Calvert Marine Museum, Drum Point Lighthouse, Solomons Island, Maryland. Image credit Malachi Jacobs via Shutterstock

7 Most Charming River Towns in Maryland to Visit in 2024

Found only a hop, skip, and jump from Washington DC, Maryland is known for its abundant seafood and proximity to the bustling capitals of the Northeast. Some of the best wine in the country is found in Maryland, surprisingly, with its winemaking tradition dating back to 1648 before the state’s official founding. Maryland is also the land of crab cakes and big water, its coastlines adjoining the Free State to the vast Atlantic.

Lovers of the water and its restorative powers are both free and encouraged to travel inland as well. The state’s rivers, like the Patapsco, the Patuxent, and the famed Potomac, have given rise to more than a few lovely little towns along their bends and bows. Uncover some of the best river towns in 2024 to visit in the state.

Havre de Grace

Aerial sunset panorama of Havre de Grace Maryland
Overlooking Havre de Grace, Maryland.

The town of Havre de Grace rests along the Susquehanna River and is full of the small-town charm, which brings visitors back to Maryland again and again. This northern town sits at the top of Chesapeake Bay, meaning there is never any shortage of seafood. Havre de Grace’s promenade is a point of interest not only because of its views of the Susquehanna but also because it deposits visitors at the Concord Point Lighthouse. It is a fabulous place for a picture or even a souvenir from the lighthouse’s gift shop.

Havre de Grace is known for its food. Water Street Seafood combines food with delectable views in an unbeatable combination. Next, satisfy your curiosity at the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum. Its 600-square-foot gallery shows the region’s connection to the Underground Railroad and how marine travel made it possible. It also teaches about the Indigenous peoples who lived in the area before European settlement.

Solomons Island

The waterfront at Solomons Island, Maryland.
The waterfront at Solomons Island, Maryland.

Found at the meeting point of the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay, Solomons Island has a reputation for being a place where one can see sublime views. Charter boats and fishing vessels come and go from the town’s docks and visitors often hire them to see the water at sunset. The Calvert Marine Museum offers visitors a first-class education in the town’s history and nautical tradition. Looking for a scenic memento? The Drum Point Lighthouse​​​​ is eminently photogenic and makes for a great subject.

Two hours from Baltimore and around an hour and a half from the Nation’s capital, visitors to the town will cross the imposing 135-foot-tall Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge, which offers fabulous views to passersby. Solomons is home to the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center whose garden spans 30 acres of forests and meadows. Amateur archaeologists will want to visit Calvert Cliffs at Calvert Cliffs State Park, where the tide has washed away the cliffside. Fossils have been known to turn up on the beach there, though the park is lovely enough on its own merits.

St. Michaels

The harbor at St. Michaels, Maryland.
The harbor at St. Michaels, Maryland.

Known as "the town that fooled the British," St. Michaels is known as a site of American ingenuity during the War of 1812 when the militiamen of St. Michaels hung lanterns in the trees behind the town. The two sides exchanged cannon fire in the middle of the night, but since the British could only see the lights hung in the trees, their cannons overshot the town, winning the day for the Americans. Today, St. Michaels is much better known for its scenic views of the Miles River and the rustic and eclectic shops found along Talbot Street in town. Wine, good food, and a laid-back atmosphere all await visitors to St. Michaels.

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is an absolute delight. Featuring plenty of exhibitions and a shipyard, the museum is more akin to a bustling waterfront dock than your typical art gallery. As proof, the museum allows visitors to buy the usual fare at its gift shop alongside an actual boat if they choose. St. Michales is also home to another rarity: the 19th-century Hooper Strait Light. This lighthouse is one of only four Chesapeake Bay lighthouses built in the unique screw-pile style. Lastly, Sail Selina II offers water tours to better experience the Chesapeake Bay region first-hand.


The lighthouse and marina at Cambridge, Maryland.
The lighthouse and marina at Cambridge, Maryland.

