Three Eastern Shore Towns to visit this Summer

When the summer heats up and it’s time to pack up the family and head for waterfront breezes, skip Ocean City and shorten your travels by heading to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The slower pace, welcoming atmosphere, and family-friendly, authentic vibes of Rock Hall, Easton and St. Michaels make them ideal getaways for daytrips or weekend excursions.

17333736926 f7c28ac15d oRock Hall

This watermen’s community is built around a busy harbor full of workboats and pleasure craft, and you can’t throw a rock without hitting a great place to order up some steamed Chesapeake Bay blue crabs. The town proper features a charming, walkable main street with Victorian storefronts, coffee shops, and restaurants that offer plenty of places to pick up souvenirs or fortify the family with a hand-dipped ice-cream cone. Here are a few highlights of Rock Hall.

Waterman’s Crab House
With large decks overlooking Rock Hall harbor, this classic Eastern Shore crabhouse is just the place to belly up to a picnic table overflowing with Old Bay covered blue crabs, steamed corn, all the other fixings of a summertime feast. This family-friendly spot frequently has live music and lively atmosphere, and if that doesn’t bring a smile to some of the little faces in the group, the towering classic sundae definitely will. 410-639-2261; facebook.com/Watermans-Crab-House-196640147050127

Durding’s Store
Hop on the local trolley shuttle into town for the old-school charm of Durding’s Store. With its original soda fountain, turn-of-the-century décor, and wide assortment of ice cream and sorbet flavors, it’s sure to be a family favorite. Don’t miss checking out the original wooden phone booth or the old-school candy counter for its Charlie and the Chocolate Factory feel. 410-639-7611; rockhallmd.com/business-directory/
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HabitatEastern Neck Island
Eastern Neck Island, the only National Wildlife Refuge on the Upper Easter Shore, lies outside of town, about a ten-minute drive south. Its unspoiled, gentle hiking trails make it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. Eastern Neck is federally managed and open to the public. The trails are easy to walk and provide plenty of great opportunities to watch eagles, osprey, turtles, turkeys, and other native critters, and the island’s interpretive center is the perfect place to start. Summertime visitors will enjoy the Butterfly Garden or the Tidal Marsh Overlook trail, with a boardwalk that provides stellar views and plenty of great photo ops. Families with older kids will have fun exploring the salt marshes and loblolly forests on the Duck Inn Trail, which terminates at a wide beach overlooking the mouth of the Chester River. fws.gov/refuge/eastern_neck/

 

avalon in easton

Easton

This is small town Americana at its best. Easton’s Historic District is shady and full of 18th- and 19th-century homes, stores and civic buildings, and its many public parks and walkways are perfect for summertime picnics and leisurely strolls. Home to a stellar music venue, the Avalon Theater, as well as wonderful museums, shops and cultural sites, Easton is a must-see destination for any Eastern Shore daytripper.

Avalon Theater
The Avalon Theater, a spectacularly restored 1920s music and theater venue is a cornerstone of Eastern Shore community life. The Avalon frequently hosts free outdoor music events in the summer that are full of families on blankets, enjoying the show. Check out the schedule in advance at avalonfoundation.org

 

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Councell Farms
As you head toward Easton on Route 50, don’t forget to stop at the excellent Councell Farms along the way. This family-owned farm market sells fresh veggies and local fruit, hand-dipped ice-cream, and has a farm-themed playground that is sure to delight kids or just the young at heart. Plus is has the cutest little baby goats you could ever hope to cuddle. 410-822-8213; councellfarms.com

Washington Street & Historic District
Easton’s downtown area is walkable, shady, appealingly historic, and offers plenty in the way of shops and eateries. Families will enjoy dropping into Crackerjacks (crackerjackstoys.com), a magical little toy store bursting with books, games, dress-up clothes and craft materials for every age group. Next door is Kiln Born Creations (kilnborncreations.com), where little artists can make their mark on fired ceramics on their own or join a story time painting class.

All that fun can work up an appetite, so drop by Hill’s Pharmacy, an old-school soda fountain for a sammie and an ice-cream cone to refuel. Your last stop should be the first-class art exhibits at the Academy Art Museum just a few blocks away, where family art days and Saturday classes use their rich collections to inspire creativity in families and kids.

 

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St. Michaels

This small-but-mighty Eastern Shore town packs a lot of charm, history and experiences into its compact footprint. Once a major hub of the Bay’s maritime trade and seafood industries, St. Michaels' main product today is tourism—and it’s easy to see why. Candy-colored storefronts, beautifully restored homes, peaceful marinas and a stellar maritime museum make St. Michaels a must-see destination for any Eastern Shore excursion.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
This sprawling, 18-acre museum covers all the major milestones in the Chesapeake’s history—and offers families endless opportunities to explore, play and learn. Don’t miss the historic Hooper Strait Lighthouse, where kids can try on keeper’s uniforms and keep watch off the light’s original balcony, or the boat shop, where trained apprentices are happy to stop and explain in detail exactly what they’re working on. Family activity bags for children below reading age are free, and for a few extra dollars, you can include a ride on the Miles River on the Winnie Estelle, an authentic Chesapeake buyboat.
410-745-2916; cbmm.org

Justine’sIce-cream is an essential element of any daytrip and Justine’s does not disappoint. Just a block away from the Maritime Museum, Justine’s endlessly creative milkshake concoctions (chocolate covered pretzel shake, anyone?) on the “Wall of Shakes” is worth the visit alone—and you haven’t even gotten to the epic sundaes yet. 410-745-0404; justinesicecream.com

DSC 0019The Patriot and the Crab Claw
This pairing of a boat ride and blue crabs can’t be beat. The Patriot (patriotcruises.com) offers a scenic, hour-long narrated cruise of the Miles River and plenty of amenities you’ll be grateful for on a hot summer day—a concession stand, bathrooms and air conditioning. Catch the cool river breezes from the shaded second-floor deck as you watch watermen landing their catch and osprey diving for fish. Once you head back to the dock, the Crab Claw, a classic crabhouse, is located next door. The Crab Claw’s crabcake sandwich, an order of clam strips and a cold drink enjoyed with a water view can’t be beat. thecrabclaw.com

—Kate Livie

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