Length: 85.5 mi / 137.6 km
Time to Allow: 2.5 hours to drive, 2-3 days to visit the entire byway
Drive the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway and experience small-town America at its best! The relaxed environment of the Delmarva Peninsula creates a contrast with the booming city life across the bay -- charming small towns, rich colonial history, spectacular wildlife refuges, manifold maritime recreation, and outstanding scenic views of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Experience the byway’s many remarkable facets as you explore captivating Chesapeake Bay.
Are you a birder? Then grab your binoculars and head to some of the wildlife refuges along the byway. With easy access to five state parks and the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll have a thrilling birding and wildlife-viewing adventure! Visit Terrapin Nature Park, near Stevensville and see Great Blue Herons, ospreys, swans, and a variety of songbirds. Want more? Then visit Elk Neck State Park, where you can view seasonal birds like hawks, raptors, warblers, flycatchers, cuckoos and finches, Foster’s terns or year-round residents including Bald Eagles, Bluebirds, cardinals, goldfinches, and Meadow Larks. The byway is situated along the Atlantic Flyway and provides endless opportunities to catch a glimpse of a wide range of migratory waterfowl.
See the wonders of the Chesapeake from a bicycle. Want an easy ride? Try the Cliff City Crabber's Special which starts in Chestertown. Craving more? Take the challenging fifty-mile Rock Hall Ramble and explore the scenic vistas of Rock Hall. Whatever route you pick, you'll pedal past historic sites and quaint and fascinating shops. Stop in for a well-deserved lunch at one of the famous restaurants in the area, replenishing your energy with fresh-caught seafood cooked to perfection or some of the mouthwatering crab cakes Maryland is famous for.
As you travel among the towns along the Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway, revel in the early American history around you, spend your days playing among the waves in the Chesapeake Bay, and enjoy the rural mid-Atlantic culture. If you don't want to leave right away, the area's exquisitely restored bed and breakfasts allow you a chance to fully experience the wonders of the Chesapeake.
Raise the sails, rev the motor, or pick up a paddle to discover boating bliss on Maryland's Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway. Celebrate boating in all its forms on the welcoming waters of this area's canals and rivers—and, of course, the Chesapeake Bay.
In Chesapeake City each June, come by boat to the Canal Day Festival. Take advantage of the free shuttle-boat service that brings you right to the harbor and the onshore festivities. Check out crafts, enjoy food, and listen to music during this celebration of the historic waterway that still hosts plenty of commercial and recreational boating today.
Fourteen miles south of Chesapeake City is Georgetown, one of three sites on the Sassafras River where you can launch a canoe or kayak. Paddle through marshlands, beaches, farmlands, and bald eagle nesting sites, where larger boats can't go. If you make your way west toward Betterton Beach where the Sassafras River meets the Chesapeake Bay, you can moor your canoe or kayak at the pier, not far from the public restrooms and bathhouse. Here you can picnic under the pavilion, or just watch swimmers enjoy the sandy beach and cool waters.
Continue along the byway just past Queenstown and discover more boating waterways within the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. From here you can rent a kayak or canoe and glide through Marshy Creek, the Narrows, and Prospect Bay. Appreciate beautifully restored shorelines, natural marshlands, and abundant waterfowl, as you float on the tranquil waters of the self-guided trails in this area.
If that’s too quiet for you, head east of the Environmental Center to Kent Island in early August for the annual Thunder on the Narrows powerboat-racing event. Take your family to cheer on your favorite boat in each racing class, and grab something to eat from the on-site options when you’re hungry.
Get out and enjoy the abundant waters near Maryland’s Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway by sailing, kayaking, canoeing, cruising, or participating in a fun-filled waterfront celebration. Mark your calendar for the annual events and fill your summer days with exciting boating excursions on Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
Thumb Grant Golfing on Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway
A golf course on the southern end of Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway boasts an interesting glimpse into local history. Queenstown Harbor Golf Links, designed by local favorite Lindsay Bruce Ervin, is located on the first "thumb grant" in the state. In 1658, Lord Baltimore awarded English colonist Henry Coursey all that his thumb could cover on the map. This amounted to 1,200 acres, 700 of which provide one of the region's best golf experiences.
|Golfing in Queenstown, MD
Public domain. Photo by John J. Rafferty of Annandale, VA
Fond of fowl? Bonkers for birds? A trip to Chesapeake Country is sure to leave any bird-lover in awe. The region is full of Wildlife Management Areas, parks and preserves, and other excellent ways to experience a byway that is for the birds.
A plethora of Wildlife Management Areas in the Chesapeake region will give you endless birding opportunities. Head over to Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area for great birding. The largest wildlife management area in Maryland, this 21,000-acre area encompasses marshland and dry islands for ducks and geese. Eagles and Osprey enjoy dining on fish from the open waters. Mallards, teal, gadwall, pintails, and Canada Geese are among the other species that inhabit this area. Next, bring your binoculars to Sassafras River Natural Resource Management Area. Home to colorful songbirds like the Scarlet Tanager who dwell in the dense forests of oak, maple, and pine. The contrast of these birds against the deep green backdrop is astounding.
From waterfowl in migration and majestic eagles soaring above the trees, to chipper songbirds and graceful swans, Chesapeake Country is arguably the most spectacular birding location in the country.
Note: Highlighted byway routes shown on maps of All-American Roads and National Scenic Byways correspond to designations made by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation. State designations may differ.
Chesapeake Country Scenic Byway Information
Credit: U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration