1 Commune with the Chesapeake
There’s no better way to explore the bay and its tributaries than on a sea kayak. To get the real-deal tour, join the paddling fanatics at Annapolis’ Amphibious Horizons on one of their kayaking trips, which depart nearly every Saturday from May through September. Guided tours cover a dozen bodies of water on the Eastern and Western Shores, including Tuckahoe Creek, Zekiah Swamp, Blackwater Refuge and the Wye River. They also offer multipleday tours with overnights at B&Bs or campgrounds. Prices start at $85 for full-day trips, half that if you bring your own boat. 410-
2 Ride Your Bike Across an Island
What’s the best way to get across Kent Island when traffic backs up along Route 50? Get out of the car and on a bike and hit the Cross Island Trail. This 6-mile-long, 10- footwide paved route runs east to west across Kent Island, from Terrapin Nature Park on the bay to the Chesapeake Exploration Center on Kent Narrows. Along the way, you’ll cross beneath canopied forests, pedal beside quiet streams and spot myriad waterfowl in the tidal wetlands bordering the trail. Bring your own bike or rent one from Happy Trails Bicycle Repair in Stevensville, 410-643-0670. For a map of the trail see http://www.dnr.state.md.us/publiclands/crossisland.html or call Queen Anne’s County at
3 Go Swamp Stomping
For a fascinating glimpse into the proverbial primordial soup, visit Calvert County’s Battle Creek Cypress Swamp. The 100-acre swamp boasts the northernmost stands of towering baldcypress trees in the United States. Go for a canoe ride or explore by foot on the 1,700-foot-long boardwalk that snakes throughout the preserve. You can also check in at the nature center for a special wetlands stomp off that beaten path to see one of the biggest residents, a tree more than 100 feet tall and 5 feet wide. Nature center hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; 410-535-5327, http://www.calvert-county.com/cypress.htm.
4 Bunk Down
Sailing into the sunset gets literal on this “boat and breakfast” getaway on the 74-foot Schooner Woodwind. The excursion begins with a two-hour sunset sail on the Chesapeake, followed by dinner in town and ends with a restful sleep in one of the ship’s four staterooms. Awake the next morning to a gourmet breakfast on deck. Saturday nights, May through September. $260 per stateroom. 410-263-8619, http://www.schooner-woodwind.com.
5 Shoot’em Up
Take aim at an afternoon of shooting at Schrader’s Bridgeton Manor. This Caroline County club (attached to an 11-room bed and breakfast) features the whole range of target shooting from 47 stations, including wobble trap (challenging random target throws) and “five-stand,” where you and four challengers compete. Prices start at $18 for 50 clays; guns and private instruction are available. 410-758-1824, http://www.schradershunting.com
6 Play Croquet in Funny Clothing
Get your mallets ready for the Annual Liriodendron Croquet Tournament, which benefits the Bel Air mansion, Liriodendron. Dozens of teams participate- many in Victorian garb. Spectators can enjoy antique car displays and music by the Peabody Consort. May 7. $50 per team to enter the tournament. Free to watch. 410-838-3942, http://www.liriodendron.com.
7 Go Canoeing for Birds
Rent a canoe and bring your binoculars as you follow the Marshy Creek canoe trail at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center at Horsehead Wetlands Center in Grasonville. Brush up on your ornithological knowledge so you can tell the difference between the preserve’s 210 species of birds, including bald eagles, bobwhites, bluebirds and orioles. Horsehead Wetlands Center also has several hiking trails (great for stretching the legs on the way to or from the beach) and hosts excellent early morning birding walks. 410-827-6694, http://www.wildfowltrust.org.
8 Head Up, Up and Away
The Eastern Shore’s patchwork farm plots, meandering streams and wetlands look that much more impressive from above. Get the snow-goose view of things with a hot-air balloon ride above the shore. Nash Balloon Adventures will meet you just east of the Bay Bridge before sunrise and treat you to an hour-long float from hundreds of feet up. Once back on the ground, enjoy a (nonalcoholic) champagne tailgate celebration. $250 per person. 410-820-2074, http://www.nashballoons.com
9 Learn to Ride the Wind
Ultimate Watersports has been teaching windsurfing for 20 years now, so they ought to be able to teach you, too. The company, located on the Gunpowder River, offers two-hour introductory lessons for $55 and six-hour “guaranteed to learn” lessons for $145. If windsurfing is not your thing, sign up for Ultimate Watersports’ catamaran sailing lessons or kayaking classes. 410-335-5352, http://www.ultimatewatersports.com.
