Americana Charm on the Eastern Shore
The Chesapeake Bay’s ragged eastern shoreline is a weave of waterways with fingers of centuries-old farmland sloping to the water’s edge. Small waterside towns were founded here in the 17th and 18th centuries as shipbuilding hubs and trading ports, and today remain largely unspoiled and popular as low-key boating destinations.
The triangle formed by St. Michael’s, Oxford, and Easton is an enclave of well-preserved pre-Revolutionary and Federalist homes, all within 12 miles of each other. Quiet and quaint towns that are a delight to explore by foot, they offer vignettes of gracious homes with inviting porch swings, venerable magnolia trees, historic inns, and many antique stores. St. Michael’s is the most visited, with the highly regarded Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at Navy Point dedicated to preserving the bay’s cultural heritage.
The principal pastime of visitors to the Chesapeake Bay (“Great Shellfish Bay” in the language of the Susquehanna Indians) is reveling in the area’s celebrated crabs, which James Michener called “the best food under the sun” in his epic novel Chesapeake.
Together with Atlantic blue crab, clams, shad, and rockfish (known elsewhere as striped bass), wild duck and wild goose remind restaurantgoers that this is also hunting country. Of the once-common oyster there are few left to dredge, and the two-sailed skipjack sloops have taken instead to offering cruises lasting anywhere from a few hours to a few days.
Further south is Crisfield, “The Crab Capital of the World.” Boats leave regularly from here for the time-warped islands Tangier and Smith, whose watermen have been making a simple living from the Chesapeake Bay since the 1600s.
When price is not an issue, make your base at the exquisite Inn at Perry Cabin, the area’s most luxurious. Built in the early 19th century, the river- and dockside Colonial Revival estate was purchased and impeccably refurbished in 1999, and is today part of the exclusive Orient-Express Hotels group.