Not more than an hour drive from the large urban centers of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, visitors can immerse themselves in the tranquil world of small islands.
Connected by bridges and ferries, the Maryland Islands serve as an escape for urban dwellers. Visitors can bring their boats, take children to hike mile-long beaches, observe egrets and ospreys, watch the spectacular sunsets over Chesapeake Bay, and feast on fresh fish.
1. Assateague Island
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Assateague Island is a protected 37-mile long barrier island near Ocean City in Maryland and Chincoteague Island in Virginia. Actually, two thirds of the island belong to Maryland and one third to Virginia.
The island declared Assateague Island National Seashore as a national park in 1965 to protect the birds’ nesting areas along with over 300 wild horses.
The island has more than 37 miles of beautiful sandy beaches, dense pine forests, and vast salt marshes, and it is tantamount to paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers. The best way to explore this pristine area is by kayak or hiking.
There are organized wildlife tours, and visitors can see not only wild ponies roaming freely but also egrets, peregrine falcons, osprey, waterfowl, and many other birds.
2. Cobb Island
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Cobb Island is a small secluded island about 45 miles from Washington, D.C. where the Wicomico and Potomac rivers meet.
It is connected to the mainland by a 0.11-mile-long bridge on Maryland Route 254. The island is divided from the mainland by Neale Sound.
The sleepy island’s population has a small post office, a volunteer fire department, a Baptist church, a small playground for children, and a large community green space known as Fisherman's Field.
Local restaurants have a marina attached, so those who visit by boat can dock right in front of establishments overlooking the water. The island has a small art gallery that is also a local bakery.
3. Deal Island
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Deal Island is a three-mile long island on Tangier Sound in Somerset County, Maryland. The island is connected to the mainland via a bridge, but you’ll feel like you’re in another world entirely. There are three small communities on the island – Chance, Deal Island, and Wenona.
Visitors to the island can spend their time in the Deal Island Harbor on the north end of the island and watch the fishermen as they unload the catch of the day, work in the oyster hatchery, and pick crabs. Nearby is the island public beach.
The best time to visit the island is during the lively two-day island festival for Labor Day when they have traditional Deal Island Skipjack Races. Skipjacks are traditional sailing oyster boats.
4. Hart-Miller Island
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Hart-Miller Island is an uninhabited 1,100-acre island on Chesapeake Bay close to the Middle River mouth.
It can only be reached by boat, and there is a safe mooring on the western coast where you will also find the island’s beautiful 3,000-foot long fine sandy beach.
The island is part of the Hart-Miller Island State Park, which also includes Pleasure Island and Hawk Cove. The park offers a campsite, eight miles of hiking trails around a large pond, and breathtaking views of Chesapeake Bay from every corner.
The popular 1.8 mile Long Trail Loop has interpretive signs with information about the wildlife and ecosystems on the island. More ideas: Best Weekend Getaways from DC
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5. Islands Near Me: Hooper's Island
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Hooper’s Island is actually a chain of three islands between Chesapeake Bay and the Honga River. The islands are fairly remote and are known for rich wildlife, great sport fishing, and crabbing. It is one of Maryland’s oldest settled areas.
The main community, Fishing Creek, has about 400 people on Upper Hooper’s Island. Lower Hooper’s Island is uninhabited. The islands are a popular destination for hiking and enjoying the views of Chesapeake Bay, especially at sunset.
The 1901 Hooper's Island Lighthouse is the island’s most visible feature and is one of America’s rare pneumatic caisson lighthouses. Local company Sawyer Charters & Tours offers fishing charters and cruises around the island.
6. Jane's Island
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Jane's Island is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, near Crisfield. It includes more than 2,900 acres of saltmarsh, about 30 miles of water trails and large tracts of isolated, magnificent beaches. The island is wild and looks untouched by human hands – it is a haven for birds, crabs, fish, and other dwellers of the large saltmarsh. James Island is a great place for those who want to observe the wildlife of Chesapeake Bay, do some crabbing or fishing, or take a kayak around the island. The island is part of the James Island State Park, which also has a mainland portion with a campground, picnic areas, a marina, and a boat ramp. More ideas: Day Trips from DC
7. Islands in Maryland: Kent Island
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Historic Kent Island is separated from the Delmarva Peninsula by Kent Narrows and from Sandy Point near Annapolis by four miles of water. Chesapeake Bay Bridge connects the island with the mainland at this point. Kent Island is the largest island in Chesapeake Bay. The Chester River runs through the island until it spills into the sea at Love Point. The island is a popular tourist destination for visitors from Baltimore, Washington, and Annapolis.
Kent Island was once a trading post for the Maryland’s first permanent English settlement. It later developed into an important seafood processing and packing area. Stevensville, the island’s largest town, is home to the historic Stevensville Train Depot and Maryland’s oldest congregation Christ Church, founded in 1631.
