Excerpt...Country Roads of Maryland and Delaware Ordering Information
Chapter 6--The Lower Eastern Shore
From Baltimore, take I-97 south to US 50/301 east into Annapolis and the start of the drive.
From Washington, D.C., take US 50/301 east into Annapolis and the start of the drive.
Highlights: Annapolis; the lower Eastern Shore countryside; Kent Island; St. Michaels; Oxford; Cambridge; Easton; Salisbury; Ocean City; Assateague Island National Seashore. This drive is easily completed in a day or two, but take your time to explore the unique Eastern Shore culture and countryside, staying in quaint accommodations along the way.
The lower Eastern Shore has developed into a major Maryland tourist attraction, with much scenic beauty, flavorful history, and the lure of the water. Yet, somehow, most of the region has remained a land of pleasant living (and driving). It's well worth driving through the commercialism to get to the real Eastern Shore down many country roads.
Annapolis is the gateway to the Eastern Shore and it's a great place for a quick one-day tour or a weekend getaway. Though it's the state capital, it still has a small town feel.
Annapolis has been welcoming visitors by land and sea since 1649. This port city on the Chesapeake Bay and Severn River has seen seafarers, merchants, politicians, and travelers for more than 350 years.
Annapolis was the capital of the brand new United States for nine months and is now the capital of Maryland and sailing in the Chesapeake Bay.
A walking tour of downtown Annapolis is easy and rewarding. Visitors can follow the signs for Naval Academy parking and then take a shuttle bus or they can try their luck with public parking right in the center of town. Good signage leads the way.
The Victualling Warehouse Maritime Museum sits right on the waterfront and provides a great overview of the history of Annapolis. The highlight of a museum tour is definitely the triorama of the Annapolis waterfront in 1751, when the city became the principal seaport of the upper Chesapeake Bay.
The vibrant waterfront area is packed with interesting shops, cafes, and restaurants. It's a great place for a snack or a full meal. A few local favorites include: Buddy's Crabs and Ribs; Ram's Head Tavern (tasty microbrewery beers); and Middleton Tavern.
Middleton Tavern is typical of the history that pervades everything in Annapolis, including food and drink. Like most 18th century taverns, Middleton Tavern provided meals and lodging, but it also served as a communication network and social center for the region.
The inn originally opened in 1750 as a refuge for seagoing men and was run by Horatio Middleton, a ferry boat operator. His son, Samuel, operated the tavern, the ferry, and overseas trade and ship construction companies. He evidently enjoyed his own food and drink, as a poem was written about his escapades, saying, "Eye shut, and mouth open, he loudly did snore, his arse on one chair and his legs on two more, and around him were strew'd many bottles & glasses."
Today, the busy restaurant still serves as a refuge, but for a wider variety of men and women going in many directions. They serve excellent seafood and their own tasty beer, just as Samuel Middleton would have liked.
The Annapolis tour continues on foot, up on State Circle. The pretty Maryland State House is the oldest one in continuous legislative use in the U.S. They offer an interesting 20 minute guided tour.
The governor's mansion at State Circle and School Street has seven rooms open for public viewing. St. John's College, the third oldest school in the U.S., is just down the street.
The Old Treasury Building, also on State Circle, now houses the Historic Annapolis Foundation Tour Office, which provides an array of excellent tours and programs. If you have the time, this organization is well worth contacting.
King George Street leads past many historic houses of note (Hammond-Harwood House and the Chase-Lloyd House) and onto the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy through Gate #3. Founded in 1845, this legendary school has been training many of the nation's future naval officers since 1845.
Visitors are typically allowed in the museum, the chapel (look for the crypt of John Paul Jones), and Bancroft Hall Dormitory (the sample midshipman room is interesting). Well-run tours can be arranged at Ricketts Hall near Gate #1.
The walk leads back to the waterfront by way of the William Paca House. If you visit one historic home in Annapolis, make it the Paca place. This elegant Georgian mansion was the home of William Paca, a three-term Maryland governor and a signer of the Declaration of Independence.
