Destination: Chesapeake Beach & North Beach
By Krista Pfunder
As you crest the final hill heading east along Chesapeake Beach Road (Route 260) in Calvert County, the Bay rises up to greet you. Glistening behind Veteran’s Park, the sun gleams off the water and you know you’re being welcomed to a special place: Calvert County’s twin beaches.
The two towns of Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, each less than an hour’s drive from Washington, D.C, are considered hidden gems along the Bay with a long history of luring travelers in for waterfront recreation. Railroads brought holiday-goers by the hundreds to these shores long before they started making the trek over the Bay Bridge to the Atlantic Ocean. Though the modes of transportation have changed, there’s still a lot of charm and exploring to be done here.
Once you’ve spotted the Bay unfolding in front of you, you have to make a choice: turn left and head north to North Beach or turn right, heading south to Chesapeake Beach. You can’t go wrong with either decision. And we suggest you make time to visit both.
Arriving by Boat to Chesapeake Beach
Both towns are waterfront, but Chesapeake Beach is the only one you can realistically approach via water and tie up. Don’t worry—neighboring North Beach is a quick hop away and worth the walk.
To navigate into Chesapeake Beach, use NOAA Chart 12263. About three miles south of Holland Point and Herring Bay, off Maryland’s Western Shore, flashing green #1 marks the entrance to Fishing Creek. The Fishing Creek Inlet has reported depths of 3–6 feet deep with a channel width of 40 feet. After a dredge the channel is 6 feet deep—the Town posts dredging notices on its website, including Department of Natural Resources channel surveys. Depending on your draft, you’d do well to check the latest updates.
Once clear of flashing green #1, you can proceed on to flashing red #2 and flashing green #3 farther in at the breakwaters. Clear of the breakwaters, head toward the marinas on the left and right.
The first marina on the left (south) on entry is the Rod ‘N’ Reel Marina and Restaurant, which accepts transient boats and has a gas and diesel dock. Just beyond the fixed bridge, with its 14-foot vertical clearance, is Fishing Creek Landings on the left (south), which offers transient slips, gas, and a lift for haul-out and repairs.
Call 301-855-8450 or channel 16 on VHF to reach the Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort for a short- or long-term transient slip. The marina has 300 slips, and can accommodate boats 50+ feet, that have a draft of no more than 4 feet.
Trailering into Chesapeake Beach
If you are coming by car, less than a mile after you turn right on Route 261 from Route 260, turn right on Gordon Stinnett Avenue at the Chesapeake Beach Water Park, and you’ll come to Marina West with public boat ramps and launch. This facility has a large parking lot that is open 24 hours a day.
The public boat ramps and marked trailer parking is owned by the Town of Chesapeake and operated by Marina West.
What to Do in Chesapeake Beach
Enjoy the sun and sand at Breezy Point Beach and Campground, where you can visit for the day or camp overnight. Be sure to check before you head there as the park often reaches capacity limits on holidays and weekends. Explore the beaches, keeping a sharp eye out for shark teeth; fish from the 200-foot pier; swim or picnic at the county-operated park. Make reservations at webtrac.co.cal.md.us.
Take a self-guided walking tour through town along the Chesapeake Beach Heritage Trail. Signs along the route share the historical significance of various locations. The trail runs from the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum (more on that below) to Bayfront Park.
The 1.4-mile Chesapeake Beach Railway Trail runs along the old railroad line that brought visitors to town a century ago. The trail offers views of Fishing Creek and wildlife. Along the trail are exhibits — courtesy of the Chesapeake Beach Oyster Cultivation Society—as well as osprey platforms and educational gardens. Park in the Kellam’s complex parking lot on Gordon Stinnett Boulevard at the trail’s northern endpoint.
The old train station is now the Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum, which shares the story of the railway that brought visitors to the town from 1900-1935. The museum is currently undergoing some renovations so check before you visit (410-257-3892).
If you’re bringing children with you, a stop at the Chesapeake Beach Water Park is certainly required. This water amusement park features pools, slides, a lazy river and offers cabanas for rent. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for local and county residents only.
If fishing is your lure to the beaches, there are plenty of charter boat options. Boats leave from Abner’s Marina and Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort.
Feeling lucky? Try your hand at the slots. Gaming is available at Rod ‘N’ Reel as well as Trader’s, Abner’s, and the American Legion Stallings-Williams Post 206..
Where to Stay in Chesapeake Beach
Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, features a full-service hotel, complete with an indoor swimming pool, spa and salon, fitness center and event space.
Where to Eat in Chesapeake Beach
Rod ‘N’ Reel Resort offers multiple dining choices. The traditional Rod ‘N’ Reel Restaurant features steaks, seafood and waterfront views. The seasonal Boardwalk Cafe puts you on the sand—or on the deck—next to the Bay and features a more casual feel. Throughout the summer, live entertainment can be heard on the stage that sits along the water.
Newly opened 1936 Bar & Grill sits a few stories up at the resort and offers casual fare with a view of Fishing Creek and the Bay. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.
