Autumn in the Eastern shore
With November upon us, many living in the District will participate in the annual fall exodus. On the weekends, Washington residents retreat to their preferred autumnal sanctuaries. Resorts and B&Bs throughout Maryland and Virginia play host to those reveling in the year’s most mild and fleeting weather. Such traditional draws are a staple of the autumn spell.
When formulating your plans, it’s a good idea to explore less conventional avenues and find retreats not bogged down by throngs of tourists. The Eastern Shore is less than a two-hour drive from DC and promises some of the season’s best autumn activities. Spending the weekend on the Eastern Shore is an unconventional yet unparalleled experience, sure to liven your month.
Talbot County, Maryland is a hidden gem. The splendorous setting is rich with history and offers some of the best biking, fishing, and kayaking to be found. What’s more, Talbot County presents visitors with several distinctive towns to choose from, each with a personality all its own. Guests to the area may choose to intimately explore one or town-hop for a taste of the entire area.
Easton is celebrating its 300-year anniversary this year, which only adds to the vibrant atmosphere found there. Nestled away in the outskirts of town are family-owned farms, such as Chapel’s Country Creamery. Dairy cows graze its sprawling fields, attesting to Easton’s pastoral grandeur. The farm itself sells its all-natural produce on site. Additionally, many of the Shore’s best chefs use local creamers and farmers as their purveyors, strengthening Easton’s communal bonds.
One such chef is Jordan Lloyd, whose Bartlett Pear Inn recently received the second highest Zagat rating in all categories for the East Coast. Lloyd owns the inn with his wife Alice, his fourth grade sweetheart reunited by fate 10 years later. The two embarked on a journey that led from Mason’s, another local favorite, to Michel Richard’s Citronelle here in DC, New York, Atlanta, Miami, and back again. Along the way, Lloyd apprenticed with four-star chefs at five-diamond and five-star enterprises, including DC’s Four Seasons Hotel. The end result is his upscale American bistro, where classic French techniques meet contemporary plate design, in an impressive 220-year-old establishment.
From November 12 to 14, Easton will host its 40th Annual Waterfowl Festival. Sportsmen and art connoisseurs alike should find something that intrigues them. Wildlife paintings, photos, sculptures, and carvings, including collectible decoys, will be available at multiple venues about town. Moreover, the World Championship Calling Contests and fly-fishing and stunt dog demonstrations are sure to draw a crowd. Easton’s colonial streets will close, and historic buildings will be decorated in celebration of its small-town heritage and support of wildlife conservation.
Also in Easton is the iconic Inn at 202 Dover. Restored by Shelby and Ron Mitchell, the 1874 mansion is an incredible sight. With its spacious rooms and Jacuzzis, you’d be hard pressed to find a more inviting inn in which to spend a few nights. Then again, the Tidewater Inn traces its roots back to 1712. Within walking distance of historic downtown Easton’s many boutiques, galleries and restaurants, the charming hideaway is sure to inspire romance. You won’t go wrong either way.
Located southwest of Easton on the Tred Avon River, Oxford was founded in 1683 and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Few towns have endured the marked phases of change that Oxford has. The landscape, once dominated by tobacco plantations and home to famous figures of the Revolution, later gave rise to oyster harvesting and packing industries. Despite the increase in tourism to the area, Oxford retained its small-town feel.
Those looking to dine in town would do right to give Pope’s Tavern, or else the Robert Morris Inn, a try. Both restaurants provide impeccable service and dining ambiance while affording incredible views of the water. Robert Morris Inn deserves special note, as it recently reopened under new co-owner and executive chef Mark Salter. Salter was the former chef of the Inn at Perry Cabin, and his signature dishes go well with the wide array of vintages the inn has stocked. Dine in Salter’s Tap Room & Tavern or one of two 1710 dining rooms, a few feet from Oxford’s ferry dock.
St. Michaels rests along the “Bay Hundred” stretch that runs to Tilghman Island. In its heyday, St. Michaels was a major shipbuilding center that produced such models as the Baltimore Clipper, which served as privateers during the Revolutionary War and War of 1812. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is one of its premier attractions.
Founded in 1965, the Maritime Museum occupies 35 buildings across 18 waterfront acres and features 10 exhibits that explore the geological, social, and economic history of the Chesapeake Bay. The museum also houses the largest collection of indigenous Chesapeake Bay watercraft in existence. Although the museum currently allows visitors to tong for oysters, on November 6 it will host OysterFest & Members Day from 10 am to 4 pm.
OysterFest celebrates the Bay oyster with live music, food and family activities. Skipjack and buy-boat rides will be available. Furthermore, oyster aquaculture, restoration, and cooking demonstrations will be ongoing. The oyster stew competition may very well be the highlight of the festival, which is included with museum admission.
If oysters aren’t your thing, Ava’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar and The Crab Claw Restaurant are two popular local eateries. Ava’s wood-fired pizza is complemented by its diverse selection of beer and wine. The Crab Claw has served steamed Maryland blue crabs since 1965. Also worth a look is Bistro St. Michael’s, which rounds out St. Michael’s wide range of restaurants.
Not far off is the Inn at Perry Cabin. An elite escape, the inn’s waterfront property offers a gorgeous panorama of the Shore at its finest. Though the inn has lost some of its exclusivity with an expansion to 78 rooms, the lavish accommodations and amenities make this less noticeable. In addition, the inn’s convenient location makes it the perfect place to stay if you plan on seeing the sights around “The Town that Fooled the British.”
In the interval between those dog days of summer and the sluggish winter months, autumn is the ideal occasion for a weekend getaway—one that will both relax and reenergize. If you haven’t made plans yet, do not fret. The Eastern Shore is an often overlooked and underutilized travel alternative. Add to this its breathtaking vistas and insulated townships, and the Shore might just be among the most well-guarded vacation secret in the country.