If you have time, the waterfront area can be further explored. The City Market House, originally opened in 1858, offers fresh seafood and other fare in a festive atmosphere. The inner harbor dock often has many beautiful boats tied up to it, as does Eastport, an historic and photogenic sailing port across Spa Creek.
If you want to test your sealegs, Annapolis is a great base. Chesapeake Marine Tours, located at the City Dock, offers a wide variety of tours around the area, ranging in length from 40 minutes to 7 1/2 hours and heading in many interesting directions on the water. It's a great introduction to the Chesapeake Bay.
If you're lucky enough to find yourself in Annapolis for the night, you are definitely in luck with accommodations. There are many historic inns in this historic city. The best bet is to call the Historic Inns of Annapolis for specific recommendations, including the Maryland Inn, the Robert Johnson House, the State House Inn. There are also several dozen B&B possibilities.
Annapolis provides a tantalizing taste of the Chesapeake Bay and the lower Eastern Shore provides a full meal. US 50/301 leads east from Annapolis and across the huge Bay Bridge to Kent Island before heading onto the Eastern Shore proper.
Kent Island was originally settled by Virginians in 1631, but it's now a Maryland marvel. Today's visitors may want to venture south on State 8 for a quick stop at Matapeake State Park, featuring a great view of the Bay Bridge, or even further to Kentmorr Harbor for a look and taste of Chesapeake Bay seafood.
Busy US 50/31 leads past incredible commercialism, which belies the country calm just ahead. However, shoppers will love some of the bargains you can find at the many outlet malls. When US 50 and 301 split, continue on US 50 west.
For an interesting diversion, look for the right turn onto State 662 south toward Wye. This tiny town is the home of two big attractions. The giant Wye Oak is Maryland's official state tree and is the largest white oak in the U.S. It's also 450 years young and has shaded many country road drivers. The Old Wye Church is one of the oldest Episcopal churches in America.
Nearby, the Wye Mill ground flour for Washington's Revolutionary War Army at Valley Forge in 1778. Robert Morris, financier of the American Revolution, ordered the flour and paid 10,000 pounds sterling (the equivalent of about $50,000 today). The mill continues to grind cornmeal and whole wheat and buckwheat flour for armies of tourists today. Their cookbook, Wye Millers Grind, features more than 100 recipes. Drivers can continue on State 662 south before turning right back onto US 50.
US 50 runs all the way across the Eastern Shore of Maryland to the Atlantic Ocean at Ocean City. It's a busy highway and starkly contrasts with all of the country roads that lie just miles away from the speeding cars. However, it's the best base for exploring many Eastern Shore towns all along its path.
The first diversion from US 50 comes quickly, taking State 322 south around Easton and then State 33 east to St. Michaels and one of the Eastern Shore's most enjoyable destinations.
St. Michaels is a microcosm of the entire Eastern Shore. This port town features a subtle wealth of scenic beauty, boating, museums, shopping, dining, and accommodations.
St. Michaels is the oldest city in Talbot County and it predates the founding of colonial Maryland, in that Captain William Claiborne traded here in 1634. The town and river derived its name from the Episcopal church established in 1677. However, the name of the river was changed to Miles, because of the Quaker influence in the area and their dislike of saintly names.
Due to its location, St. Michaels developed into a major shipbuilding city and is thought to have been the place where the plans for the Baltimore clipper ship were conceived. The influence of the sea has been and still is quite important.
In 1813, St. Michaels became known as "The Town that Fooled the British." On a foggy night, the British attacked St. Michaels with an artillery barrage. But they aimed too high, because St. Michaels citizens had placed lanterns in the treetops to fool them. Only one house was struck by a cannonball.
When Baltimore became a major port, St. Michaels declined in importance as a major commercial harbor. However, boatbuilding and seafood remained important. In the last two decades, tourism has become a major industry and its easy to see why.
One of the reasons for so many happy tourists is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. This waterside museum occupies 18 pretty acres right on the waterfront at Navy Point. The interesting exhibits include a boatbuilding shop, an aquarium, waterfowling, a watermen's village, Chesapeake Bay history, and a floating skipjack and bugeye.
