Essential RV Maryland:
An Insider’s Guide
to the Old Line State
by Gina Walter
Founded in 1632, Maryland is one of the original 13 colonies—accounting for the way the remnants of monumental United States history can turn up on virtually every corner. From miles of sandy beaches to modern cities and endless acres of thick woodlands to the west Maryland has it all. The beauty of the state is that all of its fabulous destinations are but hours apart. We’ve compiled a list of must-visits that will undoubtedly put Maryland at the top of your preferred RV trips.
Home to both the Orioles and Ravens, Baltimore is a hot spot for professional sports. The city’s abundance of museums, nightlife, art, history and restaurants also draws in visitors year-round. One of the most visited sites in Baltimore, the Maryland Zoo is a great place for travelers of all ages, providing an up-close-and-personal experiences with a variety of wildlife. Just a short drive from the zoo is Woodberry Kitchen, featuring amazing eats with an outdoor seating area that serves as a great place to relax.
Among the famed to once take up residence in Baltimore in the 1830s was American writer and poet, Edgar Allan Poe—well known for his work in the mystery and science fiction genres. The city keeps his legacy alive, starting with his house: the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum is located on Amity Street and is a National Historic Landmark open to visitors throughout the year. The house has been well preserved with most of the original fabric, plaster walls, floors, stairs and woodwork that characterized Poe’s time there. Museum exhibits give a glimpse into his life and death with the help of many important artifacts. At the young age of 40 Poe mysteriously passed away; while many speculations have circled around the cause of death, his final resting place is in lot 27 at the Westminster Hall and Burying Ground near his grandparents and brother. The area is open to the public to visit and pay respects to the late, great writer.
Anchored in the city’s Inner Harbor is the historic USS Constellation. The ship played an essential role in the Civil War and now stands as the last sail-only warship designed and built by the United States Navy. The ship was heavily involved in finding and capturing slave trade ships and training for brave seamen. You can join an onboard tour, speak with crewmembers, participate in the Parrott rifle drill or take a sneak peak at the cook’s galley.
Speaking of cuisine, Maryland is synonymous seafood. When it comes to the catch of the day, the Inner Harbor delivers. Rusty Scupper Restaurant and Bar is a top pick, Tír na nÓg Irish Bar and Grill is a delicious complement for any traveler who loves a wee taste of Ireland. Don’t forget to check out the National Aquarium while you’re there!
Where To Stay:
We recommend taking your RV to the outskirts—to Patapsco Valley State Park to be more precise—to camp in the Park’s Hollofield Area. Stay tuned for everything you need to know about camping in our later section on the “Patapsco Valley State Park.”
As a border community to the nation’s capital, Bethesda is a delightful melting pot of restaurants, shops and entertainment. Celebrated Bethesda Row is a pedestrian-friendly conglomerate of the best tastings Bethesda has to offer in one location, drawing people from a number of surrounding areas who breathe life into the community daily. Crowd favorites among Bethesda Row restaurants include Bibibop Asian Grill, Mamma Lucia and Terrain Cafe.
Glen Echo Park is an arts and cultural hotspot that has all the feels of an early 1900s amusement park. Park Renovations took place from 2003 to 2010, revitalizing the area. Voted 2019 Best for Families - Best Arts Program by Washington Family, the park provides classes and camps focused on both visual and performing arts, children’s theaters and a 1921 historic carousel (among other events) that you can ride for just two dollars.
Cabin John Regional Park is also a wonderful stop with an array of activities for all ages. The park is located along a river with nearly 9 miles of hiking and biking trails. Many city dwellers from the Washington D.C area enjoy horseshoes, volleyball, tennis, softball and even ice skating at the Cabin John Ice Rink. The Cabin John Miniature Train is a unique feature of the park, providing visitors the chance to enjoy a two-mile scenic ride. And, if you didn’t happen to pack a meal to sit and eat at the park’s various picnic areas, you can head over to Lahinch Tavern and Grill, located just outside the park.
