West Ocean City, MD: Family Vacation Guide

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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, with a laid-back, local feel. With family in West Ocean City, MD, it’s one of our favorite family vacations on the east coast, and one that we keep coming back to every 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!

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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. Unless you’re 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 tips for road trips with a baby or toddler road trip tips if you’re planning a long drive to the beach with kids.

Planning to fly to Ocean City, MD? 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!) The Salisbury Regional Airport is also about an hour away from West Ocean City, MD. The closest international airports near Ocean City, however, are Baltimore and Philadelphia.

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

Hotels in West Ocean City

Francis Scott Key Family Resort was 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.

Castaways Ocean City MD Campgrounds
Cottages at Castaways

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. (We have family that stays here and highly recommend it!)

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.

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, this list of fun things to do in Ocean City, MD is a great starting point.

Stinky Beach West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Assateague Island Beaches

Assateague Island in Maryland is about a 5-15 minute drive depending on where in West Ocean City you’re coming from.  Assateague Island in Maryland is made up of two beaches: Assateague State Park and Assateague National Seashore. The state park side is $5 per vehicle, while the National Seashore side starts at $20 per vehicle, with the option of an annual pass for $45. There’s also a visitor’s center in Assateague Island, where kids can get a junior ranger badge given the beaches’ national park status.

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

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 want to play in the sand and wade in the water.  Many people bring their dogs to this beach, and my kids love all the dogs they get to see there.

Note: The parking lot is VERY 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. The kiddos love 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.  If you’re looking for mini golf in West Ocean City, MD, they also have a reasonably priced course.

The Ocean City, Maryland Boardwalk

The Ocean City Boardwalk has been around for over 100 years, and it’s definitely worth a visit at least once while you’re in the area. Our 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 or Jolly Roger on the Pier also have a number of rides available for kids of any age.

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. Kids will also love watching the boats come in while they eat. (The best time for this is during the White Marlin Open or one of the many fishing tournaments offered locally.)

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 Adventures 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 including Carter’s and Children’s Place.  There are also several other great outlets including Under Armor, ADIDAS, JCrew Factory and Aerie. Right next to the outlets, there are also a number of stores including Marshall’s, Old Navy and Home Goods.

If you want to shop local instead, some of our favorite shops in West Ocean City are Chic Boutique and Atlantic Tackle, which has a huge selection of gifts and clothing in addition to fishing gear.

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. It’s known as the “coolest small town” in America and was the setting for the late 90s movie, Runaway Bride. The town is filled with great restaurants and shops, including World of Toys and Heart of Gold. If you’re there on Sundays during the summer months, there’s also a great farmer’s market in Berlin with live music and awesome local vendors.

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!

The Best West Ocean City, MD Restaurants

When visiting Ocean City, MD, we usually opt for local places that don’t get super crowded.  Many of restaurants in West OC have live music, waterfront dining and great happy hours. (We’re big fans of happy hour for dinner too!) Below are some of our favorite restaurants in West Ocean City, MD for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert.

  • Shark on the Harbor for a daily changing menu and one of the absolute best places to eat in Ocean City. They have great lunch specials and happy hour as well.
  • Pier23 for a kid-friendly restaurant in Ocean City with live music. It’s a unique restaurant made up of cargo containers, and they have a sand bottom that’s great for kids.
  • Harborside Bar & Grill for the “original” orange crush and a kid-friendly happy hour on the water.
  • Sunset Grille for sunset views and fresh seafood.
  • Surfside Rooster for yummy breakfast and southern food with a twist.
  • OC Eateries for a food hall type restaurant with a variety of options.
  • Sello’s Italian Oven & Bar for yummy Italian food (although not quite as kid friendly.)
  • Mexican food in Ocean City at Tequila Mockingbird or Pancho & Lefty’s.
The Shark Kid-Friendly Waterfront Restaurants West Ocean City, MD Toddling Traveler

Coffee & Ice Cream in West Ocean City, MD

  • Build Your Own Cookie for amazing, freshly baked cookies topped with ice cream.
  • Original Fractured Prune for some of the best donuts in Ocean City, MD.
  • Surf Cafe at the Assateague Island Surf Shop for coffee and acai bowls while you shop.
  • Rise Up Coffee Roasters offers organic coffee with indoor and outdoor seating.
  • Dumser’s Dairyland, one of the most popular places for ice cream in Ocean City, MD, also has a location in West OC.

If you’re looking for breweries in West Ocean City, be sure to check out Burley Oak or Sinepuxent Brewing Company. Sinepuxent has a huge outdoor seating area with goats and games for the kids, live music and a great selection of beer and hard seltzers.

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

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!

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West Ocean City, MD Family Vaction Toddling Traveler Pinterest

44 thoughts on “West Ocean City, MD: Family Vacation 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!

    • Definitely recommend it- there’s so much to do in the Ocean City, MD area whether you’re looking for the touristy type attractions or more off the beaten path.

  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!

    • Glad to help. Assateague is beautiful! Ocean City, MD is my favorite in the summer- early September is great too if you want to avoid crowds but still take advantage of the beach weather.

  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!

    • Thanks for the comments! We love finding off the beaten path things to do and West Ocean City is perfect for that, even if you stay in the main part of OCMD.

  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!

    • 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. We’ve never been to Maryland but this looks like a fantastic little beach town that is great for families!!

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  11. 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!

    • 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!

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  14. 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!

    • You totally should! Assateague Island is super close too and Berlin, MD. There’s so much around that people don’t even know about.

  15. 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.

  16. 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!

    • Haha me too! I went there for senior week in high school and multiple bachelorette partied. Such a different experience!!

  17. 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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