St. Michaels has 1,200 year-round inhabitants, but in the summertime the tiny burg on Maryland’s eastern shore literally explodes with seasonal residents and guests who come for crabs, quaint cottages and the call of the Chesapeake. Tucked back into the ragged Chesapeake coastline up the Miles River off of Eastern Bay, St. Michaels is a great base for exploring the area’s history. It is also provides reasonable access for a foray across to bustling Annapolis and all it has to offer.
St. Michaels’ main land-based attraction is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, an 18-acre spread that includes an indoor/outdoor collection of artifacts from the bay and its 5,000-mile shoreline. In addition to indigenous watercraft still afloat, the museum features displays on the bay’s ecology and, of course, crabbing. You’ll also find the Hooper Straight Lighthouse, brought in to be part of the museum and a cannery warehouse.
The museum isn’t the only place to see interesting and historic boats. Motor over to inspect the fishing fleet based in Dogwood Harbor on Tilghman Island. It’s comprised of skipjacks that are nearly 100 years old. While you’re there, a meal at the Tilghman Island Inn is a must.
Another interesting antique vessel to see is the Bellevue-Oxford ferry, which has been making the 10-minute crossing of the Tred Avon river since 1683. It was converted to carry cars, but its size and wood floor limit it to just nine vehicles.
But most visiting mariners don’t have cars in town and it’s just as well. The best way to see St. Michaels is on foot or on a bike, which will allow you to bypass the summertime car crush. The St. Mary’s Square Museum, located between Mulberry Street and East Chestnut Street, offers a St. Michaels walking-tour map that will direct you through the town's historic streets and centuries-old landmarks.
One such locale is the Robert Morris Inn. Built in 1710 by ships’ carpenters, the inn was originally the home of 18th-century businessman Robert Morris and has over the years seen service as a town hall, boarding house, general store, and veterans’ hospital. Since the end of WWII it is has served fine food to discriminating boaters and other guests.
The St. Michaels Harbour Inn & Marina is an excellent place to port into, offering 60 slips and a great spa in a prime waterfront location across from the maritime museum. The St. Michaels Marina is also in a key location in the heart of the harbor at the Historic District, immediately in front of the Town Dock and Crab House restaurants. It offers 54 transient slips and full amenities. Other options include Higgins Yacht Yard on Carpenter Street, which offers 15 transient slips, and the Lowes Wharf Marina Lowes in neighboring Sherwood, offering eight transient slips. Knapp’s Narrows Marina and the Tilghman Island Marina on Tilghman Island are also good alternatives outside the town proper. If you’re visiting at any time except the dead of winter, you’d better make advanced reservations for slips at all of these facilities.