DELMARVA PENINSULA: OYSTERS, CRABS & OCEAN'S WAVES

 

ITINERARY AS EXCERPTED FROM KAREN BROWN’S E-BOOK:

Recommended Itinerary Length: 2 to 6 days

Highlights: Ocean Beach, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Assateague Island National Seashore, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Bay, Eastin, Tilghman Island, Annapolis, Naval Academy

Chesapeake Bay divides the state of Maryland neatly into two parts-to the west you find the state capital of Annapolis, the city of Baltimore, and the suburbs of Washington, D.C. To the east lies the Delmarva Peninsula, whose eastern coast is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean. “Delmarva” is an acronym for Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, the three states that share this peninsula, sometimes also called the Tidewater Peninsula or the Eastern Shore.

Recommended Pacing: Starting either from Baltimore or Washington, travel to Annapolis and on to the Delmarva Peninsula. Visiting the peninsula can take as little as two days with an overnight in one of the charming towns. Do not rush-you could easily spend a week moseying around and it will be all the more pleasurable if you plan your trip to avoid the hot and humid summer months.

Begin your trip in Salisbury, reached by driving east over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge then south and southeast on Route 50. The art of decoy carving has now been recognized as American folk art and from their humble beginnings as functional objects used by hunters to attract waterfowl; decoys have now become sought-after and expensive treasures for serious antique collectors. To see some of the best decoys carved by Maryland’s renowned carvers, visit the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art located at 909 S. Schumaker Drive. (410-742-4988)

Turning east from Salisbury, travel toward the Atlantic-coast beaches on Route 50 and to the major Maryland beach resort of Ocean City. Once upon a time Ocean City was known for its boardwalk, tourist attractions, and hotels whose residents were escaping from the sweltering heat and humidity inland to the coolness of the ocean. This once-charming town has now become a bustling city of wall-to-wall condominiums, hotels, homes, and even a convention center, losing much that once made it so special. But there’s still a boardwalk, now 3 miles long, lined by shops, restaurants, and arcades, and there’s still plenty of saltwater taffy. Don’t miss the carousel (circa 1802) with its hand-carved animal mounts. There are also still miles upon miles of white sandy beaches and some of the best ocean around in which to dodge the incoming breaking waves on a hot summer’s afternoon. From Ocean City there is good deep-water fishing for blue marlin, tuna, wahoo, and bull dolphin. On the bay beneath the bridge that connects Ocean City to the mainland, you find good windsurfing, jet-skiing, and para-sailing.

An interesting side trip from Ocean City is to drive 30 miles north on Routes 528 and 1, bringing you into Delaware and the towns of Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach, and Lewes-Lewes with its shops and restaurants is particularly charming. A car ferry connects Lewes with the lowest tip of New Jersey and the picturesque Victorian village of Cape May, where you could join our itinerary along the New Jersey shore (see New Jersey Itinerary). If your time is limited, return west to Annapolis on Route 9.

Eight miles south of Ocean City on Route 611 is the northern end of Assateague Island National Seashore. This 37-mile-long narrow spit of land is a wildlife refuge and also the home of the Chincoteague ponies. The National Park Service has a visitors’ center where you may obtain information on the seashore activities here like fishing, crabbing, swimming, and camping.

From Ocean City take Route 50 west and then turn south on Route 113, stopping first in Berlin, a town that has been restored and provides the opportunity for some antiquing. Farther south, just outside Snow Hill, you come to Furnace Town, the site of Maryland’s only bog-ore furnace.

Continue southwest on Route 113 then south on 13, crossing the border of Maryland into Virginia and turning east onto Route 175 for the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. From the refuge parking lot, where there are National Park Service and Wildlife Refuge centers, you can take a tram into the southern end of Assateague Island National Seashore. Walk along the shore in this peaceful and often isolated park watching the shorebirds dodge the waves and listening to their cries. This is an area for serious birdwatching and a checklist is available at any of the visitors’ centers.

On Assateague back country, camping is available on either the bay or ocean sides of the island-though the “ocean” camping is still 4 miles from the ocean itself. The island is well known for its wild ponies. If you have children, share with them the book Misty of Chincoteague and the delights of pony-penning. This event is held on the last Wednesday and Thursday in July when the young foals are rounded up to swim across the strait between Assateague and Chincoteague before being auctioned off to eager buyers.

Continuing south on Route 13 will take you to the famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, a 17.6-mile-long bridge and tunnel-undoubtedly one of man’s greatest engineering feats-which connects to Virginia Beach, a convenient way to join our Virginia itinerary.

If visiting the wildlife refuge or the Assateague seashore is not in your itinerary, after passing through Snow Hill, leave Route 113 at Pocomoke City and drive north on Route 13 towards Princess Anne. A short side trip to Crisfield (via Route 413) at the southwestern tip of Maryland brings you to a village of fishermen, their boats, and the ever-present seagulls. The primary activity here is fishing for oysters and crabs, both softshell (in the summer only) and hardshell-all three are great delicacies and eating them in their varied ways of preparation is part of the true experience of visiting the Eastern Shore.

Joining Route 50 north in Salisbury, travel northwest. Take Route 333 west to Oxford and allow time to walk the streets of this town, located at the tip of a peninsula between the Tred Avon and Choptank Rivers. See the fishing and the boat-building industry that flourishes here. For an interesting change of pace take the Oxford-Bellevue ferry to shortcut the trip to St. Michaels, using Route 33 to reach this resort town, sailing, and boating center. This is an especially attractive area in which to spend a day or two.

If you have not taken the ferry, return to Route 50 north and the town of Easton, Md, the commercial center for this part of Maryland. This is an attractive town and a good place to do some antiquing-while consuming more of the seafood of the Eastern Shore. From Easton travel Route 33 west to St. Michaels and on to Tilghman Island at the end of a spit of land curling west into the Chesapeake Bay.

There are many historic structures here on the Delmarva Peninsula and they deserve to be enjoyed at a leisurely pace, so plan to spend a night or two at one of the inns recommended in this guide. Each of these towns has its own special charm and you also need to allow some time to walk the main streets and to explore the antique shops where treasures abound.

Route 50 leads north from Easton to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and west over to Annapolis, the state capital, also known as the site of the United States Naval Academy and as a major yachting center. Congress assembled here in 1783 and 1784, making it the first capital of the United States. Annapolis is one of the oldest cities in Maryland and touring the historic buildings and walking the streets will charm you and at the same time give you insight into the importance of this city as a commercial center and state capital.

While you are here take a boat tour of the harbor and its bustling activity. Be sure to take a guided tour of the State House on State Circle, the oldest capitol in continuous legislative use and the only one where Congress has met (410-974-3400). If you tour the Naval Academy, try to time your visit to coincide with the noon formation in front of Bancroft Hall or in the spring, fall, or at commencement with one of the formal dress parades. Information on Academy tours is available at the Armel-Leftwich Visitors’ Center. (410-293-8687) To ensure that you don’t miss a thing in and around this fascinating city, drop by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors’ Bureau at 26 West Street. (410-280-0445)

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