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.
Imagine the Past at Historic St. Mary's City
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 Town Center—where visitors can see a recreated inn, store, and other structures. Costumed interpreters provide visitors with hands-on activities about colonial life. A variety of guided tours can be reserved.
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.
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.
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.
See Shipwrecks at Mallows Bay Park
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.
Located in Solomons Island, the 30-acre sculpture garden has a 1/4 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.
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.
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 Civil War Museum/Marshland Nature Center onsite 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.
Flag Ponds Nature Park in Lusby was once a pound-net fishing station on the Chesapeake Bay. It's been transformed into a park with a half-mile hike down to view the Calvert Cliffs, one of the top 10 shelling beaches in the U.S. Also, whales, sharks, crocodiles, and other animals lived in this area millions of years ago, and visitors may spot sharks' teeth and other Miocene fossils on the shoreline. There are two ponds with observation platforms, while a visitor's center offers displays on regional wildlife.
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.
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.
Nestled on the Chesapeake Bay’s western shore at the northern tip of Calvert County, North Beach is a pedestrian-friendly town with a public beach and boardwalk and a fishing pier. The town also features Wetlands Overlook Park for observing local wildlife, plus diverse restaurants, antique shopping, galleries, and more.
The Bayside History Museum is a good stop for viewing interesting exhibits and learning about the area's paleontology, archaeology, the history of the North Beach Fire Department, and additional topics.
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.
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.
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.