Kent Island, Maryland

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How's this for a perfect Eastern Shore retreat? Spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay. Hiking and biking trails that wind through marshes, wildflower meadows, woodlands and tidal ponds. Fantastic waterfront dining. Best yet, it's only minutes from the Bay Bridge. Despite its small size,


- just 4.2 miles wide and 15 miles long - offers up large helpings of wonderful shore habitat that can be explored on foot or by boat, car or bike. The Cross Island Trail, a six-mile paved trail that wanders through canopied woods and nudges up against creeks and marshes and a wildflower meadow that will burst into color in June and July, is superb for bicycling. (It's also pet-friendly as long as your dog is leashed.) The best spot to launch a Kent Island visit is the Chesapeake Exploration Center at Kent Narrows. There are handouts on everything from boat and kayak rentals to local produce stands to a self-guided tour of historic structures.

Stay here:


, 500 Kent Manor Drive, Stevensville, 21666; 800-820-4511. This historic inn on 226 acres next to Thompson Creek has 24 rooms decorated with Victorian furnishings; and tennis, fishing, crabbing and fine dining. Rates start at $190.

Eat here:

The Kent Manor Inn Restaurant offers a dining room set amid Victorian finery and cozy fireplaces. The menu includes Kent Manor Cream of Crab soup, an Eastern Shore favorite, as well as venison, steak and seafood. A popular Champagne Sunday Brunch features a raw bar, as well as carved favorites like honey ham and prime rib.

Shop here:

Explore historic Stevensville, which looks like a movie set. In addition to its curb appeal, it's got great shopping - art galleries, studios and antiques shops. Among the sites are the Stevensville Bank Building, which houses Pippi's Place, an antiques shop; the old post office; the gambrel-roofed Cray House; and Christ Church, a Gothic structure dating to 1880. (For tours of the village's historic buildings, contact the Kent Island Heritage Society, 410-643-5969.)

Don't miss this:

The Horsehead Wetlands Center, 600 Discovery Lane, Grasonville, 410-827-6694. The center, set on a 500-acre peninsula just across Prospect Bay from Kent Island, highlights Saltmeadow hay, marsh hibiscus, phragmites and assorted bay grasses. Blinds and observation towers offer an undisturbed view of the wetlands and its inhabitants. Hundreds of waterfowl populate the five ponds on the grounds. There are four miles of walking trails through marshes and woodlands, and canoes are available to explore the new Marshy Creek Canoe Trail. The center, operated by the Wildfowl Trust of North America, is open daily.

Get here:


From Baltimore, follow Interstate 97 south to U.S. 50 east toward Annapolis and the Bay Bridge. Cross the bridge onto Kent Island. The trip is about 40 miles.