Situated at the base of the Patuxent River, tiny Solomons Island is filled with boats of every make and description, most of them tied up in a half-dozen first-class marinas and boatyards in its well-protected harbor.
- Located at the southernmost end of the Patuxent River, roughly halfway between C&D Canal and Norfolk/Portsmouth
- Established as Bourne’s Island in 1680, it got its current name in 1870, thanks to Isaac Solomon’s oyster packing company
- Home to one of largest charter fishing fleets in Md.
What Makes It Unique
Situated at the base of the Patuxent River, tiny Solomons Island is filled with boats of every make and description, most of them tied up in a half-dozen first-class marinas and boatyards in its well-protected harbor. The Calvert Marine Museum is a kid-centric gem, its restaurants are well worth the visit, and you can’t help but relax with the town’s laid-back, resort-island vibe. The mid-Bay location makes it an ideal stopping point on your way north or south—and it’s also just an ideal stopping point in its own right.
Solomons has loads of great marinas, but for space we’ll just highlight a few. Safe Harbor Zahnisers Marina is a Solomons classic, with good docks, 250 slips, a mooring field, a convenient location on Back Creek. Along with all the usual amenities (wifi, bath houses, pool and onsite restaurant), they also know service, which has won them an impeccable reputation up and down the Bay. Spring Cove Marina is also located on Back Creek, with 246 slips, a full-service yard and full amenities, and it’s an easy walk from the marina into town and the marine museum. But what really sets it apart are the shaded riverside picnic facilities, and a one-of-a-kind pool that comes with its own underwater piped-in music.
Calvert Marina is the largest in Solomons with 400+ open and covered slips plus amenities, including pool and café. It doesn’t have a boatyard, but Washburn Boat Yard is next door. It’s located on the opposite shore of Back Creek, so it requires a dinghy trip or an Uber ride into town. But in exchange you get lots of walking room—70 dog-friendly acres worth. At the end of the peninsula you’ll find a statue of a young sailor, reminding visitors that during World War II, this was the site of the country’s first amphibious training base. More than 67,000 officers and enlisted personnel came through here.
The mouth of the Patuxent River is wide and deep, though the channel narrows briefly between Drum Point and Fishing Point before opening up again into a wide, deep bay. Patuxent River Naval Air Station lies along the south shore, while the entrance to Solomons lies along the north. The river itself continues northwest under the 139-foot-tall Johnson Bridge.
After you pass Drum Point’s red 4, you’ll find your choice of channels leading into Solomons Harbor. Both skirt a large area of shallow water (1–3 feet) known as the Flats. Both channels are marked, and both have plenty of water (no less than 12 feet). Both meet at markers 2 and 3.
On entering the harbor you’ll be confronted by a small island known as Molly’s Leg. Molly’s Leg is a kind of watery round-about. Like the Flats, there’s plenty of water all the way around, so the choice is yours. Following it around to port, The Narrows shoots off first. This is a short waterway that provides a back door to part of Solomons, including Tiki Bar and Harbor Island Marina, and Solomons Yachting Center further around. The bulk of the town’s marinas lie up the second spoke in the wheel, Back Creek. The final spoke is Mill Creek, which has no public marinas, but rather a half-dozen fine spots to anchor, including a couple on Mill Creek’s tributary, St. Johns Creek, which continues north after Mill Creek and makes a jog to the east.
Solomons is connected to the outside world by a short, puddle-jumper-sized bridge that cuts over from S.R. 4, and from St. Mary’s County by the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge, which, by contrast, is a lovely, soaring bridge across the Patuxent River.
Staying on Land
Quality Inn/Beacon Marina and Solomons Inn Resort & Marina have their own docks and welcome transients, whether you stay in the hotel or not. They’re not fancy but each has comfortable rooms, fitness center, waterfront swimming pool and convenience: both are an easy walk or bike ride to the shopping center on S.R. 4, home to West Marine, Port of Call Liquors and a few other shops.
Looking for ambiance, brunch-worthy breakfasts and even boat slips? The 1906 Queen Anne period Solomons Victorian Inn offers water views from most every room, and historic pedigree: This was the home of Clarence Davis, of the famous Solomons boatbuilding family, M.M. Davis & Son. One of the rooms is named after their Manitou, a graceful 53-foot yawl built in 1937 and sailed by John F. Kennedy while he was president.