Where To Stay:
The Robert C. McDonell Campground at Cabin John Regional Park has year-round campsites, situated just 15 minutes from the heart of Bethesda. Do keep in mind that there is no running water between November 1st and March 31st at lower sites 1,2,6,7 and upper sites 3,4,5.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States with many off-shoot rivers starting at its outlet in the Atlantic Ocean to the Susquehanna River. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay has over 100,000 streams, creeks and rivers that feed into it. Sun bathers and boaters alike are drawn to the Chesapeake Bay for its calmer waters, various waterfront restaurants and trademark crabbing.
At the Southern entrance of the bay is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which connects Maryland and Virginia. The bridge-tunnel is 20 miles long and its official name is Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel. Up north, in Chesapeake City, Schaefers Canal House and the Chesapeake Inn Restaurant and Marina face off across the water. Visitors can dock their boats, enjoy live music and great food while taking in the picturesque views of the sunsets over the bay. If you’re looking to hit the water, Chesapeake Beach Jet Ski Rentals has jet skis, kayak and boat rentals as well as water tubing and fishing trips available.
Just off the shore of Annapolis in the Chesapeake Bay is the last standing, operational screw pile lighthouse in the country. Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is a stunning cottage-styled lighthouse built in the 1800s and has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The lighthouse is now open to the public to tour with insight into the lives of lighthouse keepers, the history of former lighthouses on the Bay, and the ongoing restoration and preservation of the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse by the U.S. Lighthouse Society.
Where To Stay:
Being a popular destination for RVers, the Chesapeake has multiple places for you to stay up and down the coast. If you’re looking to stay north, Bar Harbor RV Park & Marina has sites both on and off the waterfront. It also has a store for stocking up on any supplies you may need. Further south, near the entrance of the bay, Roaring Point Waterfront Campground offers a large range of amenities and even offers seasonal live entertainment.
Ocean City is a popular destination for visitors because of its three-mile boardwalk, pristine beaches, restaurants and a number of activities for the whole family. The beach is located between the Atlantic Ocean and Wight Bay and, while the tourist season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, the city hosts events year round that include O.C.toberfest and Winterfest.
The classic wooden boardwalk is full of family fun—recognized by The Travel Channel, National Geographic and USA Today for being one of the nation’s best boardwalks. An amusement park filled with arcade games, as well as a roller coaster and Ferris Wheel that gives you a breathtaking view of the ocean, are just some of the attractions right on the boardwalk among the restaurants and shops. Thrasher’s French Fries are a must while strolling to the many different shops along the way—but beware of the seagulls who like to swoop down and snatch a fry or two from unsuspecting tourists! Bike World offers bikes ranging from large surreys and fun cycles to traditional rides. Bike rentals are available to cruise the boardwalk with family and friends. Scattered throughout Ocean City are also many miniature golf courses, such as Embers Island Miniature Golf, perfect for some friendly competition.
Seacrets is located on the bay side of Ocean City: it draws large crowds for its multitude of dance floors, a stream of popular DJs who play both day and night, and spectacular water seating within the bay. Its menu has a large selection of Caribbean-inspired food that is oh so delicious you really can’t go wrong. Seacrets is also a distillery, featuring a collection of handcrafted spirits including rum, gin, whiskey and vodka. Get a behind-the-scenes look at how they create their signature spirits by booking a distillery tour, complete with tastings along the way.
It doesn’t get any better than sitting around a paper-wrapped table with a pile of crabs in the middle—scattered hammers and crackers, old bay on the side, and crab shells everywhere is a scene you’ll see a lot in Ocean City. The area has many crab houses, some of the best being On the Bay Seafood, Belly Busters and OCM Crabs.
Where To Stay:
Frontier Town Campground is just a short drive and highly recommended. The campground offers seven different campsites from Primitive (which does not include hookups) to Full Hookup Waterfront with Dock—which includes water, 20/30/50 amp electric, sewer, and cable hookups located on the waterfront and dockside.
