Crab Cakes & Cocktails Ten waterfront eateries guaranteed to sweep you away.

Hard Yacht.

The highlight of summer is often a week or two at the beach letting Atlantic waves lull us into a lazy state of seaside bliss. But when the big vacation is over and work’s doldrums again consume our days, where can we escape the routine and rekindle our joy for the season? The Chesapeake shores, of course.

Just a short drive from Baltimore await waterfront destinations designed to evoke a swept-away attitude and laid-back groove. I have been writing about them since 2011, so I have done my homework. Whether you need a rum-infused girls’ night at a Tiki paradise, a candle-lit evening with your spouse or a fun-filled daycation with the kids, these 10 hidden-gem restaurants are your ticket to easy summer adventures.

The Boat House at Anchored Inn
It’s a stroke of genius to place an old workboat in a pavilion and turn it into a marina bar. Belly up to the port or starboard sie of the Southern Belle to order an ice-cold beer or a fresh-squeezed orange crush. Upbeat music plays in the background while friends gather around the boat bar or convene at the fire pit on cool evenings. Food plays second fiddle to a fantastic view of Deale’s waterfront, but when hunger hits, you can grab light fare of barbecue pork sliders, tacos and snacks at an on-site food truck. This idyllic summertime place makes you want to stay until the bartender barks out a last-call warning.

Carrol’s Creek Café
With the capitol dome and bustling port of Annapolis in the background, you can cherish a romantic meal on Eastport’s serene side of Spa Creek. Floor-to-ceiling windows present a grand view of boats cruising past your table, and subtle nautical décor underscores a soothing ambience. The menu is a tribute to the Bay’s bounty and features seafood delivered daily by local watermen. Dim blue neon lights in the ground-level bar create a cozy vibe for nightcaps and whispered conversations.


Chesapeake Inn Restaurant
Chesapeake City
Located at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, this destination’s multiple personalities unite under a singular banner of waterfront pleasure. In the upscale dining room, gourmet cuisine is served on white tablecloths amid décor so elegant that the restaurant is popular for weddings. The downstairs bar features a casual nautical theme and dishes out salads, sandwiches and pizza. Reggae tunes draw you outdoors to the Tiki bar, where a plastic shark chews its way through the bamboo roof while ladies nibble on orange slices from the rims of their frozen drinks.

Be sure to check out the C&D Canal, a 14-mile waterway between the Bay and the Delaware River. The conga line of huge cruise ships, cargo tankers, sailboats and barges provides endless entertainment.

Hard Yacht Café
What do you do with weathered debris that washes ashore? Nail it to the walls and call it casual décor. At this marina dock bar, you can gaze at recycled finds that include everything from rusty crab pots and nautical flags to Orioles paraphernalia and even a green Coast Guard road sign. This family-run eatery’s warm hospitality creates a merry neighborhood pub vibe along Bear Creek. In the kitchen, crustaceans are king with dishes such as crab pretzels, crab dip, soft-shell platters and fist-sized crab cakes. Conch fritters and Margaritaville shrimp summon the spirit of Key West, while carnivores drool over smoked barbecue ribs and hangover burgers topped with fried egg, bacon and cheese.

Kentmorr Restaurant & Crab House and Dirty Dave’s Tiki Bar
Pack swimsuits, sunscreen and a change of clothes, because you can easily spend all day at this dreamy destination. The marina offers full- and half-day charter fishing excursions for active guests, and hammocks on the beach inspire tranquil afternoon naps. Take a dip in the gentle waves, then keep yourself well hydrated with tropical cocktails at the Tiki bar. The Bay Bridge in the distance sets the stage for traditional Chesapeake feasts of crab cakes, grilled rockfish and crispy fried oysters. At day’s end, sunsets light up the sky with magnificent hues.

Lee’s Landing Dock Bar
Port Deposit
Follow a tropical breeze across the northern waters to the charming town of Port Deposit, where you find a happy boaters’ stronghold along the Susquehanna River. A boardwalk lined with palm trees and snack shacks leads to a large wooden building with a 3,000-foot wraparound deck, a small sandy area and 1,100 feet of free dockage. A pirate ship acts as the centerpiece for a kids’ play zone. The atmosphere is festive, and the kitchen focuses on classic seafood dishes built upon local crabs, oysters and rockfish. Quaint stores on the main street attract shoppers itching for a stroll after a hearty meal.

Mike’s Crab House
North Pasadena
If steamed Maryland crabs rank on top of your summer checklist, then this is the place to be. From the moment you pull in, the briny aroma of Old Bay permeates the air, and the rhythmic sound of wooden mallets cracking claws beckons you to sit down and start picking. The massive outdoor deck is lined with red umbrellas and picnic tables laden with mountains of crimson crabs on plastic platters. Regulars at the dock bar raise their hand for another cold one, and a band plays old favorites as background music for a glorious sunset over Rock Creek.

Nick’s Fish House
As development brings new life and businesses to the Port Covington area, Nick’s remains a favorite watering hole for good times and great food. Located in a cozy marina where ducks paddle around the boats, this bustling restaurant is legendary for steamed crab feasts on its massive outdoor deck. Bands play as the sunset casts rosy hues on the Hanover Street Bridge’s graceful arches. Inside the building is a display case that almost feels like a shrine for oyster worshippers. Mountains of the Bay’s best bivalves rest on beds of ice, and little flags proudly flaunt their brand names and places of origin.

The Pier Oyster Bar
Kids squeal with delight when they see skull-and-crossbones flags flapping in the wind above a playground supervised by a skeletal scalawag with a hook for a hand. Little buccaneers can dig in the sand or climb on a wooden pirate ship among other youthful amenities while parents recline in Adirondack chairs, watching the mayhem and sipping adult libations. Along the South River waterfront is a more subdued grassy area and the thatched-roof Sunset Bar, which are ideal settings for relaxing and casual dining. The indoor dining room is encircled by a large deck, where guests savor good seafood, acoustic music and stellar sunsets over the bridge.

Sunset Cove
Middle River
Picture this: swaying palm trees on a soft-sand beach, a beckoning tiki bar serving cool rum concoctions and sun seekers splashing in the waves. It’s Baltimore County’s best-kept secret for a Caribbean getaway without the hassle of airfare or passports. The surf’s-up vibe requires flip-flops and carefree attire at Middle River’s little slice of paradise. The menu features local seafood, burgers, wings and island-inspired dishes such  as jerk chicken, coconut shrimp and Bahamian salad with sliced mangoes. Once you’ve been here, you’ll be tempted to call in sick on sunny Fridays and go back again. 

Susan Elnicki Wade is the author of “Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay.” The latest edition published in June.

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