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 while we love trying new beach destinations, West Ocean City, MD is the one place we keep returning back to each year.

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How to Get to West Ocean City

The greater Ocean City area is part of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. West Ocean City is a few miles from the 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 tips on road trips with a baby.

Where to Stay in West Ocean City

Vacation Rentals in West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

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 to find a range of options.  (If you haven’t used AirBnB before, 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.

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. Search for hotels in Ocean City, MD here.

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!

Things to Do in West Ocean City, MD

Stinky Beach West Ocean City MD Toddling Traveler

Spend the Day at the Beaches Near West Ocean City

West Ocean City is a few miles away from a couple different beaches in the area. While the main part of Ocean City, Maryland offers miles of beautiful shoreline, there are a couple alternatives when staying in West Ocean City.  My two favorite beaches in or Near West OCMD are Assateague Island and Homer Guldesky Park (a.k.a “Stinky” beach.)

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 its 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 go too close to the horses, but they’re 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 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 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, but part of the Island is also a State Park, which you can enter through as well.

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

Homer Guldesky Park Beach

Homer Guldesky Park is (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 small, so it’s best to get there early 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 beach fun with little ones.

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 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

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.  

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

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

Ayer’s Creek Adventures

Ayer’s 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, Ayer’s 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.

Ayer’s 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! Ayer’s 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

Kid-Friendly Restaurants in West Ocean City

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 my favorite places for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert in West Ocean City, MD. (Including some hidden gems I’m almost hesitant to share.)

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 the Assateague Island Surf Shop

The Surf Cafe is technically in Berlin, but its worth mentioning with its proximity to West Ocean City. 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 and gifts.  Our little guy also loved 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 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.

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

Mad Fish OC

Mad Fish OC is 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.  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 hopefully 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 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, 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. Check back here periodically for updates as 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!

Children’s Book Inspiration: Sally in the Sand by Stephen Hunk

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25 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 🙂

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