Best place for kayakers to see bald eagles: Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Cambridge, Md.
With some 11,000 hectares of forest, salt marsh and shallow water, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the largest breeding populations of bald eagles on the east coast, a species seen year-round at this Dorchester County bird sanctuary. Two boat launches, three scenic water trails, and several outfitters offering rentals and tours make Blackwater a welcoming haven for paddlers, too. fws.gov/refuge/blackwater
Chris D. Dollar
CBM’s esteemed editors sent me on another silly errand to identify the “Best of the Bay.” Luckily for them, I’m just crazy about trying it, with this caveat: there are too many good fish products made in the Chesapeake region to pick just one.
Best Bay Made Fishing Lures: G-Eye template
Years ago, when Captain Lonnie Johnson first introduced his G-Eye Jigs, I asked him why he decided to make his own jigheads. He replied that since he’s super focused on realistic action and quality, the best way to achieve those goals is to do it himself. What sets G-Eye Jigs apart from other jigs are the oversized prismatic eyes, which help entice the fish to strike. G-Eye jigs are hand cast with quality materials, and each jig is finished with a top coat of UV paint for enhanced underwater visibility. It also uses top quality hooks so when you hook that big fish it stays hooked. geyejigs.com
Best Handmade Custom Fishing Rods: JLS custom rods
As a part-time fishing outfitter and guide, I learned a few things about quality rods. A relative newcomer to the custom rod building game, JLS Rods will make you a rod to catch fish, whether it’s panfish, freshwater trout, red drum or cobia. Their rods are in the hands of hundreds of passionate anglers and professional guides. Strongly focused on using high quality components and craftsmanship, it is perhaps their willingness to do unique customization that sets them apart, at least in the eyes of their customers. So if you are looking for a high quality custom rod, JLS custom rods should fit that bill. jlscustomrods.com
John Page Williams
Best Boatmen Heritage Tours: Rappahannock Roundstern Tappahannock, Va.
Join Captain Richard Moncure and Mate Nate Parker aboard one of two 38′ vintage workboats for fishing, natural history, and eagle tours around the dramatic Fones Cliffs; exploring the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail; and hands-on oyster tours. rappahannockroundstern.com
Best Long Distance Boat Race: Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race
Every October around Columbus Day weekend, schooners from around the world gather in Baltimore to take part in this iconic night race in Norfolk for fun, camaraderie and a great roast pig and oysters at the end. The fleet parades around Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and descends the Patapsco for the spectacular start of the Annapolis race. Proceeds support the environmental and educational programs of outstanding Chesapeake Bay organizations. gcbsr.org
Best place to get hard to find items for your boat: HW Drummonds, East Coast of Virginia.
Serving boaters since 1959, HW Drummonds is a family run business that offers a wide variety of hard to find parts and accessories for boats, motors and trailers. Drummonds is particularly strong on all kinds of lubricants, lights and terminals, bottom paints, zincs, cleaners, fuel tanks and treatments, and electronics like depth finders, radars and GPS units. Knowledgeable staff will take the time to understand your needs, and if they don’t have it in-house or at one of their four locations (plus three service stations), they can usually get it within a day. www.hwdrummond.com
Best place to watch sunrise and sunset: St. Michaels, Maryland, and Annapolis, Maryland.
My favorite places to watch the sunrise or sunset are away from quiet anchorages. I like to greet the sun or end the day in a marina or on a mooring ball in the company of kindred spirits nearby. In Saint Michel port, watching the orange and gold of the sun as it crawls through the masts never gets old (and I have the photos to prove it). For the sunsets Annapolis Harbor is my choice. Just before the sun sets, it colors the tops of the waves gold. With the State Chamberdome in the distance and the sounds of “Retreat” from naval academy, the sunset is not getting better. tourtalbot.org, visitannapolis.org
Vintage and Classic Boat Festival, St. Michaels, Md.
It’s a Father’s Day weekend tradition for the family to visit the Maritime Museum of the Chesapeake Bay and watch dad drool over all the beautifully polished mahogany runabouts, vintage racing boats and the elegant wooden motor yachts designed by the likes of Chris-Craft, Trumpy, Gar Wood and Lyman, on display in the water and on land at the Antique & Classic Boat Festival. Enthusiasts from across the Bay Area bring their lovingly restored floating treasures to the festival. Produced by the Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society, this June marks the event’s 34th year.
If you are looking for a project, you will find it among the dozens of boats for sale at the “Champ des Rêves”. The nautical flea market offers a wide variety of nautical accessories and equipment. The Arts at Navy Point brings some of Canada’s best known maritime artists and artisans to Florida. But the most fun is watching the fleet of 9-foot-long Jersey Skiffs hydroplane down the Miles River. cbmm.org/event/antique-classic-boat-festival
John Page Williams
Best Historic Water Trail: Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail
1,800 miles around the tidal waters of the Chesapeake, Capt. Smith’s is the National Park Service’s only all-water National Historic Trail. It follows the explorations of Captain John Smith and his crews from April 1607 to October 1609. During this time he took detailed notes which he incorporated into the first accurate map of the Chesapeake Bay and its great rivers at tide, which he followed all the way. to their navigators. The publication of the map in 1612 opened the bay to English settlement in the 17th century. Explore it today aboard any vessel, from paddle boat to trawler, using the free online guide at chesapeakeconservancy.org/apps/BoatersGuide/
Best little-visited waterfront park: Magothy Bay Nature Preserve, Townsend, Virginia.
For solitude in the beautiful surroundings of the east coast, Magothy Bay Nature Reserve is a hidden gem. A few miles north of Cape Charles, Magothy Bay is a little-visited 445-acre state park that’s a bit hard to find! Its two trails include a loop through migratory songbird habitat, but the crown jewel is the 2.2-mile walk through coastal pine forest and along a causeway overlooking the salt marsh along of Magothy Bay and the barrier islands beyond. Look for waders foraging for shells, diamondback turtles and swamp hens enjoying the mudflats.
Best ferry: Tangier Ferry, Tangier and Onancock, Va.
There’s been a lot of talk about ferries lately, from suggestions for a ferry ride to mitigate Bay Bridge backups to electric ferries in downtown Annapolis. But at the foot of the bay, ferries are a way of life for the inhabitants of the island of Tangier. The Joyce Marie II, a 36-foot deadrise-style boat helmed by Tangier native Mark Crockett, makes twice-daily round trips between Onancock and Tangier from May through October, ferrying locals and their errands, visitors and their suitcases, and whoever else needs the passage of an hour. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at Tangier Port (7:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. departure) and Onancock Port (10 a.m. and 5 p.m. departure), so arrive early or, better yet, give them a call to reserve in advance. To keep it old, payment is by cash or check only, no credit cards. tangerferry.com