St. Michaels, Maryland

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond
Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

What a peaceful morning on the Eastern Shore. You’re sitting in an Adirondack chair facing the calm water. Sailboats gently rock in the cool breeze. Their reflections almost reach the shoreline. Two white swans swim through the maze of boats and the slowly retreating fog. The sun’s pinkish-orange glow is starting to streak across the still-dewy lawn. While a grand, white inn stands silent behind you. Most people are still sleeping this early in the morning.

You’re staying at the Inn at Perry Cabin in St. Michaels, Maryland. It’s an easy escape from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. The colonial-style building was built in 1816, and later turned into a nautical-themed inn. Linden trees line the driveway. The gardens are filled with old magnolias and cypresses. An infinity edge pool is surrounded by a brick wall. English scones, lemon curd, and homemade tea are served in the Morning Room during afternoon tea. Your room has a sleigh bed, a gas fireplace, and a bay view. And Stars, where you’re heading, makes Bloody Bay Bloody Marys—with local vine-ripe tomatoes and Old Bay Seasoning—during breakfast time.

After one or two of those Bloody Marys, head back outside. Everyone seems to be up by now. Boats are starting to motor through the harbor. Seagulls fly lowly overhead. The fog has moved down the river. And you’re ready to go fishing. Cast your line for rockfish and striped bass. It’s tranquil even though the fish don’t seem to be biting right now.

Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond
Photo: Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond

When you give up trying to catch the big one—or any fish at all, right  now—grab a bike and head into town. St. Michaels was founded in 1770. By the War of 1812, it had become an important ship-building center, whose Baltimore Clippers could outrun foreign navies at sea. The British tried—and failed—to destroy the shipyards during the Battle of St. Michaels. A cannonball from the battle remains embedded in the Cannonball House. After the war, St. Michaels became known for oyster harvesting and, eventually, tourism. Many consider it the prettiest town on the Eastern Shore.

You pedal through the Victorian streets, by overflowing antique shops, and around abstract art galleries. Pass Christ Church-St. Michaels Parish. The town was named after the church, which was built in 1677. Visit the waterfront Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The site was originally a seafood-packing house, but boats, a drawbridge, and even a lighthouse now preserve the area’s maritime history. The Hooper Strait Lighthouse once stood at the entrance of Tangier Sound, and it’s one of four surviving screw-pile lighthouses. And the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, a historic vessel, is the last-working oyster dredger of her kind.

You’re tempted to stop at Justine’s Ice Cream Parlor for a moosetracks cone, but you opt for lunch at the Town Dock instead. You sit on the deck overlooking the river, breathe in the salty air, and smell seafood cooking inside. It’s crab season, so you order soft-shell crabs, of course. They’re steamed and cooked in Old Bay Seasoning, they go perfectly with St. Michaels Magic Hefeweizen, and they’re a mess. A seagull is watching, just in case you can’t finish your crabs. But unlike fishing earlier, that shouldn’t be a problem.

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