Back Creek Inn, a 125-year-old waterman’s home on the banks of Back Creek, has been a bed and breakfast for more than 30 years. In addition to lovely rooms, great views and grand trees, the inn has two boat slips available for its overnight guests.
Blue Heron Bed and Breakfast is a Charleston colonial with a southern beach casual feel that feels perfectly in keeping with Solomons. The Inn has four large rooms (two of which share a water-facing balcony) and a slip for guests who come by boat.
Exploring by Water
As always, the local boat ramps make good entry points. In Solomons, you can also put in next to the town dinghy dock and pump-out station, which is located behind the public rest facility on Patuxent Street, across from the Solomons Boardwalk. There is more parking in the boardwalk area. Launching near Calvert Marina’s transient docks is another option; just check in with the office first.
Once launched, take your trailer boat, dinghy, kayak or SUP and meander through Solomons waterways, from The Narrows to Back Creek, and admire the view from the water side. Feeling more adventurous? Take a cruise up Mill Creek to St. Johns Creek and Bow Cove, another nice anchorage spot.
Didn’t bring a boat? You can rent a pontoon at Solomons Boat Rental, or a skiff or jetski at Bunky’s Charter Boats. Itching for a fishing excursion? Bunky’s offers that too, as do Lucky Strike and numerous other companies.
Exploring by Land
Solomons Island is thin (only a single road wide in spots) and only a mile and a half long, which makes it both charming and entirely walkable. At the north end of the island, you’ll find Calvert Marine Museum and at the south you’ll run out of road at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. In between, you’ll find a succession of marinas plus the boardwalk, shops, restaurants, a fishing pier and a couple of churches on the west (Patuxent River) side. North of the island, along S.R. 4, you’ll find a couple of strip shopping plazas housing a grocery store and drug store, West Marine, a few more restaurants and a couple of hotels.
With a good pair of shoes or a bicycle (Patuxent Adventure Center has rentals, along with kayaks and SUPs), you can easily take in the island in a leisurely afternoon. Take a walk down the boardwalk and poke into the shops on the other side of the street. Buy an ice cream at the boardwalk stand. Toss a fishing line into the water off the pier next to the boat ramp. Explore the back streets or take a seat at a picnic table along Back Creek and watch the passing scene.
The wonderful Calvert Marine Museum has nature exhibits, boat tours on skipjack Dee of St. Mary’s and the buyboat Wm. B. Tennison, and a seasonal slate of events include big-name concerts at the open-air PNC Waterside Pavilion. (The 2022 music schedule includes Brothers Osbourne, from Deale, Md., and the Beach Boys.) Watch scientists work in the Paleontology Prep Lab and take delight in watching the antics of the two most engaging river otters you’re likely to come across. You can also tour two lighthouses, onsite Drum Point and Cove Point, just up the Bay.
Bike or taxi to the lovely Annemarie Sculpture Gardens & Arts Center, which has a quarter-mile walking path showcasing notable sculptures, many of them on loan from the Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art. Or head indoors where the Arts Building features rotating exhibits in a two-story gallery. The Studio School offers classes in pottery if you want to create your own works of art.
The open-air bar Tiki Bar—famous for its wrap-around bar, sand floor, giant Moai heads and general rowdiness—celebrated its 42nd opening weekend in April 2022. New owners Susan and Peter Bates are keeping the mai tais and live music flowing in time-honored island tradition.
The Pier is exactly that, jutting out into the Patuxent with fantastic views and a seafood-heavy menu. For another vantage, take an outside table on the double-tiered deck at The Lighthouse Restaurant, which overlooks the marinas of Back Creek. Located on the mainland in Beacon Marina, Angler’s Seafood Bar & Grill is a casual local hang that opens at 8 a.m. on weekends for breakfast. Bugeye Grill opened in 2019, quickly earning fans for tasty food as well as views out to the boardwalk and Johnson Bridge beyond.
Lotus Kitchen offers healthful yet hearty breakfasts and lunch; think toasted baguette breakfast sandwiches, daily quiches and quinoa bowls. Take one of Kim’s famous key lime pies back to the boat. At CD Café the food is fresh, local when possible, and artfully prepared with unexpected twists like pork pad thai or panko-encrusted salmon. It’s open for lunch and then again for dinner. There is often a wait. It’s worth it. Charles Street Brasserie offers sharable small plates—BBQ duck sliders, phyllo-wrapped crab—and dinner plates like rockfish imperial, seafood pasta or char-grilled ribeye. You can build a weekend around Sunday brunch, complete with jazz piano.