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A Weekend in Crisfield Maryland

Jul 25, 2011 11:05PM ● Published by Anonymous

Keep going, bypassing the route to the peaceful waterfront towns of St. Michaels and Oxford. When you approach Cambridge, resist turning off Route 50 to enjoy the Choptank River. Instead of taking a straight shot to Ocean City, when you reach Salisbury, veer south on Route 13.

Where are we taking you? Crisfield, Maryland, a quaint town on the Chesapeake Bay, 40 minutes south of Salisbury and often overlooked by tourists, but perfect for a relaxing weekend away from the hustle and bustle of Annapolis and its suburbs.

“It’s a small-town atmosphere,” says Jaye Tawes, Chamber of Commerce president, Crisfield native, and grandson of former Maryland Governor J. Millard Tawes. “There’s nothing more unique than being here about 8 to 8:30 in the morning and listening to the ferry boats come over” from Smith and Tangier islands.

Crisfield is the town that oysters built—both literally and figuratively. In 1854, a survey of the Chesapeake Bay discovered a large number of oyster beds off the coast of Crisfield. This discovery, along with the extension of the Eastern Shore Railroad, vitalized the town, turning it into the second largest city in Maryland for a number of years and earning it the nickname, “The Seafood Capital of the World.” As the oyster shells piled up, the businessmen who owned the land along the edge of the city discarded the shells and train soot into the salt marshes, creating a half-mile long peninsula that now has downtown Crisfield built on top of it.

The town might be built on oyster shells, but these days, there’s another bay crustacean that captures everyone’s attention: blue crabs.

“Crisfield has the best, freshest crabs on the Eastern Shore,” says Katherine Gunby, a Salisbury, Maryland, resident who frequently escapes to Crisfield for overnight and weekend getaways. “They come right out of the water to the local restaurants.”

For seafood lovers, July is the perfect month to make an escape to Crisfield for the J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. Held the third Wednesday of July every year, politicians, residents, and tourists alike head to Somers Cove Marina for a smorgasbord of seafood, including crabs, clams, fish, corn, watermelon, and beer. In September, Crisfield celebrates crabs with the National Hard Crab Derby & Fair, which includes a parade, Miss and Mr. Crustacean pageants, a crab-picking contest, and a carnival.

Beyond food, Crisfield offers a myriad of outdoor activities. “It’s a great community to bicycle in because it is flat, and you can ride by the water,” Gunby says. “It’s a peaceful place to fish, right from City Dock, or if you have a boat, head out into the Tangier Sound."

If you don’t have a boat, hop on a Smith Island Cruise, which will take you to historic Smith Island, about 45 minutes away, for a slice of the state dessert and picturesque views. Boats also depart for Tangier Island, off the coast of Virginia. For history buffs, the J. Millard Tawes Historical Museum documents life in Crisfield from its inception, including the influence of American Indians, the seafood industry, and decoy carving and painting (In fact, famous decoy artists Lem and Steve Ward are Crisfield natives, and you can visit their original carving workshop). The museum offers a walking tour of Crisfield, “which I think is excellent,” Tawes says. It visits a working crab- and oysterprocessing house, as well as other historical landmarks. However, don’t negate the peacefulness of just sitting by the water and watching the world go by. “Last but not least, sunrise and sunset is gorgeous from the City Dock, overlooking the water,” Gunby says.

To plan your trip to Crisfield, visit risfieldchamber.com or Cityofcrisfield-md.gov.

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