Maryland Scenic Drives: Chesepeake Country Scenic Byway

There's a story around every corner of the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway. As you drive this beautiful route, historic towns and buildings transport you to a new time. Nearly 15,000 years ago, American Indians began to cluster along the coast, thriving from the abundant wildlife. When the settlers from Europe came, many saw the Chesapeake Bay as an ideal spot to colonize.

If you enjoy bird-watching, be prepared for a treat. Rare and endangered species such as the colonial waterbird can be seen in wetlands along the byway. As a significant stop in the Atlantic Flyway, the region provides a tremendous amount of critical waterfowl staging areas. Regional bird clubs sponsor a full schedule of bird walks and opportunities to view migrating waterfowl, neotropical birds, hawks, eagles, and vultures. If you enjoy hunting, waterfowl hunting opportunities abound.

Cultural Qualities of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway

As travelers explore Chesapeake Country, they will notice the relationship that people still have with the waterways that surround them. More than just recreational areas, the rivers and inlets of the area support a seafood economy, and as early as the 1600s, the settlers of the area were dependent upon the rivers and Chesapeake Bay for transportation. Travelers to the byway will likely see several different forms of watercraft from schooners and sloops to skiffs and canoes.

Not everyone was or is an angler along the byway. The success of Chesapeake's civilization rests on agriculture as well. Colonial families settled farms on the coastline while more recent farmsteads are located inland on rich soil. Towns formed where farmers would sell their goods and buy supplies. The historic towns of the byway reflect the way life has changed and remained the same in this corner of Chesapeake Bay. Buildings and districts on the National Register of Historic Places remind visitors and residents of the way things once were.

Travelers will not find a lack of places to visit on the byway. Churches and walking tours are found in nearly every town along the way. Museums collect the stories of the past to tell to curious visitors, and the stories of the present are readily available through residents at local festivals or fishing tournaments. The thread that connects the past with the present is the culture that still exists along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.

Qualities of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway

All along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway, towns and buildings from the bustling colonial period still stand with the same charm they had when they were first erected. This corner of Chesapeake Bay has been settled since the 1600s as a major port and commercial area. Central to many of the nation's most significant turning points, the byway can tell stories from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

As travelers study the map of the byway, names such as Queen Anne's County, Georgetown, and Kingstown all reflect the beginnings of British colonialism in the New World. Many of the counties, towns, and buildings along the byway are named for their counterparts in England.

Follow this map of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.

In the mid-1600s, a Dutch mapmaker named Augustine Herman proposed the construction of a waterway that would connect the Delaware River and Chesapeake Bay. The waterway would reduce the time it would take to transfer goods to and from the Chesapeake Bay area. Nearly 200 years later, in 1804, construction on the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal began. The canal is still in operation today -- a piece of history that remains an important part of the present. It reduces the water route between Baltimore and Philadelphia by nearly 300 miles and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places and as an Engineering Landmark.

Qualities of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway

If being in a boat on shimmering blue water sounds like fun to you, the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway has much to offer. Recreation on the byway revolves around its water sources. Chesapeake Bay and all of its inlets provide great places for boating, fishing, or enjoying a sandy beach. If you keep your eyes open, you see that recreational opportunities are available all along the shore.

For sailing, Chesapeake Bay, the Sassafras River, and the Chester River are ideal spots to catch a bit of wind and glide across the water. Marinas and access points are located all along the shores and coasts, providing places for visitors to tie up their boats in the evening to go ashore for the nearest seafood restaurant. Fishing, crabbing, and oystering are a tradition on the Eastern Shore, so whether you participate in the catching or the tasting, it's a great tradition to get involved in. Charters for fishing are arranged in Narrows, Chestertown, and Rock Hall. Fishing from bridges or the shore can be as rewarding as a charter.

Two splendid beaches are available on the byway. Betterton Beach and Rock Hall Beach provide sandy shores and fresher water. Betterton Beach began as a resort area as early as the 1920s. Since then, families vacation there or just come for a day trip. At Rock Hall Beach, visitors are met with a great place for a beach cookout or swimming. But people aren't the only ones who enjoy the shores of the Chesapeake.

At refuges and wetlands along the byway, visitors have the opportunity to catch a glimpse of the waterfowl in the area. At Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Farms, Horsehead Wetlands Center, and Echo Hill Outdoor School, naturalists can get a taste of the native outdoors in Maryland. And the byway is one of the best ways to get to all of these places. Endangered bird species nest in refuges and the Atlantic Flyway brings many more species to the area. Make sure to bring a pair of binoculars for a closer look at some of the hawks, eagles, and neotropical birds in the wetlands.

Find more useful information related to Maryland's Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway:

  • Maryland Scenic Drives: Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Maryland. Check out the others.
  • Rock Hall: Find out what there is to do in this city along Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Maryland? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

Highlights of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway

The C&D Canal crosses Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.
The C&D Canal crosses Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.