The Hooper Strait Lighthouse was also moved to the museum in 1966 and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1979. It provides a pretty view from the top, as well as an insider's look at a lighthouse.
The rest of St. Michaels is steeped in history and modern pleasures. Houses of historic note include the Tarr House (1667), the Amelia Welby House (the first Poet Laureate of Maryland), and the aforementioned "cannonball" house. The St. Mary's Square Museum, located on the original town green, features local memorabilia. Also on the square, the unusual Museum of Costume exhibits historic fashions reflecting early lifestyles.
A different view of St. Michaels and the surrounding area should definitely be pursued on the water. It's just like a floating country road drive. There are several options available out of St. Michaels. The "Patriot," a large vessel, offers popular narrated cruises along the Miles River, complete with lots of history and great views. The "Footloose" and the "Jayhawk" feature chartered sailing cruises for the more adventurous.
Chesapeake Bay Nature Cruises & Expeditions offers another interesting outing on the water. Robert and Alice Jane Lippson guide guests on customized nature tours aboard their boat, the "Odyssey." Renowned marine biologists, the Lippsons are co-authors of a popular nature guidebook, Life on the Chesapeake Bay. Cruisers can explore many natural wonders of this phenomenal body of water, including anchoring in quiet coves, netting fish in shallow waters, birdwatching, traipsing through wetlands, and many other possibilities only the Lippsons can provide.
Back in town, the shopping is the next tourist attraction. Celebrate Maryland and Chesapeake Bay Outfitters offer the perfect places to buy appropriate Maryland country road souvenirs. Flamingo Flats is a unique store that specializes in a huge variety of different sauces and spices. There are many other tiny shops just awaiting your own discovery.
All of this sightseeing and shopping makes tourists hungry and St. Michaels responds with a wide variety of restaurants. Creative and casually elegant dining is available at 208 Talbot. Great seafood can be found many places, but local favorites include the Crab Claw and the St. Michaels Crab House & Bar. If you want to belly up or chow down with the local watermen, head for Carpenter Street Saloon.
St. Michaels requires a stay of at least one night and there are many options. If you want a break from the B&B scene without staying at a cookie-cutter hotel, the St. Michaels Harbour Inn & Marina is the perfect choice. This quiet modern facility features just 46 luxurious waterfront rooms and suites with great views. Other amenities include a popular restaurant, a marina, and outdoor pool, and bike and boat rentals.
B&Bs are also a good bet in St. Michaels. Call the Kemp House Inn (Georgian), the Palmer House (Colonial), and the Parsonage Inn (Victorian) to ask about their accommodations and a room at the inn.
As part of the St. Michaels diversion, be sure to continue out State 33 all the way to the end at Tilghman Island. This island at the end of the road is a seafood mecca and hosts the last working skipjack sailing fleet on the bay. It provides a close look at the working side of the Eastern Shore.
One the way out to Tilghmans Island, there are three additional possibilities for overnight accommodations. These include the upscale Inn at Perry Cabin, the popular waterfront Wade's Point Inn on the Bay, and the quiet Inn at Christmas Farm (ask about one of the wonderful rooms in the converted chapel).
It's tough to leave St. Michaels, but the rest of the Eastern Shore has more in store for those willing to turn onto a few country roads. Take State 33 right into Easton for another Eastern Shore history lesson.
The busy city of Easton was the colonial capital of the Eastern Shore and now serves as Talbot County's seat. The best place to start an exploration of this historic town is at the Historical Society of Talbot County at 25 South Washington Street. They offer a number of guided tours of furnished 18th- and 19th-century homes, the regional Academy of the Arts, their own museum shop, and much more of interest in Easton. Highlights of a walking tour include the court house, several old hotels, and many ornate houses from other eras.
If you can time a stop in Easton for the fall, try to make plans to attend the Waterfowl Festival during the second weekend of November. During this world-renowned event, more than 500 of the most prestigious artisans present the finest in wildlife art, carvings, duck stamps, photography, books, decoys, guns, and many exhibits and demonstrations.
