I’ve been getting more and more requests for weekend and day trips near DC, and I’m excited to bring y’all this itinerary for a weekend in Calvert County, Maryland. It’s just an hour from DC, so this is definitely one you’ll want to bookmark.
To be honest, I’d never heard of Calvert County, Maryland before we planned this trip. Annapolis, sure. Eastern Shore, yes. I’m well acquainted with Maryland’s coastal towns but somehow this had eluded my radar.
A Weekend in Calvert County, Maryland
Calvert County is located in Southern Maryland, just 30 miles east of DC (seriously, that close). Surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay and the Patuxent River, it’s a rural, coastal area and a drive through Calvert County will take you through tiny towns and eventually to Solomons Island.
So, no surprise here, we spent a decent amount of time out on the water — besides crab cakes and football, that’s what Maryland does, right?! We also snuck in some antiquing, history, art, local craft beer, a cooking class, and, of course, seafood. It was a jam-packed itinerary and I’m going to walk you through every step of the way.
The Logistics of a Weekend in Calvert County, MD
Okay, so as I mentioned, Calvert County is just 30 miles east of Washington, DC. Super close. But here are the details on when, where, and how to plan your visit.
When to Visit Calvert County
Obviously your first seasonal thought with a destination on the water is probably: summer. And, yes, I’m sure summer is great. However, I’m all about a shoulder or off-season trip. The weekend we visited happened to be the one gloomy weekend we’ve had this October but, hey, I’m not going to complain about temperatures in the 60s even if the sun isn’t shining!
How to Get to Calvert County
The great thing about going out to Calvert County as opposed to anywhere on the Eastern Shore or Annapolis is that you don’t have to deal with the Bay Bridge. If you’ve ever done that drive on a Friday afternoon, you know a trip that avoids it is one well worth taking. You’ll just had east out of DC on 4 South. No bridges or tunnels necessary.
Where to Stay in Calvert County
There aren’t a ton of hotels and inns in Calvert County but there are a few bed and breakfasts on Solomons Island, which is a literal island (thanks to a teeny tiny bridge) at the southern tip of Calvert County. Stay on Solomons and you’ll be walkable to 90% of what you’ll want to do while in Calvert County.
Where to Stay on Solomons Island: Solomons Victorian Inn Review
We stayed at Solomons Victorian Inn, a 7-room bed and breakfast right across from the water. Housed in a historic 1906 Queen Anne Victorian, the inn was once home to the builders of early twentieth-century sailing yachts, including one that was later restored by President John F. Kennedy. Fun fact: the room we stayed in, the Manitou, was named after that yacht.
Solomons Victorian Inn is just a short stroll to multiple restaurant and literally steps from Charles Street Brasserie so you can’t beat the location but you also can’t beat spending time on the property itself. Guests have access to the living room, the porch and the garden and we took advantage of all — working on the porch with a view of the water, relaxing in the living room after dinner, and sitting for a minute taking in the gorgeous day from the Adirondack chairs in the garden.
Breakfast is served each morning 8 to 10 a.m. and, both mornings, we enjoyed a delicious pastry/bread, followed by a fruit salad, and then an entree. And one of my favorite little details is the s’mores kits they have ready for guests. Just grab one, take a seat by the fire pit, and enjoy one of the best fall treats.
It’s also worth noting: the owners, Shawn and Steve, took over ownership of the bed and breakfast back in February…right before the world fell apart. But they’re troopers and have been welcoming guests back to the bed and breakfast (with precautions, of course!) since May. They’ve already seen repeat guests which speaks to their hospitality and the experience they’re creating during a time when so many are looking for a welcoming — and safe — getaway.
Okay, now let’s get into the itinerary…
Kick Things Off With a Little Art
We started our Friday evening with Annmarie After Hours, an event which is held several times a year at the Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Art Center. We grabbed drinks and wandered around the gardens, which hide bizarre and interesting works throughout the wooded path.
You could get dinner from a food truck, enjoy live music, or explore the quilting exhibit within the gallery (I know, you’re thinking, “quilting as art? really?” but, I’m telling you, it was really cool). While this wasn’t a lively, sold-out type of museum or gallery after hours that DC residents might be used to, it was a low-key way to kick off a weekend.
Waterfront Dinner at Island Hideaway
I’ll be 100% transparent on trying to figure out where to have dinner: you’re going to find solid seafood and bar food on Solomons Island, but it’s not a foodie destination. You’re not going to be blown away by inventive cuisine, however you are going to be full and happy.
That being said, we did a lot of looking at menus before deciding on Island Hideaway — you can’t beat a location on the water. That’s really what these restaurants have going for them: the amazing water views. And crab dip. I mean…do you need anything else?
At Island Hideaway, the crab dip with pretzel bites and the cream of crab soup were standouts (I’m a super fan of cream based crab soups and seafood bisques, so I was in heaven). We ate at a bar type seat that was front-row to the water, overlooking a dock full of boats, and, for me, that’s reason enough to get out of the city.
We slept in a bit longer than we’d intended Saturday morning and squeezed in breakfast at Solomons Victorian Inn before scurrying over to a 10 AM cooking class which, let me tell you, was a highlight of our trip.