As home to vast herds of wild horses, Assateague Island is shared by Maryland and Virginia, providing guests with a true once-in-a-lifetime view of majesty. An extraordinary surrounds the horses’ origins, claiming they came to be on the island after surviving a shipwreck off the coast of Virginia. There is no evidence to prove this tale but it is fun to speculate. Because the island is shared by two states, the horses are split into two herds and separated by a fence that defines the Maryland and Virginia state line.
The island itself can be a harsh environment for horses because of its scorching hot summer days, a bountiful number of mosquitoes, stormy weather and poor food quality. Despite their resilience, horses need their space to thrive on the island. Feeding, petting or crowding the animals is prohibited—remember to admire from a distance and make sure you’re amply prepared for the trip.
The island offers visitors a large variety of additional activities to make the most of the stay. Canoeing and kayaking are popular with designated areas for visitors to launch into the water. Crabbing and clamming are a great way to have fun and catch a meal at the same time. Be sure to check with a park ranger for current size limitations and regulations. The island has 37 miles of beach for visitors to walk along and collect shells, along with a number of paved and unpaved trails that include bike trails.
Where To Stay:
Camping and RV sites are only available on the Maryland side of Assateague Island. The National Park Service has both bayside and oceanside campsites, available year-round. Rates are based on the time of year. Assateague State Park has 350 campsites and is open from April 30th to November 1st.
Located a short distance from both Baltimore and Washington D.C is the state capital of Maryland: Annapolis. The city’s historic district was one of the first to be designated a National Historic Landmark, which means it is officially recognized by the United States government as a site which illustrates historical significance and heritage in the United States. Within the historic district are numerous other landmarks, such as the William Paca House and Garden, the Maryland State House and the Hammond-Harwood House.
If you check out the signatures on the Declaration of Independence, you’ll find that of William Paca—elected the Governor of Maryland in 1782. His Georgian mansion in Annapolis, built during the 1760s, has since been restored to its former 18th Century glory, allowing visitors a glimpse into what life was like for William Paca and his family…Postcolonial times. The house includes an abundant two-acre garden for visitors to stroll. Meanwhile, the Maryland State House is the oldest state capitol in continuous use. At one time, it even served as the nation’s capitol building. The State House is open for visitors to take self-guided tours. Yet another historic must-see in Annapolis is the Hammond-Harwood House. The house was designed and executed by William Buckland who helped shape the craft of architecture. It is now home to a wide array of fine and decorative arts.
Less than a 20-minute drive from the historic district of Annapolis is Quiet Waters Park, located at the edge of the South River. Enjoy some 340 acres, which include paved trails for walking, running and biking that often lead to scenic overlooks. Paddle or Pedal makes it easy for visitors to explore by providing kayak, canoe, bicycle or paddleboard rentals to visitors.
Visitors would be remiss not to take in the campus of the illustrious United States Naval Academy. located across the Severn River. Established in 1845, the U.S. Naval Academy boasts stunning waterfront architecture and guided tours that demonstrate the life of a midshipman. Unite attractions, including the midshipmen's Noon Formation, can be found at the Naval Academy Museum, the Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center, the Naval Academy Chapel, the crypt of naval hero John Paul Jones, and so much more. Depending on the season, you can take in Academy football, lacrosse and hockey, just to name a few popular sports.
No Annapolis adventure is complete with good eats. Annapolis Smokehouse and Tavern is an award-winning barbeque restaurant offering their Famous Wings drenched in 7 different sauce options. And, of course, seafood markets and restaurants abound in the city.
Where To Stay:
About 30 minutes west of Annapolis is Camp Meade RV Park—a great place to settle in. Spots cost anywhere between $40 and $60 a night based on the season and length of your stay. Bay Shore Campground is located in Rock Hall and also offers its guests a pleasant stay with many amenities.
Brookside Gardens is located in Wheaton Regional Park just a short distance from downtown Silver Spring featuring amazing restaurants like All Set Restaurant & Bar and Urban Butcher. Doors to the gardens opened to the public on July 13, 1969, showcasing the four years of hard work, planning and construction by the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Since its opening, Brookside Gardens has more than doubled the original size and added several gardens and features. With over 50 acres, its award-winning botanical garden captivates guests with flourishing flowers, greenery, beautiful water elements and multiple conservatories located throughout the gardens. Within Brookside Gardens are 13 themed gardens, including the Aquatic Garden and the Japanese Style Garden. If you plan to visit while traveling through Maryland, we suggest checking which flowers are in bloom at that time.
