With wine tastings, concerts, and a preserved slave cabin, there's always something to discover at Sotterley.

Things to See and Do in Southern Maryland

By Jim Meyer

Unspoiled woodlands meet rolling farmland on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay here, in the birthplace of Maryland.

With wine tastings, concerts, and a preserved slave cabin, there's always something to discover at Sotterley.

Enjoy scenic drives, the bounty of local watermen and farmers and the hospitality of Southern Maryland in this quintessential tidewater wonderland.

Visit the State’s First Capital, Historic St. Mary’s City
Explore the tall ships that tell the story of the first settlers of Maryland.

Way back in 1633, colonists set sail on the Ark and Dove from the Isle of Wight before landing at Old Point Comfort and establishing the colony that would later become Maryland’s first capital. Learn all about the early days in Historic St. Mary’s City and the Historic Village of Port Tobacco, formerly the state’s second-largest seaport. 

Trace the Escape Route of John Wilkes Booth
Dr. Mudd House Museum in Waldorf

A significant stop along the trail of fugitive assassin John Wilkes Booth, the Dr. Samuel Mudd House & Museum in Waldorf is dedicated to the time and events surrounding President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. Surratt House Museum in Clinton was once the home of Booth’s notorious accomplice, Mary Surratt.

Hang with Otters at the Marine Museum
Calvert Marine Museum Megaladon Shark
Calvert Marine Museum

The Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons explains and interprets the physical history of Southern Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay with a hands-on, interactive experience and popular river otter exhibit. The museum’s annual Sharkfest takes place on the second Saturday in July, and riverboat cruises depart daily from the museum’s own dock.

Follow the Patuxent Wine Trail
Perigeaux Vineyards and Winery

Travel this trail to tour the vineyards of Southern Maryland. The wineries along the Patuxent Trail offer beautiful water vistas and—thanks to a climate and soil composition often compared to the Tuscany region—truly spectacular wines. 

Southern Maryland Blue Crabs - Big League Dreams
See players on the rise to the bigs playing for one of Maryland's minor league teams.

As a member of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs play 70 home games from late April to September at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. Dozens of Major League alumni once honed their skills here with the Atlantic League.

Uncover Plantation Living Sotterley Plantation
Enjoy the beauty of the colonial revival garden at Historic Sotterley Plantation. During the War of 1812, several of the plantation's enslaved labor force escaped to fight alongside the British.

A Tidewater plantation, historic Sotterley Plantation dates back to 1699 and is a testament to the region’s Colonial history. The former tobacco plantation is now a 95-acre National Historic Landmark dedicated to research, preservation and an interpretation of early American plantation life.

Explore Civil War History at Scenic Point Lookout State Park
Point Lookout State Park

Come spend a day where the Potomac meets the Bay. Home to one of the Union’s most infamous prisoner-of-war camps, Point Lookout has been called the most haunted place in America. The park is also home to the beautiful Point Lookout Lighthouse and great fishing!

American Heritage with a View at Jefferson Patterson Park
Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in St. Leonard
From book "In Full Glory Reflected"

Secluded shores and stunning sunsets over the Patuxent River call from Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum. Public archeological digs at this 17th-century tobacco farm as well as a Native American village museum with reconstructed dwellings blend a mix of history that stretches from the indigenous people all the way to colonial, early American and 20th-century life.

Ain't no Drag at the Racetrack
Maryland International Raceway
Maryland International Raceway

Thrill at the sights and sounds of the world’s fastest sport at the Maryland International Raceway. You’ll want to bring your earplugs for the various motor sports drag racing events held on the tracks of Mechanicsville from March to November.

Voyage to St. Clement’s Island
St Clements Island Museum

Stop in at the St. Clement’s Island Museum (located on the mainland) and learn about the history of the early colonists through to the watermen of today, then board the ferry to explore the 40-acre island where Maryland’s first European settlers landed. The Blessing of the Fleet in October is a great time to visit.

Touch Down at NAS Pax River
Pax Naval Air Station Museum

Learn ongoing naval aviation history and how the U.S. Navy established its flight test center at Patuxent River Naval Air Station Museum in Lexington Park. Artifacts, photographs, film and memorabilia tell the story. View two dozen naval aircraft on display and test an F-14 Tomcat flight simulator.

Wander Whimsical Woods & Galleries
This Smithsonian affiliate showcases its art in surrounding gardens and makes for an affordable way to spend the day.

Combining art and nature, the Smithsonian affiliate Annmarie Sculpture Garden & Arts Center features 30 acres of forests, fields and meadows and paved walking and bike paths adorned with a vast collection of outdoor sculpture as well as gallery Look Out exhibits. 

Look Out for the Lighthouses
Drum Point Lighthouse
Calvert County Department of Economic Development

Drum Point Lighthouse at Calvert Marine Museum

Take a Southern Maryland lighthouse crawl from Cove Point and Drum Point to Piney Point and Point Lookout, which is reputedly haunted. Cove Point offers overnight accommodations, and the iconic lighthouse at Drum Point is located on the site of the Calvert Marine Museum and remains one of three surviving screw-pile lighthouses on the Chesapeake Bay.  

