If an island adventure is your idea of the perfect summer getaway, you’re probably envisioning an exotic, tropical location with palm trees swaying as waves crash against the sand of an Instagram-worthy beach. That island vacation may be more than your wallet can handle or just not feasible for a family or weekend getaway. If you’re willing to stay closer to home and forego the palm trees, Maryland has almost 300 islands. Some of those islands are real destinations worth visiting. The best part is you don’t need airfare to get there!
Many of Maryland’s island destinations are located near the Eastern Shore or Southern Maryland. Assateague Island, a 37-mile barrier island along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, is one of the most well known islands to explore in Maryland. The northern two-thirds is part of Maryland and the southern third is Virginia. Assateague is known for its wild horses, beautiful beaches and abundance of birds. Most of Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park are in the Maryland portion of the island. The Virginia section is home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The island is accessible via bridge from both Maryland and Virginia.
Assateague Island does not offer overnight accomodations beyond primitive camping on the Maryland side, making it a perfect destination for day trips or experienced campers. Beware — the mosquito population can be a major nuisance during the summer months, especially on the Chesapeake Bay side. Otherwise, the island is a beautiful place to relax, enjoy nature and explore sandy beaches, maritime forests and coastal bays. Click here for information about camping.
First time visitors are encouraged to stop at one of the Assateague Island National Seashore Visitor Centers upon arrival. Here there are exhibits and areas to learn about recreational activities as well as natural features on the seashore. Kayaking, canoeing and biking are all popular ways for visitors to explore and enjoy the wildlife at Assateague. Horseback riding, shellfishing, surf fishing, shell collecting and photography are other popular activities. Over-Sand Vehicles are allowed in certain areas with an annual permit purchased from the National Park Service.
If a charming island town with inns, restaurants and outdoor bars is more your speed Solomons Island, located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County, lives up to its Coastal Living designation as one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns”. Enjoy the river view as you cross the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge and enter Solomons. The streets of this waterfront town, paved with oyster shells, are perfect to explore quant shops and restaurants. Eat amazing seafood and watch boats sail to the bay or grab ice cream and walk along the Patuxent River pier.
The Calvert Marine Museum, a community museum established by local residents to preserve local maritime heritage, is a popular stop. You can touch 20-million-year-old fossils taken from Calvert Cliffs as you learn about the area’s prehistoric past, explore the ever changing natural world of the Chesapeake Bay, and find out how humans have shaped the region over time. The museum also offers tours of Drum Point Lighthouse and Cove Point Lighthouse. Cove Point Lighthouse being one of the oldest continuously working lighthouses in Maryland. If you’re a music lover, the museum has become the most popular performing arts venue in Southern Maryland. Over the past 30 plus years its summer concert series has attracted big name performers like B.B. King, Crosby, Stills and Nash, the Goo Goo Dolls, Kenny Loggins, REO Speedwagon, Thomas Rhett, Train and more. This year’s lineup includes Brad Paisley, George Thorogood, Jake Owen and Chris Janson.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center is another popular stop in Solomons. The sculpture garden features a quarter-mile walking path meandering through the woods past permanent and loaned sculpture. The collection includes more than 30 pieces from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. Charter boat companies offer tours and cruises for everything from sailing instruction to fishing, romantic dinner cruises and family adventures.
Tilghman Island, a charming, authentic Eastern Shore waterman’s village on the Chesapeake Bay in Talbot County, is ideal for a relaxing getaway. It’s a great way to experience the slow pace of life on the shore and enjoy all the benefits of being by the water, like delicious, fresh seafood, world-class fishing, sailing and breathtaking sunsets. Stroll through a small handful of shops like the Tilghman Island Country Store. Visit the Tilghman Island Watermen’s Museum which celebrates the culture and heritage of local watermen and their families.
With just 2.8 square miles of land, you won’t find any hotels on Tilghman Island — just bed and breakfasts, inns and vacation rentals. Sign up for sailing lessons, explore area lighthouses on a boat tour, head out on a charter to fish for rockfish and finish up your day in a hammock by the water reading a book or taking a nap. If your idea of island life is life in the slow lane, the pace of life on Tilghman Island is perfect for your island getaway. The Wylder Hotel is the perfect bed and breakfast for a relaxing weekend in Tilghman Island!
Maryland may not be what comes to mind when envisioning a summer island getaway, but there are islands worth visiting. Whether you want a romantic getaway for two, a family vacation or something in between, there’s truly something for everyone. What could be better than relaxing and enjoying life at the water’s edge?
Charissa Hipp is a wife and mom of three with 20 years of public relations/marketing experience in the travel & tourism industry. A lifelong Marylander and Terp alumna, she spends her spare time hiking with family and women’s hiking groups. She serves as the Girls Who Hike Ambassador for the state of Maryland.