10 Go Fishing on the Fly
Theaux Legardeur, owner of Monkton’s Backwater Angler fly fishing shop and guiding service, estimates there’s about 1,700 to 2,200 wildbrown trout per mile swimming in the Gunpowder River. “That’s a lot of fish,” he says. “You figure at least every couple of feet, you’re stepping over them.” Now all you need is a rod and reel. That’s where Backwater Angler comes in. It’s the premier guiding service on the Gunpowder, with nine experienced guides who know what and where the fish are biting. The company offers half-day, four hour excursions ($195 for one and $225 for two), and six-hour trips with a stream-side lunch, $225 for one and $295 for two. All trips include full outfitting and instruction for beginners. No trips on Wednesdays. “That’s when we go fishing,” says Legardeur. 410-329-6821, http://www.backwaterangler.com.
11 Hug a Tree
Get up close and personal with the myriad of trees and shrubs at Adkins Arboretum on a guided tour every Saturday at 11 a.m. The docent-led tours, held April through November, cover the grassy meadows, thick forests and beautiful native gardens within the 400-acre preserve on Tuckahoe Creek in Caroline County. Visitors are also free to explore on their own among the more than 600 species of native shrubs, trees, wildflowers and grasses. Check the Web site to see what’s in bloom when. Tours are free with $3 admission. 410-634-2847, http://www.adkinsarboretum.org.
12 Explore’Maryland’s Everglades’
At 28,500 acres, Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area is the largest parcel of publicly owned tidal wetlands in Maryland. Located adjacent to better-known Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Fishing Bay has been called “Maryland’s Everglades” and is a haven for herons, egrets and ibises, rails and raptors. The best way to explore its miles of creeks, marsh gut and open bays, is by canoe or kayak. For a free Fishing Bay Water Trail map, call the Maryland Greenways Commission at 410-260-8771 or visit http://www.dnr.state.md.us/outdooradventures/fishingbay.html.
13 Take a Scenic Drive
Spanning four miles from the entrance of Jug Bay Natural Area to the Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary, Upper Marlboro’s Chesapeake Critical Area Driving Tour is a picturesque survey of bay ecosystems from nontidal wetlands to thick marshes to forest buffers. Signage along the drive explains some of the effects man has had on the environment and vice versa. You’re sure to spot bluebirds, Canada geese, osprey and other critters along the way. Definitely stop at the 40-foot-tall observation tower, with sweeping views over the Patuxent River. 301-888-1410, http://www.dnr.state.md.us/baylinks/11.html.
14 Take a Pirate Cruise
A boat ride is just a boat ride, but add a sword, a sash, a tattoo, cannons and- arrgh, matey!- a pirate adventure is made. Emily and Michael Tomasini, owners of Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake, turn your kids into swashbucklers for a fun hour-plus cruise around the Naval Academy and Annapolis in search of bounty on a transformed 32-foot motorboat. Six cruises leave daily from the Annapolis dock. $17 per person; group rates (think: birthday parties) are available. Reservations required. 443-398-6270, http://www.chesapeakepirates.com.
15 Go Camping- Without the Tent
So, you want to go camping, but you’re not so crazy about sleeping on the ground? Then bunk down at one of the area’s state parks with camping cabins. Most rustic cabins offer cots or beds, bathrooms, showers, fireplaces and complete kitchens. In Maryland, you’ll find camper cabins at Pocomoke River, Janes Island, Tuckahoe, Martinak, Susquehanna, Elk Neck, Smallwood and Point Lookout state parks (http://www.dnr.state.md.us). If a cabin is still too rustic, book the Mill Pond Cottage, nestled in Gunpowder State Park’s Hereford Highlands and rented by the state park system. The Northern Central Rail Trail is right down the lane and miles of hiking, fishing and opportunities for biking surround it. The cottage has a full kitchen, screened-in porch, wood-burning fireplace and outdoor grill. It sleeps eight and runs $200 per night. Call 410-592-2897 for more information or visit http://www.dnr.state. md.us/publiclands/millpond.html.
16 Hook a Keeper
You don’t have to drive all the way to Annapolis or the Eastern Shore to find a fishing boat charter- and a knowledgeable skipper. Capt. Don Marani and his six-passenger, 46-foot “Bay built fishing machine” Lady Luck leaves right from the Inner Harbor. Capt. Don, the only full-time charter boat captain moored in town, specializes in fishing the middle and upper Chesapeake, and also runs waterfowl hunts during the season. Full-day charters: $425 for six people; six hours, $375; three hours, $250. 410-342-2004, http://www.fishbaltimore.com.
17 Check Out a Lighthouse with a Feminine Touch
Fannie Salter was the last female civilian lighthouse keeper in America in 1947 when, after 22 years, she finally left the watch at Turkey Point Lighthouse. In fact, Turkey Point has a long history of female keepers. Of its 115 years in operation, 89 of them were overseen by women. The “Lady’s Lamp” remains the highest on the bay, situated on a 100-foot bluff overlooking the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal. You can’t enter the lighthouse- it’s still in operation- but you can walk the 3.2-mile Turkey Point Trail around the structure and watch the sun set from the bluffs overlooking the water. Elk Neck State Park, North East, Md., 410-287-5333, http://www.dnr.state.md.us.
