Chesapeake Bay Overview
- White-washed waterfront
- Coast life
- All at sea
This beautiful swathe of Maryland coast will have you contemplating a life aquatic. Chesapeake Bay’s mild-mannered townships, manicured gardens and wide waterways were made for fresh-air idling.
Life in America’s largest estuary is predictably water-centric. Sailing and oyster harvesting are daily pursuits, master craftsmen still build boats with their hands, and fishermen set out from the harbour, returning with laden nets, to stock the restaurants of bayside towns. Bike rides down leafy streets and quiet garden ambles are serious pastimes in this waterworld. Chesapeake Bay's quaint towns attract foodies, antique-hunters and outdoorsy types to their seafood shacks, boutiques and acres of green. Boating adventures are to be had at this preppie paradise of history-steeped houses and colonial-cool design.
Completely Chesapeake BayWelcome to skipjack country. Local fisherman created this non-motorised boat for harvesting oysters. The skipjack became so popular it was named the state boat of Maryland. Set sail on one for fun or take a ride on a working boat – you may just be tonging an oyster or two before you dock, matey.
- Cabs can’t be flagged in the street. There are two ranks in Easton: Bay County Taxi and Transportation Company on North Washington Street (+1 410 770 9030) and Eastern Shore services on Glenwood Avenue (+1 410 820 8431; easternshoreservices.com).
- Tipping culture
- Between 15 and 25 per cent is typical for good service. If you’re in a hurry, just double the tax.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Days start early with boating fishing trips setting sail at dawn. The bay is on the sleepier side, however, when it comes to nightlife. Locals head to dinner between 6.30pm and 7.30pm. Cocktail sipping typically starts around 8pm; bars and music venues tend to close between 10pm and midnight.
- Packing tips
- Break out your breezy beachside best: boat shoes for sandy strolls, bike rides and crab hunts. Bring binoculars for bay-gazing.
- Recommended reads
- Craft some crustacean-laced delights with Chesapeake Bay Cooking by John Shields; don’t stop there with the cookery tomes, check out The Oyster Cookbook by Whitey Schmidt as well. History buffs can study the adventures of a New World pioneer in John Smith’s Chesapeake Voyages 1607-1609 by Helen C Rountree and various authors.
- You can’t visit the bay without sampling the local catches – the Masthead on Pier Street Marina in Oxford is known for its ravishing regional fare. Steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs, garlic mussels and conch fritters are high-lights (+1 410 226 5171; www.latitude38.org/masthead/mh.htm).
- Regional specialities
- Crabs are cooked in the same unique way across the state: steamed in water and beer, then sprinkled with Old Bay Seasoning – a flavourful combination of ground allspice, mustard and celery seeds, bay leaf, pepper, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom. Couple it with an ice-cold Budweiser and crisp hush puppies like the locals do.
- US dollars ($)
- Time zone
- Eastern Standard Time (EST); GMT -5.
- Dialling codes
- US country code: +1; area code for Easton and St Michaels: 410.
- Do go/don't go
- Starting on Memorial Day (the last Monday in May), everything gets a little busier. The influx of tourists continues until October, so if you’re looking for a buzzy bay experience plan on visiting before then. Water activities stop in November, but things don’t really start to slow down until after Christmas. Some stores in St Michaels and other waterside towns are only open during peak season and many shorten their hours as the temperature dips. Easton, however, is open all year long.
Don't go home without...
…getting your hands on a crab-cake sandwich. Golden-brown medallions of succulent crabmeat are served on a toasted bun with tartar or cocktail sauce. Our favourite rendition is at St Michaels Crab and Steak House (+1 410 745 3737; www.stmichaelscrabhouse.com).