Sandy Point State Park
1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, MD 21409
Sandy Point State Park occupies a strategic position on a point of land just north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, on the Western Shore of the Bay. Sandy Point boasts outstanding views of the Bay and has good pockets of habitat scattered throughout the park. With 786 acres, the park is compact enough to cover on foot. An iconic feature of the park is the view of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge from the South Beach area of the park.
With 297 species as of April 2020, Sandy Point holds the #1 rank among eBird hotspots across Maryland. It is the premier winter birding spot on the upper Western Shore of the Bay, and is known for its diving ducks, gulls, and occasional winter songbird rarities. Habitats include sandy beach, stone jetties, mowed fields, woodlands, ponds, and marshes. Places to check for birds include the marina area; the Symbi Nature Trail (shown in green on the trail map at link at left), accessed from the large picnic area between the entry station and the marina; service roads located north of the entry station (shown in yellow on the trail map); the South Beach area, including the sandy beach itself, the vegetation near the Bathhouse, and the South Jetty – good for Snow Buntings in some winters, as well as shorebirds; the trail from South Beach to East Beach (shown in orange on the trail map), which goes through wet woods and across a marsh; and East Beach, including the grassy fields, sandy beach, and jetties. Be sure to check for rails and other marshland birds at the marsh that lies behind a dense hedgerow along the north edge of the East Beach pavilion area.
Be sure to scope the water for all manner of water birds in winter. Don’t forget to check the jetties for gulls. Some winters, Northern Gannets come up the Bay as far as the Bay Bridge; they especially like to hang out on the south side of the Bridge on the far side of the Bay. Check the metal struts under the Bat Bridge for Peregrine Falcons and check for Peregrines on the upper railings on the Sandy Point Shoal Lighthouse, visible from the Point and from East Beach. The concrete piers of the Bay Bridge are likely to be festooned with Double-crested Cormorants in winter, as well as large numbers of gulls.
Sandy Point State Park has a seldom visited nature preserve known as the Corcoran Woods Environmental Study Area, located at the far northwest end of the park. Corcoran Woods has about four miles of hiking trails (see second page of trail map at the link at left). Corcoran Woods can offer a respite from the summer crowds at Sandy Point. The Corcoran Woods Environmental Study Area of the park has been undergoing an environmental restoration that has resulted in some clearing of non-native invasive vegetation; the area will be re-planted with native species. Corcoran Woods can be reached on foot by taking the Broadneck Trail (shown in red on the trail map), which goes northwest out of the main part of the park, past the Park Office, and then continues to the southeast corner of Corcoran Woods.
There are extensive visitor amenities, and the park may fill up on summer weekends and holidays, with additional visitors turned away, so plan accordingly.
With 297 species reported on eBird as of March 2020, Sandy Point holds the #1 place among Maryland eBird hotspots in terms of number of species.
Winter: Sandy Point is known for its large rafts of ducks in winter. Some specialties are Tundra Swan, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater & Lesser Scaup, all three scoters, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, all three mergansers, Ruddy Duck, Horned Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Red-throated and Common Loons, Great Cormorant, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Winter Wren, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Snow Bunting, and American Pipit (some years), Savannah Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow.
Spring: Wood Duck, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Virginia Rail, Sora, American Coot, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Common Loon, Northern Gannet, Osprey, Hermit Thrush, Pine Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow.
Summer: Wood Duck, Semipalmated Plover, Laughing Gull, Least Tern, Caspian Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Royal Tern, Great and Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Osprey, Purple Martin, Tree, Bank, and Barn Swallows, Cedar Waxwing, Chipping Sparrow,
Fall: Brant, Brown Pelican, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Sanderling, Dunlin, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Eastern Phoebe.
Year-round: Double-crested Cormorant, Wild Turkey, Great Blue Heron, Killdeer, Lesser Black-backed Gull (uncommon), Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Fish Crow, Eastern Bluebird, Marsh Wren, Red-winged Blackbird.
