How's The Water?

May 27, 2007|By MICHELLE DEAL-ZIMMERMAN | MICHELLE DEAL-ZIMMERMAN,Sun Reporter

It's been said that there are Ocean City people and there are Deep Creek Lake people. We have no idea who said this or what it even means. This much we know: Both these classic Maryland destinations lure visitors with sun, sand and water. So, decide for yourself where your vacation loyalties lie.

Are you a lake person or an ocean person?

Memorial Day weekend launches the summer vacation season with travelers packing cars, trailers and suitcases with sunscreen, bathing suits and towels, and scrambling out the door with neither map nor Mapquest directions in hand.

That's because these people know where they are going -- to the beach.

But which way?

East to Ocean City, an oasis of sand and sea hugging Maryland's Eastern Shore?

Or west to Deep Creek Lake, 3,900 acres of freshwater lapping at the feet of rocky, pine-covered peaks in Garrett County?

Depends on who you talk to.

"There are two kinds of people in the world," says Charlie Ross, president of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. "There are lake people and there are ocean people."

You can guess which he prefers.

Deep Creek Lake is 12 miles long and offers 65 miles of shoreline in Western Maryland. The area is a nature lover's paradise with rivers, forests and mountains. Garrett County is home to more state parks -- 90,000 acres of public land -- than anywhere else in Maryland.

Still, the area feels like a small town.

"There are only 13 traffic lights in all of Garrett County, although it's one of the largest counties in the state," says Jo Donaldson, public affairs officer for the chamber.

And no major bridges.

While its 50 miles farther from Baltimore than Ocean City, you might make it there more quickly.

"There's never a bridge delay for Deep Creek Lake," says Ross, who has obviously visited Ocean City a few times.

This year, Deep Creek Lake area expects to attract a larger crowd thanks to a new artificial whitewater course that opens this weekend at Wisp Resort in McHenry. Adventure Sports Center International has created a mountaintop whitewater rafting experience that is "the first course of its kind in the entire world," says Ross. The course has a unique feature that allows the level of difficulty of the rapids to be quickly adjusted.

"We expect ... about 25,000 paddlers a year, from the spring through the fall," Ross says.

The area already swells by thousands of people during the summer, but not nearly as much as the state's other water playground to the east.

Ocean City draws some 8 million visitors annually, more than half between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

"Summer is our prime time. I think most of the people that come are here for the beach," says Donna Abbott, Ocean City's public relations director. "It's the lure of the sea; people just want to be by the sea, especially during the summer months."

Abbott, who has never visited Deep Creek Lake, admits to a tinge of bias. "I'm an ocean person," she says.

So where does that leave you?

If you love fresh, greens-scented air, head for the mountains and Deep Creek Lake. If you prefer a tad of saltiness on the wind, get over to Ocean City.

Both places offer fun summer activities such as golfing, fishing and swimming. Both offer beautiful -- but quite different -- scenery.

In the end, it all comes down to individual choice. Lake or beach doesn't really matter, as long as you know where you're going.

michelle.deal@baltsun.com

DISTANCE FROM BALTIMORE

Deep Creek Lake

-- 180 miles or 3 hours

Ocean City

-- 135 miles or 2 1/2 hours

SUMMER POPULATION

Deep Creek

-- 50,000

Ocean City

-- 300,000

MAIN ATTRACTION

Deep Creek

-- The lake

Ocean City

-- The beach

NATURAL ATTRACTION

Deep Creek

-- Savage River State Forest

Ocean City

-- Assateague Island National Seashore

HIGHEST MOUNTAIN

Deep Creek

-- Backbone Mountain, elevation 3,360 feet

Ocean City

-- Splash Mountain at Jolly Roger Amusement Park

HEALTH HAZARD

Deep Creek

-- Poison ivy

Ocean City

-- Jellyfish

FINANCIAL HAZARD

Deep Creek

-- Gas prices

Ocean City

-- Gas prices

RESORT SCENE

Deep Creek

-- Summer skiing at Wisp Resort

Ocean City

-- Ice-skating at Carousel Resort Hotel and Condominiums

FOUR-LEGGED FRIENDS

Deep Creek

-- Wild bears

Ocean City

-- Wild ponies at Assateague

WHERE TO STAY

Deep Creek

-- Condos, cabins

Ocean City

-- Condos, hotels

WHAT TO WEAR

Deep Creek

-- Bikinis and hiking boots*

Ocean City

-- Bikinis and sandals

(*Bikinis and hiking boots? Edge has to go to Ocean City on this one.)

AVERAGE SUMMER WATER TEMPERATURE

Deep Creek

-- 73 degrees

Ocean City

-- 72 degrees

MUST-HAVE SWEET

Deep Creek

-- Lakeside Creamery ice-cream cone

Ocean City

-- Dolle's saltwater taffy

MUST-SEE VIEW

Deep Creek

-- Sunset on Marsh Mountain

Ocean City

-- Sunset on the bay

MUST-HAVE ON iPOD

Deep Creek

-- "Hot Fun in the Summertime" - Sly & the Family Stone.

Ocean City

-- "Under the Boardwalk" - The Drifters

WORKOUT ROUTINE

Deep Creek

-- Forget work and routine

Ocean City

-- Forget work and routine

IF YOU GO

DEEP CREEK LAKE AREA

Getting there

-- The Deep Creek Lake area is in Garrett County in Western Maryland. From Baltimore, follow Interstate 70 to I-68. Take Exit 14 to Route 219 South. Follow Route 219 for about 13 miles. The visitors center is on the right.

Information

-- For lodging, dining, shopping and a list of events, go to visitdeepcreek.com or call the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce in McHenry at 301-387-4386.

OCEAN CITY

Getting there

-- Ocean City is in Worcester County on Maryland's Eastern Shore. From Baltimore, follow I-695 East to I-97 South. Take Exit 4, on the left, toward Annapolis/Bay Bridge. Merge onto U.S. 50 East. Cross the Bay Bridge and follow U.S. 50 East.

Information

-- For lodging, dining, shopping and a list of events, go to ococean.com or call 800-626-2326.

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