West Ocean City, MD: Family-Friendly Guide

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, Maryland with a laid-back, local feel. And with family in West Ocean City, MD, it’s one place we keep returning back to each year.

This post contains some of our favorite recommendations for local restaurants, places to stay (including camping in Ocean City, MD) and things to do in OCMD. Keep reading for more!

Note: Be sure to check Ocean City Maryland’s official website for up to date information on visiting Ocean City, MD in 2020, in light of COVID-19.

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How to Get to West Ocean City, MD

The greater Ocean City area is part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. West Ocean City is a few miles from downtown Ocean City. There aren’t any major airports near Ocean City, MD area unless you count the small municipal airport in West Ocean City. (Which, speaking from experience, is an amazing place to go skydiving in Ocean City, MD!)

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 tips on road trips with a baby.

Where to Stay in West Ocean City

There are several different types of places to stay in West Ocean City. Condo and house rentals in West Ocean City are plentiful, and there are a handful of hotels and places to go camping at Ocean City, MD too. While you won’t find oceanfront hotels in West Ocean City, there are still waterfront properties on the bay side. Vacation rentals also tend to be less expensive than in downtown Ocean City.

To search for vacation rentals and hotels in West Ocean City, MD, see here.

Vacation Home Rentals in West Ocean City

If you’re staying in Ocean City with a group, I definitely recommend renting a house or condo. The best area to look for rental homes is near Route 50. Ideally a property east of Route 611 will ensure you’re still close enough to the water.  You can find a number of house rentals in West Ocean City on Booking.com or AirBnB.  

If you haven’t used AirBnB before, you can register through my referral link for credit toward your first stay.

We historically have stayed with family off Sunset Avenue by the marinas, and more recently a little further west near Berlin, Maryland.

Vacation Rentals in West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

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, MD. 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 in downtown Ocean City, MD if you want to be closer to the action. You can search for hotels in Ocean City, MD here.

Camping in Ocean City, MD

Frontier Town has one of the best Ocean City, Maryland campgrounds for kids. It’s directly connected to a water park to miniature golf as well as a western themed park just steps from your tent or camper. It’s a great place to go with family, whether you have an RV or plan on tent camping in Ocean City, Maryland.

Castaways is another popular place to go camping near Ocean City, MD. This West Ocean City RV Resort also has tent sites and cottage rentals. It’s located on the bay side and offers a tiki bar with live music in addition to a private beach, pool and other activities.

Camping in Assateague Island is another option if you’re looking for camping on the beach in Ocean City, MD. They allow tents, campers and RVs and offer a number of basic amenities.

You can also find more campgrounds in Ocean City, MD here. Full disclosure, we haven’t personally camped at the locations mentioned above. We have been to all three campsites, however, and they have also been recommended by family and friends.

Things to Do in West Ocean City, MD

West Ocean City offers so many great things to do in the Ocean City, MD area away from the Coastal Highway. Below are a few of our family favorite things to do, many of which are off the beaten path.

For more things to do in the area, be sure to check out this post on 50+ Fun Things to Do in Ocean City, MD.

Stinky Beach West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island in Maryland is about a 5-15 minute drive depending on where in West Ocean City you’re coming from.  Most people know Assateague for the wild horses, and they’re one of the main reasons why we love this beach. Although the number of horses you see can vary depending on the time of year and day, I have yet to visit without seeing at least one horse.

The most common place to see horses at Assateague is along the road, in the parking lot or even right on the beach. Visitors are not allowed to pet or otherwise get too close to the horses. They’re still quite the sight to see, even from a distance.

Assateague Island Wild Horses Beaches Near West Ocean City, MD

The Assateague Island National Seashore also has public bathrooms, changing tables for babies, and outdoor showers. The beach even offers a snack stand and convenience shop if you need anything while you’re there.  The best time to get to Assateague Island is before 10:30am if you want to avoid a long line to get in at the gate.

Note:  Since Assateague is a National Park, there is a fee of $20 for a pass that can be used up to 7 days. We prefer the National Seashore side. Part of the Island is also a State Park, and you can enter through there as well.

Assateague Island Beaches Near West Ocean City, MD Things to do in Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Homer Gudelsky Park Beach

Homer Gudelsky Park is affectionately known by the locals as “Stinky Beach.” It’s a somewhat hidden beach located in a housing 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, Stinky Beach is 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 super small. So it’s best to get there early in the morning or late in the day. While double parking used to be allowed at Stinky Beach, it’s now prohibited.

See my post on the beach with a baby for more tips on packing for the beach with a baby or toddler.