Chocolate Lava Cake Class at No Thyme to Cook
I love a cooking class. Doesn’t matter what we’re cooking, I just love learning tips and tricks from an expert. So, I was delighted to find out that No Thyme to Cook is offering cooking classes again in their gorgeous waterfront space.
Chef Kim walked us through the process of making chocolate lava cakes as we watched on and I learned so, so many tips that I had never even considered (using butter and cocoa powder instead of baking spray and flour to dust your pans or ramekins — why has no one ever told me this?!). We concluded the class by eating the lava cakes she made. So, so, so good. Plus, luckily, it was 11:15 AM by the time we ate, so that’s totally fair game for chocolate, right?!
We had the VIP tickets, so we had a breakfast board to accompany our in-person class but No Thyme to Cook is also offering their classes virtually! There were people signed in virtually during our class and they had an impressive setup — ring light and all. They even offer kids classes! How fun would this pumpkin donut class be for little ones?!
As soon as the cooking class wrapped up, we headed right downstairs in the building that No Thyme to Cook calls home and saw that people were starting to gather at Steamers, the seafood shack food truck that is parked right outside. Plus, the backyard beach bar outside was starting to fill up — even on a cloudy day. Being on the water, sitting outside on chairs with some seafood — if you’re going to be socially distanced, this is the way to do it.
Cruise on the Half Shell
We weren’t staying on land, however. We set out on a 2-hour cruise with Half Shell Adventures, a family business that runs private charters and public cruises aboard their 1928 “buyboat,” a type of boat that was built to haul oysters, fish, and produce. The boat holds up to 42 passengers, though they typically don’t book more than 30-35 and, in pandemic times, they’re taking cruises out with closer to 20 passengers — that means plenty of room to spread out and enjoy yourself.
During our cruise, we enjoyed beverages (including a yummy fall-themed hot cider and local rum and bourbon!) served by the friendly and knowledgeable bartenders. We learned about the geography and history of Solomons by chatting with the captain and found that seeing the area from the water gave us a better understanding of how the Patuxent River and Chesapeake Bay come together in this region. There’s no better way to spend a fall afternoon than on the water — seriously, even a cloudy, drizzly day is better spent on a boat.
You can find a list of upcoming cruises on Half Shell Adventures’ website — including several on Halloween (way better than trick-or-treating, right?!). They also do oyster and crab feasts on the boat — definitely a reason I need to plan a trip back!
Saturday Late Afternoon
You know I can’t go on a trip without checking out their antiques selection, right?! So, it’s no surprise this weekend getaway was no different. These stores were mostly concentrated within St. Leonard, which is about a 15-minute from Solomons Island.
By far the largest of the antique shops I checked out, Chesapeake Marketplace has 80 different vendors selling antiques and vintage items from every decade and century imaginable. Whether you’re looking for clothing, accessories, books, furniture, decor, whatever, you’ll find it here. Which, is probably why I left with a dress rather than a home item. I mean, how could I say no to a pristine 1960s The Lilly caftan?! I’ve always wanted to own original Lilly Pulitzer and this was was perfect for me. The same vendor even had one that STILL HAD THE TAGS ON IT. Like, how is that possible?!?
The Mermaids Cottage
While they’re only open on certain weekends, The Mermaids Cottage is an antique and vintage store for the kind of person that doesn’t totally love the hunt. It’s cleaner, more curated, not so cluttered — this is where you go when you know you’d like to find a vintage piece, but you’d like someone else to have already restored and painted it (trust me, that’s my kind of vintage). If I had a need for a beautifully painted dresser, I could have easily found it here.
Timeless Antiques and Collectibles
This is a smaller shop that’s heavier on the decor items and accessories. Timeless Antiques and Collectibles is definitely worth a stop if you’re looking for accents to complement a room. I found the loveliest little milk glass dish with amazing ruffle details. And, if I had a need for more dishware, I definitely would have picked up a set of hunting dog plates.
Grandmother’s Store Antiques
In full disclosure, I ran through here 5 minutes before they closed, but my impression was that Grandmother’s Store Antiques has wonderful furniture if you love classic Americana. I did see the most amazing highchair, which I clearly have no need for, but its midcentury lines would have looked incredible refinished and painted in a gloss black.
Saturday Late Afternoon Continued
Make a Stop by a Farmers Market
You know we can’t turn down a farmers market…particularly during the fall. Chesapeake’s Bounty was right on the drive back towards Solomons and those piles of pumpkins were beckoning my blogger sensibilities. I mean I had to stop, right?!
I may not have left with a pumpkin but I did grab some local apple butter which I’ve been enjoying on english muffins for breakfast. And you know what’s embarrassing? I’m not sure I’d ever had fresh apple butter so I didn’t think I liked it…turns out farmers market apple butter is a heck of a lot better than what you get at Trader Joe’s.
Saturday Early Evening
Relax for a Minute Back at Solomons Victorian Inn
We got back to Solomons Victorian Inn with just enough time to grab our afternoon treats* and kick back on the front porch for a few minutes taking in the water views and enjoying the crisp fall day.