18 Climb Every (Harford County) Mountain
You don’t have to fly to the Rockies to do a little rock climbing. Climbing the Wissahickon schist formations at Rocks State Park in Jarrettsville has been popular since the early 1800s. Once you reach King and Queen Seat, formerly a ceremonial site for Susquehannock and Mingo Indians, you’ll be rewarded with great views of the Deer Creek rapids. You can climb on your own (climbs range greatly in difficulty, from eight feet to 115 feet), or go with the pros at Earth Treks Climbing (800-CLIMB-UP), who offer escorted tours with all the equipment. Rocks State Park, 410-557-7994, http://www.dnr.state.md.us
19 Kayak by the Light of the Moon
As the orange sun slips into the waters of Tangier Sound, climb into your kayak for a moonlit paddle over the water trails of Janes Island State Park in Crisfield. The guides of Tangier Sound Outfitters will point out the natural and cultural sites as you silently glide across the calm waters. Then they’ll stop for a moonlight stroll on the beach. Every full moon between May and November. $25 or $40 per couple. 410-968-1803, http://www.dnr.state.md.us/outdooradventures/tangier.html.
20 Get Oriented
The sport of orienteering involves using a compass- or GPS these days- to find out where you are, where you’re going and where you have been. Broken Eagle Adventures, a Baltimore County outfitter, helps people develop the skills to use one of the most important, yet least understood, tools for any outdoor adventure. In workshops, held at various central Maryland parks, you’ll learn how to use a compass and a map to plot a course. Highly recommended for families. Broken Eagle also offers organized backpacking, canoeing and hiking trips. 410-529-6421, http://www.brokeneagle.com.
21 Blaze Some (Bike) Trails
The flat, backcountry roads of the Eastern Shore make for some of the best biking in the Mid-Atlantic. In Worcester County, the ViewTrail 100 is a 100-mile circuit of interconnecting back roads that wind through farmland, skirt cypress swamps and hug the Pocomoke River. Along the way, put the brakes on for antiquing or a gourmet lunch in the quaint towns of Snow Hill and Berlin. BYOBike or rent one in Ocean City or Assateague. Find a map at visitworcester.org/outdoors/bikes.htm or call 800-852-0335.
22 Tour Homes, Sweet Homes … and Gardens
From colonial farmhouses to Greek revival mansions, the Maryland House and Garden Pilgrimage tours of Calvert (April 30), Howard (May 7), Carroll (May 13) and Northern Baltimore/Harford County (May 14) will introduce you to notable residences, churches and intricately designed gardens throughout the region. Pick up a guidebook detailing each site, along with maps and suggestions for lunch, such as a prix-fixe meal at the Antrim 1844 in Carroll County or box lunches provided by a local church. Proceeds go to restoration projects throughout the state. All tours are rain or shine and tickets are $25 per day. 410-821-7627, http://www.mhgp.org.
23 Dig for Ancient Artifacts
Get your hands dirty in the interest of science on the Archaeology Society of Maryland’s annual field session. This year’s 11-day event, held in September, rolls out at Swan Cove, an Anne Arundel County site that is part of the Lost Towns Project. You don’t need to be a professional to search for the clay kilns and relics from a 17th century settlement prosaically named Providence; field training and workshops will be held throughout. Fee for non-members is $35. 301-854-2475, www. marylandarchaeology.org.
24 Sail to a Vineyard
Majestic birds, marvelous sailing- and pretty good Pinot Noir- are the highlights of the Rappahannock River Eagle and Winery Cruise. The Captain Thomas leaves from Tappahannock, Va., at 10 a.m. and cruises up the river, past tall cliffs and bald eagle habitat. At lunchtime, the boat docks at Ingleside Vineyards, one of the largest wineries in the state, where you can witness the winemaking process in action and sample the local elixir. The cruise returns at approximately 4:30 p.m. Adults, $24; children, $14. 804-453-BOAT, http://www.tangiercruises.com/rappahannock/Main.htm.
25 Watch the Ponies Swim from Your Kayak
While everybody else is craning to see the ponies cross the channel between Assateague Island to Chincoteague, you’ll have a front-row seat from your sea kayak. Join island native Jay Cherrix of Wildlife Expeditions on one of these special pony-watching tours on the last Wednesday in July. The tours fill up fast, so make your reservation now. Cherrix, who can trace his family’s roots on Chincoteague back 300 years, also leads sunset and sunrise kayak tours throughout the year. 866-C KAYAKS, http://www.wildlifexpeditions.com.