Sun, fun, and water are the focus of Solomons Island at the confluence of Maryland’s Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay. Solomons is as delightful and picturesque a place to leave everything behind as you’ll find around the Bay area. Water’s here, water’s there, and where it isn’t, you’re almost certainly someplace celebrating the water.
Calvert County might be one of Maryland’s smallest counties, and with 230 miles of shoreline, you can understand why there’s so much focus on water activities. But there’s enough packed into this small space to keep you busy for days, even if you only planned a three-hour tour.
You’ll find marinas, restaurants and bars (most with great views!), museums, shopping, a riverwalk/boardwalk, and spots for birding. (More than 160 bird species have been spotted here, with highlights including wintering loons, grebes, geese, ducks, and gulls.)
For those who love to fish, you’ll want to bring a cooler for your catch. The rockfish (a striped bass that’s Maryland’s state fish), redfish, bluefish, flounder, black and red drum, and the invasive blue catfish are plentiful, as are fishing charter captains and crews or mates. Bunky’s Charter Boats offers private charters and the gear you need.
One spot you don’t want to miss is the Calvert Marine Museum. Little ones can climb a model of the nearby Cove Point Lighthouse to turn on the light, look for hidden pictures in a mural, and explore the touch tank. Plus, you can discover treasures along a marsh walk, investigate an oyster house, take a cruise, marvel at a wood-carving shop, and, of course, tour the relocated screw-pile, cottage-type Drum Point Lighthouse. It’s only one of three iconic lighthouses remaining on the Bay from the original 45. Make sure you save time to browse through the gift shop to pick up some souvenirs.
Head to the end of the Dowell peninsula at the southeastern section of the island, where Back Creek joins the Patuxent for a tranquil moment. You’ll see the 8-foot statue “On Watch” by world-renowned Maryland sculptor Antonio “Toby” Mendez. It’s on the grounds of the former Amphibious Training Base, where between 1942 and 1945, about 68,000 military personnel were trained. They landed in North Africa, Sicily, and Normandy. Ironically, some of those trained here at Solomons, Maryland, participated in the landings in the Solomons Islands in the Pacific.
When you want to explore nature, stop by the Battle Creek Cypress Swamp in Prince Frederick, where you’ll discover the country’s northernmost stand of cypress trees, with the knees, but without the Spanish moss.
The Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum is on 560 scenic acres along the Patuxent with miles of trails, a visitor center with interactive exhibits, and a ton of educational programs. The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (one of three in the country), located in Saint Leonard, is home to more than 10,000,000 artifacts.
The Tiki Bar & Grill, known for its mai tais and live music on weekend nights, has a menu that features shareables like fried pickle chips, rockfish bites, and lump crab balls, along with main dishes including shrimp, scallops, beef skewers, and salmon — and even a free dog biscuit for your fur baby. (It’s closed December through March.)
Public art, most of it on loan from the National Gallery of Art and the Hirshhorn Museum, is the highlight of the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center, a Smithsonian affiliate. The bronze fountain sculpture at the entrance depicts a Bay waterman holding oyster-harvesting tongs. When the water’s cascading, children are allowed to dip their toes in.
Calvert County is home to a constant stream of events, from food-related to boating and arts to history, giving you plenty to do when you visit.
Where to Eat
The Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar is operated by the same Calvert County natives who owned Clarke’s Landing restaurant for 16 years prior to building the Lighthouse in 2013. Family-friendly with a kids menu. Look for Rusty in the kitchen and Nick managing the front of the house. Happy hour on weekdays (except holidays). It’s closed for the month of January. 14636 S. Solomons Island Rd.
Located just outside of town, the Ruddy Duck Brewery & Grill with Carlos Yanez and Michael Kelley at the spout (so to speak) is the kind of hangout place every town needs. This is where you go for live music, sports programming (on four high-definition screens), and trivia night. Look for greens, seafood platters, pizzas, sandwiches, and more. 13200 Dowell Rd., Dowell
Kids love searching for sharks’ teeth and fossils at Calvert Cliffs State Park. The distance from the primary parking lot to the beach is a little less than 2 miles, so make sure you bring a stroller for young children. You can also fish, explore, and enjoy the park’s accessible recycled tire playground. 9500 H.G. Trueman Rd., Lusby
Where to Stay
The Solomons Victorian Inn dates from 1906, and its seven rooms offer spectacular waterfront views with a couple that feature memory-worthy sunsets. The Islandscape accommodation is ADA compliant. Electric vehicle charging station available. 125 Charles St.
Solomons Inn Resort + Marina, with 276 rooms and 50 suites, a marina, seasonal pool, 24-hour business center, and fitness center, sits on 9 acres of beautifully landscaped property on tidal Back Creek. Isaac’s Restaurant & Pub features local seafood specialties, local craft beers, and a bourbon menu. 155 Holiday Dr.
Back Creek Inn Bed & Breakfast offers a private cottage, rooms, and suites (each with its own en suite bathroom). There’s a deep-water dock, so you can come by sea and borrow a bike to explore the area. Children over 12 are allowed, and two suites offer space for three guests. 210 Alexander St.
As you’re driving through the county, look for traces of its agricultural heritage, local history, and artistic talent with hand-painted wooden quilt squares mounted on barns and buildings. There are 21 “barn quilts” from Dunkirk to Solomons.
This story originally ran in our September issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.