Homes on the Chesapeake Bay in North Beach, Maryland, on a sunny day with a blue sky.

Maryland's 9 Most Underrated Towns to visit in 2024

From the foothills of the Allegheny Mountains and the shores of Deep Creek Lake to the beaches along the Chesapeake Bay, the Old Line State is home to many charming small towns that don't always get the recognition they deserve. While places like Baltimore and Annapolis see plenty of visitors yearly, several under-the-radar communities across the state are worth exploring. In 2024, consider heading off the beaten path to discover some of Maryland's most underrated towns.

Shielded from the hustle and bustle of the big cities, these hidden gems promise a relaxed retreat in the heart of the state’s backcountry. Each offers a taste of small-town charm, historic architecture, natural beauty, and local culture, making getting away from it all a delight. Whether visiting for a weekend getaway or a month-long vacation, here are some of the most underrated towns in Maryland to see.


Loys Station Covered Bridge in Thurmont, Maryland.

Loys Station Covered Bridge in Thurmont, Maryland.

For many tourists on a Midwest itinerary, Thurmont is often a brief stop on their way to Pennsylvania, but this tiny Frederick County village has an exciting mix of attractions worth exploring. The town is home to several historic covered bridges, highlighted by the mid-1800s Roddy Road Covered Bridge. This straddles Owen’s Bridge, surrounded by lush natural scenery perfect for a picnic. Thurmont is an adventure lover’s paradise as a gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can lose yourself inside the sprawling Catoctin Mountain Park by indulging in recreations like fly fishing, hiking, biking, and cross-country skiing. 

Cunningham Falls State Park is better suited for guests interested in aquatic fun. The park’s crowning jewel, Cunning Falls, is Maryland’s highest cascading waterfall, dropping almost 78 feet. Tourists also enjoy diverse water-based recreations, from kayaking and swimming to boating on the 43-acre artificial lake in the park. If you have a soft spot for social events, you can target the 20th Annual Thurmont Business Expo on April 27, 2024, to interact with locals and learn about their products. 

North Beach

Waterfront houses and a boardwalk in North Beach, Maryland.
Waterfront houses and a boardwalk in North Beach, Maryland.

Popular destinations like Cambridge and Ocean City dominate conversations about beachside getaways in Maryland, but the hidden gem of North Beach offers just as satisfying an experience. A lazy stroll along the North Beach Boardwalk is among the go-to experiences in town, spoiling you with breathtaking water vistas, a laid-back atmosphere, and easygoing fishing opportunities. Further inland, North Beach houses a few green spaces that will appeal to nature lovers, including Wetlands Overlook Park. Home to migratory shore birds and wetland wildlife, the atmosphere is perfect for relaxing and wildlife viewing. 

The indoor inclined can find a perfect pastime inside the Bayside History Museum, exploring a collection of exhibits documenting the area’s natural and cultural history. Alternatively, they can sample the local art scene by catching an exciting live performance at the Twin Beach Players. 

Havre De Grace

Cloudy day on the boardwalk in Havre De Grace, Maryland.
Cloudy day on the boardwalk in Havre De Grace, Maryland.

Situated where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Susquehanna River, Havre de Grace offers scenic waterfront views and harbors a rich maritime heritage. It was named after a port town in France, and its name translates from French to "Harbor of Grace." You can explore the area's nautical roots at the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, home to artifacts and exhibits focused on the local fishing and crabbing industries. Also, take in spectacular Atlantic views while walking along the Havre de Grace Promenade while watching for shorebirds. 

The Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse is an iconic city landmark from the early 1800s worth touring. It served a vital role in warning ships of the choppy waters ahead but now gives educational tours. Nearby, Susquehanna State Park provides outdoor recreation like fishing, hiking, and boating and a spacious campground ideal for immersing oneself in natural beauty. One of the best ways to explore the open spaces is to take a guided Nature Trail Walk along the scenic North Park Loop Trail on March 9, 2024, for an easy 1.5-mile hike. 


East Main Street, Boonsboro, Maryland, USA.

East Main Street, Boonsboro, Maryland, USA. By Acroterion, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Civil War enthusiasts can look forward to captivating gems in this historic town in Washington County. Famous for its role during the infamous conflict, Boonsboro maintains intimate relics and reminders of the great battles that played out within its borders. It is home to the rustic Washington Monument, built in 1827 in honor of George Washington. But for a deeper dive into the area’s colorful history, the Boonsboro Museum of History brings the town’s past to life through a vast collection of artifacts. 

Boonsboro also delivers a range of recreational opportunities across its many natural attractions. Campers, hikers, swimmers, and anglers assemble inside the expansive Greenbrier State Park to enjoy its fun activities. The same applies to South Mountain State Park, which houses 50 miles of trail and a stunning 80-foot waterfall. If you visit with kids, be sure to sign them up for the Annual Fishing Derby on May 4, 2024, for a fun family day out. 


The Casselman Bridge, a historic transportation structure on the Casselman River, located east of Grantsville in Garrett County, Maryland. Built from 1813 to 1814.

The Casselman Bridge is located east of Grantsville in Garrett County, Maryland. Built from 1813 to 1814.