Beyond the resort and still close to the waterfront, Trader’s Seafood Steak & Ale is a casual bar and grill. The restaurant’s back deck and Sunday brunch are popular with the locals.
The locals also stop into Mamma Lucia By the Bay for pizza, further up the shoreline towards Calvert County’s other “twin beach”, North Beach. Now let’s head there for more weekend fun…
What to Do in North Beach
To put your toes in the sand in North Beach, you need to purchase a beach pass/ticket. Tickets go quickly, so we suggest you go to northbeachmd.org to buy them prior to your arrival.
The beach sits directly in front of the town’s iconic boardwalk. The boardwalk is an easy stroll along the Bay and, at one end, features shops and restaurants—and popular wine shop Bay Wine and Spirits — just across the street. A fishing pier overlooks the Bay. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
Wetlands Overlook Park and Sunrise Park are close to the boardwalk and offer a peaceful place to pause and relax.
Bayside History Museum explores the role the Bay environment played in shaping the cultures of the bayside communities from precolonial times to the present.
On Saturday mornings, you can find the North Beach farmers market set up in front of the senior center. Be sure to try the creations from local stand Baked by the Bay. They offer donuts, mini cakes and cookies, many of which are vegan or gluten free. If you can’t get down to the market, Chesapeake’s Bounty also carries local, farm-fresh foods from the Bay region. There’s a yoga studio behind the shop offering classes most days.
We also recommend a visit to ArtWorks @7th to view — or purchase — the works of talented local artists. Note: they are no longer actually on 7th Street, but just around the block on Chesapeake Ave.
Where to Stay in North Beach
The Guest Quarters at the Inn offers five rooms and suites in a building styled after the look of the 1920s. Hand-crafted trim work evokes the historic charm of days gone by in the coastal town. The inn is owned by the proprietors of Westlawn Inn.
While there aren’t many traditional hotels in the area, the town offers this directory of Airbnb options: northbeachmd.org/business-directory/by-category/Lodging.
Where to Eat in North Beach
Live music, trivia nights—even an art show—are frequent events at The Wheel House on 7th Street, where you can grab a table and enjoy wine, beer and other beverages while listening to some of the best musical talent in the region. Food delivery is provided from Neptune’s Seafood Pub.
Vaughan Cheese is set to open any day now and locals are anxiously awaiting the popular cheese vendor’s new storefront. A regular at the farmer’s market, Vaughan Cheese will offer wine, sandwiches, picnic platters and more when it opens on 7th Street.
The Westlawn Inn on Chesapeake Ave. offers upscale cuisine in a renovated house dating back to 1926. A large wrap-around porch is the perfect spot to enjoy Bay breezes and a delicious meal. Hook & Vine Kitchen and Bar on 7th Street serves Southern coastal cuisine such as Cajun pasta, shrimp and grits and jambalaya—and an impressive whiskey selection. Locals like to grab a coffee and breakfast at the local bakery on the corner of 7th Street and Bay Ave., The Bakist (formerly Sweet Sue’s). Order online and your avocado toast and espresso will be waiting for you when you get there. Plaza Mexico (7th Street, across from The Bakist) serves up Latin cooking with plenty of outdoor seating.
After a meal, stop by Jango’s frozen treats for soft serve—now offering hot dogs and nachos, too—or the Cold Penguin or Dairy Freeze for even more ice cream choices.
A Few of our Favorite Places
This North Beach farmers market favorite is eagerly anticipating the opening of its storefront on 7th Street. And anyone who has sampled its wares is, too! Vaughan Cheese Counter & Bar will serve more than 75 American artisan cheeses cut to order as well as sandwiches, salads, charcuterie, wine and beer. The most popular orders are the Bobolink cheddar, Dirty Girl, Chesapeake brie and the Forx Farm gouda. The selection of cheeses changes seasonally because they work with small family farms and dairies. Vaughan Cheese can also be found on the menu in restaurants in and around Washington, D.C., including Le Diplomate, Cafe Riggs, Iron Gate and The Wing Georgetown. Order online: https://vaughancheese.com.
Baked By the Bay
Find this cottage bakery biz at the North Beach Farmers Market, selling donuts, cookies and cakes—and always something gluten-free. Tess and Kara, the bakers, realized there was a need in the community for specialized desserts with a focus on dietary restrictions and/or intolerances. Market favorites include their Brookies, Campfire Brownies (thick fudgy brownies no s’mores lover could resist), Yabba Dabba Donuts, keto cookies, chocolate and banana mini-cakes, or pineapple and coconut donuts. But get there early, they have a tendency to sell out by 9am. Follow their Facebook page for updates on what sweet treats they will have: @BakedBytheBayCB.
Wheel House & Beer Garden
Music and drinks after a day at the beach? That’s what the Wheel House specializes in. Head to their North Beach location on 7th Street and relax around the outdoor fire pit, or inside with the air conditioning. Live music is on the menu every weekend and the vibe is one of a nonstop neighborhood party. Try their massive Bloody Mary or an orange crush, brunch is served on Sundays (11am-2pm), pizza night is every Wednesday. Follow them on Facebook for weekly lineup: @TheWheelHouseBeerGarden.