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Photo by Bethany Starin
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Photo by Bethany Starin
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Photo courtesy The Selina II
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Photo by Bethany Starin
When you cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and travel the last few miles to St. Michaels, Md., you're ushered into a slow-paced town with lots of local charm. This was my first trip to the Eastern Shore, and the area has a Cape Cod vibe to it — in no way did we feel just over an hour away from the rush of D.C. St. Michaels' main drag is lined with brightly colored shops: a pink cupcake bakery, a red ice-cream café and a coral antique store, to name a few. Everything has a quaint feel to it, but the city isn't without a modern vibe. Friendly locals buzz in and out of a modern pizza-and-wine bar and a beer-tasting lounge. Just two blocks away is St. Michaels Harbor, where people gather to enjoy water sports and excellent views.
There are two things you just can't miss at St. Michaels — a good glass of wine and a ride on a boat, or maybe both at once. The Selina II (410-726-9400 or sailselina.com ) sails four times a day, offering morning and afternoon sails and romantic sunset cruises that include sparkling wine (these run through Oct. 30). Moonlight tours include complimentary chocolate and champagne. Run by the third generation of the same family, the Selina II also offers private sailing lessons. If you prefer a more rustic adventure, board the 1935 yacht the Lady Patty (800-979-3370 or ladypatty.com ), 12 miles south of St. Michaels at Tilghman Island, and hear an informal history of the region by Capt. Jeffrey Mathias.
As relaxing as the pace of life is on the Eastern Shore, there is plenty to do. We started our day in Easton by exploring the farmers market at Easton Market Square (410-822-7778 or lehrjacksonass ociates.com/easton ). Rather than go for the fresh vegetables, we grabbed a sugar-covered doughnut (a steal at just 50 cents). After the 10-minute drive to St. Michaels, I drooled over vintage posters downtown at Fine Old Posters (410-745-6009 or fineoldposters.com) , and my husband obsessed about robots crafted from recycled metals at Artisans of the World (410-745-6040 or artisansoftheworld.net ). In search of some seafood, we grabbed a waterfront table at St. Michaels Crab & Steak House (410-745-3737 or stmichaelscrabhouse.com ) and devoured a platter of spicy steamed shrimp. Ready for a break, we sipped cucumber water in luxe robes at The Spa at Harbour Inn (410-745-0646 or spaatharbourinn.com ) and enjoyed hour-long Swedish massages.
Rather than stay in St. Michaels, we bunked at the nearby town of Easton at the Tidewater Inn (410-822-1300 or tidewaterinn.com ). The lodging in Easton was a better bang for our buck — a tasty breakfast buffet was included in the price of the room, as well as a bike rental for two (ask for the bike package), so we could explore Easton sans car. Since St. Michaels and Easton are hardly busy metropolises, we enjoyed having a duo of towns to explore during our stay. If you'd rather stay right in St. Michaels, try The Inn at Perry Cabin (866-278-9601 or perrycabin.com ), located right on the water. Everywhere you look, there are stunning views.
Although I'm not usually a museum fanatic, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (410-745-2916 or cbmm.org ) was surprisingly fun to ramble through. The museum hosts the nation's largest collection of Chesapeake Bay artifacts and lots of hands-on exhibits, including the original 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, which you can walk into. The museum is hosted in several waterfront buildings, including a glass-sided structure dedicated to a historical exhibit on how the Chesapeake Bay became a vacation destination. On July 28, the museum hosts the Chesapeake Folk Festival, featuring live music, local foods and wines, boat rides, and craft vendors.Last year, about 1,500 people turned out for the event.
In search of an afternoon glass of vino, we stopped by St. Michaels Winery (410-745-0808 or st-michaels-winery.com ). You can't miss it; the winery's production area and tasting room just moved into a renovated sewing factory this past spring: the large white building at the beginning of downtown. Seven years ago, two local couples joined forces to open the winery, and they make about 24 wines on-site with grapes from their vineyard and other Maryland vineyards. Painted a cheerful yellow, the tasting room was filled with wine lovers, but we managed to find a spot at the hammered-copper bar and tasted several wines. My favorite was the Gollywobbler Red, crafted from 100 percent Concord grapes; it was sweet but with a kick. If beer is more your thing, go next door to Eastern Shore Brewing (410-745-8010 or easternshorebrewing.com ), where you can get a flight of various beers and a complimentary bowl of popcorn.