For Shawn Samad, a perfect summer day revolves around his 24-foot power boat.
Boating is "a part of Maryland living," said the downtown Baltimore resident, who is a cosmetic dentist and owner of Laurel Pines Dental Group in Laurel. "I grew up in Annapolis. I've been in boats all my life. It's about getting great seafood at all these restaurants on the bay, living life, and getting away from everything else."
This particular day, Samad had just returned from an outing along the Chesapeake Bay for a little swimming, relaxing with his fiancee's family, and then an early evening of crabs and shrimp at Nick's Fish House, where he docked for free. The next day would be a repeat of the first — this time with his family. Sunday, he said he planned to go out on the boat with friends to celebrate his birthday, which was earlier in the week.
"I like being part of nature," said Samad, who owns a Monterey 238SS boat, which he docks at the Baltimore Marine Center in Canton. "It takes me away from all the daily hassle and nonsense of life."
Maryland has plenty of hot spots for boating enthusiasts like Samad to dock or drop anchor, and take in water views, food and drink, and other amenities.
With a 3,000-foot sandy beach, several hundred species of birds, and relics from the War of 1812 sprinkled throughout the terrain, Hart-Miller Island is like something out of a fiction book. The fact that the state park is only accessible by personal boat adds to its allure.
Although some have been known to kayak from nearby Rocky Point Beach and Park, the majority of visitors arrive by larger boat.
Up until last year, the interior of most of the 1,100-acre island was off limits to visitors. Now, a large portion is open for biking, hikes and overnight camping.
"It's nestled right in many people's backyard," said park ranger Dean Hughes, assistant manager of Gunpowder Falls, North Point and Hart-Miller Island state parks.
Nearby Hawk Cove and Pleasure Island, which also provide camping and recreational options, are also included in the Hart-Miller Island State Park territory. (There are 22 campsites between Hart Miller and Pleasure Island; each site costs $6 per night.)
"The best time to come is early in the season," Hughes said. "The nights are cool and days are as well."
Hughes' organization rents out 20 complimentary bicycles on a first-come, first-served basis on Thursdays through Mondays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Park rangers also offer impromptu tours and nature hikes. There will also be a monarch butterfly release program the last two weeks in August.
There's plenty to do, including 10 restaurants, a slew of bed-and-breakfasts, and a number of family-run businesses.
"What makes Rock Hall so great is its small-town charm. It's a quaint waterman's village," said Rock Hall mayor and lifelong resident Brian Jones. "It's got a lot of entertainment, restaurants and small, neat shops. Everyone who lives here welcomes everyone. It's a great place to be."
The town is located near 12 marinas, which vary in price depending on boat size and length of stay. Rock Hall Landing Marina for example, starts at $45 per day for one of their 75 deep-water slips. At Lankford Bay Marina, overnight docking rentals cost $2 per foot and $8 for each electric hookup.
From there, visitors typically bike throughout town. A tram costs $1 per ride.
Jones recommends checking out the shops along Main Street, such as Java Rock, a popular coffee cafe, and two ice cream parlors, Durding's Store and Get The Scoop.
"Most people come down for the water and have a nice day," Jones said.
Annapolis arguably boasts the most water-based activities and entertainment in the area.
In addition to taking advantage of all the shops and restaurants within the city limits, you can organize your own tiki bar tour in the southern part of Anne Arundel County.
"There are a half dozen" tiki bars, all of which have dock space for boats, said Connie Del Signore, president and CEO of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau. "Go in and have a great orange crush and get back on the boat."
Del Signore recommends Pirate's Cove Restaurant, 4817 Riverside Drive in Galesville, or Herrington on the Bay, 7151 Lake Shore Drive in North Beach.
Del Signore also suggests simply choosing from the public mooring ($25 to $35 per night) or public dockings ($8 to $15 an hour depending on the boat) in Annapolis, then getting out and exploring.
"This is the most magical destination for being on the water," Del Signore said. "Get on a boat, paddle or do whatever gets you on the water. It will be delightful."
Boaters have enjoyed the food and views of the Susquehanna River from the Tidewater Grille for the past 23 years.
"We're literally at the mouth of the Susquehanna. We're set on a peninsula, so you can look down, up and across the river, " said Ralph Shapot, who has owned the restaurant for the past 10 years.
The establishment has a 90-foot-dock that can accommodate three boats. Docking is complimentary; so is the live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Shapot recommends making a reservation — especially on weekends, when waits can reach an hour.
The restaurant has seating for 160, with a banquet room for 60 and additional outdoor seating. Pets are welcome in the outdoor seating area, which is first-come, first-served.
"We have great food, great service and an outstanding view," he said, adding that popular dishes include the crab cakes, broiled seafood platter and prime filet.
Tidewater Grille is open daily at 11 a.m., and serves food until 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. On weekends, the restaurant has a breakfast service that runs from 9 a.m. to noon.
Despite being open only since March, the hotel has already attracted boaters from across the Chesapeake Bay to the Bahamas, Sagamore employees say.
It's no surprise. The hotel features a private boat dock for guests that can accommodate four boats or a 100-foot yacht. The metal dock, located parallel to the Ann Street Pier, leads to a private reception desk entrance. Docking prices range from approximately $50 to $75 per foot and will be adjusted based on daily rates or overnight stays.
Guests can either stay in the hotel or on their boat, where they will also receive all of the room service amenities available for guests on land.
Either way, they'll have access to the hotel's interior design work, done by Patrick Sutton; the Cannon Room whiskey bar, or the fine-dining at the hotel's Rec Pier Chop House.