space and several bars both inside and out. They take reservations which isn’t always the case for restaurants in the area. We went three times during this last trip- once for a nicer meal inside and twice for a more casual happy hour/ dinner to enjoy the live music out back. All of the food was delicious and their happy hour menu had a large selection, ranging from burgers to fish tacos to crabby fries (our little guy’s personal favorite.) And I have to say their orange crushes are my new favorite in Ocean City.
Harborside prides itself on being the home of the original fresh-squeezed orange crush. They have a great menu and happy hour with live music along the water. It’s always been one of my favorites, but there are two drawbacks to keep in mind when going with kids: 1.) it can get super crowded, especially outside, so there’s not always a lot of room for high chairs and all the stuff that comes along with a baby and 2.) they don’t take reservations.
The donuts here are made to order all day and literally melt in your mouth. There are tons of glazes and toppings to choose from to create your own, or we usually go with one of the amazing specialty donut flavors. There are now franchises throughout the country but the store originated in Ocean City.
Surf Cafe at the Assateague Island Surf Shop
We went here for the first time for the yummy acai bowls and breakfast burritos. (And if my son didn’t devour most my acai bowl I would have taken a picture!) They have great coffee, cute decor and a huge selection of clothing and gifts. Our little guy also loved the music and seating area as well as the surfing videos playing on repeat.
This is a cute little local restaurant that just opened up in May of 2018 on Sunset Avenue. It’s covered in country/farm decor, has a decent sized bar and then a seating area with plenty of high chairs. In fact, almost everyone there when we went for dinner was with a young child, which likely had something to do with the 5:30pm dinner hour. It’s a casual restaurant with a number of southern specialities for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They also have daily specials, and we happened to get there on Taco Tuesday when they had amazingly flavorful pork, chicken and beef tacos that were a steal for $1.50 each.
While Sello’s is family friendly like most places in Ocean City, the ambiance here is perfect for a date night if you have a chance to get away. It’s a quiet spot that’s usually filled with more locals than tourists, and the bar tenders here are super friendly. They have a great wine selection and the amazing selection of Italian food is a nice break from the typical seafood. Although to be honest, I almost always seem to get some type of seafood pasta for the best of both worlds!
West Ocean City, Maryland has always had a special place in my heart. Regardless of where we go in the world it continues to be the one place I can’t wait to keep going back to. Now that we’ve had two summers there with our son, I’m even more excited to continue experiencing new things with him each time we visit.
Please share in the comments if you have any recommendations in the area that I haven’t mentioned!
Children’s Book Inspiration: Sally in the Sand by Stephen Hunk
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