Bordered by the Potomac River to the west and Patuxent River to the east, there are over 300 miles of shoreline, endless backroads, and countless eateries to uncover in Charles County, MD Located within a few hours’ drive from major cities like Washington, D.C., Richmond, Baltimore, and Raleigh, the peninsula is perfectly located for your next day trip or a week-long getaway.
With more than 20,000 acres of parkland and miles of trail to explore, there’s something new to see around every corner. Start off your day with a walk, run, or bike ride on the Indian Head Rail Trail, a 13-mile paved path past mature forests, natural wetlands, and fertile farmlands. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including bald eagles, beaver dams, and herons, on this popular recreation trail and undeveloped natural area. While you’re in town, check out the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club for more scenic rides in southern Maryland.
For views of the water, head to Friendship Farm Park overlooking Nanjemoy Creek. Two trail loops provide a peaceful walk to waterfront observation decks and woodlands with wildlife viewing opportunities. Unlock the park’s full potential with the public boat launch with access to the Potomac River or fishing from the pier and shoreline.
Pack a lunch for a picture-perfect picnic at Gilbert Run Park. Wheatley Lake will be waiting for you when you’re done with your meal. This 60-acre lake is perfect for canoeing, pedal boating, fishing for bass, bluegill, trout, and catfish, or a walk around the banks on the two-mile wooded trail. Set around the headwaters of the Zekiah Swamp, there are nearly 20 miles of trails to walk or bike at Cedarville State Forest in addition to camping, archery, and fishing.
A Taste of Charles County
There’s even more to experience when you get off the trails. Local watermen bring in the daily catch of crabs, oysters, rockfish, catfish, snakehead, and more indigenous species that make their way onto the tables at the legendary seafood establishments. You really can’t go wrong when choosing from over two dozen restaurants, many of which have been in the community for generations. For a meal with a water view, Captain John’s Crabhouse, Scuttlebutt Restaurant and Marina, Gilligan’s Pier Restaurant, and The Rivah serve up inventive dishes for lunch and dinner while Baughan Seafood Truck and Horace & Dickie’s are great options for a fast and casual bite.
Finish your night at Charles County’s nano craft brewery, Patuxent Brewing Company, with a refreshing drink and friendly faces. Sunken Sips IPA, the newest beer on tap, is inspired by the “Ghost Fleet” abandoned ships at Mallows Bay-Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary. The hand-drawn label, designed in partnership with Shop 53 Custom Tattoo & Art Gallery, includes the likeness of the ships at Mallows Bay. Locals have appropriately named the new brew the “Official Beer of Charles County.”
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the State of Maryland, and Charles County Government have announced the designation of a newest national marine sanctuary to protect the remains of more than 100 abandoned steamships and vessels built as part of America’s engagement in World War I.
Mallows Bay – Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary is most renowned for its “Ghost Fleet,” the partially submerged remains of more than 100 wooden steamships that were built in response to threats from World War I-era German U-boats that were sinking ships in the Atlantic. Although the ships never saw action during the war, their construction at more than 40 shipyards in 17 states reflected the massive national wartime effort that drove the expansion and economic development of communities and related maritime service industries.
Turn in for the night at your choice of a hotel, bed and breakfast, or campground so you’ll be ready for another day of new experiences. Plan a trip to see for yourself what makes Charles County, MD, a must-visit this summer.
All photos courtesy of Charles County Tourism