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A seaside resort town since the 1800s, Ocean City, Maryland offers an ambiance of nostalgia mixed among its sandy shores, lively nightlife, natural settings, and family-friendly attractions. With its nickname of White Marlin Capital of the World (you can thank President Franklin Roosevelt for that), the sunny city is an excellent destination for watersports such as fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding, as well as surfing, swimming, and sun bathing.
The three-mile-long Ocean City Boardwalk is popular for shopping, dining, entertainment, and people-watching. It’s lined with amusement parks, snack stands, and fun attractions on the oceanfront and the bay side. For maritime culture and nature excursions, head to Isle of Wight Bay, Assawoman Bay, or the nearby Assateague Island.
As for where to stay in Ocean City (which is sometimes simply called the OC by locals), we’ve collected a variety of popular hotels, luxury resorts, budget-friendly options, and vacation rentals for leisure, business, and group travelers.
Now, empty your mind of all the saltwater taffy, cotton candy, and funnel cakes. It’s time to talk about the best hotels and where to stay in Ocean City.
It’ll be near the taffy and cotton candy. We promise.
Best Areas to Stay in Ocean City, Maryland
- Best area for first-timers/tourists – Midtown
- Best area for budget travelers – Berlin
- Best area for luxury travelers – North Ocean City
- Best area for safety – Cape Isle of Wight
- Best area for families – West Ocean City
- Best area for nightlife – Boardwalk
Where to Stay in Ocean City, Maryland
1. Midtown: Best Area for First-Timers/Tourists
Midtown is the area just north of the boardwalk (between the boardwalk area and North Ocean City). It runs from approximately 27th to 90th Street. Midtown is a great choice if you’re deciding where to stay in Ocean City, MD the first time since it’s convenient to the OC Boardwalk, North Ocean City, Powell Convention Center, and other areas and attractions.
Whether you’re looking for a family-friendly hotel, an adults-only hotel, or a beachfront hotel with an outdoor pool, you’ll be able to explore and decide what you like in an Ocean City hotel for return trips. These are the best things to do in Midtown:
- Go to Seacrets for an evening or afternoon of live music in a tropical-inspired setting. The venue has several stages, dance floors, and tiki bars.
- Visit Seacrets Distilling Company, located next door to Seacrets, to try spiced rum, American whiskey, flavored vodkas, and more. Take a tour of the distillery process and sample local products in the tasting room.
- Rent a jet ski and zip around the bay at Isle of Wight.
- Enjoy bayfront views and fresh seafood at Fager’s Island.
- Book a banana boat ride or sightseeing cruise for the whole crew.
- Embers Island Mini Golf has two pirate-themed 18-hole courses. It’s open late, so go ahead and take that nap after spending the whole day on the beach.
- Choose from a dozen or so pancake options at Happy Jack Pancake House.
- The Jolly Roger Amusement Park (not to be confused with Jolly Roger at the Pier, which is at the south end of the boardwalk) is found around 32nd Street. The Jolly Roger Amusement Park has thrill rides, train rides, a Ferris wheel, and a waterpark.
- Grab a bite to eat, play games, and go bowling at AlleyOops Midtown. There’s a live shark tank with black-tipped sharks. You can’t get much cooler than live sharks!
Accommodations in Midtown range from vacation rentals and beach cottages to resort hotels and beachfront property. The best hotels offer amenities such as a heated indoor pool, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center, free parking, and are centrally-located near the boardwalk for even more fun.
For a luxury vacation, the Hilton Suites Ocean City Oceanfront is our top choice. The Edge Hotel and the Lighthouse Club Hotel at Fager’s Island are two of the best hotels for a romantic getaway or a weekend of family fun.
If you’re searching for a mid-range or a budget-friendly hotel in Ocean City, look into Aloft Ocean City, the Dunes Manor Hotel, the Quality Inn Oceanfront, or the Crystal Beach Hotel. If you decide that you want to stay in the Midtown area, here are our top recommendations:
See Related: Virginia Beach vs Ocean City: What’s the Difference
2. Berlin: Best Area for Budget Travelers
Wondering where to stay in Ocean City, MD on a budget? Berlin is southwest of Ocean City and about 15 minutes inland from the boardwalk. The residential area is the perfect choice for budget travelers as it’s not directly on the boardwalk, which tends to be more expensive and popular. It offers easy access to the beaches of Ocean City and Assateague Island.
Curious about what there is to do in Berlin? Here are the top sights and activities:
- If you or your young ones are into mermaids and mythical creatures, the Mermaid Museum is the place to be. Established in 2020, it features a peek into the mystery of mermaids through displays, books, paintings, and more.
- The 21-acre Stephen Decatur Park has a playground, tennis and racquetball courts, disc golf, picnic facilities, and walking trails.
- Watch Old West-style shows like bank hold-ups, can-can shows, trick shooting, and Native American shows at Frontier Town Wild West Show & Western Theme Park. Train and pony rides and a waterpark are also available at this fun Ocean City attraction.