*The innkeepers aren’t going in rooms due to COVID precautions so they leave your afternoon treats individually wrapped downstairs — how nice is that?!
We had 6 p.m. dinner reservations and let me tell you…I may never do a late reservation on vacation ever again. It was SO nice to wrap up dinner early and climb into bed back at the bed and breakfast by 8 p.m.
Dinner at the Ruddy Duck
The Ruddy Duck Brewery and Grill is located in an unassuming spot off a main road, about 7 minutes from Solomons Island. But this local spot is a classic. It’s been in Calvert County for almost 25 years and they brew their own beer on site, both year-round drafts, as well as seasonal flavors. You’ll see Argentinian nods on their menu because one of the owners is Argentinian — who knew Maryland seafood + Argentina was such a great combo?!
When it came to the food, it wasn’t an easy decision to narrow down what we wanted, but we ordered the chipas because we had to try this Argentinian specialty and I would definitely not pass on these delicious cheese puffs. The duck fat fries were delicious, of course. Adam opted for the crab mac and cheese, which obviously you can’t go wrong with, and I ordered an Oktoberfest special pizza which was great, but I’m still wishing I’d ordered that crab pizza…next time!
Beer is their thing and I loved the specialty rims they did on their glasses. I got the coffee toffee stout which came with a caramel coffee rim and, yes, it’s just as good as it sounds.
And, of course you know I can’t leave without dessert. Get the chocolate beer cake. You won’t regret it.
Breakfast at Solomons Victorian Inn
We were so glad to see it wasn’t raining on Sunday morning so we took advantage of the opportunity to have our breakfast out on the porch at Solomons Victorian Inn. I always love the multi-course process of breakfast at a bed and breakfast and this was no exception. A blueberry coffee cake. A yogurt-covered fruit salad. A Tex-Mex inspired breakfast entree. Endless coffee. Juice. It’s the life. Pair that with a water view and I’m in heaven.
After breakfast, we packed our things up, loaded the car and set off on a maritime history adventure (hey, I’ve got to have something for Adam, too, on these blog trips).
Cove Point Lighthouse
Our first stop was the Cove Point Lighthouse where had the most wonderful tour guide who gave us the history of lighthouses in the area, the history of this specific lighthouse and its keepers, as well as the role it played in the maritime history of the area. Located about 15 minutes outside of Solomons Island, Cove Point is also right next to Calvert Cliffs State Park, which apparently is incredible if you’re into looking for fossils that are of the Miocene era, aka 10-20 million years ago.
One of the most interesting things we learned, however, was that you can actually rent out the Keeper’s house as a vacation rental! They were in the process of switching over the rental so we poked our heads in — it’s incredibly well renovated! What a cool place to stay anytime of the year.
Note: Cove Point Lighthouse as a historical attraction is closed for the season from October through April, but you can still rent out the Airbnb and stay there!
From Cove Point Lighthouse, we headed back towards Solomons Island to check out Calvert Marine Museum. Originally, we were supposed to spend the afternoon aboard the Dee of St. Mary’s skipjack but, alas, the rain. You can see the boat in the photo below, however. While I can’t speak from experience, I would certainly book a ride if you can!
Calvert Marine Museum
I’m not sure what I expected from Calvert Marine Museum but, whatever it was, this museum blew me out of the water (no pun intended). I imagined we’d spend an hour walking through the exhibits and then go along our merry way but we ended up spending over 2 hours here.
The museum begins with the history of the area dating back millions of years in the Paleontology Gallery. You explore fossils, including a skeletal restoration of the Miocene giant white shark, whose teeth often wash up on the shores of Calvert County. For someone who’s both terrified of sharks and delights in them, seeing this massive skeleton was awesome.
We then entered the exhibit detailing the ecology and biology of the area, which resembled an aquarium more than anything else. It was so comprehensive and fascinating.
Next, we learned about the history of the area from the Patuxent Indians to English Settlers to 19th century oystermen to the importance of the area as a training camp for WWII soldiers prior to D-Day to the region as a leisure destination and beyond.
We went outside to look at the otters and wildlife. We toured the exhibit with on Boats of the Chesapeake. We spent time watching the rays and skates sliding around their tank. It’s really an incredible museum and was a wonderful way to close out our trip.
Even if you aren’t staying an entire weekend in Calvert County, I’d recommend coming up early, going to the museum, spending a few hours there, then booking a cruise for the afternoon, grabbing an early dinner on the water, then heading back to DC. To be honest, that sounds like something I want to do sooner rather than later…
Have More Questions About Spending a Weekend in Calvert County?
Okay, so I’ll leave you with this in-depth itinerary because we’re now at over 3,000 words and I’m impressed if you’re still with me. However, if you have other questions, definitely give me a shout! And, if you’ve been to Calvert County and have other recommendations, let me know that, too. I’m definitely going to plan a trip back and am always looking for new places to add to the list!
Thank you to Calvert County for inviting us to explore their wonderful region! While some of our activities and our stay were covered, all opinions are my own — and I can’t wait to go back!