Seek Tranquil Nature Scenes
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp
Battle Creek Cypress Swamp

For those seeking solitude in a natural setting, Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary offers a nature center viewing room where kids can get up close to small indigenous animals, as well as short trails on the boardwalks through swamps and meadows. See an albino snapping turtle, a redtailed hawk, barred owl and butterflies floating about this tranquil sanctuary.

Take in the Bay from a Balcony
resort on the water

The Rod N' Reel Resort is Chesapeake Beach’s premier luxury property offering 72 nautically appointed rooms with balconies overlooking the bay. Recent renovations include a second-story addition to the Rod ‘N’ Reel restaurant, two floors of suites, retail shopping and an arcade as well as a boardwalk promenade, additional dining options, a rooftop pool and bar and expanded gaming areas.

Stay Awhile in Luxurious Settings
Couple on porch of Inn

The Guest Quarters at the Westlawn Inn is a five-unit 1930s boutique-style hotel. This family-owned and operated hotel features two self-contained, condo-style apartments available for short or long-term stays as well as a whole list of amenities, from casually upscale dining to live entertainment.

The Essentials—Arts, Crafts & Wine
Plein Air Painting in Leonardtown
St. Mary's County

Look for special events in the Leonardtown Arts and Entertainment District, such as Plein Air Painting.

Leonardtown, Southern Maryland’s premier Arts & Entertainment District, is home to the St. Mary’s Arts Council, dozens of galleries and studios, distinct artsy and craftsy retail shopping and dining. By the banks of the Potomac River, Newtowne Neck State Park presents a paddleboarder’s paradise on Breton Bay and ample opportunities for hiking, biking, bird-watching and hunting. Leonardtown’s Wharf Park provides the perfect vista for taking in the region’s signature sunsets on the Bay. 

Spending Time on Solomons Island
Enjoy breathtaking sunsets at Solomons Island. Photo by Southern Maryland Photography
Photo Credit: Southern Maryland Photography

Where the mouth of the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake Bay, Solomons Island has evolved from early 17th century settlements into one of the state’s top tourism destinations—the town’s maritime history has been woven into the fabric of its allure. Climb the lighthouse tower at the Calvert Marine Museum, take a cruise on the harbor or charter a fishing boat. The craft beer craze has also found its way to the Island at the Ruddy Duck microbrewery located in the neighboring Dowell Township.

Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet
Mallows Bay Park, Nanjemoy
Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet

Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary holds 100 or more remnants of 100 World War I-era wooden steamships – known as the “Ghost Fleet."   And there are many dozens more vessels from other time periods as well.  Visiting the Fleet from Mallows Bay Park promises a unique experience. 

Walk along the shore or park trail, and enjoy birds and other wildlife. Go fishing (with a license). Or paddle over to see the Fleet and its newest inhabitants up close.  Ships can be approached at low tide, so check the website for conditions or visit with an experienced tour guide. 

Osprey, bald eagles and herons, are among the animals that have turned the ghostly vessels into unique habitats.   Park amenities include: boat ramp, soft launch, parking, walking trail and interpretive signs.

Maryland Veterans Museum at Patriot Park
Newburg, Charles County
Photo of Unidentified American World War II Pilot at Midway, 1942
Courtesy of the Maryland Veterans Museum at Patriot Park

The Museum features historical artifacts.   Exhibits rotate regularly.  The museum is approximately 8 miles south of La Plata and 5 miles north of the Maryland Visitors Center. This site overlooks one of the most scenic natural views in the county, Allens Fresh.  Free admission (donations appreciated).   Free parking.

Historic Port Tobacco Village
Chapel Point State Park in Port Tobacco along Port Tobacco River
Maryland DNR

Settled in 1634, Port Tobacco was once Maryland's second largest seaport.  But it  has an even longer history that includes the Native American inhabitants of Potopaco.  Missionaries, colonists, revolutionaries, assassins, spies, slaves, merchants, farmers, an arsonist and Native Americans shaped Port Tobacco. 


Historic Port Tobacco Village is also home to one of Maryland's oldest ghost stories, "The Legend of the Blue Dog." 


Explore on your own, or tour with an expert.  Visit the Port Tobacco Courthouse, Stagg Hall, and Burch House and enjoy views of lovely Port Tobacco River.

Captain Wes Charters/Island Marine & Charter Fishing LLC
Captain Wes Charters-Island Marine and Charter Fishing
Captain Wes Charters-Island Marine and Charter Fishing

Get out on the water. One way is to head to Cobb Island in Charles County. Capt. Wes offers a 40ft baybuilt, the Miss KayLeigh, and 46ft headboat, the Honey Bee. Captain Wes offers fun and memorable excursions such as trolling/light tackle, bottom fishing and cruises. 

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Mattawoman Creek Art Center
Smallwood State Park, Charles County
Smallwood State Park and Mattawoman Creek Art Center
Maryland DNR

It is a brisk walk from the parking area at Smallwood State Park and over the wooden bridge to the Mattawoman Creek Art Center.  Exhibits and programs are ongoing and celebrate Southern Maryland's fine art.