When you first arrive in Southern Maryland you might be surprised at the strong sense of history that surrounds you. Wherever you go you'll find more than monuments - you'll feel a presence, a proud identity with the birth of American independence. Give yourself time. You can't see it all in a day. With time and a little patience, you'll discover what is one of the most exciting places in the world.
Ours is a cornucopia of recreational, cultural and travel opportunities within many different areas. Explore the rich history and strong sense of heritage. Discover what so many have come to find as a state and a region with something for everyone.
The story of the great state of Maryland began in Southern Maryland when the first 140 settlers arrived at St. Clement's Island March 25, 1634. They came with a sacred purpose - to build a new society founded on the principles of religious tolerance, separation of church and state, equal justice and representative government - revolutionary ideas in their time. Their principles took root and flourished in the land they called Maryland and became an enduring legacy of freedom to the generations of Americans who would follow. These first Maryland settlers established a permanent colony at St. Mary's City. St. Mary's County, site of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, was established in 1637, Calvert County in 1654 and Charles County in 1658.
Southern Maryland has changed significantly since 1634. Despite the inevitable changes brought by the
passage of time and growth of the region, the ideals, values and traditions upon which Maryland was built still echo throughout Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties.
There is a pleasant surprise waiting for you in Southern Maryland today - a beautiful land nestled between the Potomac River and the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The region, home to a quarter of a million people, is made up of 1,000 square miles of land captured within 700 miles of pristine shoreline.
Southern Maryland has so very much to offer its residents and guests. If you care to step back in time, embark for St. Clement's Island, the landing site of those first Maryland colonists, or tour Historic St. Mary's City, England's fourth permanent settlement in America and Maryland's first capital. Tour the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth, President Lincoln's assassin, or stroll through the region's beautiful manor homes such as Sotterley Mansion, built in 1717, or Smallwood's Retreat, home of Revolutionary War General William Smallwood. Attend worship services at one of the region's historical churches such as St. Francis Xavier in Newtown, St. Ignatius Church at Chapel Point, or Middleham Church, in the oldest cruciform designed church in Maryland.
Explore the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, just minutes from Naval Recreation Center Solomons, and learn more about southern Maryland's maritime history and pre-history, when ancient seas covered the entire region. Roam the site of Port Tobacco, an important center for the colony's tobacco trade near La Plata, or discover the tools of American Indians who settled Maryland thousands of years before the first Europeans arrived, at the Jefferson Patterson Park and St. Clement's Island-Potomac Museum.
If you long for the serenity of sailing, set a course for the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac, or the Patuxent rivers.
If you enjoy the challenge of fishing, cast your line into southern Maryland's water and land a catch of rockfish, white perch, pike, large mouth bass or flounder. Dangle your bait from a local pier and net a bushel of crabs, or go out with one of our charter boat captains and pull in the famous rockfish or “big blues.”
If you search for an adventure of the mind, enter the realm of the towering bald cypress trees at Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary near Prince Frederick, or hike to the majestic Calvert Cliffs, one of the richest deposits of marine fossils in the Eastern United States. Watch a dazzling show of precision flying and aerial acrobatics at the Air Expo held every other year at NAS Pax River.
If you dream of savoring a “taste of Southern Maryland,” attend the annual St. Mary's County Oyster Festival at the county fairgrounds, visit the lively open-air cafes on Solomons Island, take your family to a crab feast at Popes Creek, or try a traditional Southern Maryland dish like stuffed ham, oysters or spicy crab soup at one of our many fine restaurants.
Southern Maryland's hospitality may be found in abundance throughout Calvert, Charles and St. Mary's counties. Welcome to Southern Maryland.
St. Mary's County
On March 25, 1634, 140 English settlers landed their two small ships, the Dove and the Ark, near a small island they sighted as they sailed up the Potomac River. Led by Governor Leonard Calvert, the land was taken in possession in the name of his brother, Lord Baltimore. Father Andrew White offered the first Roman Catholic mass in the English Colony.
The tiny frontier village these men and women established was named St. Mary's. The Catholic Calverts began the settlement, which later became capital of the area, on deeply seated principles of religious toleration between Catholics and Protestants. This policy, formally adopted in 1649 with the passage of the Toleration Act, set the standard for many of the colonies and eventually for the U.S. Constitution.
In 1695 the capital of Maryland was moved to Annapolis. St. Mary's, which had boomed as the seat of government, became farmland. Today, archeological digs are common to discover more of the natural as well as social history of the area.
During the Revolutionary War, the men of St. Mary's County played an active role in many battles. Point Lookout served as an observation point to watch British activities in the Chesapeake Bay during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. The area was such a detriment to the British effort that during both wars British warships bombarded the coastline, forcing colonists to flee. During the latter part of the War of 1812, the British captured Point Lookout and used the area as a supply base for the invasion of Washington and the attempted capture of Baltimore.