- The Calvin B. Taylor House, an 1832 Federal-style home, tells the story of Berlin’s local residents and historic past. Displays include antiques and memorabilia, including pieces from the movie Runaway Bride (which was filmed in Berlin).
- Learn about the culture, heritage, and natural resources of Maryland’s lower Eastern Shore at the Beach to Bay Heritage Area.
Berlin is close to local Ocean City restaurants, family-friendly hotels, and boutique bed and breakfasts. The area makes a terrific choice if you enjoy a residential setting. Book an entire week and spend time exploring the rest of the Ocean City area. Here are a few of the best vacation rentals to stay in near Berlin for family, group, or business travelers:
3. North Ocean City: Best Area for Luxury Travelers
North Ocean City extends from the Assawoman Bay bridge (Route 90) to the Maryland/Delaware border at Fenwick Island. It’s the best area to stay in Ocean City for travelers who enjoy a natural setting with the conveniences of modern amenities and cultural activities on the Atlantic Ocean. Here are some of the best sights and activities in North Ocean City:
- The Art League of Ocean City features exhibits by local artists, classes, and seasonal events.
- Enjoy cocktails, sunsets, and live entertainment at the Sunset Island Bar and Grill. Located on Sunset Island (appropriately enough), just north of the Route 90 Bridge, it offers a full menu of delicious seafood, sandwiches, pizza, and wraps.
- Go ice skating (yes, even in summer) at the Carousel Oceanfront Hotel. There’s also a game room if you need a break from the skating at this Ocean City hotel.
- The Current, located at the Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort, features gourmet oceanfront dining and live music. The hotel’s Creative Day Spa offers massages, mani/pedis, couples spa treatments, and facials as well as a full-service hair salon.
- Head to Montego Bay Shopping Center for retail therapy and Ocean City’s dining scene. Eateries include Café Mirage, Tequila Mockingbird, Squarz Pizza & Restaurant, Higgins Crab House North, and Duffy’s Tavern.
- Travel across the border to Delaware’s Fenwick Island State Park. At 344 acres, the park offers Atlantic Ocean fishing, swimming, surfing, sunbathing, and access to Little Assawoman Bay for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding.
- Ron Jon Surf Shop is the perfect one-stop shop for surfboards, sunscreen, swimsuits, apparel, and pretty much any water-related thing you can think of.
- Located on the bayside, the 58-acre Northside Park is a terrific area to let the kids run off some energy. There are playgrounds, sports courts, an indoor gym, and a pier at this Ocean City, Maryland park.
This section of the OC offers some of the best Ocean City hotels, condos, and luxury resorts with full-service spas, gourmet restaurants, an adults only pool, and indoor pools. The Princess Royale Oceanfront is one of the top rated hotels on the Ocean City beach. There’s an indoor pool, a pool bar, and private balconies overlooking the pool deck.
You’ll also find a wide array of budget and mid-range Ocean City hotels with lots of amenities if you prefer to go that route. The Ocean City Fontainebleau Resort, the Residence Inn by Marriott, Country Inn and Suites by Radisson, and the Carousel Oceanfront Hotel are excellent options for beach views. These are a few of our suggestions for the best places to stay in North Ocean City:
See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Baltimore, Maryland
4. Cape Isle of Wight: Best Area for Safety
While all areas of Ocean City are safe for families, groups, and business travelers, Cape Isle of Wight offers a charming residential community near all the activities and attractions of Ocean City’s beachfront. It’s on the west side of the bay across from the Ocean City beach area.
The community is divided by Keyser Point Road. The eastern side features waterfront property and boat access, while the western side is more landlocked. If you’re traveling with a boat, or even by boat, this is an excellent area as there are lots of channels and waterways to explore. Here are some of the best things to do in Cape Isle of Wight:
- Go kayaking, canoeing, and nature-watching along the shores of Isle of Wight.
- Bring home dinner with a fishing or crabbing trip.
- Peruse shrunken heads, vampire hunting items, and parts of the Berlin Wall at Ripley’s Believe it or Not! (located at the south end of the boardwalk just a short drive away).
- Grand Prix Amusements is a fun spot to spend the day testing your skills at batting cages, go-karts, bumper boats, rock climbing walls, and more.
- If you have access to a boat, whether your own or a rental, cruise over to Fish Tales Bar and Grill on the bayfront. Pull up to the dock, tie up a line, and enjoy a casual meal overlooking the bay. It’s on 21st Street in Bahia Marina.
Cape Isle of Wight is a small area. Travelers enjoy it for its laid-back atmosphere and natural setting. This is the place to go to get away from it all. There are a few budget and mid-range hotels and vacation rentals in the area, like the Wyndham Ocean City and the Hampton Inn, but you won’t find luxury accommodations or a grand hotel.
