Solomons Island

Take the kids, that special someone or even your boat to this quaint but happening spot.

Arts/Life >bay & beach

June 24, 2005|By Beckie Burkhardt | Beckie Burkhardt,Special to Baltimoresun.com

Located where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay and separated from the mainland by just a small stretch of water, Solomons resembles a peninsula more than a typical island. The Southern Maryland destination is a quaint, self-sufficient town that has something to offer any visitor that comes to her shores

Once a privately owned tobacco farm called Sandy Island, the 80-acre town played a small yet significant role in the War of 1812. Joshua Barney, a retired naval captain, constructed a fleet of small, easily maneuverable sailboats and rowboats to help fend off the much larger British navy as the attackers sailed up the Patuxent River to burn Washington, D.C. After the war ended, peace reigned and the economy boomed. Isaac Solomon, a Baltimore businessman, bought the island and turned it into an oyster canning facility. This economic endeavor brought jobs and new residents to the island. The Island's first U.S. Post Office opened in 1870, making the isolated island almost entirely self-sufficient. Shipbuilding and repairing industries increased, and grocery and general stores began to open.

By the 1930s, a steamboat traveled twice-weekly from Baltimore, serving as a major connection to the rest of Maryland and allowing residents to shop and visit relatives in the city. Changes in the American economy and lifestyle did not overlook Solomons, however, and a Naval Amphibious Training Base opened on the island during World War II. This military facility brought in new jobs, and all but ended the island's reliance on the oyster and fishing industries as the sole sources of income. Today, tourists bring most of the business to the island, and restaurants, charter-boat fishing, recreational boating and gift shops are the main attractions for visitors.

As you approach Solomons from the north, driving down the long, straight and wide Route 4, rows of upscale mini-malls, expansive fields and Asbury Solomons Island -- a retirement community located just outside of the island -- signal that you are about to enter another world. Only an hour from the busy metropolitan center of Washington, D.C., the quiet lifestyle found on Solomons makes you forget that the beltway even exists. You can find just about everything you need in this beautiful and quaint town. Just before you reach Solomons, find out about special events and new attractions by stopping by the Visitor Center.

As retired Prince George's County firefighter Ray Nieves says, "Everyone from bikers to people in Cadillacs come to Solomons Island." The last safe harbor in which to stop to refuel, eat and shop before Norfolk, Va., many boaters from Baltimore (or even as far north as Canada) dock their boats and spend some time on Solomons. Whether you are in a boat, on a motorcycle road trip, on a day trip with the family or you just need a chance to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, a visit to Solomons is fun, refreshing and relaxing.

Fun for families

If you're just on the island for the day, and you've brought the family along, park your car in the free public parking lot. The island is so small and easy to navigate that you will want to take it in on foot. The Riverwalk, a wooden planked boardwalk that spans the length of the main drag of the island, is the perfect place to begin your visit to Solomons. Sit on a bench and people-watch while the kids play on the playground. You can then head over to Kim's Key Lime Pies & Coffee Shop to enjoy a cappuccino or a fruit smoothie to get you going.

If you've packed a picnic lunch, charter a sailboat at Baileywick Sailboat Charters and enjoy an afternoon at sea. Children will enjoy watching the water and looking for the many types of birds and fish that populate the Patuxent River. Fishing enthusiasts can head to Fin Finder Charters and spend the day fishing on a chartered boat.

When the family has tired of the active aquatic life, get back in the car and head over to the Calvert Marine Museum. Tour the Drum Point Lighthouse, meet two live otters, explore plant and animal communities in their natural habitats in the Boat Basin and Marsh Walk and allow the kids to engage in hands-on learning in the Discovery Room. As the day gets cooler, take another short drive to Annmarie Garden. This outdoor sculpture garden features many pieces of artwork from local and international artists that can be enjoyed during a stroll in the woods.

A long day of sightseeing will have the whole family hungry for some Maryland seafood. For folks with families, The Captain's Table offers a casual atmosphere and an array of seafood dishes, pastas, sandwiches and burgers, in addition to a kids menu. You can also try the Naughty Gull, which advertises the "Best Crab Cakes in Solomons." The relaxed atmosphere and kids menu is great for families, but the pub will please adults. Enjoy a leisurely dinner and then spend the final minutes of your day watching the sun set across the Patuxent River

Cozy couples

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