Homer Guldesky Park Stinky Beach West Ocean City MD

Family Fun at Frontier Town

Aside from the campground, there are several things to do at Frontier Town 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.

Baja Amusements in West Ocean City

The Go-Karts at Baja Amusements are the main attraction. This place offers not just one but several different go-kart tracks with different car speeds for children of varying ages. The minimum age to drive any go-karts at Baja Amusements 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.  

The Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk

The Ocean City Boardwalk has been around for over 100 years, and it’s definitely worth a stop at least once while you’re in the area. My favorite time to go to the boardwalk with kids is in the morning for a walk before the sun gets too hot and the crowds pack in. There are plenty of places to grab a coffee or breakfast, and many of the shops start to open around 9am (or even earlier.) The Ocean City Boardwalk also has a fun playground (located at N. Division Street and the Boardwalk) and a dinosaur play structure in the sand.  

Trimper’s 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

Website: http://www.ocboards.com

Dinosaur Play Structure Ocean City Boardwalk West Ocean City Toddling Traveler

Sunset Marina & Fishing in West Ocean City

One of the main draws to West Ocean City is the marinas and fishing charters. 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!

Sunset Marina West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Ayers Creek Adventures

Ayers Creek is located near West Ocean City in Berlin. If you’re looking for somewhere to experience the outdoors while getting a break from the beach, Ayers Creek is perfect for that. The creek itself is so peaceful, and it’s abundant with wildlife including several bird species, turtles, crabs and fish.

Ayers Creek Adventures offers a number of different eco tours and both kayaking and SUP rentals. Since it was our 2 year old’s first time kayaking, we opted for an hour long kayak rental. Both he and my 4 year old niece loved it, and we can’t wait to take them out again! Ayers Creek Adventures is family owned and everyone we encountered there was super nice and helpful.

Ayer's Creek Adventures Berlin West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Shopping in West Ocean City, MD

There are several shopping outlets in West Ocean City, just over the Route 50 Bridge. While there’s an array of stores at the Ocean City outlets, there’s a great selection of kids’ stores in particular, 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.

Berlin MD Shopping in West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Visit the Town of Berlin, MD

If you’re looking for unique shops and restaurants, be sure to visit the town of Berlin, MD, known as the “coolest small town” in America. (It was 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, Berlin should definitely be on your list of things to do in Ocean City, MD.

Related Post: 7 Reasons to Visit Berlin, MD: America’s Coolest Small Town

Ocean City, MD Kid-Friendly Restaurants

When visiting West Ocean City, MD, we usually opt for local places that don’t get super crowded with tourists.  Live music, waterfront dining and a good happy hour are always a plus too. (We’re big fans of happy hour for dinner with all the fresh seafood options and other food specials that coincide with our toddler’s early dinner time.)

Below are some of the best restaurants in West Ocean City, MD and the greater OCMD for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

Build Your Own Cookie (BYOC) in West Ocean City

I have to start with dessert first because BYOC is my new favorite place in West Ocean City (and totally worth every calorie.) Having started in Chincoteague, BYOC is family owned and just added a second location in West Ocean City in 2019. BYOC is known for the cookie sundaes where you can pick a cookie flavor, ice cream and toppings. The cookies are warmed and freshly made, and the ice cream is just as yummy.  If you’re looking for a unique ice cream place in West Ocean City, MD, we definitely recommend BYOC!

Build Your Own Cookie Ice Cream in West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Rise Up Coffee Roasters

This cafe and organic coffee shop is one of the newest coffee shops in Ocean City, MD. Rise Up Coffee Roasters offers several hot and cold specialty coffees, and all of the coffee is organic. Mad Eggs, located within Rise Up Coffee, also offers food including acai bowls, breakfast burritos and fish tacos. There is also ample seating indoors at Rise Up Coffee along with some outdoor seating as well. Rise Up Coffee started in Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and it now has several locations around the area.

The Original Fractured Prune: The Donut Shoppe

If you’re looking for the best donuts in Ocean City, MD, Fractured Prune definitely needs to be a stop on your trip. The donuts at Fractured Prune 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.

Fractured Prune Donuts West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Surf Cafe at Assateague Island Surf Shop

Our first trip to Assateague Island Surf Shop was for the yummy acai bowls and breakfast burritos. The cafe also serves great coffee in a cute lounge area. Plus, the rest of the shop includes a huge selection of clothing, gifts an surfing gear.  Our little guy also loves the music and seating area as well as the surfing videos playing on repeat.