5. West Ocean City: Best Area for Families
Wondering where to stay in Ocean City with kids? Easy access to waterparks, go-karts, mini golf, and amusement parks are probably a top necessity. West Ocean City backs up to Isle of Wight Bay, which offers access to watersports such as kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding. These are some of the best sights and activities in West Ocean City:
- For a whole day of family-friendly entertainment, take the whole crew to Baja Amusements. First opened in 1981, it offers a ton of fun and thrilling activities like go-karts, mini golf, a climbing wall, and a snack bar (you’ve gotta have a snack bar).
- You’re not that far from the south end of the Ocean City Boardwalk, which makes it easy to hop on over (across the Route 50 / Harry W. Kelley Memorial Bridge) and enjoy attractions, snacks, and surf shops like the Quiet Storm Surf Shop.
- Take your board sports fans to the Ocean City Town Skate Park, located at 3rd and 4th Streets on the boardwalk.
- Nicknamed “Stinky Beach,” Homer Gudelsky Park is on the bayside across from the Ocean City Inlet. It’s rather small and offers a quiet area for fishing, swimming, and sunbathing. Wondering about that nickname? We were too. Apparently, years ago, commercial fishermen stopped there to clean the day’s catch. This was before it became a designated beach and park. So, there you go.
- If you book the Francis Scott Key Family Resort, you’ve really got it made in the entertainment and activities department. It has several indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, and a pirate-themed outdoor pool area (with an actual pirate ship with decktop lounging – pirates gotta get that sun in). You’ll also find mini golf, a game room, a movie theater, a sand volleyball court, a basketball court, and a car/boat washing station (they’ve really thought of it all!). The resort is across from the Ocean City Factory Outlets.
- Speaking of outlet shopping, Ocean City Factory Outlets offers names like J. Crew, Adidas, Under Armour, Crocs, Michael Kors, and more.
The best hotels in Ocean City include mid-range and budget options, as well as luxury resorts and vacation rentals with spacious suites, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, and free parking. You’ll find plenty of family-friendly hotels with indoor and outdoor pools, kids activities, spacious suites, and even waterparks to base your Ocean City vacation.
See Related: Best East Coast Vacation Spots in the US
6. The Boardwalk: Best Area for Nightlife
To be near numerous restaurants, shopping opportunities, attractions, and vibrant nightlife in an oceanfront location, your best bet is the boardwalk. You’ll find nightclubs and bars with tropical touches, live music, DJs, and dance floors with ocean and bay views. If you are interested in staying near the boardwalk, here are some of the best things to do in the area:
- Along the boardwalk, check out the Purple Moose Saloon for some of the city’s best live entertainment. Just south a bit are the Bearded Clam and Cork Bar.
- Further up the boardwalk is Shenanigan’s Irish Pub, which offers American and Irish food and an oceanfront patio.
- Spend the day at Trimper’s Rides at the south end of the Ocean City Boardwalk. There’s a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, slides, a train ride, a mirror maze, and more.
- Gather the whole crew and solve puzzles and riddles and find clues at the Escapomania Midtown Escape Room.
- Practice your swing at the Glen Riddle Golf Club.
- Built in 1891 (and moved to the current boardwalk location in 1977), the Ocean City Life Saving Station provides a look at the city’s lifesaving, maritime, shipwreck, and surfing past.
- Reel in bluefish, croaker, or sea trout at the Ocean City Fishing Pier.
- Satisfy sweet and salty cravings at Dolle’s Candyland, Candy Kitchen, or Fisher’s Popcorn.
The boardwalk offers a wide range of budget, mid-range, and luxury hotels in Ocean City on both the ocean and the bay side. These East Coast hotels have spacious rooms, hot tubs, an indoor pool, an outdoor pool, a fitness center, free parking, and other convenient amenities in an Ocean City, Maryland beachfront hotel.
Searching for a mid-range option? The Cambria Hotel Ocean City is an excellent choice on the Ocean City beach. It’s near the Gateway Hotel, the historic Atlantic Hotel, and Trimper’s Amusement Park.
Where is a good place to stay in Ocean City near the boardwalk?
Midtown and North Ocean City are great beachfront locations to stay for proximity to the Ocean City Boardwalk and the sand and surf of the beach. While more quiet and secluded, this area of the beach town offers easy access to all of the attractions and activities of the boardwalk.
Where should you stay in Ocean City for parties and nightlife?
For parties and nightlife, the best area to stay is the downtown boardwalk area. The Ocean City Boardwalk runs from the inlet parking lot to the south, up to 27th street. This area has the highest concentration of bars, restaurants, and nightlife activity.
What is the best area to stay in Ocean City?
If you’re looking for a vacation destination with lots of entertainment, nightlife, dining, and top-rated hotels, the boardwalk area is one of the best places to stay in Ocean City, MD. West Ocean City is another great area if kids are in tow, as it provides easy access to waterparks, go-karts, mini golf, and amusement parks.