Painting a picture of the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway requires only a leisurely drive along some of Maryland's most scenic roads. A canvas of pastoral countryside is the perfect background for scenery that includes historic churches, bays, beaches, and stylish 18th century main streets. Travelers will be delighted at the sight of a perfectly situated town among the landscape of the byway. Colors of a grassy field or a windswept shore combine to create a drive for every kind of artist.

Along the byway, sights of rolling farmland with streams that border the fields provide a look at a land that has changed very little over the last two centuries. The fields have been supporting residents for generations. Every so often, there is a break in the farmland and a panoramic view of the Chesapeake Bay appears to delight travelers and entice them to come closer. There is nothing so enchanting as the sight of a schooner gliding along the water. Occasionally on your drive, a flock of birds will fly overhead as an indication that you are entering a marshland area.

Though there is a mix of pastoral scenery and rural bustle along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway that will entice you to stop and tour the tiny villages, browse in unique shops, and enjoy some tasty Maryland crabs freshly harvested from the bay, this itinerary gives the traveler a sampling of the agricultural and water-based heritage that has continued to sustain the area from the beginning.

Stevensville: Surrounded by the waters of the Chesapeake Bay, Kent Island is home to the quaint village of Stevensville where the tour begins. Stevensville's historic district has nearly 100 well-preserved buildings amidst quiet narrow streets. Among the historic structures worth noting are the Stevensville Train Depot, the Cray House, and the distinctly different Christ Church.

Centreville: Crossing over onto the Eastern Shore and traveling north on Maryland Route 213, Centreville captures the essence of small-town America with a distinctly colonial flavor. Wright's Chance is an early plantation house, circa 1744. Now home to the Queen Anne's County Historical Society and open to the public, it has an exquisite collection of Chippendale and Hepplewhite furniture and Canton china.

Queen Anne's Museum of Eastern Shore Life: Also in Centreville is Queen Anne's Museum of Eastern Shore Life, displaying artifacts telling the story of the unique life of those who have called this area home. The collection includes antique farm implements, tools, and specialized equipment used to harvest the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay, Native American artifacts, and household items.

Chestertown: Farther north on the byway is the port town of Chestertown. Turn left onto Cross Street, and head into the heart of downtown, once a colonial port on the Chester River. In fact, Chestertown was the Eastern Shore's chief port for shipping both wheat and tobacco between 1750 and 1790. Wealthy merchants and planters built the elegant brick townhouses that dominate the historic district and waterfront. Be sure to stop by the Kent County Office of Tourism for information about Chestertown and Kent County.

Waterman's Museum: Just past Chestertown turn left for a brief detour onto Maryland Route 291, then bear right onto Maryland Route 20 West (this will be taking you in a southerly direction). The Waterman's Museum in Rock Hall was created to tell the story of local watermen, a way of life that continues in Chesapeake Country. This unique nautical center of recorded history includes exhibits on oystering, crabbing, and fishing. A reproduction of a shanty house is also on display, along with historical photographs, local carvings, and of course, boats.

Chesapeake Farms: Returning back the way you came on Maryland Route 20, turn right on Ricauds Branch Road to visit Chesapeake Farms. Though the history of the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway dates back to colonial times, the 3,300 acres of Chesapeake Farms is thoroughly modern in its techniques. It is a scientific area devoted to the development, evaluation, and demonstration of new and superior agricultural and wildlife management techniques. An extensive self-guided driving tour of the farm is available.

Turner's Creek Park: Return to Maryland Route 20 and back to Maryland Route 213, heading north. From Maryland Route 213 take Maryland Route 298 East to Turner's Creek Road. Turn right and follow the road to Turner's Creek Park. Here visitors can tour historic structures such as the Latham House, circa 1700. Also at the park on the first and third Saturdays of the month, tours are available of Kent Farm Museum, where visitors can view antique farm machinery, a collection of antique implements from a variety of other occupations, and other artifacts of early rural life.

Mount Harmon Plantation: Continue north on Maryland Route 213 through villages full of charm and history. Just past the town of Cecilton, turn west on Maryland Route 282, and follow the road to Mount Harmon Plantation. Originally a thriving tobacco plantation shipping its bounty off to England, the manor house dates back to 1730. The property is bordered on three sides by water and offers a superb vista. Visitors can tour the main house, the tobacco house, and outdoor colonial kitchen.

Let the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway introduce you to one of the last truly special landscapes of the Mid-Atlantic Region.

Find more useful information related to Maryland's Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway:

  • Maryland Scenic Drives: Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Maryland. Check out the others.
  • Rock Hall: Find out what there is to do in this city along Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Maryland? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.