Maryland’s eastern shore is dotted with small towns and inlets ready for exploring. Just across the Chesapeake Bay from Virginia, the welcoming air of Easton, Maryland, evokes Southern hospitality in a state that rides the border of the Mason-Dixon Line. Its growing food scene has cultivated several noteworthy restaurants, and when mixed with its quaint charm, it’s the perfect place to spend a weekend away.
The cool, misty rain only adds to the ambiance that is the quiet coastal beauty of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. If you are lucky, you might even see a gaggle of geese taking flight, honking in a rhythm that is both disruptive and delightful. If you decide to visit Easton toward the end of the year, the geese sounds you might witness in person will take shape in another form: a prestigious contest that’s part of Easton’s top-notch arts gala with nature as its muse.
The Waterfowl Festival, organized by the Waterfowl Chesapeake, is an annual event that nearly doubles the city’s population, attracting some 15,000 people, and brings together all that is Easton—a sense of community, appreciation of the outdoors, the arts, history, and a friendly demeanor. From abstract wildlife sculptures and duck decoys to a smorgasbord of food and live music, the festival’s appeal is wide-ranging, and it’s one of several celebrations that lure people to this tidal wetland. Initially geared to the hunters and fishermen who revel in the sportsmen’s paradise that is the Eastern Shore, the festival has since broadened its call, following the town’s lead.
Fellowship derived from volunteering is part of the culture. From the newly inaugurated Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival in February to the Plein Air Easton outdoor painting experience in July to parades and gatherings at Chrismastime, the many events bring people together.
LODGING AND PROVISIONS
The Tidewater Inn sits on a site that has been home to a hotel for more than a century. Today, the 86-room inn provides deluxe accommodations, and the Tidewater properties are a great spot to launch a walking tour of red brick Colonial, Federal, Georgian, and Victorian architecture. At the center of it all, the historic Talbot County Courthouse stands on its original spot at the headwaters of the Tred Avon River. Built in 1712 on two acres purchased for 5,000 pounds of tobacco, the first structure cost an additional 115,000 pounds of the popular cash crop. A tavern soon followed, along with dwellings, as a village initially known as Talbot Town grew and became the county seat. As the town organized, the name changed to Easton in 1788.
Also at the Tidewater Inn is a local favorite, Hunters’ Tavern. For breakfast or brunch, take your pick among the Crab Cake Sandwich, the Open Face BLT, or the Elvis Waffles—a Belgian waffle with peanut butter and bananas. If you’re there for lunch or dinner, dive into the Eastern Shore Crab & Artichoke Dip as an appetizer and then move on to the Southern Buttermilk Fried Airline Chicken, Tavern Pork Schnitzel, or Daniel’s Meatloaf, a treasured family recipe, as your main course. Round out the meal with Apple Caramel Bread Pudding for dessert. Whatever you choose, make sure not to miss out on Chef Raymond Copper’s Snapping Turtle Soup, a dish that has intrigued guests throughout his more than 50-year tenure at the hotel.
Fine-dining restaurants like Bas Rouge and Out of the Fire mingle with casual eateries in historic buildings that also house shops, museums, art galleries, and more. At Bas Rouge, guests can enjoy Southern classics like Shrimp & Grits and Oysters on the Half Shell for lunch or Brioche Crusted Rockfish and Beef Tenderloin for dinner. At Out of the Fire, chef and owner Amy Haines’s regionally sourced menu includes pizza as well as fresh seafood and free-range meats. You can’t go wrong with one of the speciality pizzas, but they Roasted Trout with leeks or Grilled Butchers Steak with baby potatoes will also wow your taste buds.
A delicious casual lunch spot that houses lighter fare is Sunflowers & Greens, the laid-back sister property to Bas Rouge. Head chef Harley Peet prepares the menu by using the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay and nearby surrounding farms, which results in a number of delicious and wholesome options from salads and sandwiches to soups and baked goods. Another casual joint that is a must-stop while in Easton is Rude BBQ. Its Loaded Tater Tots and Smoked Chicken Wings are the best way to kick off a meal before indulging in one of generous Scratch BBQ sampler platters served alongside Onion Rings, Mom’s Mac-N-Cheese, or Skillet Cornbread Muffins.
Wrap up the day with a sweet treat at Bonheur Pie & Ice Cream. All the ice cream is made on-site in small batches using locally sourced fruit as the season allows, ensuring quality and flavor. You could stick to the classics and grab a scoop of Peanut Butter Cup or Cookies & Cream, but why not go bold with Raspberry Crunch or Matcha Green Tea instead. Regardless, with so many flavors to choose from on the ever-changing menu, you might even find yourself coming back for seconds.
Before you go, take a short drive outside the city to visit Bay Country Bakery & Café. For more than 20 years, owners Dave and Gena Levy have served scrumptious baked goods made on-site using top-notch ingredients. Choose from an assortment of pastries, doughnuts, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, and breads, and be sure to get a picture next to the bright pink doughnut mural.
While Easton is a small town at its core, there’s no doubt it makes a big impression. Upscale and exciting while being approachable and peaceful, Easton makes a memorable destination for a shoreside escape.