16 Top Things to Do in Southern Maryland

Thomas Point Lighthouse near Annapolis, Maryland

MikeBagley64 / Getty Images

Southern Maryland—just a short drive from Washington, D.C.—is a breathtaking region boasting 1,000 miles of shoreline along the Patuxent and Potomac rivers and Chesapeake Bay, the country's largest estuary. The area known as Southern Maryland includes Calvert, Charles, and St. Mary's counties and offers a diversity of attractions with a fascinating past, including shipwrecks from World War I, prehistoric animal fossils, and a plantation listed on the National Register of Historic Places. You'll also find beautiful state and national parks, sandy beaches, maritime museums, lighthouses, and much more to explore.

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Go Crabbing in the Seafood Capital of the World

Blue Crab with fisherman
Karen Kasmauski / Getty Images
Crisfield, MD 21817, USA

Crisfield, which is Maryland's southernmost town and sits right on the Chesapeake Bay, has a long history with fishing. The city was founded as a fishing community in the 19th century and still claims to be the Seafood Capital of the World. You can go out hunting for oysters and rockfish, but the most important animal to Marylanders is, hands down, the blue crab.

The recreational crabbing season beings in April and typically lasts until December, but you'll have to apply for a license and learn the regulations before you head out to the waters. Blue crabs are a delicacy in Maryland and crab-catching is a treasured activity for the locals, so grab your net or your line to take part in this favorite pastime.

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Imagine the Past at Historic St. Mary's City

Historic St. Mary's City

Historic St. Mary's City

18751 Hogaboom Ln, St Marys City, MD 20686, USA
Phone +1 240-895-4990

Southern Maryland's most famous attraction, Historic St. Mary's City outdoor living history museum, is located on the site of the state's first colony and original capital. Exhibit areas include a tall ship; a Woodland Indian Hamlet that shows how the Yaocomaco people lived; a tobacco plantation with livestock; and the Town Center where visitors can see a recreated inn, store, and other structures. Costumed interpreters provide visitors with hands-on activities about colonial life and a variety of guided tours can be reserved.

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Go Tasting Along Patuxent Wine Trail

Chair with bottle of wine overlooking Chesapeake Bay
BackyardProduction / Getty Images

Maryland may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of wine country, but the wineries along the left and right banks of the Patuxent River are producing some of the best wines on the Eastern Seaboard. They're mostly concentrated in Calvert and St. Mary's counties, where the climate and soil composition has been compared to Tuscany. Many of the wineries have even been designed to evoke a Tuscan villa, with breathtaking views of the vineyards and nearby Chesapeake Bay.

The region specializes in Chardonnay, Vidal Blanc, and Cabernet Franc grapes, but you can try all types of wine in the area's top wineries. Some of the highest-rated ones on the Patuxent Wine Trail include Cove Point Winery in Lusby or Running Hare Vineyard outside of Prince Frederick.

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Follow the Escape Route of Lincoln's Assassin

Plaque in front of Surratt House
Raymond Boyd / Getty Images
9118 Brandywine Rd, Clinton, MD 20735, USA
Phone +1 301-868-1121

You probably know that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at the Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., but it may come as a surprise that Booth escaped the theater and was on the lamb in southern Maryland for two weeks before being captured and killed. He first went to the home of Mary Surratt, a Confederate sympathizer who harbored Booth in the days after the assassination. Her house is now the Surratt House Museum, where you can learn all about the first woman to be executed by the U.S. government and this tumultuous period in the nation's history.

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Look for Fossils at Calvert Cliffs State Park

Calvert Cliffs State Park

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

10540 H G Trueman Rd, Lusby, MD 20657, USA
Phone +1 443-975-4360

The huge cliffs at Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby came about over 10 million years ago and are a prominent part of the Chesapeake Bay shoreline for about 24 miles in Calvert County. Visitors explore the cliffs to search for unique fossils and the remains of prehistoric species including whales, sharks, rays, and seabirds. The park also offers a sandy beach, more than 10 miles of hiking trails, picnic areas, and a recycled tire playground.

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Learn at Calvert Marine Museum

Calvert Marine Museum

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

14200 Solomons Island Rd S, Solomons, MD 20688, USA
Phone +1 410-326-2042

The family-centric museum in Solomons Island interprets the cultural and natural history of Southern Maryland with three themes: regional paleontology, the estuarine life of the tidal Patuxent River and the adjacent Chesapeake Bay, and​ the maritime history of the region. Indoor exhibits feature models, paintings, woodcarvings by skilled artisans, aquariums, fossils, and boats. A boat basin, a river otter habitat, and a recreated salt marsh make up the outdoor exhibits.

The museum is home to the Drum Point Lighthouse, a beautifully restored landmark, complete with furnishings of the early 20th century and guided tours all year long.

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Tour the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum

Patuxent River Naval Air Museum

St. Mary's County Division of Tourism

22156 Three Notch Rd, Lexington Park, MD 20653-2008, USA
Phone +1 301-863-1900

The Navy's aircraft and flight systems have been evaluated and refined at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station since World War II. Located in Lexington Park in the heart of Southern Maryland, the museum is dedicated to naval aviation research, development, testing, and evaluation. Enjoy flight simulators and exhibits that include an engine and propulsion display, an art and photography gallery, weapons systems, naval aviation in space, and more. An outdoor aircraft park displays more than 20 naval aircraft. Check out the Flightline Gift Shop for aviation and military-themed merchandise.

