Maryland satisfies quest for outdoor adventure
Variety of options reflects diverse landscape
BALTIMORE (Aug. 11) – Expand your horizons and get your adrenaline running.
Feel the wind whipping in your face as you race across the Chesapeake on a windsurfer. Imagine weaving through a jungle as you fly above treetops on a zip line. Hold your body taut as you inch your way upward on the stony, yet slick, surface of a towering boulder by a waterfall. Soak in the sounds of restless wildlife, the scent of still waters, as you paddle through tidal marshes.
August is an ideal time to tap into your inner desire for adventure, says the state's Office of Tourism, and Maryland is the place to do it. Tourism officials have designated August as a time to focus on adventure travel in Maryland, making it the theme of its Maryland Spotlight campaign – a monthly promotion that highlights distinctive aspects of tourism in the state.
“In its sheer physical diversity, Maryland is truly America in Miniature,” said Gov. Martin O'Malley. “From the mountains of Western Maryland, the rolling hills and plains of the midlands, to the pristine beaches of the Eastern Shore, our diverse landscape offers a variety of recreational pursuits for the adventurous traveler.”
Margot Amelia, executive director of the tourism office, adds: “Travelers can easily chart their adventure excursions so they can see and experience many of Maryland's authentic treasures, such as the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, the C&O Canal Towpath, Appalachian Trail, and Indian Head Rail Trail, and nature preserves and wildlife refuges. Also, with more than 7,000 miles of coastline, adventures are always awaiting on or near the water – especially during the summer when the options are seemingly endless.”
Here is a sampling of places to visit for an outdoor Maryland adventure:
- Adventure Sports Center International (ASCI), Wisp Resort (Garrett County) – Home of the world's only mountaintop, man-made whitewater course, ASCI offers a variety of rafting and kayaking experiences in a controlled environment. You can also arrange guided excursions for rock climbing, bouldering, mountain biking, hiking and geocaching.
- Atlantic Edge Dive Center, Gaithersburg and Annapolis (Montgomery and Anne Arundel counties) – Learn to scuba dive and then go on a dive at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. You can also join diving expeditions at Ocean City, where you'll discover sunken ships and an abundance of marine life. The Ocean City Reef Foundation has created numerous accessible reefs that accommodate retired and wrecked ships.
- Ayers Creek Adventures, Berlin (Worcester County) – Explore the coastal waterways on Maryland's Eastern Shore by kayak or canoe. A selection of eco tours includes trips through wetlands and saltwater marsh – all accessible from Ayers Creek. For a touch of refinement with your adventure, try a sunset tour with a gourmet meal and wine tasting.
- Blackwater Paddle & Pedal Adventures (BPPA), Cambridge (Dorchester County) – Select a guided tour – biking, hiking or kayaking – to explore Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and other Eastern Shore destinations. Motor boats and catamarans are also for rent. BPPA operates out of the Bucktown Village Store, where the Underground Railroad's Harriet Tubman committed her first known act of defiance in the mid 1800s.
- Chester River Kayak Adventures, Rock Hall (Kent County) – Select from five half-day trips or two full-day trips. One of the longer ones is a journey around Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge. Sunset and moonlight paddles are available. Check combination packages with two nearby bed and breakfasts.
- Chesapeake Beach Fishing Charters, Chesapeake Beach (Calvert County) – Book a charter boat for a day of sport fishing – rockfish, bluefish, Spanish mackerel and more – on the Chesapeake Bay. Once the home of a racetrack and casino, Chesapeake Beach was a major beach destination for rail passengers until the 1930s. The fleet here is one of Maryland's largest charter-boat groups.
- Delmarva Outdoor Adventure (DOA Outfitters), Mardela Springs (Wicomico County) – Paddle a canoe or kayak through saltwater marshes and cypress swamps on the Eastern Shore. DOA also has fishing, fly fishing, clamming and crabbing expeditions, along with a variety of hunting options. Log-cabin lodging packages are available.