Spread along the spectacular Choptank River, Cambridge is one of the oldest colonial cities in the state. Its history as the seat of Dorchester County dates back to 1684. This history was captured by the novelist James Michener, who called Cambridge’s High Street one of the most beautiful in the country. The street remains full of historical homes which have been well maintained over the centuries, with some having been built in the 1700s. With so much to do, see, and experience, Cambridge is small-town Maryland at its best.

The town’s maritime heritage is proudly on full display in Cambridge. From crabbing to sailing, Cambridge’s history is inextricably linked to the waters surrounding it. This history is captured in the Richardson Maritime Museum and the Ruark Boatworks. Visitors can even ride on a legitimate skipjack oyster dredging ship. The Underground Railroad and Cambridge’s role is also well remembered and on display at the Harriet Tubman Museum. If you hear the call of the wild, the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge nearby encompasses more than 32,000 acres across three major habitats. The refuge boasts one-third of Maryland's tidal wetlands and is one of the most ecologically important areas in the state.

Pocomoke City

American Flag flying over white bridge in Pocomoke City, the Eastern Shore of Maryland
American Flag flying over white bridge in Pocomoke City, Maryland.

Only a few miles north of Virginia, Pocomoke City is a historic town in southern Maryland found along the Pocomoke River. Its small but beautiful downtown is full of quiet cafes and boutiques. Pocomoke City is the ideal place to be if you are seeking a break from the traffic jams and ambient noise of city living, offering instead the soothing lapping of the river and the clink of wine glasses at sundown.

One of the town’s most beloved attractions in town is the Delmarva Discovery Centre. The museum has exhibits on river otters, steamships, and the pre-European cultures that populated the area. The downtown Nature Trail is highly recommended and starts at the city dock at Cypress Park before looping around Stevenson's Pond to Winter Quarters Landing. The trail features a floating boardwalk, exercise stations, and a sizable pedestrian bridge. Watch a movie at the recently renovated Mar-Va Theater or take a gander at the historic Coston House Museum.


The Historic Monkton Railroad Station, Maryland
The Historic Monkton Railroad Station, Maryland.

Monkton is a beautiful unincorporated town found less than an hour north of Baltimore along the Gunpowder River. Monkton is surrounded by Gunpowder Falls State Park, one of the state’s largest state parks covering nearly 20,000 acres across two counties. Fishing and beaches, hiking trails, and wildlands are all available at the park, making it one of the definite must-see locations for any visit to Monkton.

Tubing is very popular in Monkton, and one of the most popular places to launch is the Monkton Station from within the park. The Northern Central Railroad Trail leads past Monkton Station and stretches along an abandoned railroad all the way up to the Pennsylvania border. Ladew Topiary Gardens is another point of interest thanks to its 22 acres of award-winning gardens punctuated by its manor house. The Manor Tavern is a local favorite known for having some of the best burgers in Maryland.


Boats in the harbor of Oxford, Maryland.
Boats in the harbor of Oxford, Maryland.

The town of Oxford has a profound maritime heritage in part thanks to its location along the Tred Avon River. With its historic charm and small-town vibes, visitors to Oxford are sure to love taking a relaxing stroll through the town's quiet streets. Or, climb aboard for a ferry ride on the nation’s oldest privately owned ferry service between Oxford and Bellevue. Bikers will want to ride along the Oxford/ St. Michaels Bike Trail to the nearby town of St Michaels. This little town has fewer than 1,000 residents, but do not let that fool you. Oxford packs plenty to do and see into a small package.

Looking for a place to stay? Look no further than the Robert Morris Inn, known as the childhood home of one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Or, if you are looking to learn more about Oxford, there is no better way than by visiting the Oxford Museum. Over 300 years of Oxford history have been chronicled there for visitors to look at and learn. One of the loveliest parts of Oxford is the picket fences. Each summer, residents and artists paint lengths of picket fence which are then displayed and auctioned off in the fall. It is just one way Oxford’s residents take pride in their community.

Maryland is so much more than crab cakes. The stunning stretches of river and state parks this small state has to offer are difficult to capture into words. In 2024, eye-catching lighthouses and river cruises await visitors to Maryland in addition to all the blue crab and seafood you could ever want. If you are planning a visit to Maryland or the Northeast in the near future, consider these river towns for a trip as educational as it is serene.

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