They're tucked away in residential neighborhoods, alongside marinas and on the Chesapeake Bay's tributaries. But for those who don't have a navigational system in their car or boat, Anne Arundel County's picturesque waterfront restaurants can be tricky to find.
A trek to Deep Creek Restaurant in Arnold, Windows on the Bay or the Cheshire Crab in Pasadena - with a left turn here and a right turn there - takes a visitor through tree-lined neighborhoods, past rows of boats suspended on lifts and ends in laid-back culinary delights.
Once there, diners are treated to Maryland's succulent hard crabs and soft shells, rockfish, oysters and clams, while seated on decks overlooking the tranquil waters of the Severn, Magothy and South rivers. The less adventurous can experience the bustle of the Annapolis harbor while enjoying a similar menu.
And because Anne Arundel has 400 miles of rivers, creeks and bay-frontage and an extensive maritime history, diners can try the county's fare from points to the north in Pasadena and to the south in Galesville.
Spring and summer boaters often traverse the waterways in search of the best crab dinners. Boaters, watermen and families flock to these treasures, where one can acquire a true feel for living near the water.
"There are two types of crowds that come to the restaurant," says Donald Broglie, a former commercial fisherman and owner of Magothy Seafood on Mill Creek in Arnold for 35 years. "In the spring and fall, it's the locals, but in the summer - we are four miles from Annapolis - we get a lot of tourists. There are the `summer people' you only see in the summer, and then the locals keep us busy the rest of the year."
Magothy Seafood, overlooking the river, seats about 200 and has no walls or doors. Most tables are outside, with some seating under a large tent. Each table has its own umbrella. The decor is reminiscent of a tropical island, featuring potted palm trees, tropical plants and a tiki bar. At sunset, diners are treated to a free boat ride down the Magothy River aboard the 45-foot Lady Bug.
Windows on the Bay, behind White Rocks Marina and overlooking the Chesapeake Bay in Pasadena, offers indoor and outdoor dining with slips available for boaters.
"The atmosphere is relaxing and the food isn't typical. It has a distinct flair in its preparation and presentation," says Sandy Reusing, who has celebrated two special occasions at the restaurant. She says she picked the venue for her parties because it was accommodating and because of its location on the water.
In southern Anne Arundel, patrons can feast along a pier at Wagner's Steamboat Landing, in Galesville, which features the Crab Bomb - 10 ounces of baked crab meat.
Tourists and those celebrating memorable occasions also flock to Annapolis and Eastport for a more upscale dining experience.
Maryland crab soup, crab puffs and crab balls are served at Jimmy Cantler's Riverside Inn in Annapolis. Carrol's Creek Waterfront Restaurant and the Chart House offer views of the Annapolis City Dock, the Naval Academy and the State House and often are the site of Mother's Day brunches and prom dinners.
Visitors can take a water taxi, walk, bike or boat to these establishments. Try a "painkiller" drink at Pusser's Landing in the Marriott Waterfront Hotel or join in a sing-along at Phillip's Annapolis Harbor restaurant.