Many people use Easton as a base for exploring this area of the Eastern Shore. Two very good reasons for staying are the Tidewater Inn and Bishop's House Bed & Breakfast. The Tidewater Inn is one of the state's finest hotels, while the Bishops House Bed & Breakfast has been lovingly restored and offers a variety of quaint rooms and plenty of Eastern Shore hospitality.
The restaurants in Easton also offer another reason to stay. If you want to splurge, head for the Hunter's Tavern at the Tidewater Inn. Along with an elegantly, yet casual, atmosphere, specialties include their world-famous snapper soup, Chef Raymond's award-winning crab cakes, and a bountiful seafood platter. Be sure to enjoy a drink beforehand in the Decoy Lounge. Three other more casual dining options in this bar-happy town are the Legal Spirits Pub (in the Avalon Theatre), the Washington Street Pub, and Bullbriers Saloon (great bread pudding).
US 50 heads straight out of Easton and into the commercialized 20th century, but its easy to go back in time with just a turn off the highway. One possibility is following State 333 over to Oxford for a look at another classic Eastern Shore town.
Oxford is more of a residential town than a tourist town. Many people make their living in boatbuilding or on the water, harvesting a variety of abundant seafood (the Chesapeake Bay's seafood industry is in the midst of a major comeback).
This small town is packed with historic stops. The Oxford Museum specializes in 19th century maritime history, as well as that of Oxford. The staff can provide ideas for an historical tour of the town.
Just down the street sits the dock for the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry. It is believed to be the oldest privately-operated ferry in the country. It started in 1683 and has been in continuous service since 1836. The ferry provides a unique and convenient route between Oxford and the St. Michaels area.
If you want to immerse yourself in a typical Eastern Shore town, stay in Oxford for a few days at the Robert Morris Inn or the Oxford Inn. The Robert Morris Inn overlooks the Tred Avon River and features quiet rooms and famous seafood. Just up the street, the Oxford Inn combines B&B hospitality with great dining and friendly locals at Pope's Tavern.
Head back to US 50 and the 20th century just long enough to make it to another time warp in Cambridge. Cambridge sits right on the Choptank River, which served as the mainstage for much of James Michener's novel, Chesapeake.
In this wonderful book about the Eastern Shore, Michener writes, "It was simply there, the indefinable river, now broad, now narrow, in this age turbulent, in that asleep, becoming a formidable stream and than a spacious bay and then the ocean itself, an unbroken chain with all parts so interrelated that it will exist forever. . ."
Michener's Eastern Shore still exists in cities like Cambridge. This historic haven was founded in 1686 and still has many of the original 18th and 19th century houses along High Street.
The Meredith House and Neild Museum explore the history of Dorchester County. The former provides a fascinating look at seven Maryland governors associated with the county, while the latter covers agriculture, industry, and maritime history for the area. Just outside of Cambridge, on State 343, the Dorchester Heritage Museum presents a detailed view of the county.
For old salts, the Brannock Maritime Museum is a treasure trove. Visitors can explore the history of the Maryland Oyster Navy, early navigational instruments, ship models, local maritime memorabilia, and an excellent Chesapeake Bay library. One of many highlights of the museum is an exhibit on the USS Chester, which was bombed, torpedoed, strafed, and straddled 37 times, but always returned her crew from battle.
If all of this touring makes you thirsty, head for the Wild Goose Brewery and a unique Eastern Shore experience. This local microbrewery has become popular with beer drinkers thirsty for a good brew. The brewery offers an interesting tour and a great way to learn what to drink with steamed crabs.
Historic Cambridge has three accommodations possibilities in keeping with the history theme. Glasgow Inn, owned and operated by a wonderful woman named Louiselee Roche, dates from 1760 and features an authentic historic atmosphere for the night. Commodores Cottage offers unique private cottages in a 3-acre garden. The Oakley House was built in 1913, after Annie Oakley and her husband had toured the world with the Wild West Show and chose Cambridge as the place they wanted to live. It's now a wonderful place to choose for the night.
