As the Patuxent River flows into the Chesapeake Bay, idyllic Solomons Island, Maryland rises amidst the confluence. Only two square miles, the vacation destination can be reached in an hour and a half from Washington DC, just under two hours from Baltimore, or five from NYC—where we began in a 2020 Audi Q8, picking up friends along the way.
Known for its beautiful marina, fresh seafood restaurants, local wines and surprising number of cultural institutions within walking distance, the quaint setting can be exciting in the summer and restful in the off-season. In addition to all the highlights below, Solomons Island has plenty to offer—from an art gallery and local crafts store to the public visitor center at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, an extension of the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science. And, of course, there are several surrounding towns worth exploring, too—especially the Calvert Cliffs, due north.
Calvert Marine Museum
An ode to the Chesapeake Bay, the waterside Calvert Marine Museum celebrates the region’s nautical and natural history. This family-friendly establishment features many interactive and educational experiences. A definite highlight, the museum includes a fully-furnished, cottage-style lighthouse that guests can explore.
Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center
An affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art, the Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center includes a quarter-mile wooded walking path lined with sculptures—some on loan from those partners. An architectural gem, the Arts Building features gallery space for temporary exhibitions. From public programs to activities for all ages, Annmarie Sculpture Garden’s beauty is glorious and accessible.
Lotus Kitchen Featuring Kim’s Key Lime Pies
Two women chefs own and operate Lotus Kitchen, a restaurant that infuses wellness into their menu. With ample vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options, there’s a concern for all eaters. Breakfast options stand out, and are delicious and diverse. Of course, so is the key lime pie (which earns a special mention in the restaurant’s full name), whipped up from a much loved recipe.
Charles Street Brasserie
Featuring a blend of South Maryland and Mediterranean tapas, Charles Street Brasserie‘s upscale menu definitely services the senses. With dishes ranging from hearty to delicate, there are options for everyone—and the drinks list includes signature martinis and a substantial whiskey selection. Whether inside or out, there are views of the water, and live piano music adds ambiance. People arriving by boat can dock on-site, too.
Solomons Island Winery
On a lengthy pier opposite the marina, the tasting room for Solomons Island Winery serves up award-winning wines with a view. Visitors can get a strong sense of the region’s output, alongside international wines from France, Spain and Italy. In season, the tasting room also hosts many events that aim to please visitors and locals alike. As for the winery itself, it’s only 15 minutes away.
A seasonal staple, the open-air Tiki Bar is a destination with plenty of space for people to spread out. As one would expect, it’s quite busy during peak summer months, but early in the season (and toward the end) one can savor a Mai Tai on the sand without the bustle. From drink specials to thoughtful programming, the Tiki Bar tries to engage the community and for that, it’s beloved.
Cove Point Keeper’s House
Set amidst all of the above venues, Solomons Victorian Inn provides charmed accommodation. However, a 15-minute drive leads to the Cove Point Keeper’s House—a 19th century lighthouse keeper’s home available for rent directly (or through Airbnb). The duplex can sleep up to 16 and it includes private beach access—though, no swimming is allowed. The fully functioning lighthouse on the grounds emits light 24 hours each day.
Hero image by David Graver