Nora Roberts, New York Times best-selling author and Western Maryland resident
Leisurely drives in the country, sightseeing tours through the city and boat trips across rippling waters take on special meaning when there’s so much history, beauty and recreation around every bend. Follow Maryland Byways toward the next “road less traveled,” or launch an unforgettable excursion from one of the many Chesapeake Bay Gateways.
Passages through History
Nineteen official byways, carefully mapped by the State Highway Administration in conjunction with other state and county entities, touch every Maryland region along nearly 2,500 miles of roads. While some routes show off natural beauty like the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway or have cultural significance such as Baltimore’s Charles Street, many take you to a specific point in our past. Among these are an Antietam Campaign byway that traces key Civil War movements, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad route, and a Star-Spangled Banner trail running from the maritime village of Solomons to historic Fort McHenry.
The Nation’s Finest
America’s Byways® are a collection of routes singled out by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation for their unparalleled scenery, culture, history, archaeology and recreation. Three Maryland routes have earned national distinction: a Historic Historic National Road journey that spans two centuries and nearly 200 miles from Baltimore to the Pennsylvania line, a Catoctin Mountain byway running alongside the forest home of diverse plants and wildlife, and a Chesapeake Country route featuring pristine waterways and relaxing bay vistas.
Heritage with Heart
While traveling the state’s byways, you’ll also be crossing into parts of 11 Maryland Certified Heritage Areas, where historic preservation goes hand in hand with scenic beauty. Efforts put forth by the Maryland Historical Trust in these areas help to ensure that the journeys you choose – whether they take you on a Religious Freedom Tour, around “Horse Country,” across land surveyed by Mason and Dixon, through picturesque Old Main Streets, or into the world of bay watermen – remain historically and culturally significant for years to come.
Stay & Play
Maryland Byways range in drive time from a couple of hours to a couple of days, especially if you plan on stopping to take advantage of the many recreational activities that present themselves. Be on the look-out for opportunities to park your car and then boat, bike, canoe or hike amid our state’s natural splendor. Equestrian trails, fishing sites and museum tours are also an option. At day’s end, choose from hundreds of fine accommodations along these routes, ranging from luxury hotels to historic inns and quaint bed and breakfasts.
The Way to the Bay
The recreational bounty of Maryland’s most precious resource is easier than ever to enjoy. Just pick a gateway and step on through! More than 100 officially designated Chesapeake Bay Gateways, including waterside parks, trails, sailing ships, wildlife areas, museums and historic ports, give you easy access to all the wonders of America’s largest estuary. One of the best ways to get to a Bay Gateway is by traveling a Maryland Byway. The Roots & Tides trail and Blue Crab route are among several options.