If you desire a unique Eastern Shore wilderness experience, head south from Cambridge on US 335 to Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This large preserve is packed with waterfowl, other birds, and lots of wildlife perfect for picture taking. If you have time take a hike on one of the short trails or drive slowly along the 4 1/2-mile wildlife drive. It's a wild world down this country road.
Back on US 50 rushing cars head toward the Atlantic Ocean. There is very little to see along the highway before Salisbury, though there is a wonderful B&B in the small town of Vienna. The Tavern House, an authentically-restored colonial tavern owned and operated by Harvey and Elise Altergott, is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet stay in a tiny town along the Nanticoke River.
Salisbury offers a great base for exploring the southernmost part of Maryland's Eastern Shore. There are many small towns, quiet coast ports, several wildlife preserves and parks, and even some Chesapeake Bay islands surviving in another time.
Somerset County's seat, Princess Anne is just 15 minutes from Salisbury. The Somerset County Tourism Office can provide a walking tour map of the historic district, as well as information about other outings in the county.
State 363 runs west to Deal Island, providing pretty scenery along the way. The country road passes through several small fishing towns and the Deal Island Wildlife Management Area on the way to Deal Island and Wenona.
State 361 leads west off of US 13 south of Princess Anne to the small old towns of Manokin, Upper Fairmount, Fairmount, and Rumbley. Along with an inside look at Eastern Shore living, the Fairmount Academy, founded in 1839, provides an inside look at old-time Eastern Shore schooling.
Finally, State 413 leads south to Crisfield and a unique Maryland experience. Visitors will love this seafood capital and the waterside lifestyle revolving around the oyster. The Crisfield Historical Museum provides a colorful overview of the history and development of Crisfield's seafood industry. You can taste the results at Main Street restaurants like the Dockside Restaurant and the Waterman's Inn.
But many people head to Crisfield for one of the frequent ferries heading out to Smith Island. Lying about 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is the state's only inhabited island accessible only by boat. The frequent ferries carry interested visitors to explore the three small villages that make up Maryland's portion of the island (the southern tip is in Virginia). It makes for a unique excursion before returning to the country roads on the mainland.
The drive continues west on US 50 and into Worcester County, Maryland's easternmost county and the only one facing the Atlantic Ocean. You have two distinct choices when it comes to destinations: the busy beach resort life of Ocean City or the quiet beach life of Assateague Island National Seashore.
Ocean City is a great beach resort city for vacationers that like this type of lifestyle (and there are many). It has everything a beachgoer goes for, including a huge variety of accommodations, many excellent restaurants, and lots of activities. If you opt for a few days of Ocean City fun, contact the Ocean City Visitors and Convention Bureau for further information.
A totally different kind of beach experience is available just a few miles south of Ocean City. Take State 611 south across Sinepuxent Bay to the Assateague Island National Seashore and a beach beyond belief.
This island refuge is a perfect example of good government.
Assateague Island is divided in half by the Maryland-Virginia state line. The Maryland half is a bit more developed and has more possibilities, while the Virginia half is more primitive (but features the nearby town of Chincoteague). Country Roads of Virginia offers a drive along the Eastern Shore of Virginia, ending at Chincoteague and Assateague Island.
From the entrance to Maryland's portion, at the Barrier Island Visitor Center, country road drivers know they have taken a route to a different world. This facility features exhibits, an aquarium, and park rangers and naturalists loaded with maps, ideas, and an answer to almost any question.
From the marshes, through the sand dunes, to the beach and the Atlantic Ocean, Assateague Island is packed with wildlife for everyone to see and enjoy. The National Park Service offers many guided walks, talks, and programs that provide further insight into this wonderful world of waves, sand, birds, wild horses, and other unique plants and animals.
If you want to spend the night in paradise, you'll have to be a happy camper. The 680-acre Assateague State Park offers camping, with bathhouses, hot showers, a seasonal restaurant, and many activities. The National Park Service offers campgrounds oceanside and beachside, with primitive facilities for those roughing it.
If you want to enjoy the Assateague experience in a little more comfort, stay in Ocean City or head for the quietly appropriate town of Snow Hill just to the south. There are several B&B possibilities in this historic town, including Chanceford Hall, River House Inn, and Snow Hill Inn.