Maryland remained a Union state during the Civil War. The Union Army established a hospital and a prison camp at Point Lookout. More than 52,000 Confederate prisoners of war were held during the war.
St. Mary's County suffered during the Depression along with the rest of the country. The self-sufficiency of the area allowed St. Mary's to fare slightly better than most urban areas.
For more information on things to see and do in St. Mary's County, please visit www.visitstmarysmd.com or call 1-800-327-9023.
Things to See and Do
St. Mary's County Library
St. Mary's County Library is your place to learn, discover, and relax! With three branches and an Internet branch to serve you, library services are provided seven days a week. The library maintains a wide collection of more than 200,000 items including DVDs and audio books, plus online information resources and downloadable books. Public computers and high-speed Internet access are
available at the three branches. The libraries offer numerous programs: story times and children's programs; book discussions; computer classes; author visits; summer reading programs. Each library is staffed with courteous, informed staff to assist you. Library cards are free to all county residents and are available online.
Potomac Jazz & Seafood Festival
This July event will have you enjoying an intimate evening of jazz music while you relax riverside on the grounds of the St. Clement's Island Museum.
“LiL' Margaret's Bluegrass and
Old Time Music Festival
This fun for the whole family event is held in August each year at the Goddard Family Farm in Leonardtown, and features bluegrass, old time country music and home cooked food.
St. Mary's County Fair
Come celebrate St. Mary's rural life and heritage at the annual fair held in September at the fairgrounds in Leonardtown.
Ghosts of Sotterley
Sotterley Plantation's past occupants come to pay a visit each year in October.
St. Mary's County Oyster Festival
Held the third weekend in October at the fairgrounds in Leonardtown, this event features the National Oyster Cook-off and National Shucking Championship.
Annual Veterans Day Parade
The annual Veterans Day Parade is held in historic
Sites & Attractions
Historic St. Mary's City
1-800-SMC-1634 or 240-895-4990
Historic St. Mary's City is a museum of history and archaeology that celebrates Maryland's first capital and the birthplace of religious freedom in British North America. Recreated structures in the town center, a tobacco plantation, an Indian hamlet, a brick chapel, the St. John's Site Museum, a tall ship, and costumed interpreters show visitors how the colonists lived. An exhibit in the Visitor Center describes Maryland's founding through artifacts found during more than a quarter-century of excavations at the site—St. Mary's City is one of the finest 17th-century archaeology sites in the United States. Informative signs are located throughout the grounds and an audio tour is available to rent.
Special events held throughout the year provide unique opportunities for visitors to work alongside archaeologists, explore the life ways and culture of the region's Native American peoples, and discover various facets of the colonial experience in Tidewater Maryland.
Historic St. Mary's City hours are seasonal, please contact the museum for details.
Piney Point Lighthouse, Museum and Historic Park
Piney Point Lighthouse, the first permanent lighthouse constructed on the Potomac River, is the only one still in its original location accessible to the public in Southern Maryland. This six-acre park offers picnic areas, a canoe/kayak launch and boardwalk with information on site history.
Point Lookout State Park, Lighthouse and Civil War Museum
Point Lookout State Park is located at the confluence of the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. During the Civil War, the area of Point Lookout State Park was used as a hospital and prisoner-of-war camp. A federal and a state monument honor the more than 3,000 Confederate
soldiers who died in the camp. Along with its historical displays, Point Lookout is also a great place for swimming, fishing, boating and camping.
Sotterley Plantation, located on the banks of the Patuxent River, is an 18th century tidewater plantation. The plantation includes the Manor House, which is considered the most important example of tidewater post-in-ground architecture in the nation, several outbuildings and gardens.
St. Clement's Island Museum
English settlers landed at St. Clement's Island on the Ark and the Dove on March 25, 1634. Located on the mainland overlooking the island, the Potomac River Museum traces this historic journey.
Cecil's Old Mill
Cecil's Mill was originally built as a cotton/textile factory then rebuilt into a grist and saw mill. The mill is now operated as a historic site and merchant shop where local artisans display handmade crafts and original art for sale.
Historic Tudor Hall, circa 1756, houses a bookstore, research library, and historic gardens. Records and material collected by the St. Mary's County Historical Society are also stored in the Research Center at Tudor Hall.
Leonardtown is the county seat for St. Mary's County. Leonardtown is also home to the St. Mary's County Courthouse and is the center of government for St. Mary's County.
St. George's Episcopal Church
On the National Register of Historic Places, St. George's Episcopal Church houses the oldest Parish in Maryland.
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
An Official Navy Museum
Open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., is free and the museum is wheelchair accessible. Guided tours and children's educational activities are available by advance appointment.
