Attractions in Kent County Maryland
Situated on a scenic peninsula where the Chester and Sassafras rivers meander into the Bay, Kent County has retained its serene beauty despite the passage of time.
Our enchanting coastline varies from historic waterfront towns dotted with marinas of all sizes to stretches of low, rolling farmlands broken only by the tidewater tributaries of the Chesapeake. This land, where fresh and salt water meet, is a veritable haven for fishing and boating enthusiasts, cyclists, birders and nature lovers. It is also an immense refuge for a variety of plant and animal life, and we make every attempt to protect them, sometimes to the chagrin of seasonal hunters. Visitors eager to explore the tidal shore can discover numerous aquatic birds including ducks, geese, kingfishers, heron, osprey, bald eagles and other water-loving creatures who make their homes along the reeds and rushes. These estuarine habitats offer nearly ideal spawning and nursery conditions for many fish species, including alewife, shad, blue fish, perch, oysters and the blue crab. Striped bass, known locally as "rockfish" is perhaps the most prized fish found in these surrounding waters.
Locals think of Kent County as "quintessentially rural," and the community displays a grace and fluidity almost unknown in today's hurried marketplace. Farming and agriculture constitute a large portion of the economy, and during the summer months local markets brim with fresh produce at bargain prices.
Located on the banks of the Chester River, Chestertown dates back to 1706 when it served as a thriving mid-Atlantic port of entry for the colonial movement into Maryland. Along with being a prosperous shipbuilding and trading center, Chestertown became a locus for government and court. In fact the County's court records are the oldest in the State of Maryland, dating back to the 1640s.
The Chester River curls past grand homes of wealthy merchants from the 18th and 19th centuries. Among the town's finest historic buildings are the Hynson-Ringgold House, renowned for its unusual antler staircase and hip roof, and Wide Hall, a masterpiece of Georgian architecture built in 1769 by Thomas Smyth, Kent County's most prosperous merchant and an illustrious Revolutionary War figure. An old Customs House dating from the 1740s stands beside the public dock at the foot of High Street. Its detailed Flemish Bond brickwork is commonplace in many old town residences.A walking tour of the historic district is held every year on the first Saturday of October. This tour, sponsored by the Kent County Historical Society, offers a leisurely peek into many spectacular homes. Historic house tours are also featured in December; most garden tours are sponsored in spring and summer. Welcome visitors can follow quaint red-brick sidewalks along broad shaded streets as they roam through specialty shops, galleries, antique stores and eateries on their way to one of several exquisitely restored B&Bs in town. On fine summer weekends, evening concerts are often held around the antique fountain in the town square. The secret splendors of Chestertown, however, are the beautiful walled gardens tucked behind the alongside historic homes.
History comes to life through the annual Chestertown Tea Party, reenacted each Memorial Day weekend. This festival celebrates events of May 23, 1774 when, on the heels of the news that the Port of Boston had been closed by the British, local residents boarded the Brigantine Geddes, which had dropped anchor in the Chester, and angrily consigned its shipment of tea to the depths of the River.
A must on every sightseer's itinerary is Washington College, the tenth oldest liberal arts college in the country. It was founded in 1782 with the help of George Washington, who gave his name and 50 guineas in appreciation of Kent County's supplying flour to his troops, as well as the patriotic acts of our citizens during the War. As George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison traveled from Virginia to Pennsylvania, they came ashore in picturesque Rock Hall (eight known times for George to be exact) on the Annapolis Ferry, then journeyed by horse north to Philadelphia to hammer out American Independence.
Today you'll find the Waterman's Museum, an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, cozy B&Bs, antique and curio shops, artisans, craft studios, bookstores, condominiums, peaceful corners, human anthills, fabulous restaurants and yacht filled marinas all jostling for their place in the sun. With ten marinas in and about town, Rock Hall can easily claim the distinction of being the pleasure boating center of the Upper Eastern Shore. A madhouse during the Rockfish Tournament in June, over the fourth of July and Party on the Bay in August, "The Pearl of the Chesapeake" can be delicious in the off-season, especially in late fall and early winter. Come to Rock Hall anytime for Chesapeake Bay seafood at its best.
George Washington also stopped along the Sassafras en route to points North and South. Georgetown, MD was a historic Port of Entry, Ferry Landing, and a base of continental supplies from 1775-1783. As the British advanced up the Sassafras in May 1813, they burned the town, reducing it to ash except for a church and two brick houses at the top of the Hill. These two buildings (now joined to form one mansion that is an inn) were saved by "one of the most beautiful women ever born and raised in Kent County," Catherine "Kitty" Knight. This great heroine, who refused to leave an invalid neighbor, defied Admiral George Cockburn by declaring: "I shall not leave. If you burn this house, you burn me with it. "The British finally relented.
Today, Galena lures visitors inland with all-you-can eat breakfasts, ham and oyster suppers and antiques. Nature lovers will want to head straight to Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. This unspoiled island features much of the habitat diversity characteristic of the Chesapeake region, from pine forests to meadows to tidal wetlands. A raised observation platform affords panoramic views of wetland-fringed shoal waters teeming with ducks, geese, tundra swans and other migrating waterfowl. At sunrise and sunset, a low boardwalk provides undetected viewing of deer grazing tender marsh grass, red fox rambling along pond banks, and osprey carrying fish to hungry nestlings.
Betterton beach is ideal for swimming and family picnics, while quiet coves tucked along the peninsula offer good opportunities for fishing, canoeing or kayaking. Travelers and tourists also visit Maryland's smallest county to gear up for sailing, windsurfing and water-skiing and, if only for a moment, to imbibe the charm and sophistication that have enchanted generations of earlier visitors.