The Chesapeake Exploration Center on the Kent Narrows waterfront is home to the Queen Anne’s County Office of Tourism with a range of interpretive displays about Chesapeake Bay. The island’s best beach, Matapeake Beach, is located on the western shore and is surrounded by a small park with nice views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. It also has a public swimming beach, an outdoor amphitheater, a picnic area, and woodland trails.
8. Smith Island
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Located in Chesapeake Bay, Smith Island is separated from the Crisfield on the mainland by about 12 miles. Visitors coming to Smith Island have to come to Crisfield to board a ferry or boats going to the island. There are a few boat slips at Smith Island Marina, so you can also come in your own boat. Smith Island is the only inhabited island in Chesapeake Bay that is not connected to the mainland by a causeway or a bridge. There are only about 200 permanent residents and three distinct communities: Tylerton, Ewell, and Rhodes Point. Ewell, the largest, is the place where tourists land. It has a visitors’ center and a few restaurants. The island has more than 4,000 acres of marshland, protected in the Martin National Wildlife Refuge.
9. Solomons Island
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Located about an hour and a half from Washington DC at the mouth of the Patuxent River, Solomons Island is a popular destination for boaters cruising Chesapeake Bay. You can also reach the island by crossing the impressive 135-feet long Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge. The view of the island from the bridge is spectacular. Calvert Marine Museum is a great place to learn about life on the Bay. The Chesapeake Biological Laboratory and the Annemarie Garden Sculpture Park are also interesting places to visit. Get the feel of the island spirit by taking a stroll along the River Walk Boardwalk on the banks of the Patuxent River. You can also grab something to eat or just enjoy the view. More ideas: Beaches Near DC
10. St. Clement's Island
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Saint Clement’s Island is part of the St. Clement's Island State Park, which also includes an uninhabited Potomac River island about half a mile from Colton's Point on the mainland. The park’s most visible feature is a 40-foot stone cross built to commemorate the beginnings of religious freedom in the States and a reconstruction of the Blakistone Island Light. The light and the cross are part of the St. Clement's Island Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The island is the site of the 1634 landing of Maryland's first colonists, who came from Cowes on the Isle of Wight in England. The island can be reached by private boat or by water taxi from the St. Clement's Island Museum in Colton's Point. The island is fun for hiking, fishing, hunting, and picnicking.
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11. Maryland Island: St. George's Island
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Saint George Island is located in the Potomac River in southern Maryland. The island has a long and turbulent history that dates back to 1634. During the Revolutionary War in 1776, the island was a site of the battle between the British forces that attempted to land in Maryland and Maryland’s Flying Camp militia. In 1812, the British occupied the island and made it their headquarters, cutting down the trees on the island for their ship masts and raiding the local shipyard and river plantations. Today, the island is a popular tourist destination offering excellent fishing, boating, crabbing, and camping. There is a bridge that connects the island with Piney Point on the mainland. More day trips from Baltimore
12. Tilghman Island
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Tilghman Island is a three-mile long sandy stretch of lowland between Chesapeake Bay and the Choptank River, just a short drive from Washington D.C. Located at the tip of Talbot County, the island was settled in 1707. Throughout its history it was a watermen’s land, with rugged clam boats, skipjacks, and buyboats that are still bobbing in the water in Dogwood Harbor. Today, they will take you fishing, sailing, or hunting, and they can also show you the lighthouses around the island. The island’s pristine nature is great for those who love solitude. You can go hiking, kayaking, or join one of the guided eco-tours. To learn more about this unique place, visit Phillips Wharf Environmental Center or the Tilghman Waterman’s Museum. Local restaurants will delight you with fresh seafood on their decks overlooking the water.
13. Eastern Neck Island
Eastern Neck Island is a national wildlife refuge that spans across more than 2,000 acres and provides a habitat for wintering waterfowl numbering in the thousands. The island also offers adventure and recreation for visitors as well with its visitor center, observation decks, picnic areas, views of the Chesapeake Bay, butterfly garden, and walking trails. Eastern Neck Island is an easy drive or bike ride from Rock Hall, visitors van take a short nature hike or may be able to schedule a complimentary guided walk through some of the wildlife refuge areas that aren't usually open to the general public.
14. Island Near Me: Olmsted Island
Olmsted Island, and Great Falls, near Potomac, Maryland is around 14 miles upriver from the nation's capital. Visitors wanting to go for a scenic walk can follow the easy quartermile path near lock 17 and walk along the series of bridges and boardwalks over the terraced floodplain. From the Olmsted Island overlook, visitors will find amazing panoramic views of Mather Gorge and Great Falls. The surrounding park offers several other recreational activities, such as picnicking, fishing, canal boats, camping, boating, biking, and more. There are also ranger-led programs and winter activities possible on Olmsted Island as well.