The Patuxent River Naval Air Museum preserves and presents the historic and contemporary breakthroughs realized at NAS Pax River in the research, development, and flight tests to advance U.S. Naval Aviation. The Museum is the repository of artifacts, photographs and film, reports, documents and related heritage memorabilia from the many aviation programs conducted at Pax from World War II to the present, as well as the activities of the former stations of Warminster, PA, and Trenton, NJ, now consolidated at NAS Pax River.
Museum exhibits and programs encourage visitors to let their “imaginations take flight.” Displayed outdoors are 21 naval aircraft that were actual test articles or representative of types tested at Pax River, including the Boeing X-32B and Lockheed Martin X-35C Joint Strike Fighter concept demonstration aircraft.
Indoor exhibits feature audio-visual and hands-on displays, providing visitors with an overview of the technical processes for testing aeronautical systems; exhibit subjects include flight test instrumentation, sonobuoys, reciprocating, turboprop and turbojet engines, unmanned aerial systems, crew systems and ejection seats, and The Great Model Collection. Also on display: a moon rock donated in 2009 by Captain Jim Lovell.
The Museum Store stocks a wide range of die-cast and desktop aircraft models, aviation books and videos, and military-themed clothing and memorabilia (call 301-863-8334). For a nominal fee, visitors can fly in the sophisticated simulators of the resident Mach Combat™ facility (call 301-863-1900 to make an appointment).
More than 350 years of history await you in Charles County. When Captain John Smith sailed up the Potomac River in 1608, he drew a map including the Indian Village of Potopaco, which later became popularly known as Port Tobacco. A major seaport from which tobacco was exported to Europe, Port Tobacco was colonized by the English and became one of the foremost settlements for miles around.
Settlements grew May 10, 1658, and Charles County was established. Reminders of these early days endure, as do remnants of our later history, which have been restored to their days of simpler living.
With 300 miles of shoreline, Charles County is a mecca for boat owners as well as fishermen and seafood lovers. Travelers stop here annually to fish, crab, swim, boat, camp and water ski. White perch, largemouth bass, yellow perch, catfish, spot and rockfish abound in our waters. Nature lovers will be captivated by the natural beauty of our many parks and forests.
Charles County is 18 miles south of the Nation's Capital. Visitors can enjoy day trips to Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Annapolis, Richmond and Williamsburg easily from Charles County. For more information, call the Charles County Government – Tourism office at (800) SO.MD.FUN or 301-645-0558. www.thenationsbackyard.com
Things to See and Do
African-American Heritage Society
The African-American Heritage Museum depicts the life,
history and contributions of African-American citizens from Charles County and Southern Maryland from 1658 to
Dr. Mudd House
Dr. Mudd's house is where John Wilkes Booth went to have his broken leg set after he fatally shot President Lincoln in 1865. Guided tours and a gift shop are available.
American Indian Cultural Center and
Piscataway Indian Museum
This museum educates visitors on the lives of Native Americans before European contact through exhibits reflecting their lives, arts and culture. The center also hosts an annual Pow-Wow.
Mount Carmel Monastery
Established in 1790, Mount Carmel Monastery was the first monastery for women in Colonial America. Visitors may tour two of the original convent buildings.
Port Tobacco Courthouse
Settled in 1634, Port Tobacco was at one time Maryland's second largest seaport. The Port Tobacco Courthouse is a reconstruction of the third structure that was built, and is furnished as a l9th century courtroom.
Port Tobacco One-Room School House
The Port Tobacco One-Room School House served Port Tobacco community from when it was built in 1876 until 1953. The school house has been restored and is furnished with items from its early years.
Smallwood State Park and Smallwood Retreat
The 630-acre recreational area includes the restored home of Revolutionary War hero General
William Smallwood and Sweden Point Marina with boat launching facilities. Picnicking and hiking are available.
St. Ignatius Church and Thomas Manor House
Rev. Andrew White, who accompanied Catholic
settlers to Maryland in 1934, founded St. Ignatius in
1641. St. Ignatius is the nation's oldest active parish with a continual pastorate. The church commands a majestic view of the Port Tobacco River from Chapel Point.
Thomas Stone National Historic Site
This plantation, called Habre de Venture, was owned by Thomas Stone, a well-respected lawyer who voted for and signed the Declaration of Independence. Stone and his wife are buried on site. Self-guided hiking and birding trails are available at the site.
Christ Church, William and Mary Parish
William and Mary Parish dates from the 1692 Act of the Maryland General Assembly establishing Protestant parishes throughout the state. The church still uses its Queen Anne communion silver today.
