Stretching some 10 mi along a narrow barrier island off Maryland's Atlantic coast, Worcester County's Ocean City draws millions from neighboring states (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Delaware) and the District of Columbia virtually year-round to its broad beaches and the innumerable activities and amenities that cling to them, as well as to the quiet bay side between the island and the mainland. "O.C." is a premier mid-Atlantic leisure travel destination, at once big and small, sprawling and congested, old and new, historic and hip, noisy and quiet, sophisticated and tacky, expensive and not, and everything in between.
The town grew into a city south to north. On the older, southern end of the island a restored 19th-century carousel and other traditional amusement park rides churn near a long fishing pier along the inlet connecting the Atlantic and Assawoman Bay. On the opposite side of the inlet is the northern tip of the pristine 37-mi-long Assateague Island, federally and state-protected lands devoid of man-made elements beyond the most rudimentary.
From this southern end, O.C.'s renowned and brilliantly maintained 3-mi-long boardwalk reaches northward as far as 27th Street, nothing but sand to one side, everything else—hotels and eateries and shops—crowding every available square inch lining the other. Beyond 27th Street, the cross streets climb to 145th at the Delaware state line. High-rise condominium complexes prevail farther to the north, interspersed with more hotels and shopping complexes. While it seems a little less hectic toward O.C.'s northern end, beaches are not necessarily less crowded, depending on the season and on the presence of condominium residents. The western side, along the Bay, tends to be made up of smaller enterprises, including cruise and fishing-boat firms.