Best Public View ~ tied
North Beach Boardwalk & U.S. Naval Academy
A picture - or two, in this case - speaks 1,000 words.
Most Scenic Drive
Annapolis Bay Ridge community juts into the Bay at just the right point to see the Bay Bridge, the Eastern Shore, busy shipping lanes, fleets of pleasure boats and - from just the right angle - Thomas Point Lighthouse. Its waterfront road runs between picturesque houses and a grassy waterfront, taking you by small boat landings, over a tall bluff and eventually rolling down to marshy flats and swinging you by the strikingly eco-friendly Philip E. Merrill Environmental Center as you curve away from the water at the south end. Cruise slow, breathe deep and let the Biggest Gripe about Chesapeake Country melt away.
What makes a good public park? It must get us back to nature but be well-maintained, so that we dont feel weve wandered into the untamed wilderness. It must have diversity: beautiful gardens, sparkling waters, shadowy wooded paths and sun-drenched fields. It must serve our human needs with picnicking pavilions and clean, accessible bathrooms. Indoor and outdoor art, a delicious cafe, kayak rental, seasonal outdoor ice-skating, a brand-new concert stage and a host of guest programs dont hurt either. Thus spoke Bay Weekly readers in choosing Anne Arundels Quiet Waters as Best Bay Park.
Best Place to Paddle
This readers choice testifies to the inceasing popularity of kayaking on the Bay.
Kayakers who live on the water voted for their own backyard. But for try-out and land-locked paddlers, Quiet Waters is the next best thing.
Six days a summer week, Amphibious Horizons has its kayaks waiting at the water for you. Fees are low and, from the parking lot, the rental dock is a six-minute walk down the Harness Creek Trail. Buckle on the life jacket, slip in and paddle right out into South River. You can hug the shore, cross to London Town or - if youre skilled, adventurous and have plenty of time - set out down the river for the open Bay.
Need lessons? No problem.
Open midmorning-7pm except Tuesday: 888/i-luv-sun. www.amphibioushorizons.com.
Best Golf Course
Thirty-two years ago, twin-brother golf pros Ray and Roy Shields built a golf course on 300 acres of old tobacco farmland in a little corner of Calvert County. Area golfers have been enjoying this secret ever since. This year, Bay Weekly readers expressed their pleasure, voting Twin Shields the Best Golf Course on the Bay.
Tucked off Rotary Road in Dunkirk near the Anne Arundel County line, Twin Shields fairways are green and beautiful. The greens are quick, with more than enough undulation to make putting tricky.
The par-three 5th hole is one of the nicest on the course. From an elevated tee, you must carry over a small pond while avoiding three bunkers guarding the green. The 18th hole, a par four, demands driving through a narrow opening while following the fairway slightly to the left.
Only 30 minutes from Annapolis, Twin Shields is a great course to spend the day hacking away.
Bay Weekly readers broke no new ground in naming Herrington Harbour Marinas the best on the Bay. Thats been happening for years, since Steuart Chaney got the bright idea of making the place you keep your boat the place you play.
At Herrington, neither side of that equation has gotten short shrift. In the yard at Herrington North, theres everything your boat could want from prop mender to sail rigger to gelcoat replacer to West Marine.
On the resort side, there are lovely long piers; cool picturesque swimming pools; eating and drinking and music and shopping; a billion dollars worth of good-looking boats; and manicured grounds that are not only good to look at but good for the Bay.
Which is why Herrington holds top honors as the nations best marina (Marina Dock Age magazine 1996) and the most environmentally friendly marina (Boating Facilities Environmental Responsibility National Award by National Marine Manufacturers Association).
Best Fishing Hole
Its a Secret
Maybe you keep it a secret, maybe not, said Old Man of the Bay, Bill Burton. The best fishing hole is the one where you catch the fish.
Best Fish to Catch
Bay Weekly readers, youre right, says he-who-should-know, Bill Burton.
In Chesapeake Country, you can catch rockfish most of the year in a season that goes from late April through November.
You can catch them in a lot of different ways, with a boat or without, by bottom fishing, chumming, drift fishing, eel-drifting, jigging, live-lining, surface casting or trolling.
Rockfish grow large. Theyre quite strong, so they put up a good fight. And theyre more wary than many other game fish. All that means theyre more challenging to catch, so you can celebrate an achievement when youve landed your rock.
Whats more, since the species rebounded plentifully after the 1980s moratorium, so you can feel no guilt when you keep and eat your catch.
Best Eatin Fish
Bay Weekly readers must want big, bone-free chunks of meat, says Chesapeake Bay fisherman-in-residence Bill Burton. In that sense, rockfish is best. But if its flavor youre looking for, for all their bones, little white perch are much sweeter.
Best Fishermans Breakfast
Fishing is work. (Remember that when youre accused of wasting time.) So its wise to store up calories before heading out on the water, and not the kind that come from low-fat muffins and fruit cups. It also helps to chow down near the dock. You dont want to waste energy and worse, good fishing time, driving to and from some highway hash joint.
The winner of the Best Place for Fishermans Breakfast, Happy Harbor, scored high in every category: While you can eat light there if you must, Happy Harbor is known for bellybuster breakfasts and its location alongside the famed Deale charterfishing fleet.
Best Public Beach
Fluffy white beach sand you can find anywhere. The coarse, muddy sand that turns you orange at Sandy Point State Park lets you know youre really on the Chesapeake.
Most shoreline along the Chesapeake is crowded by homes and other development, making this particular strand of beach all the more special. This wide open shoreline has plenty of room for big crowds and gives you easy access to Bay swimming year round - especially for the annual Polar Plunge. That Sandy Point is convenient to Annapolis, home to public ramps and host to big parties clinches its title as Best Public Beach.
Best Place to Picnic ~ tied
Quiet Waters Park & Breezy Point Park
On a beach or in the grass? In the woods or on a boat? However you like your green eggs and ham, its more fun to eat them in the great outdoors. If its a planned celebration, reserve one of six pavilions at Quiet Waters in Annapolis (leave the booze at home; no drinking allowed). Impromptu picnickers can grab a table and grill in the shade at Breezy Point in Calvert County. (Green eggs and ham not your style? Catch your dinner right off the pier here.) Or just plop right down on your blanket at either place. But bring your bug repellent!
Quiet Waters Park open 7am - dusk; closed Tuesdays. Located off Bay Ridge Road, Annapolis: 410/222-1777.
Breezy Point Beach and Campground open 6am - dusk May 1- October 31. Located south of Chesapeake Beach at the end of Breezy Point Road: 410/535-0259.
Best Fireworks ~ tied
Annapolis & Chesapeake Beach
What a dilemma: Chesapeake Beachs is the biggest Fourth of July fireworks display on the Bay. Annapolis shoots the works less at once but more per year, for the Fourth and for New Years.
Chesapeake Beach has long stretches of boardwalk (including North Beachs) along the wide open Bay plus a water park to watch from. Annapolis has the backdrop of the Naval Academy and historic colonial architecture with supreme vantage points from the water and many spots downtown.
Hard to choose? Do both. Chesapeake Beachs Independence Day blasts off early each year, leaving you free for Annapolis which plans always for the Fourth. As for New Years, theres no question.