15. Saint Helena Island
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Situated between Little Round Bay and Round Bay, Saint Helena Island is around 17 miles from Baltimore and five miles upriver from Annapolis. The island is home to a wide array of species of birds, such as ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, geese, and ducks. Formerly the setting for a deer park, Saint Helena Island features a beach measuring 10 to 15 feet wide on the island’s western side, as well as a cove on its northeast side. Grooved axes, stone chips, and clay pottery shards serve as evidence that Woodland period peoples and Native Americans once inhabited the island. More Islands in the USA
16. Isle of Wight
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Set in one of the most beautiful bays in Maryland, Isle of Wight is a scenic island primarily devoted to wildlife conservation. The island's approximately two hundred acres of forests and marsh attract marsh birds and waterfowl. Species of waterfowl that can often be spotted include swans, snow and Canada geese, brant, scaup, buffleheads, and black ducks. Anglers can slo enjoy Isle of Wight by fishing for bluefish, flounder, dea trout, and croaker in the island's surrounding waters. Nature photography is another popular activity due to the wildlife diversity and the views of Assawoman Bay and the skyline of Ocean City.
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More Ideas in MD: Ladew Topiary Gardens
Located in Monkton, Maryland, the Ladew Topiary Gardens are a nonprofit topiary garden facility located on the former estate of Harvey S. Ladew, a prominent American socialite of the 1930s. Born in 1887 in New York City, Harvey S. Ladew grew up in a cultured lifestyle among Manhattan’s elite, learning French at a young age and taking drawing lessons from curators of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Following service in World War I as an Army liaison officer, Ladew began embarking on annual winter fox hunting expeditions in England starting in 1919, allowing him to enter into elite aristocratic social circles. As a prominent socialite, Ladew was close friends with early 20th century artistic and political luminaries such as Cole Porter, Richard Rogers, Clark Gable, T.E. Lawrence, and Charlie Chaplin.
In November 1929, Ladew moved to Monktown, Maryland and purchased a 200-acre property named Pleasant Valley Farm, located next to the Elkridge-Harford Hunt Club. Ladew renovated the property extensively throughout the 1930s, adding several new wings to the farmhouse and landscaping 22 acres of garden space out of land previously used for crop and livestock farming. Ladew’s gardens displayed his particular affinity for topiary carvings, and as such, the Pleasant Valley Farm property was described as the “most outstanding topiary garden in America” by the Garden Club of America. In the final decade of his life, Ladew established the Ladew Topiary Gardens, Inc. nonprofit organization for preservation of the property’s topiary gardens for future generations. In 1971, five years before Ladew’s death, the Ladew Topiary Gardens facility opened to the public.
Permanent Exhibits and Attractions
Today, Ladew Topiary Gardens is operated as a nonprofit garden and living history museum facility, overseen by a board of trustees. The 22-acre facility is open to the public for tours and exploration April through October, with limited operation for special events during the winter months. As a public garden facility, the Ladew Topiary Gardens have been named one of the top five gardens in North America and have been praised by publications and organizations such as the Garden Club of America and the New York Times.
Visitors may tour the property’s Manor House, completely renovated by Ladew from an existing frame farmhouse built on the property in the late 18th century. Ladew, along with architect James W. O’Connor and interior decorators Jean Levy, Billy Baldwin, and Ruby Ross Wood, transformed the house into a two-story luxury country estate. Docent-led tours explore a number of rooms within the estate, including the Oval Library, containing more than 2,500 volumes and widely renowned as one of the most beautiful rooms in America. Other rooms within the home include an Elizabethan Room, inspired by Ladew’s love of 16th-century English architecture and interior design, a formal Dining Room with bay windows overlooking the gardens, and a Drawing Room with a Steinway grand piano frequently played by Cole Porter. An outdoor Studio also features an exhibit chronicling Ladew’s life and achievements.
The property’s 22 acres of gardens are arranged into a series of distinct garden “rooms,” constructed around more than 100 topiary sculptures taking a variety of human, animal, and artistic forms. Among the most famous of the gardens is the Hunt Scene, depicting hunters, horses, hounds, in pursuit of foxes. A variety of topiary sculptures are on display at the Sculpture Garden, ranging from natural scenes such as lyre birds, seahorses, and butterflies to cultural icons such as Winston Churchill’s signature top hat. A number of gardens evoke classical and European themes, such as the Tivoli Tea House and Garden or the Garden of Eden, which features a playful statue of Biblical figures Adam and Eve. Other gardens are themed around plantings, including a Rose Garden, Iris Garden, and White Garden, which features more than 35 different types of plants blooming with white blossoms.