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See Shipwrecks at Mallows Bay Park

Mallows Bay

Charles County Tourism

1440 Wilson Landing Rd, Nanjemoy, MD 20662, USA

Located in Nanjemoy, Mallows Bay Park is an archaeological wonder and a National Marine Sanctuary that's a unique destination for fishing, wildlife viewing, and hiking. The waters of the Potomac River along Mallows Bay are home to the World War I Ghost Fleet, the biggest ship graveyard in the Northern Hemisphere. This diverse collection of shipwrecks totals more than 200 known vessels dating back to the Revolutionary War and World War I. Kayak tours of the wreckage can be arranged through Atlantic Canoe & Kayak.

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Visit Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center

Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park and Arts Center

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

13470 Dowell Rd, Solomons, MD 20688, USA
Phone +1 410-326-4640

Located in Solomons Island, the 30-acre sculpture garden has a quarter-mile walking path featuring over 30 works from the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art. The Arts Building includes a variety of exhibitions, such as "When Darkness Falls: Night Explorations" and an Ornament Show & Sale with hand-crafted ornaments by over 20 regional artists. Visitors will also find a gift shop and café. A variety of annual festivals, family activities, and public programs are available.

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View a Former Plantation

Sotterly Plantation

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

44300 Sotterley Ln, Hollywood, MD 20636, USA
Phone +1 301-373-2280

Historic Sotterley, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is the sole surviving Tidewater plantation in Maryland that is fully interpreted and open to the public. Located in Hollywood, the property overlooks the scenic Patuxent River and includes nearly 100 acres of open fields, gardens, and shoreline. The site includes several outbuildings, including a 19th-century schoolhouse, a smokehouse, and an original slave cabin dating to the 1830s. Guided tours of the 1703 Manor House and specialty tours are available.

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Swim at Point Lookout State Park

Point Lookout State Park

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

11175 Point Lookout Rd, Scotland, MD 20687, USA
Phone +1 301-872-5688

With its location along the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, the park in Scotland offers recreational opportunities including swimming, fishing, boating, and camping at the 143 wooded campsites or six cabins available. The onsite Civil War Museum andMarshland Nature Center offer seasonal public programs and demonstrations highlighting the natural environment and history of Point Lookout, where more than 52,000 Confederate soldiers were imprisoned during the Civil War.

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Check Out an 1836 Lighthouse

Piney Point Lighthouse

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

44720 Lighthouse Rd, Piney Point, MD 20674, USA
Phone +1 301-994-1471

Constructed in 1836, the Piney Point Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Potomac River. The six-acre Piney Point Lighthouse Museum & Historic Park has a pier, kayak launch, boardwalk, picnic area, and sandy beach (not for swimming or fishing). The museum features artifacts from the World War II U-1105 Black Panther German submarine, which lies just offshore in an area designated as the state's first Historic Shipwreck Dive Preserve. A maritime exhibit displays historic wooden boats that once floated in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

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Get Away to Chesapeake Beach

Great Blue Heron enjoying a golden Chesapeake Bay sunset

flownaksala / Getty Images

Chesapeake Beach, MD 20732, USA

The historic town of Chesapeake Beach, located in Calvert County, offers tranquil secluded beaches, restaurants by the shore, fun family events, and the Chesapeake Beach Water Park—featuring waterfalls, water slides, a lazy river, and additional activities.

The Rod 'N' Reel Resort is a prime getaway destination that features numerous guest rooms, two restaurants, a full-service spa with everything from facials to acupuncture, an indoor heated swimming pool, a fitness center, and more.

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Canoe and Hike in the American Chestnut Land Trust

American Chestnut Land Trust

Renee Sklarew / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

676 Double Oak Rd, Prince Frederick, MD 20678, USA
Phone +1 410-414-3400

The American Chestnut Land Trust, established in 1986, protects approximately 3,000 acres of wetlands, forest, and farmland in Calvert County. You can canoe over 1.5 miles through salt marshes and wooded freshwater wetlands and observe minimal signs of human impact. The trust maintains 22 miles of self-guided hiking trails. Guided hikes and canoe trips are offered seasonally.

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Head to Maryland International Raceway

Maryland International Raceway

Maryland International Raceway

27861 Budds Creek Rd, Mechanicsville, MD 20659-2961, USA
Phone +1 301-884-9833

The Maryland International Raceway in Mechanicsville is the largest motorsports raceway in the state, fitting 10,000 enthusiasts into its seats. The facility hosts more than 100 events, typically from March through November. Visitors can check out drag racing machines including Pro Stocks, Pro Mods, Funny Cars, Jet Cars, and others.

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Hike and Bike at Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum

Woman walking on a wooden pathway in Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum on an overcast day

Reed Wiedower / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

10515 Mackall Rd, St Leonard, MD 20685, USA
Phone +1 410-586-8538

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum is a 560-acre property located in Southern Maryland that features a Visitor Center with interactive exhibits that share the archaeological history of Calvert County and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory (MAC Lab) houses over 8 million artifacts, and the property has more than 65 identified archaeological sites. The park also offers picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, canoeing, and kayaking.

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16 Top Things to Do in Southern Maryland