Perhaps you saw those headlines about “Revenge travel” too late and realize your favorite beach is booked. Or maybe you’re bored with the boardwalk. Perhaps during the pandemic you prefer more privacy.
Below are three alternatives to Ocean City or Rehoboth, spots in Maryland where you can likely still get a reservation to celebrate summer. These are spots where you can swim and kayak and camp and canoe, places where you can ride bikes and go crabbing and collect seashells and watch the sun set and — most important of all — take a deep breath.
Coincidentally or not, all three of the choices below are island retreats. It’s been that kind of a year.
There’s plenty to do on Assateague Island apart from ponies — though some time spent observing these beautiful wild animals trotting through a field, heads erect and tails flying, is good for the soul.
A few things to note: The island is split between the states of Maryland and Virginia, and you cannot drive from one end to the other. The Maryland side has both a state park and a national park, so if you have reservations to camp, check the location carefully.
”Assateague is much more undeveloped than Ocean City,” said Angela Baldwin, manager of Assateague State Park.
“When you are walking on the beach, you see the roofs of very few buildings. It’s a much more unspoiled view of nature. You also will experience a wider range of wildlife. You will see more birds and find different types of seashells.”
Smith Island/Crisfield/Princess Anne
Smith Island is justifiably famous for the Smith Island Cake, the 12-layer dessert with almost enough frosting.
“All other cakes should look up to it,” joked Wendy Robinson, a spokeswoman for Somerset County Recreation and Parks.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways for visitors to work up an appetite, from kayaking and canoeing the Smith Island trails (a ferry to the island leaves daily during the summer), to hiking to touring the island museum, with its exhibits on the waterman’s way of life. (Smith Island was mapped in 1608 by the English explorer Captain John Smith.)
The nearby town of Crisfield has an arts and entertainment district while Princess Anne is known for its historic homes.
“We’re off the grid,” Robinson said. “Visitors find themselves falling into island time.”
Solomons Island/Calvert Cliffs State Park
The 19th-century oystering community of Solomons Island has evolved into a major boating destination — and by boating, we mean everything from a rowboat for fishing to yachts.
Kelly Robertson-Slagle, director of the Calvert County Department of Economic Development said the county has a “distinctive ambience” that is “miles away from a run-of-the-mill excursion.”
She ticked off an impressive list of area assets: “water views, unique shops, culture, history, trails, boating, art — and the best crab cakes in all of Maryland.”
There’s a kid-friendly maritime museum with Stone Age-era artifacts and the Drum Point Lighthouse, one of the state’s few remaining lighthouses held aloft on stilts that are screwed into the muddy bay bottom.
Visitors can take a break by strolling through the 30-acre Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center. A paved path winds through a forested setting and past outdoor sculptures on loan from the Smithsonian Institution and National Gallery of Art.
Nearby Calvert Cliffs State Park is a mecca for fossil hunters. When the sea receded more than 20 million years ago, it exposed the remains of more than 600 species, including sharks, whales and giant seabirds.
You may even find a shark tooth — assuming you can tear your eyes away from the magnificent views long enough to look at the ground.