Middle Chesapeake Bay Cruise
We just wrapped up a four day, three stop cruise around the middle Chesapeake Bay. This is a section of the bay around the Potomac River and is south of Annapolis and north of Norfolk. This cruise included three stops, Tangier Island, Virginia, Crisfield, Maryland and Solomons Island, Maryland. If you're a boater make sure you check out our boating specific information at the end of each destination.
Check out the video of our trip around the Chesapeake Bay!
We departed on a Thursday morning from our home port in Washington, DC. Our trip took us south on the Potomac River to the Chesapeake. Along the way we passed George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate, Leesylvania State Park in Virginia, Colonial Beach, Virginia and several other waterside communities. From Washington, DC to the end of the Potomac is approximately ninety miles.
We entered the Chesapeake and headed southeast to the community of Tangier Island, Virginia. Tangier is about 22 miles from the mouth of the Potomac River. After a night in Tangier we headed northeast into Tangier Sound to the coastal city of Crisfield, Maryland. From Crisfield we crossed back across the Chesapeake and up the Pautuxant River to Solomons Island, MD. Leaving Solomons, we haded south in the Bay, around Point Lookout and back north in the Potomac and back to Washington, DC. The entire trip was approximately 275 miles.
Tangier is a small fishing community of approximately 700 residents. If you are looking for quiet and solitude, this is the place. There are two ways to arrive on the island, by boat or by plane. On ferry runs from Reedville, Virginia to Tangier and a second ferry runs from Crisfield, Maryland. Islanders welcome the tourists and we saw several local tour guides waiting to greet visitors as the first ferry of the morning arrived.
In the center of town you'll find several quaint restaurants, a couple of gift shops, a local museum, and an ice cream shop that also rents bicycles and golf carts. There are few vehicles on the island and most of the locals we saw got around on scooters, golf carts or by bicycle. The entire town is approximately one square mile. We found it easy to walk around and explore the narrow streets and the outskirts.
South of the town is a long beach. It's accessible via a walking path, but you could easily ride a bike or golf cart and park it nearby. If you are looking for an eco adventure, there are kayak rentals available in town and you can easily make it to the beach.
We spent some time speaking with Milton Parks, the owner of the local marina. He told us most of the watermen harvest soft shell crabs, but the island's fisherman are struggling due to increased regulations on fishing in the Bay.
If you like crabs and crab cakes you're in luck. These are served at virtually every restaurant. If you want to stay the night there are a couple of bed and breakfasts on the island. Make sure you plan ahead and make a reservation.
The only public marina on the island is Parks Marina. For reservations call before 8:30am. Mr. Parks does not tend to answer the phone after that time. We had no problem with our 3' 6" draft and 11' 6" beam. 50 amp power is available on the main dock near the building with the Parks Marina sign. The other slips have 30 amp shore power. Water is also available at each slip. Dockage for our 36' SeaRay was $30 plus $5 for electric. Check with Mr. Parks for the most up to date rates. The dock is fixed and fairly well protected although a brisk wind off the bay in the morning had us bouncing a bit in our slip. There is no fuel at Parks Marina, but there is a fuel dock just east of the marina. Bring cash!
Our second stop on this trip was Crisfield, Maryland. Crisfield sits on the eastern side of Tangier Sound, on Maryland's eastern shore. Fishing is a big part of the local economy in Crisfield. The city is the launch point for various fishing charters, so if you're looking to catch your own dinner this may be the place to start. I'm told after labor day the town is much quieter and that's exactly what we experienced. There are a handful of restaurants and bars within close proximity of the waterfront. There's also a museum and gift shop just steps from the water.
For this stop we docked at Somers Cove Marina. The facility is large and in a well protected cove. While a majority of the slips are on fixed piers, the marina's G-dock offers a floating pier. This was one of the nicest floating piers I've seen and they told us it's relatively new. Somers Cove would be a good destination if you are planning a boat trip with a large group. The marina has multiple air conditioned bath houses, a swimming pool, pet walk area and picnic areas. The staff was professional and friendly. The marina also has a fuel dock with both gas and diesel and offers a ten cents per gallon discount to BoatUS members. Our slip only cost us 75-cents per foot, which is their special through early April 2014. As always, call ahead to double check rates. Just outside of the marina we saw a Mercruiser marine store which means parts and accessories are close by in a pinch.
Day three we headed to Solomons, Maryland. Solomons is located on the Pautuxant River on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay. This is a vibrant coastal community with plenty of marinas, restaurants, hotels and places to explore. Many of the marinas are a short distance from the city's river walk. This boardwalk runs along the river for several hundred yards. Across the street are various restaurants and shops. Just past the river walk you'll find a charming bed and breakfast as well as a few tiki bars.
If you are looking to stay the night, and you didn't arrive by boat, Solomons does have several major brand hotels. A quick search online will yield results. We have three picks for dining options. First, is the Lotus Cafe. Lotus serves lite fare, but don't miss the key lime pie. It's one of the best I've ever had. They also serve a wide array of coffees, craft beers and wine. Our second pick is The Striped Rock. We only stopped here for breakfast, but I would definitely go back for dinner. The prices were reasonable and the portions large. I had blueberry pancakes that were more blueberry than pancakes. They were awesome. For dinner check out the Dry Dock Restaurant. The Dry Dock is right on the water and offers a variety of seafood and steaks. I had the surf and turf with a petite filet (that was hardly petite) and a Maryland-style crab cake.
If you're heading to Solomons make sure you check out the Drum Point Lighthouse at Calvert Marine Museum. You can also arrange fishing charters, rent jet skis or find other ways to get out on the water.
We stayed at Zahniser's Yachting Center and I'd stay there again. Zahniser's is a full-service marina and has a really nice facility. The complex includes fixed docks, several bath houses, a swimming pool with pool bar, the Dry Dock Restaurant, a pet walk area and a store with various odds and ends. The marina is a short walk to nearby restaurants and shops. While Zahniser's does not have a fuel dock, there are several places to gas up nearby.