Sandy Point State Park offers handicapped-accessible food and beverage concessions, fishing and crabbing, picnic areas, shelters, bathhouses, sailing concessions, and playgrounds. There is good unobstructed viewing from the parking lot at South Point, enabling birding from or near the car. The Corcoran Woods Environmental Study Area is not wheelchair-accessible.
Sandy Point State Park is a part of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network of the National Park Service.
The park has extensive visitor amenities. A Nature Center near the marina offers educational programs in the summer months. The park also offers a marina with store, bathhouses, snackbar (seasonal), fishing and crabbing, car-top boat launch, restrooms, picnic pavilions, picnic tables, grills, seasonal swimming with guarded beaches, youth group camping, and a number of large-scale special events, such as a Blues Festival. ◾ The local chapter of the Maryland Ornithological Society is the Anne Arundel Bird Club, which offers field trips and meetings with informative programs, all free and open to the public.
To read a first-hand account of a wintertime walk through Corcoran Woods, read “A walk in Corcoran Woods is a stroll among giants” by Jeff Holland, a columnist for the Capital Gazette. Jeff’s weekly column features walks in parks and natural areas in Anne Arundel County. He has served as the director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum and as the West and Rhode Riverkeeper.
Ample paved parking lots throughout the park. See trail map at link at left. Do not park along roadways.
From Annapolis and points west: Take US Route 50 toward the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Just before the toll lanes for the bridge, take Exit 32 for Oceanic Drive and make a left at the end of the exit ramp to go north on State Park Road, passing over US Route 50, toward the park. At the first intersection after the overpass, turn right onto South Beach Road, and stay straight to enter the main part of the park.
From Kent Island and the Eastern Shore: Take US Route 50 over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. There are no tolls in this direction. Take Exit 32 (first exit immediately after the bridge) for Oceanic Drive and make a left at the end of the exit ramp to go north on State Park Road toward the park. Make an immediate right at the first intersection onto South Beach Road, and stay straight to enter the main part of the park.
To reach the Corcoran Woods tract of Sandy Point State Park: From either westbound or eastbound US Route 50, use Exit 32 as described above and go north on State Park Road toward the park, but instead of turning right onto South Beach Road, turn LEFT onto East College Parkway, and then an immediate right to go north on Log Inn Road. In about half-a-mile, at an intersection, Log Inn Road turns right, but continue straight ahead onto Tydings Road. A small parking area is on the right (east side of road) in about 0.2 miles. Cross the street to enter Corcoran Woods, located on the left (west) side of Tydings Road. See trail map at the link at left.
Anne Arundel County: Davidsonville Park, Downs Memorial Park, Fort Smallwood Park, Greenbury Point, Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary, Kinder Farm Park, Lake Waterford Park, Quiet Waters Park, Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
Queen Anne’s County: Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center – Horsehead, Ferry Point Park, Matapeake Clubhouse & Beach / Matapeake Fishing Pier & Boat Ramp, Terrapin Nature Park
Bottomland DeciduousConifersHedgerowsUpland Deciduous Lawn, Ballfields, Golf Course Hay Meadows, Pasture, Grass FieldOld Fields, Shrubby MeadowsSandy Beach or Dunes Forested SwampFreshwater Marsh or FloodplainFreshwater Pond, Lake, or ReservoirJetties & SeawallsMud Flats (Tidal or Non-Tidal)Open Ocean, Bay, or EstuaryRivers & Streams
Ball Fields or Other SportsBeginnersBicycle Trails (Bikes may be prohibited on some trails)Boat or Canoe/Kayak LaunchBoat RentalsFishingHiking/Walking TrailsNature Education ProgramsParkingPets AllowedPicnic AreaPlaygroundRestroomsSnack Bar, Camp Store, Food ConcessionsSwimmingWater ViewWheelchair Accessible FeaturesYoung People / Families
#1 Hotspot in County or CityChesapeake Bay Gateways NetworkChesapeake Bay Western ShoreNature CentersState Parks