Calvert County's earliest settlers were members of the Piscataway nation. Native tribes established villages along the Patuxent River where they grew corn and tobacco on rich farmlands. Captain John Smith is the first European known to have seen the peninsula.
Calvert County was established July 3, 1654, by Lord Baltimore. When the Puritans were driven out of Virginia, some of them, under the leadership of Richard Preston, settled in Calvert County. His home was the site of the first assembly held in Maryland. In 1655, an armed band of Governor Stone's men from St. Mary's took the Puritans by surprise and seized documents that had been taken from St. Mary's by the Puritans. The Great Seal of Maryland was lost in this raid and was never recovered. It is believed to be buried in the garden or hidden in the walls of the old house.
The time between the Revolutionary War and the Second War with England in 1812 was a time of peaceful growth in Calvert County. The plantation system developed, and much of the cultural, social and political life of the county was tied to this structure. In 1814 one of the most famous naval engagements in Maryland history took place in the Patuxent River. The British put ashore many raiding parties that pillaged and destroyed many of the old plantation homes, tobacco warehouses and public buildings, including the courthouse.
When the Civil War erupted, Calvert County was inclined to side with the southerners. At the end of the war, profound changes touched the county way of life, bringing almost to a standstill the agricultural practices which had provided a gracious living for the landowners. It was then that the economy of the county turned to the produce of the water. In 1865 Captain Isaac Solomon established a commercial fishery and cannery in the southernmost part of the county on an underdeveloped island, which immediately became known as Solomons Island.
The quiet life of Calvert County continued into the 20th century, disrupted by the outbreak of the First World War in which many county men were lost. The period following World War I saw growth and improvements within the county. The Second World War brought a real turning point in Calvert County history, when Solomons became a training site for the Navy and Marines.
Growth and change has followed and the
county looks to the future with confidence. www.ecalvert.com/content/tourism/.
Things to See and Do
American Chestnut Land Trust
Nature trails run throughout the watershed of Parker's Creek and Governor's Run which features organized bird, flower and tree hikes. An experimental chestnut arboretum and historic structures are also on site.
This 30-acre sculpture garden and arts center is located in scenic Solomons. The arts center presents dynamic exhibits and programs year-round.
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary
This 100-acre nature sanctuary contains the northernmost naturally occurring stand of bald cypress trees. There is an elevated boardwalk through the swamp and a nature center with natural history exhibits.
Bayside History Museum
Explore the role the Chesapeake Bay had in shaping the cultures of bayside communities from prehistoric time to the present.
Breezy Point Beach and Campground
A bay-front park featuring swimming, fishing, picnicking and camping. Breezy Point is the perfect place to
spend the day exploring the beach and hunting for
Calvert Cliffs State Park
A hike through the park's 1,400 wooded acres ends at the Calvert Cliffs where visitors may hunt for fossils. The park is ideal for hiking, fishing and picnicking.
Chesapeake Beach Railway Museum
The Chesapeake Beach Railway's only remaining station now houses a museum displaying historical photos and artifacts that depict resort life and transportation from the early 1900s.
Calvert Marine Museum
This is the only museum on the East Coast that is home to two lighthouses, rich maritime history and exhibits on the diversity of life in the Chesapeake Bay. See aquariums full of local estuarine life, models, paintings, woodcarvings, fossils and boats. Outdoor exhibits include a boat basin, river otter habitat and a recreated salt marsh.
Chesapeake Beach Water Park
410-257-1404 or 301-855-3803
Features a children's pool, activity pool, slides and a lazy river. Great snack bar located inside the park.
Cove Point Family Aquatic Center
Featuring a lap pool with diving boards, wading pool for toddlers and a leisure pool with multiple play features.
Edward T. Hall Aquatic Center
An indoor aquatic center featuring a competition pool with diving area, leisure pool with multiple play features and a therapy pool, accessible spa hot tub and a fitness room.
Sandy beaches, freshwater ponds and the forested heights of Calvert Cliffs are featured with hiking trails, observation platforms, a wetlands boardwalk, fishing pier and visitor center.
Jefferson Patterson Park
Experience, discover, learn and have fun at the state museum of archaeology. Seventy archaeological sites have been identified reflecting more than 12,000 years of human occupation. Visitor and exhibit center, hiking trails, Native American village, tours, educational programs, canoe and kayak launches.
Kings Landing Park
This 260-acre park on the Patuxent River offers a variety of outdoor amenities including wetlands boardwalk, fishing pier, hiking trails, canoe and kayak launches and a
Old Wallville School
Built in the early 1880s, the school is the oldest standing one-room schoolhouse for African American students in Calvert County. Offering education for grades 1 through 7, it remained in use until 1934.
Port Republic School No. 7 has stood in a shady grove of trees near Christ Church for more than 100 years. Authentically preserved, the schoolhouse is filled with