In the area:
All telephone numbers are within area code 410.
Victualling Warehouse Maritime Museum, (Annapolis); 268-5576
Buddy's Crabs and Ribs, (Annapolis); 269-1800
Ram's Head Tavern, (Annapolis); 268-4545
Middleton Tavern, (Annapolis); 263-3323
Maryland State House, (Annapolis); 974-3400
Governor's Mansion, (Annapolis); 974-3531
St. John's College, (Annapolis); 263-2371
Historic Annapolis Foundation Tour Office, (Annapolis); 267-8149
Hammond-Harwood House, (Annapolis); 269-1714
Chase-Lloyd House, (Annapolis); 263-2723
U.S. Naval Academy, (Annapolis); 263-6933
William Paca House, (Annapolis); 263-5553
Chesapeake Marine Tours, (Annapolis); 268-7600
Historic Inns of Annapolis, 263-2641
Old Wye Church, (Wye Mills); 827-8853
Wye Mill, (Wye Mills); 827-6909
Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, (St. Michaels); 745-2916
St. Mary's Square Museum, (St. Michaels); 745-9561
Museum of Costume, (St. Michaels); 745-5154
Patriot Cruises, (St. Michaels); 745-3100
Footloose Sailing Charter, (St. Michaels); 745-3717
Jayhawk Sailing, (St. Michaels); 745-2911
Chesapeake Bay Nature Cruises & Expeditions, (St. Michaels); 745-3255
Celebrate Maryland, (St. Michaels); 745-5900
Flamingo Flats, (St. Michaels); 745-2053
Chesapeake Bay Outfitters, (St. Michaels); 745-3107
208 Talbot, (St. Michaels); 745-3838
Crab Claw, (St. Michaels); 745-2900
St. Michaels Crab House & Bar, (St. Michaels); 745-5954
Carpenter Street Saloon, (St. Michaels); 745-5111
St. Michaels Harbour Inn & Marina, (St. Michaels); 745-9001
Kemp House Inn, (St. Michaels); 745-2243
Palmer House, (St. Michaels); 745-3319
Parsonage Inn, (St. Michaels); 745-5519
Inn at Perry Cabin, (St. Michaels); 745-5178
Wade's Point Inn on the Bay, (St. Michaels); 745-2500
Inn at Christmas Farm, (St. Michaels); 822-4470
Historical Society of Talbot County, (Easton); 822-0773
Tidewater Inn, (Easton); 822-1300
Bishop's House Bed & Breakfast, (Easton); 820-7290
Hunter's Tavern, (Easton); 822-1300
Legal Spirits Pub, (Easton); 822-5522
Washington Street Pub, (Easton); 822-9011
Bullbrier's Saloon, (Easton); 819-0055
Oxford Museum, (Oxford); 226-5122
Robert Morris Inn, (Oxford); 226-5111
Oxford Inn & Pope's Tavern, (Oxford); 226-5220
Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, (Oxford); 745-9023
Meredith House and Neild Museum, (Cambridge); 228-7953
Dorchester Heritage Museum, (Cambridge); 228-5530
Brannock Maritime Museum, (Cambridge); 228-6938
Glasgow Inn, (Cambridge); 228-0575
Commodores Cottage, (Cambridge); 228-6938
Oakley House, (Cambridge); 228-6623
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, (Dorchester County); 228-2677
Tavern House, (Vienna); 376-3347
Somerset County Tourism, (Princess Anne); 651-2968
Fairmount Academy, (Upper Fairmount); 651-0351
Dockside Restaurant, (Crisfield); 968-0111
Waterman's Inn, (Crisfield); 968-2119
Smith Island, (Chesapeake Bay); 651-2968
Ocean City Visitors & Convention Bureau, (Ocean City); 289-8181
Assateague Island National Seashore, (Assateague Island); 641-1441
Assateague State Park, (Assateague Island); 641-2120
Chanceford Hall, (Snow Hill); 632-2231
River House Inn, (Snow Hill); 632-2772
Snow Hill Inn, (Snow Hill); 632-2102