Escape to Maryland's Eastern Shore

There’s something so relaxing about sitting around a fire pit, especially on a cool autumn evening when you have a good friend by your side and a glass of hearty red wine in your hand.

My longtime friend, Beth, who lives in Fairfax, and I are here on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for a long overdue girlfriend getaway. We haven’t seen each other for a while, but before long we are deep in conversation about family, work, travel, and life in general.

Soon a group of ladies walks by and asks us to take their photo. The four women are exploring the Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, the beautiful Kent Island property where Beth and I are staying. The ladies drove across the Bay Bridge from Annapolis to enjoy a girls’ night out at Knoxie’s Table, the Inn’s signature restaurant. It seems girlfriend getaways and girls’ nights out are popular these days.

During our two-day getaway, Beth and I plan to do some hiking, indulge in spa treatments and delicious cuisine, and stay in two fabulous properties. I can’t think of a nicer way to escape the crazy pace of modern life.

A Nature Walk at Terrapin Nature Area

Next A Fun Rum Tasting at Blackwater Distillery

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That afternoon, Beth and I enjoy a lovely walk at nearby Terrapin Nature Area, 275 acres of wetlands, maritime forest, and three miles of trails nestled next to the Chesapeake Bay. As we walk on the beach, inhaling the fresh air, the sun sparkles down on the water and the wind rustles the leaves of the trees. At our feet are scattered ancient shells and bits of driftwood, smoothed by the sea.

Terrapin Nature Area is also the trailhead for the Cross Island Trail, spanning Kent Island from west to east. The paved six-mile trail is perfect for jogging, biking, or a nice long hike and passes through canopied forests and wide open spaces, with stunning water views. Much as I’d like to head down this trail, we are scheduled for a tour at Blackwater Distillery at 4 p.m. and don’t want to be late.

Turns out the distillery is located in a business park right beside Terrapin Nature Area. After meeting Chris Cook, one of the owners, we learn that the boutique distillery is building a tavern a couple miles away, which will offer tastings, tours, and food in a more attractive setting.

Blackwater Distilling started producing small batches of their signature vodka called Sloop Betty in 2011 and now produces flavored vodkas (like caramel), as well as a variety of rum and whiskey.

Chris says the emphasis is on quality not quantity, and the distillery uses all-natural ingredients. The caramel, for example, is made in house, and the honey vodka is infused with locally sourced honey. The team’s passion shows in the products. At tour’s end we taste a few samples and can’t resist buying a couple bottles to take home.

Sumptuous Dining Experience at Knoxie’s Table

Don’t Miss the Signature Maryland Crabcakes

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Back at the Inn, Beth and I walk around the grounds, which are beautifully landscaped. A few late-season veggies and herbs still grow in the chef’s garden, and I taste some cilantro. Later we learn the garden overflows with bountiful produce every summer, showing up in dishes at the Inn’s two restaurants.

Speaking of which, Knoxie’s Table, where we enjoy an amazing dinner, is all about farm-to-table and features inspiring seasonal dishes using the bounty of local farmers and watermen.

Beth and I sit in front of the open fireplace and love the cozy vibe of the restaurant, which has a bar at one end and offers views of the courtyard. Ashley, our server, is full of personality and takes good care of us throughout the evening.

Our meals are over the top, starting with our appetizers. Beth orders the butternut squash soup, which is thick and creamy. “This is so good,” she says, “I would cross the bridge for this.” My salad has delicate greens that taste like they were just picked, served with bleu cheese, a light vinaigrette, nuts, and cranberries.

The feast continues with our mains: a delicious Maryland crab cake with barely any filler for me and seared Asian salmon for Beth, both served with ample sides of veggies.

We can barely fit in dessert, but find room somehow for a slice of pie apiece: cranberry cheesecake for me—tart and sweet—and decadent Dirty Banana Pie for Beth. Carrie, the Inn’s marketing gal, tells us the next day, “We’re known for our pies,” and I can see why!

After a good night’s sleep in fabulously comfortable beds, Beth and I check into the Spa early the next morning to experience their signature massage treatments. Jessie, my therapist, spends a lot of time working the kinks out of my back, neck, and shoulders, and I feel like a pampered princess. Afterwards we are tempted by the scented skin care products for sale in the spa shop, and Beth buys me some cocoa body butter. It’s divine.

Rustic Charm at the Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

Wedding Venues Range from Cozy to Captivating

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Next Carrie gives us a tour of the property, which opened in 2015 and offers a rustic charm with a modern vibe. Besides the original Inn, which houses lodgings, two restaurants, a fitness center, and meeting rooms, a new addition is the Barn, a stand-alone farm-style building with furnishings and décor provided by Restoration Hardware. Chic, new cottages are set to open in spring.

Carrie says the local townsfolk have “taken us under their wing,” so even in the off season, the lodgings and restaurants have a steady stream of business. In addition, the Inn offers a variety of events throughout the year, including the IllumINNation, a holiday lighting celebration usually held the week after Thanksgiving, with music, shopping, and a holiday-inspired menu at Knoxie’s Table throughout December.