The sleepy village of Grantsville may seem like any other boring small-town stop on your Maryland itinerary. However, this unexplored gem houses multiple underrated state parks that thrust you into the heart of the state’s beautiful wilderness. It famously hosts the Casselman River Bridge State Park, the focal point being the 80-foot historic Casselman Bridge, built between 1813 and 1814. Grantsville also houses the larger New Germany State Park, straddling 483 acres and bordering the Savage River State Forest. This recreation hub offers camping, hiking, fishing, paddling, and swimming opportunities. 

On May 11, 2024, the New Germany State Park will host the Wild Spirit Native Plants at the Mountain Maryland Native Plant Festival, an excellent opportunity to learn about local flora. After working up an appetite from exploring the town’s outdoor attractions, you can enjoy a wholesome meal while admiring local crafts at Penn Alps Restaurant & Craft Shop. Later, check into the landmark Casselman Inn for a rustic accommodation experience to cap off the day.

Mount Airy

 View south along Maryland State Route 808 (Main Street) at Park Avenue in Mount Airy, Carroll County, Maryland.
View south along Main Street in Mount Airy, Carroll County, Maryland. By Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Not many people know about this precious gem in Maryland's Western mountains. Mount Airy offers a respite from busy life with its beautiful countryside landscapes and small-town hospitality. Wine and beer lovers will find themselves in paradise, thanks to multiple local breweries and wineries crafting fresh alcoholic drinks. Black Ankle Vineyards provides the perfect starting point, surrounded by Mount Airy's rolling hills. Guests can enjoy a guided tour of the scenic property, stopping at the tasting room before settling in for a picnic. For craft beer enthusiasts, Milkhouse Brewery will make for the perfect alternative.  

Nature lovers will appreciate Mount Airy's peacefulness within the Audrey Carroll Audubon Sanctuary. Spanning over 100 acres, this serene oasis protects diverse wildlife, from hundreds of bird species to other forest fauna. Spring and fall are the best times to visit, allowing guests to help with monarch butterfly tagging and observe migratory birds passing through. Alternatively, you can schedule your visit to coincide with Mt. Airy Fire Company Carnival in July & August 2024 for an immersive cultural experience. 


View south along Maryland State Route 23 (Norrisville Road) just south of Maryland State Route 146 (Jarrettsville Pike) in Jarrettsville, Harford County, Maryland.

View south along Norrisville Road in Jarrettsville, Harford County, Maryland. By Famartin, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Remember to bring a camera to capture the magic in this relaxed rural town in Harford County. Jarrettsville is renowned for expansive sunflower fields, which paint the city with rows of green and bright yellow, resulting in postcard scenery. You can visit Clear Meadow Farm Sunflower Field to revel in a serene atmosphere with fresh air and a lovely aroma. The sunflower farm stretches as far as the eyes can see, compelling nature photographers to keep on snapping away. 

Some Jarrettsville residents will argue that most visitors come to Rocks State Park. Covering 855 acres of rocky woodlands, the park is a popular recreation hub, offering hiking, rock climbing, fishing, and river tubing opportunities. Those looking for a less remote alternative can check out Dr. James B. Rutledge Memorial Park, which offers a more family-friendly setting with amenities like nature trails, a soccer field, and picnic areas. 


Saint Anthony's Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

Saint Anthony's Shrine in Emmitsburg, Maryland.

From a distance, Emmitsburg looks like any other small town in Maryland, but you’ll need to visit it to discover its rich historical heritage, thriving culinary scene, and impressive academic landscape. Home to Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg is a mini gastronomic mecca, hosting a unique mix of restaurants serving all flavors, from Southern-style cuisine and seafood to Italian. Seafood lovers can pop into Rube’s Crab Shack to sample the state’s famous crab dishes. Emmitsburg was established in 1785 and is one of the oldest towns in Maryland. As such, it houses a couple of historical markers. 

These include the Frederick County Fire Rescue Museum and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. The latter pays homage to gallant volunteer firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty. Before leaving the town, consider visiting Emmitsburg Antique Mall to shop for unique treasures. 


Courthouse in Leonardtown, St. Mary's County, Maryland.
Courthouse in Leonardtown, St. Mary's County, Maryland. By Dougtone - Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

The small town of Leonardtown in St. Mary's County offers something for every visitor.  Historians can explore the town's roots at landmarks such as Tudor Hall, a Georgian-style home built in the 1700s. Another exciting landmark to check out is Moll Dyer Rock, where a woman accused of witchcraft was tragically found frozen after the public confronted her. Meanwhile, nature lovers can head to the famous Leonardtown Wharf Park for kayaking, picnicking, and paddle boarding alongside locals. The waterfront venue makes the perfect spot to soak up the outdoors. 

After a tedious day of adventure, stop by The Front Porch to restock with sumptuous Southern fare, then unwind for the evening at the Inn at Leonardtown. With intriguing tales of the past and scenic natural beauty, Leonardtown packs plenty of unexpected charm into its tiny space.

Discover Maryland's Hidden Charms

From Western Maryland mountain destinations to waterfront communities along the Chesapeake Bay, each of these towns in Maryland offers a unique slice of charm. Whether interested in history, outdoor recreation, local cuisine, or simply slowing down the pace, they provide low-key environments to discover the state's hidden gems. By getting off the beaten path in 2024, you'll experience a more authentic side of Maryland through scenic countryside, friendly locals, and cultural highlights often overlooked by tourists. So consider exploring some new ground and stopping in at least one of these underrated towns to uncover why local residents proudly call them home.

  1. Home
  2. Places
  3. Cities
  4. Maryland's 9 Most Underrated Towns to visit in 2024

More in Places