A Nature Walk, opened in 1999, offers educational stations providing a glimpse into the area’s diverse wildlife along a 1.5-mile loop. A Butterfly House showcases monarchs and other species in their natural habitat during the summer months. A Visitor Center contains a gift shop offering books, jewelry, and home and garden gifts, and a Courtyard Cafe, located at the property’s former stables, offers homemade American fare.
Ongoing Programs and Education
In addition to field trip opportunities for elementary, secondary, and scouting groups, Ladew Topiary Gardens offers a wide variety of educational programming for students of all ages, including a Little Explorers Nature Preschool program, a Family Nature Explorers group, and a summer nature camp for children ages 2 to 15. For adult visitors, a fall lecture series welcomes distinguished horticultural speakers, and an In the Garden series provides opportunities to learn techniques from professional gardeners. More than 80 public special events are held at the facility throughout the year, including the My Lady’s Manor Steeplechase Races, a summer concert series, a Christmas open hours, and an annual Garden Festival.
3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD 21111, Phone: 410-557-9466
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More Ideas in MD: Spruce Forest Artisan Village
The Spruce Forest Artisan Village in Grantsville, MD, is located in the Allegheny Mountains region, west of the Appalachian Valley. The village is home to six artists in residence as well as visiting artists who open their studio space and sell their work to visitors. The unique artists’ market allows guests to meet the artists, see their work in progress as well as their studios, and ask them questions about their craft. The artists’ studio spaces are located among a collection of a dozen cabins and log and frame structures, some of which date back to the time of the Revolutionary War.
Highlights of the collection include Alta’s Cabin, a small log cabin built as a childhood reward for the village’s founder, Alta Schrock. As a child, Schrock helped her father collect on delinquent business accounts in exchange for the backyard hideout. Her cabin, named ‘The Sanctuary,’ was brought to the Spruce Forest site in 1970 and houses visiting artists today. The Compton One-Room School log cabin was donated to the village and restored with a grant from the Maryland Historical Trust. Western Maryland’s last one-room schoolhouse is outfitted with historic books, supplies, and furniture that illuminate the history of education in the Casselman Valley. The schoolhouse was likely built by Robert Compton, who served as an errand boy for George Washington as a child. His family moved to the Allegheny Region after the end of the Revolutionary War. The Eli Miller shed is a new construction, built at Spruce Forest from the parts of an old wood plank house. The 1976 home serves as a blacksmith shop and is host to metalworking artisans.
John Hochstetler’s Little House is among the oldest of Spruce Village at 200 years old. The simple post and beam building was built in 1800 by John Hochstetler, the first white settler in the area. The home teaches the history of the Amish, who settled the Alleghenies to avoid attacks by Native Americans and establish peaceful farming communities. In the summer months, the house is occupied by artisans and has hosted basket weavers and quillers, among others. The Miller House Peace Center of 1835 was moved to the site and restored in the mid 1980s. The home is furnished with memorabilia of the Miller family, an Amish family whose home served as a school and place of worship. While many of the structures host visiting artisans, both the schoolhouse and Peace House have summer hosts whose purpose is to teach guests about the history of the structures.
Additional features of the Spruce Forest include Casselman’s Bridge, a stone arch bridge with a single 80-foot span, built in 1813 along the historic National Road. Stanton’s Mill is a 1797 gristmill, which was in continuous operation until 1994. Today, the water chase adjacent to the mill is dry, but the wheel spins on electric power, allowing guests to see the restored building operating as it did for hundreds of years.
In this particular area of the Allegheny Region, known as Little Crossings, artists and artisans have been honing their crafts for over 200 years. Much of the work is specific to the region, and a large part of the village’s mission is to preserve the local craft and history. The village was founded in 1957 by Alta Schrock (1911–2001). Alta demonstrated her love of nature at a very early age by establishing a natural history museum in her school’s basement before she reached the 7th grade. She wrote nature essays and identified local herbs, flowers, ferns and trees.
After living in Indiana and working as a school teacher, Schrock returned to the area in the 1950s to establish the village and give back to her home community. The first Mennonite woman in the United States to receive a PhD, Schrock founded the Springs Historical Society and Museum, and later opened the Penn Alps Restaurant and Craft Shop, which still operates today adjacent to the Spruce Forest Village. She was inducted into the Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame for her contributions to preserving the state’s history as well as her efforts in job creation in the historically impoverished region. The Penn Alps Restaurant and Spruce Forest Artisan Village provide opportunities for artisans to make a living by working with their hands, and have provided a value for many that is much greater than the checks received. Today, the Spruce Forest Artisan Village hosts 60,000 visitors each year.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Workshops at the Spruce Artisans Village are offered all year round, and include wheel thrown pottery, weaving, jewelry making, feather carving, and a variety of painting and drawing workshops.
177 Casselman Road, Grantsville, MD 21536, Phone: 301-895-3332
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