Besides luxurious lodgings and awesome cuisine, the Inn also welcomes meetings and corporate retreats. But weddings are their specialty. They do 160 per year between the Inn, which accommodates smaller weddings, and their sister property, the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, a nearby event venue overlooking the Bay, ideal for larger weddings.

Beth and I hate to leave this cozy oasis, but we want to see a few more sights before heading to our next stop. A fabulous outlet mall on Rt. 50 tempts us away from our itinerary, but we keep driving. “Next time, we’ll go shopping,” we promise.

Instead we enjoy more of the great outdoors, this time at Pickering Creek Audubon Center in Easton. It’s a low-key nature preserve surrounded by rural farmlands and offers wildlife habitat perfect for migratory and local birds and waterfowl. We only have time for a quick half-mile stroll, and I hear a few birds, but don’t see any, probably due to the breeze that’s picked up. Which gives me another reason to come back.

The Tidewater Inn: Part Hunter’s Retreat, Part Luxury Inn

Fit in Shopping Time in Downtown Easton

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Easton is a historic town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore which dates back 300 years. It’s home to Academy Art Museum, a quality arts center featuring traveling exhibits, as well as a permanent collection and art classes. We happen to visit when the museum is between exhibits, but still enjoy viewing photographs showing life on the Chesapeake Bay. The building that houses the museum is a historic landmark and served as a school in the mid-1800s.

Easton’s cute downtown features restaurants, galleries, antique stores, and shops, so Beth and I can’t resist wandering in and out of a few shops. We have to hurry because closing time is near, but I do find a fabulous ceramic bowl made by a local potter in shades of sand and sea. The best part? It’s on sale!

We’re staying at the beautiful, historic Tidewater Inn, an imposing brick property that has been housing travelers and guests in its present iteration since 1949. The pet-friendly inn has a tradition of welcoming hunters, who would gather with their dogs back in the day around the large fireplace, sip brandy, and talk about their hunting adventures.

The Tidewater Inn has also attracted celebrities over the years, including Diane Lane, Elvis Presley, Bing Crosby, and John F. Kennedy.

With its colorful history, the Tidewater Inn offers a unique vibe: part Colonial Virginia, part hunter’s retreat, and part luxury inn. Its hardwood floors, fine furnishings, and gilded portraits make you feel as if you’ve stepped into a manor house.

Hunters’ Tavern, the inn’s restaurant, features brick and wood decor and feels very Old World. That evening we sample the tavern’s cuisine, and it’s a feast for the senses. Our tasty appetizer, bronzed diver scallops nestled in creamy, cheesy grits, is a knockout.

For her main course, Beth has a hankering for something hearty and chooses pork schnitzel, a lovely presentation with braised red cabbage and spaetzle. I opt for a surf ‘n turf combo: filet mignon and fried oysters. Needless to say, we are in food heaven!

We stay in a cozy suite with separate bedrooms, a living room, lots of windows, and beautiful views of Easton. We’re pretty exhausted from all the fresh air, exercise, and of course eating copious amounts of food, but manage to stay up long enough for more girl talk that night before falling into bed. 

Tidewater Inn’s Elegant Ballrooms Host Memorable Weddings

Recent Renovations Highlight History & Tradition

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After a sumptuous breakfast in Hunter’s Tavern the next morning, Beth and I join Lauren, Tidewater Inn’s general manager, for a tour of meeting and event space. Lauren has worked at the hotel in various capacities for years and says, “I just love this hotel!”

She’s watched it as it’s undergone recent renovations and loves showing off its beautiful interiors, like the Crystal Ballroom, which has original chandeliers from 1949, and the Gold Ballroom, an elegant space that accommodates weddings for up to 250 people.

Lauren says the inn has many repeat guests, especially since it’s been the setting for so many celebrations over the years. I can see why people keep coming back. I love the Tidewater Inn’s sense of history and tradition. When Beth and I sit in front of the fireplace, we’re linked to the past and can almost feel the presence of guests who have sat in the very same drawing room for almost 70 years.

Too soon it’s time for Beth and me to say goodbye and head back to our hectic lives. But we feel renewed and reinvigorated after our peaceful escape to Maryland’s Eastern Shore. I’m always amazed at how a couple days away can give you a new perspective on life. Try it!

Explore Maryland’s Eastern Shore

Here’s How to Plan Your Own Girlfriend Getaway

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The Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club

Find out about seasonal specials and events and book your stay at www.baybeachclub.com/the-inn.

Tidewater Inn

You’ll love the sense of history and tradition at Tidewater Inn. It’s also perfect for weddings and corporate retreats. Visit www.tidewaterinn.com for inspiration.

Talbot County Tourism

Get a free Travel Guide with the latest ideas and tips for a getaway in Talbot County by visiting tourtalbot.org.

Queen Anne’s County Tourism

Known as Maryland’s gateway to the Eastern Shore. Queen Anne’s County has 200 miles of waterways, unending views, and the freshest seafood you can imagine. Plan your visit at www.qac.org/151/Tourism.

Don’t Have Time for a Road Trip?

Not to worry! Plan a Girls’ Night In with creative cocktails and lots of girl talk. Read tips and more for a fun night with your besties here.

Peggy Sijswerda

Tidewater Women Magazine, Editor & Co-Publisher.

Website: www.peggysijswerda.com
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