Where To Stay:
Patapsco Valley State Park
Just 20 minutes west of Baltimore, nestled along the Patapsco River is Patapsco Valley State Park. The state park extends 32 miles along the river and its lush greenery blankets 16,043 acres for visitors to enjoy. The park is nationally known for having over 200 miles of diverse trails and charming scenery. The river flows through the middle of the park and, whether you’re interested in taking pictures, packing a bathing suit to swim, canoeing or just taking in the relaxing sound of the river flowing, it plays an integral role in your experience. The park does have multiple pavilions where you can picnic, but favorites Loafers Sports Bar and Grill and Manor Hill Tavern are a short distance away.
Where To Stay:
Within the Hollofield Area of Patapsco Valley State Park there are 73 campsites, some of which have electrical hookups. It is a terrific place to stay and connect with nature, located in the middle of the park.
Frederick’s official website perfectly describes the area as “Where Hip Meets Historic Every Day.” Many modern restaurants are located in Civil War-era buildings: Beans in the Belfry is located in a historic church that has been restored while Bushwaller’s is found in a structure that was originally built in the 1840s and first served as a drugstore.
Frederick gives its visitors the chance to honor some of our nation’s earlier heroes while becoming acquainted with their sacrifices through multiple memorials. There’s a moving tribute of America’s fallen firefighters at National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Park. And the War Correspondents Memorial Arch was erected in memory of war correspondents, including those who lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan and Iraq. Other important memorials include the final resting place of Francis Scott Key, the author of our National Anthem.
Because Frederick is so steeped in American history, the town has many historic structures to offer. Some are open to the public as museums while others are available to see along the way with plenty of chances to capture some stunning photography. The Museum of Frederick County History is a great way to get a full picture of Frederick’s considerable impact on our nation’s history, featuring numerous exhibits and self-guided tours. You can step back in time at the National Museum of Civil War Medicine to learn the many innovative ways soldiers and surgeons saved lives during the Civil War—many of which play a large role in modern medicine.
Visitors often love coming to Frederick in the fall for its many orchards in the area. Catoctin Mountain Orchard has a giant Pumpkin Pyramid perfect for taking pictures with the whole family. It also offers a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, ripe for picking based on the season. The orchard offers a market with fresh baked and jarred goods as well as flower fields where you can cut your own stems. If you’re interested in antiquing, Frederick is a great place for shopping with numerous boutiques. Emporium Antiques, Great Stuff By Paul and Old Glory Antiques are just a few of the amazing finds Frederick has to offer.
Where To Stay:
Brunswick Family Campground is located near the West Virginia border in Maryland very near Frederick. The campground has multiple RV sites with hookups as well as air-conditioned cabins. Another great option is the Catoctin Mountain Park which features a historic cabin camp that was completed in 1937 and has multiple cabins available to rent.
Deep Creek Lake
While most destinations on this list are on the eastern side of the state, Deep Creek Lake sits on the Western side close to the West Virginia border and is a stop you won’t want to miss. This 3900-acre, manmade lake is a popular destination for travelers any time of the year due to its diverse range of activities.
The lake has a mile-long shoreline with two swimming beaches, boat docks and other lake activities. Its remote location among dense forestry makes it an ideal place to enjoy the fall foliage, beautifully reflecting off the lake’s surface. Winter not only provides guests with a delightful scenery, but also the chance to go snow tubing, sledding or even skiing at Wisp Resort. During the spring, you can enjoy the fresh air on a hike in the outdoors or canoe on the lake after.
Where To Stay:
Deep Creek Lake State Park has 112 campsites and 26 electric sites. Each site has a picnic table, fire ring, lantern post and a restaurant food storage box to help avoid any wildlife nibbling. Around the lake, there are many houses and cabins available to rent. Swallow Falls State Park is only a short distance away with 65 free camping sites.