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Explore Tilghman Island in the water and on bicycle


The Harrisons have been dishing it out for nearly a century -- hospitality and fine food, that is. It all started back in the 1890s when Capt. Levin F. "Buddy" Harrison Sr., a steamboat captain, began bringing "boarders" from Baltimore to the family home on Tilghman Island to escape Baltimore's hot and humid summers.

The visitors, mostly women and children in the beginning, would stay a week, or until whenever the steamboat came back up the bay. Before long, the men started coming with their families but weren't content to swim or sit on the swings, so the fishing business began. Today, second- , third- and fourth-generation Harrisons are involved with the operation of Chesapeake House.

There are now 76 rooms available for rental, 56 at the inn and nearby houses for full housekeeping vacations. There's badminton, tennis, a pool, a popular video room for the younger set who can't make a total break from the Western Shore, the crab deck and plenty of facilities for crabbing.

In addition, Captain Buddy III maintains one of the bay's largest fleets of fishing boats. For a family or group of at least five people, he can arrange for you to spend a day on an authentic Chesapeake Bay skipjack. You won't find fresher or more reasonably priced seafood than right here at Harrison's Chesapeake House, (410) 886-2123.

Not too long ago, Tilghman Island was a place somewhere beyond St. Michaels where mostly fishermen and Chesapeake Bay watermen congregated. Today, it's become much more of a family destination or, rather, an Eastern Shore version of a New England fishing village.

So if you've set your sights beyond the more populated areas of Talbot County, consider a day, weekend or week at Tilghman. From U.S. Route 50, state Route 33 passes through St. Michaels, crosses the busiest drawbridge in the area at Knapps Narrows and goes to the water's edge at land's end in Tilghman.

Before you arrive at Tilghman, take some time to browse at the 3 Shops of Sherwood on Route 33, located in a building that once served as a general store, bakery, pharmacy, print shop and post office. It's interesting, and not as commercial as you'd expect for the area. You'll find excellent 18th and 19th century furniture, glass, antiques and uniques. It's open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment [Sherwood Antiques, (410) 886-2562; Novey's Antiques and Design, (410) 886-2408; M Bones Antiques, (410) 886-2562].

If you enjoy shopping, visit the Nothing New Shop in Tilghman, specializing in glass and china . . . look through the picture album that offers photographic glimpses of the past on the island. The Whatever Shop presents an intimate mixture of fine decoys, furniture, glass and collectibles.

You'll be pleasantly surprised when you visit the Tilghman Island Inn, (410) 886-2141, on the water at Knapps Narrows. Known for fine cuisine (some with a Cajun flavor) at reasonable prices, the ,, dining room features the work of regional artists, such as Jean Ranney Smith this month. There's a private marina, swimming, biking and a tennis court. From the Sunset Deck you'll see all of the local working baycraft -- skipjacks, bugeyes and tonging boats -- along with a complete variety of local waterfowl.

BSince the Eastern Shore is so flat, the entire region is conducive to exploring by bicycle. Since there are only two bicycles for rent on the island -- at the Tilghman Island Inn -- visitors will probably want to bring their own cycles. However, if you'd prefer doing your exploring by water, that's possible too. Take a sail on the 33-foot sloop Incredible, which leaves twice a day from the 160-year-old Lazyjack Inn, (410) 886-2215, at Dogwood Harbor.

Also, there are scenic evening cruises on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Tilghman Lady leaves the Tilghman Island Inn at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. those days, and the late Saturday cruise includes entertainment.

At the far end of Tilghman Island is the Black Walnut Point Inn, (410) 886-2452, right on the bay. If you're seeking solitude, discover it here at the 57-acre wildlife sanctuary or in the comfort of a bayside hammock at sundown. Modestly priced accommodations can be found at the Sinclair House, (410) 886-2147.

You won't find lots of festivals, boutiques or cutesy attractions in Tilghman. Instead, you will find genuine hospitality. It's close enough to Baltimore to qualify as a day trip, but if you have more time for relaxation, there are few closer places to do it better. For more information, call the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce at (410) 822-4606.

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