There was an era, not too long ago, when Chesapeake Bay beaches were all the rage. Steamships carried holiday throngs to bayfront resorts and hotels; a network of shortline railroads hauled carloads of bay-bound vacationers. Notable among those resorts, Chesapeake Beach in Southern Maryland’s Calvert County boasted a luxurious hotel, amusement park, race track, boardwalk, and gambling casino.
Although the railroad stopped running in 1935 and the amusement park closed in 1972, Chesapeake Beach and adjacent North Beach once again attract vacationers and daytrippers, particularly those drawn to Calvert County’s wealth of water-based recreation.
North Beach’s seven-block waterfront encompasses a sandy beach, a public fishing pier, a half-mile-long boardwalk, and an accompanying bike path. The boardwalk has numerous benches offering stunning Chesapeake Bay views.
Located at the northeastern tip of Calvert County, North Beach’s antique and craft stores attract shoppers, while beachcombers delight in searching for fossil shells and sharks’ teeth. A wildlife refuge in North Beach’s tidal marshlands shelters native wildlife and hosts seasonal avian migrations. The Bayside History Museum, located in one of the town’s oldest houses, hosts year-round explorations into the region’s past.
Down the bay, Chesapeake Beach offers quiet strands, bayfront restaurants serving succulent seafood, water park activities, a host of events, and a quaint, historic, hometown kind of ambiance. More than 30 charter fishing boats sail from local marinas. As with North Beach, much of the town functions as a vacation and retirement community with small, neat homes perched on narrow lanes winding up nearby Randall Cliffs and newer townhome developments facing the bay.
The Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa is a bayside fixture, flanking the mouth of Fishing Creek with two marinas, two waterfront restaurants, charter fishing, a private beach, a heated pool, a balconied hotel, and a full-service salon and spa. From the bayfront decks, the view encompasses the full sweep of the middle Chesapeake Bay. On a clear day, you can see the curve of the Earth. The old Chesapeake Beach Railway depot now serves as a museum of the town’s history.
Solomons water activities
At the county’s opposite end, Solomons has also evolved into a waterfront destination. Shops, dining, and a range of accommodations transformed this former fishing village into the bay’s version of Key West. With the Patuxent River on one side and the Chesapeake on the other, Solomons has several marinas and a fleet of more than 30 charter fishing boats.
People-powered craft have found a home in Calvert’s waters. On the bayside, Fishing Creek at Chesapeake Beach has canoe and kayak rental and launching facilities, with access to the creek’s wetlands and the open bay. Parkers Creek, managed by the American Chestnut Land Trust, offers a unique opportunity to paddle into one of the last intact tidal creeks on the Western Shore. For a very modest fee, the ACLT provides canoes, gear, and guides for its scheduled trips. Flag Ponds Nature Park, also on the bay, has launching facilities for paddlers.
On the Patuxent River, the Solomons Public Boat Ramp and Pier, Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum, and Nan’s Cove on Broome’s Island offer river access. The 260-acre Kings Landing Park is the site for a variety of water-focused activities on a wetlands boardwalk, shoreline, and fishing pier. The park also hosts a launch area for canoes and kayaks and a swimming pool.
Calvert County’s maritime traditions make it an ideal venue for the Calvert Marine Museum. Located on a “back creek” in Solomons, the museum’s well-presented displays explore the Chesapeake’s history and diversity of life. Fish, skates, and rays, boat models, paintings, wood carvings, an aquarium, fossils, and a host of artifacts help visitors understand how the world’s largest estuary has evolved.
Outdoor exhibits include a boat basin, river otter habitat, a re-created salt marsh, and two light-houses.
Insider’s tip: For more information about water activities in Calvert County, use the new “Get on the Water” guide at choosecalvert.com.