Rocky Point Beach & Park (Essex)
2200 Rocky Point Rd, Essex, MD 21221
Rocky Point Beach and Park is a 375 acre waterfront park located in Essex, Maryland. Boasting a large, sandy beach, swimming, playgrounds, and picnic areas, this park is a local favorite, especially amongst families. The park is also a boater’s playground, with both shallow and deep-water boat ramps, a sailing center, and a direct path to Hart-Miller Island and the Chesapeake Bay.
The park is easily accessible from I-95 and I-695 via MD-702. Please note that there is an entrance fee for individuals and paddlers of up to $8, per person, to enter the park. Current park fees can be found on the Baltimore County Parks and Recreation webpage. Those wishing to launch a boat must pay an additional trailer parking fee.
Parking is immediately to your right upon entering the park, with the ramp at the end of the lot. Kayakers must launch from the boat ramp, and should yield the right-of-way to boats loading and unloading, occupying only one ramp at a time. The boat ramp can be busy at times, so be prepared to launch quickly. Likewise, you may need to wait for an opportunity to exit the water, and you should be prepared to do so quickly.
After launching from the ramp, you can head northwest (to the right) to explore a small cove that borders Rocky Point Golf Course. This is a nice area to warm up on calmer water before heading around the point to choppier, open waters. Here you may see bald eagles, herons, egrets, and frustrated golfers.
Head southeast (left from the ramp) and you will find yourself in Hawk Cove, at the base of both Back and Middle River. Novice paddlers and recreational kayaks would do best paddling close to shore, as the water can be quite choppy – a dangerous condition for those who cannot perform a self or assisted rescue. From here, the possibilities are endless:
To the beach:
Follow the shore around the point headed northwest, where you fill find the park’s large beach to your left. On a choppy day, this was a very fun spot to paddle around and catch some bumps (small waves). Continue paddling north for 2 to 3 miles and you will find Browns and Sue Creeks, as well as Middle River.
To Hart-Miller Island:
Instead, continue heading southeast from the boat ramp, beyond the “point,” for approximately 1 to 2 miles, and you will reach the southwest corner of Hart-Miller Island. The water on this route can be quite choppy, and novice paddlers should take heed. The general rule of thumb for kayakers is that, unless you are able to perform self and assisted rescues, you should not paddle further from shore than you can comfortably swim. Be aware that Hart-Miller Island is a favorite spot for boaters, and as such, it can be congested with boat traffic. It is also known as a heavy drinking spot, so be extra cautious.
To Back River:
From the boat ramp, heading southeast, hug the shoreline to the south around Cedar Point and the golf course. Continue hugging the shore as you head into Back River. Back River offers calmer waters with views of the waterfront homes of Edgemere and Essex. If you continue paddling into Back River approximately 2 to 3 miles, you will come across Essex Skypark, where you can watch small prop planes and helicopters take off and land overhead.
To North Point State Park, Pleasure Island, and Craighill Lighthouse:
Heading south-southeast from the boat ramp for 1 to 2 miles will bring you to Pleasure Island and Cuckold Point. Continue around the point, heading southwest, and you will find the shores of North Point State Park. Beware the rocky shores and choppy waters of North Point, but enjoy the beautiful views of the Chesapeake, and Craighill Lighthouse to the southeast. Craighill Lighthouse is approximately 5 to 6 miles from Rocky Point’s boat launch, and, in my opinion, should only be approached by experienced sea kayakers. By the way, if you are looking for a lovely waterfront fixer-upper with sweeping views of the Chesapeake, Craighill Lighthouse happens to be for sale for $15,000