Escape the hustle, bustle of Ocean City by stealing away to Berlin, Snow Hill

September 13, 1992|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff Writer

On your next trip to Ocean City, consider a short detour off U.S. Route 50 to two quaint, well-maintained Eastern Shore towns: Berlin and Snow Hill.

Both towns provide an escape from the hustle and bustle of Maryland's premier beach resort.

You won't find McDonald's or Comfort Inns. What you will find are comfortable and elegant bed and breakfast inns, small eateries providing home-cooked food and friendly service, and small shops selling antiques and Eastern Shore crafts.

You can swing through both towns -- just about 15 miles apart -- during a long, lazy afternoon. But if you really want to enjoy them Eastern Shore style, take more than a day. Relax. You can't beat sitting on a porch rocker at a bed and breakfast inn, reading or watching the world slowly pass by.


Berlin, a town of about 2,100 residents, is closest to Ocean City, just two miles south of U.S. 50 off U.S. Highway 113.

I discovered Berlin by chance -- on an afternoon bicycling trip along the Viewtrail 100, a scenic, well-marked bicycle trail that meanders through much of rural Worcester County.

At first glance, it appeared to be a quiet, sleepy town, one I didn't give a second thought to until I visited weeks later to escape the summer mayhem in Ocean City. Now, I am enticed by its charms and have returned regularly.

Berlin, which got its beginnings in the late 1700s, isn't Williamsburg. And it isn't New Market with blocks of antique shops. Here, you'll find only a handful of antique shops, historic buildings and a few craft and gift shops.

One of the more interesting is Tumbling Monkeys, a gift store featuring the whimsical furniture and pottery of Patty Baltrotsky and Eastern Shore American crafts.

Also worth checking out are the Taylor House Museum and the Globe Theater.

The museum, a Federal-style house built in 1832, offers visitors a pleasant step back into 19th century America. The house also contains local memorabilia. The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Admission is $1.

At the Globe Theater on Broad Street, you can sip cappuccino and browse through shelves of books, fine art, gifts and cards.

The former theater also features concerts by musicians, ranging from guitar players to folk and blues singers.

By all means make reservations for dinner at the Atlantic Hotel Inn and Restaurant, where Chef Stephen Jacques serves wonderful American regional cuisine in an elegant, Victorian-style dining room.

Finally, on your way out of town to Snow Hill, stop by the recently restored Merry Sherwood Plantation, which bills itself as a distinctive country inn.

If you're lucky, innkeeper Emily Farrand will take you on a tour of the 28-room Italianate-style mansion that was built in 1859 and is the largest historical home in the county.

Snow Hill

In Snow Hill, about 25 miles south of Ocean City off U.S. Highway 113, there are a few more activities for the energetic.

The scenic Pocomoke River affords an opportunity for canoeing. The Pocomoke River Canoe Co., located right on the river, rents canoes for about $5 an hour.

In nearby Furnace Town, a re-created 19th century industrial village off state Route 12, visitors can hike a trail through the Pocomoke Forest and a swamp. Bug repellent is recommended.

Snow Hill, a 300-year-old town that is similar in size to Berlin, has charms of its own. You can stroll the brick sidewalks or walk along tree-lined streets through the town's historic district, which features more than 100 homes built a century ago.

For those with an interest in Americana or history, there are two small museums worth visiting: the Julia A. Purnell Museum and the Mount Zion Schoolhouse. The Purnell Museum offers exhibits of area artifacts, costumes, antique toys and machinery. Admission is $2 for adults, 50 cents for those under 18. The museum is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

"It's really an interpretive museum of the southern Eastern Shore," says John Verrill, the museum's director.

At the museum, visitors can pick up walking tour brochures of the aforementioned historic district. Guided tours are offered at 11 a.m. every Thursday from April through October.

"The historic homes are the highlight for most people who come here," Mr. Verrill says. "We're a nice little historical community. People come here because they want to get away from the hustle and bustle. We're not overly developed. People like that."

Also open to the public is the one-room Mount Zion Schoolhouse, built in 1869. The school features antique school supplies, including bells, books and writing slates. The museum is open 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays. Admission is $1 for adults and 50 cents for children.

Like Berlin, Snow Hill has bed and breakfast inns to accommodate overnight visitors.

But even if you're not spending the night, do stay for lunch at the Snow Hill Inn and Restaurant. The prices are reasonable and the menu varied, including seafood, quiche, soups and prime rib. I enjoyed more than one helping of warm apple cinnamon muffins.

A good time to visit Snow Hill would be Sept. 25-27, when the town's annual Heritage Weekend is held. The event features train excursions on the Maryland Main Street Special from Snow Hill to Berlin. The festival also includes an art show, antique show and other activities.

For more information, call the Snow Hill Chamber of Commerce at (410) 632-0809.

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