Rock Hall MARYLAND
- Located 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at the entrance to theChester River
- Established in 1707 as Rock Hall Cross Roads, a key travel/trade route connecting Philadelphia with Annapolis
- Home to the lively Pirates & Wenches Weekend, held every August
WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE
This tiny town of fewer than 1,500 people has an influence far beyond its size. For the land-based population, Rock Hall is undeniably out of the way, tucked at the end of rural MD-20, 13 miles southeast of Chestertown. And that’s exactly what makes it such a great boating destination. Rock Hall offers visitors some of the finest sailing, cruising, paddling and trailer-boating waters anywhere. In keeping with that, the town has some of the most sophisticated marinas on the Chesapeake, many of which also offer charming accommodations on land. And for boaters it’s not at the end of the road at all but right in the center of things, an easy trip across the Bay.
There are too many fine marinas in Rock Hall for us to go into them in detail. In Rock Hall Harbor, we love North Point because it’s friendly, convenient, near the Harbor Shack and has fuel; Rock Hall Landing because its 75 floating deepwater slips are handy to Waterman’s Crab House and downtown shops; and Haven Harbour South, which has enjoyed lots of upgrades since its purchase by Haven Harbour, including a sand beach with actual palm trees.
On Swan Creek, we recommend Gratitude for its service and facilities as well as location “at the end of the road,” as they put it; Swan Creek Marina particularly for its family-style approach and economical mooring balls; Osprey Inn & Marina because of its lovely floating docks, graceful grounds and well-appointed inn and restaurant; and Haven Harbour, for the professionalism of its staff, well-stocked ship’s store and for highly regarded work yard.
The town is divided into two distinct sections: Rock Hall Harbor and Swan Creek. Both have good marinas, good places to eat and good accommodations. If you are on a boat in unsettled weather, Swan Creek offers more protection. If you want to be within walking distance of the Waterman’s Crab House or any festivals, Rock Hall Harbor is your choice. Whichever you do, the other is easily accessible by trolley, which generally runs on weekends during the boating season.
Whether you are headed to Rock Hall Harbor or Swan Creek, find green 1 north of Love Point. This will take you to either the harbor or Swan Creek beyond. Enter the harbor breakwater, then follow the marked channel to reach the marinas that line the shore. Whichever way you go, just be sure to stay in the channel to avoid the large shoal due west of the breakwater. If you follow the harbor around counterclockwise, you’ll find North Point Marina, Harbor Shack Restaurant, Bayside Landing Park and Rock Hall Landing Marina. This is followed by the Sharp Street boat ramp, Waterman’s Crab House, Black Duck Inn and finally Haven Harbour South.
The entrance to Swan Creek lies just north of the harbor. Once inside, follow the markers carefully until you reach your chosen marina, located in this order: Gratitude Marina, and then around the tip of Deep Landing, Swan Creek Marina. Beyond that is The Haven, home to Osprey Inn & Marina, Haven Harbour Marina and Spring Cove Marina.
If you are coming across the Bay, be sure to avoid the Swan Creek Bar, going all the way south to “1” if you have a deep-draft vessel. —Capt. Jody Argo Schroath
Driving the route is easy; it just takes a bit longer. After your trip across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on U.S. 50, simply follow the signs to Chestertown and then head east on MD-20 to Rock Hall. Same goes if you’re coming from points north like Wilmington, Del. via U.S. 301.
EXPLORING BY WATER
If you are trailering your boat, you have several options for launching close to Rock Hall, including Sharp Street Public Landing and Bayside Landing
Park Boat Ramp, both in Rock Hall Harbor. You’ll need to pick up a county permit sticker first. Boat supplies can be found at the marina ship’s stores as well as West Marine and the Rock Hall Marine Railway, established 1928.
If paddling or sailing is more your style, Chester River Kayaks is a good place to start. We suggest you make the short trip to the Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge, 10 miles south, where you can launch your own or rent a kayak to explore this extraordinary 2,285acre island landscape. Want to charter a sailboat? Head out on a 43-foot sloop with Shardana Sailing Charters or join Blue Crab Charters (2022 winner of CBM’s Best of the Bay) for five sails daily leaving from the foot of Sharp Street.
EXPLORING BY LAND
Rock Hall is a waterman’s town through and through, retaining that look and feel. Start at the colorful cottages known as Rock Hall Village, and the short shopping district on Main Street. Visit The Hickory Stick for cute accessories and gifts, The Bay Escape for housewares and nautical décor, and Grammy’s Goodies for hot mini donuts.
The Waterman’s Museum is a charming small-town museum. Check out their retro fishing shanty known as an “ark.” These little floating cottages were used by watermen when they needed to overnight in an area far away from home; they’d tow the ark behind their workboat and park it up a handy creek. To visit, go to the shop at Haven Harbour Marina to sign out museum keys, and return them when you’re done.
Cool off at the public pool at Bayside Landing Park, open weekends in season, or hit the beach at Ferry Park, which also has two gazebos, a community grill and outdoor showers.
Consider Harbor Shack to be Rock Hall’s version of Cheers, only with fresh seafood and cold beer served indoors and at the open-air tiki deck. Haven Harbour Marina’s Passages Bar & Grill and HH South’s Admirals Club Beachside Bar are both newly refreshed, serving up icy crushes and cocktails with a view.
The no-frills diner/take-out market Ford’s Seafood opens daily at 7 a.m. for breakfast, and then moves on through lunch and early dinner. Enjoy steamed crabs, seafood baskets and plate dinners onsite, or take seafood and sides back to the boat. Waterman’s Crab House has been a family-run classic for more than 40 years, with fresh-caught seafood (don’t miss the signature stuffed rockfish), seasonal crab feasts and plenty of docking space. Weekends bring top regional bands to their waterfront deck, the largest in Kent County. The Wheelhouse, a longtime staple, has new ownership and a new name: The Blue Heron Oyster House. Come for the raw bar and shave ice, stay for drinks at the open-air tiki bar, and look forward to inn rooms, due to be added in phase 2 of the beloved property’s new life.
Start your day off right at Muskrat Alley Café, with hearty breakfasts like bacon-stuff ed Belgian waffles. It’s at the Carriage House Bed & Breakfast but open to outside guests on weekends. Java Rock is a fab coffee spot that also does tasty salads, wraps and quesadillas. Bay Wolf is an old-school staple, serving seafood but also wiener schnitzel and bratwurst. Osprey Point Restaurant is perfect for a special occasion, even if special just means putting on long pants or a skirt. Slip reservations required for complimentary dock-and-dine.