North East, Maryland: Small Town Chesapeake Life
What is it that attracts us to well-preserved small towns? Is it the memory of a slower pace when people stopped to chat at front porches? Or is it the ease of walking from shops, restaurants and parks just enjoying the moment? Whatever it is, the town of North East, Maryland, seems to coax visitors into relaxation mode when they enter this tiny town in Chesapeake country.
Conveniently located about an hour from both Baltimore and Philadelphia, North East is the perfect mix of off-the-beaten-track yet not too far from the Interstate 95 artery. Don’t lose faith driving in from the interstate among the modern strip malls, gas stations, mega-stores, and motels – once you cross the bridge and enter the one-way Main Street, the modern world fades away.
Don’t let the bakery or chocolate shop distract you as you look for parking. Those stops and other delights will wait for you to stroll the town in a slow spirit of discovery. If you’re lucky, you’ll find a free on-street parking place on Main Street (and a chance to show off your parallel parking skills!) Or two blocks into town there is free public parking adjacent to the City Hall–a good central place to leave the car and walk around.
For help mapping out your walk, stop by the Lilliputian visitor’s cottage and grab a Strolling Guide. You will probably want a few hours for your downtown visit, and if you’re like most of us and plan your visit around the food, there are lots of great options for lunch and dinner.
If you were tempted by the Port House restaurant as you entered town, this would be a good choice for lunch. This family-run eatery specializes in seafood but also has steaks, chicken, and a vegetarian mushroom entrée. Don’t miss the crab cakes. They are moist and pack big-as-the-bay flavor even though the chef doesn’t use mayonnaise, egg, or gluten in them. Paired with the house-made coleslaw and potato salad, this is a hunger-busting plate of goodness.
Steak and Main is a unique combination of steak house, sushi bar, and oyster bar. Steak and Main is run by the Corvetta family, who have had twenty-two restaurants under their watchful eyes and taste buds. In 2015, The Travel Channel’s Greatest Steaks in America named Steak and Main as their number one spot. A quick look at restaurant reviews online has most diners agreeing with the Travel Channel’s assessment of excellent fine dining. They open for lunch at 11 a.m., but if it’s a steak you’re craving the steak house opens at 4 p.m. daily.
There was a time not long ago North East was a forgotten town of the northern Chesapeake Bay. Christine McDevitt, owner of North East Chocolates, shares, “Woody’s Crab House put North East on the map!” Woody’s is the place to go for steamed whole crabs, crab cakes, mussels, and other popular seafood dishes. The lobster roll is one of the best deals on the menu. For a mere $17.99 you get two full-sized lobster rolls packed with succulent tail and claw meat. If you have a vegetarian in your group, Woody’s offers several delicious vegetable sides and an entrée called the Vegetarian Sack. Chicken, steak, and ribs round out other non-seafood offerings.
Just on the outskirts of downtown, UnWined wine shop and restaurant offers a savory cream of mushroom soup that is one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic, and Chef’s Kitchen serves delicious comfort food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
With dining options checked off your list, it’s time for walking the town and the bakery and chocolate shops can now be examined carefully. At Sweet Spice Bake Shop, their selection of cupcakes, cookies, breads, or sticky rolls are certain to grab you. If you visit on a weekend, try their pretzel bread croissant for a buttery, brioche-meetspretzel treat. Then cross the street for another small but tasty shop, North East Chocolates. The moment you step inside, the aroma will trigger a voice in your head saying “Must buy chocolate!” Satisfying that urge is easy here, and you’re sure to walk out with something delicious.
With chocolate firmly in hand, stop next at Turkey Point Vineyard tasting room, welcoming visitors with inexpensive wine tasting. Just a buck a pour will set you up with their wines including their award-winning Lighthouse White. This semi-dry white is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Vidal and will please most white wine fans. With seven wines on offer and a decent selection of gifts and wine supplies, you are sure to find something good to take home.
Take time to visit Kathy’s Corner Shop featuring mostly local artwork, home furnishings, and photography by Les Mahan; and The Cats Pajamas for handmade arts and crafts from local artisans. If it’s hunting treasures from the past that appeal to you, C&L Antiques is just across the street.
One of the gems in North East is Elk Neck State Park, just a twelve-mile drive south of town through dense forests and green fields. It can be tricky grabbing one of 23 parking spaces at the trail head, but once you do it’s time to enjoy a hike out to the Turkey Point Light House. The trail is 1.6 miles round trip and is a pleasant way to enjoy cooler fall weather as you walk under the forest canopy. The light house (circa 1833) and onsite gift shop are open on weekends and holidays from 10 a.m. to 2 pm. Take in the wide views of the Chesapeake Bay and envision a time when the mighty British fleet of warships sailed north toward Philadelphia during both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Standing at this point watching the impending battle must have been something to see! On your way to or from the park, Eagle’s Roost Farm and Orchard is worth a stop for farm fresh produce and they are typically open through September.
Other outdoor activities in the area include picnicking, boating, hunting, fishing, and camping. Several marinas are in the city limits, or find more south of town including Rogue’s Harbor in the Elk Neck State Park near the Turkey Point Light House trail head. Kayak and stand-up paddle boards may be rented from Bay Venture Outfitters.
If you want to extend your day trip with an overnight stay, there are a few local motels but consider heading twenty minutes south to the historic town of Chesapeake City and a stay at the Inn at the Canal. Located near the shore of the famous Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, this historic three-story Victorian inn is run by gourmet chef Bob Roethke and his wife Carol, and the perfect spot to relax and enjoy your time away.
North East offers a tasty trip for travelers willing to venture off the beaten path and take in the wonders of a quaint small town and soak in some Chesapeake Bay history. Take the time this season to make the trip – you’ll be glad you did!
Learn more at northeastmd.org
Eat, Drink, Stay
2240 Pulaski Highway
Inn at the Canal
104 Bohemia Avenue,
Port House Grill
15 North Main Street
Steak and Main
107 South Main Street
Turkey Point Vineyard
116 South Main Street
472 North Mauldin Avenue
Woody’s Crab House
29 South Main Street
Shop, Explore, Do
Bay Venture Outfitters
104 West Church Point Road
The Cats Pajamas
32 South Main Street
125 South Main Street
Eagle’s Roost Farm and Orchard
623 Hances Point Road
Elk Neck State Park
4395 Turkey Point Road
Kathy’s Corner Shop
100 South Main Street
North East Chocolates
24 South Main Street
Sweet Spice Bake Shop
17 South Main Street