The Shark on the Harbor

The Shark on the Harbor is by far my favorite restaurant in West Ocean City (or really anywhere in Maryland for that matter.)  The food is always fresh and the regularly changing menu is super innovative. The Shark serves brunch, lunch and dinner, so you can dine there almost any time of day. 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, the Shark has 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 its inexpensive lunch specials.

The Shark Kid-Friendly Waterfront Restaurants West Ocean City, MD Toddling Traveler

Mad Fish OC

Mad Fish OC is a waterfront restaurant in Ocean City, MD that just opened in July of 2018.  The entire restaurant was completely remodeled and modernized with tons of space and several bars both inside and out.  Mad Fish OC takes reservations, which isn’t always the case for restaurants in the area.  Mad Fish has a great happy hour, including both food and drink specials and live music. Note: As of August 2019, Mad Fish OC is closed due to a kitchen fire, but I’m hopeful that it will open back up soon!

Kid-Friendly Restaurants West Ocean City, MD Toddling Traveler

Harborside Bar and Grill

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 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.) Harborside doesn’t take reservations. It’s still worth the visit when you’re in Ocean City, MD and the casual nature of the restaurant makes it super family friendly regardless.

Surfside Rooster

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.  Surfside Rooster also has daily specials, including their infamous Taco Tuesday.

Surfside Rooster Kid Friendly Restaurants West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Sello’s Italian Oven & Bar

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 bartenders 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, MD 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. Be sure to check back here periodically for updates and save this for later. We’ll continue to update this post with our favorite things to do and kid-friendly restaurants in West Ocean City, MD.

Please share in the comments if you have any recommendations in the area that I haven’t mentioned!

Click on the Image Below to Pin for Later:

West Ocean City, MD Family Vaction Toddling Traveler Pinterest


38 thoughts on “West Ocean City, MD: Family-Friendly Guide

  1. Adding this to our US road trip plan at some point! I’m from NY and live in Scotland, and my husband’s only been to NY and Vegas. Our Isla would love World of Toys!

  2. This is such an extensive guide! Thanks for sharing all of your years worth of knowledge.

    I’ve been to Ocean City, MD but now I know how to do it right!

  3. We were in MD in November and decided we definitely want to go back in the summer, particularly to see Assateague. Thanks for the great ideas!

  4. I love this! You took your kids on adeventure and didn’t do the ‘expected’ tourist. or you did but put it in perspective. This is great! Thanks!

  5. We’ve lived in Maryland for 10 years and have never made it to Ocean City! (We have family that lives at the Jersey Shore). I think we will have to make a trip happen this summer. Your suggestions sound like so much fun—thank you!

    1. We always went to the Jersey Shore when I was little but OCMD has been our favorite for a long time. Definitely recommend Ocean City, Maryland with your family if even just for a long weekend. It’s great in the off season too!

  6. This looks like so much fun and definitely a bucket list item for me. Being a boat owner myself and a luv for fishing… unlike most woman, Lol I would be right in my element. I can remember growing up with similar and yet simple little vacations just like OCMD. Those kind of memories are the best !! Thanks for all the info and pictures as it makes the planning much easier. By the way, May i say that the little traveling toddler in your blog is absolutely by far the cutest and most handsome I’ve seen in all my travels.

    Thanks again for making traveling with Toddlers more fun and less work..

    Robin M.

  7. Gosh, we were right there a Assateague National Seashore a couple years ago and I never realized there was all this great stuff surrounding us. We spent all our time jumping waves, chasing horses, and swatting mosquitoes 🙂

  8. I live in West OC I’m glad you enjoy my home! I’d like to recommend a couple places you didn’t mention – Smoker’s BBQ Pit and The Shrimp Boat. And if you have car troubles while you’re here West-O-Auto will get you back on the road! All three are on Stephen Decatur Rd (Rt 611) Look for them on your way to Assateaque!

    1. Thanks for sharing! My parents live right by the airport part time and we love the area! We’ve been saying we’re gonna go to smokers and the shrimp boat- next summer for sure, thanks for mentioning them!

  9. This brings back great memories! We used to go to Ocean City when I was in high school! I’d love to take my kids now!

  10. I have been wanting to bring the kids here and now I am even more inspired. i think I will just follow your itinerary! Pinning for future reference.

  11. I went to college in DC so would head out to Ocean City all the time – had no idea this part of Ocean city existed!

  12. Wow Amanda! I didn’t know there is so much to do and see there! I’m definitely putting this in my East Coast travel bucket list. I love that you included family friendly restaurants! Thanks so much for sharing!

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