- Flying Squirrel Canopy Tour, Wisp Resort (Garrett County) – This challenge course in Western Maryland's Deep Creek Lake area tests your agility above the trees. A 1.5-hour tour with a group of eight includes climbing, bridge-crossing, two zip lines and inspiring views of the lake and mountains.
- Go Ape, Rockville (Montgomery County) – “Get some tree time,” say the proprietors of this 40-ft. high obstacle course in the Maryland section of Rock Creek Regional Park. Course includes ladders, walkways, bridges, tunnels, Tarzan swings and zip lines.
- Janes Island State Park, near Crisfield (Somerset County) – The island portion of the park has 30 miles of water trails – six marked routes – that zigzag through nearly 3,000 acres of saltwater marshes. You'll see Chesapeake Bay wildlife while paddling or boating. Several campsites are along the water trails for overnight expeditions.
- Paradise Watersports, Ocean City (Worcester County) – Take a ride on jet skis (no experience necessary) with seating for up to three. Parasailing is also available here. Check company web site for coupons.
- Patuxent Adventure Center, Solomons Island (Calvert County) – Select from a half-dozen guided kayak tours around this Southern Maryland region. Most tours run four to five hours. Kayaks, bikes and stand-up paddleboards can be rented.
- Peake Paddle Tours, Trappe (Talbot County) – See wildlife and scenic landscapes on the Eastern Shore as you paddle along freshwater streams, salt marshes, and the Tuckahoe, Choptank, Nanticoke and Pocomoke rivers. Most guided trips take four to five hours. Proprietor offers instruction for inexperienced kayakers and more advanced training for experienced paddlers.
- River and Trail Outfitters, Knoxville (Frederick County) – Float down Antietam Creek on a tube. You can also select guided trips for whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, climbing, biking and hiking. Combination ventures (rafting and biking, for instance) can make up one-, two- and three-day trips in this tri-state region.
- Rocks State Park, Jarrettsville (Harford County) – Climb natural rock outcrops in the Falling Branch Area of this park, where you'll find Kilgore Falls and serene views of the county's rolling hills and farmland. The King and Queen Seat – 190 feet above Deer Creek – is believed to have been a ceremonial gathering place for the Susquehannock Indians.
- Terrapin Adventures, Savage (Howard County) – Terrapin Challenge is a four-hour window in which you can try all 32 elements of the Adventure Center. Course also includes: Terrapin Tower; giant swing; high-ropes challenge; and zip line. This company can arrange excursions for kayaking, rock climbing, sailing, windsurfing, nature hikes and geocaching.
- Ultimate Watersports, Gunpowder Falls State Park (Baltimore County) – Even if you've never had an adventure on the water, this company will gladly introduce you to kayaking, sailing and windsurfing. Stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) is also available – by itself or as part of SUP yoga or an SUP eco-adventure tour.
- Womanship, Annapolis (Anne Arundel County) – Established in 1984, this sailing school – designed by women for women – enables students to go from boat passenger to boat captain (or at least comfortable with the essentials of sailing). The school offers learning trips along the East Coast and beyond, and regular sailing around the Chesapeake Bay.
In July, the tourism office highlighted opportunities for “buying local” in Maryland. Previous themes have focused on: prominent gardens; bed and breakfasts; Maryland's Main Streets; Chesapeake Bay art; hiking and biking trails; and Maryland wine.
To receive free Maryland travel information - Destination Maryland, Maryland Calendar of Events and a state highway map - by mail, call 800-719-5900. Information can also be found on the Tourism Office's web site, VisitMaryland.org.
About Maryland tourism
The Maryland Office of Tourism is an agency of the Division of Tourism, Film and the Arts within the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development. Recently reported visitor data shows that the state welcomed more than 29 million visitors in 2009.
In 2008, visitors spent nearly $14.5 billion on travel-related expenses – a 3.2 percent increase in spending over 2007. During 2008, the Maryland tourism industry also generated close to $1.8 billion in state and local taxes and provided 146,000 jobs to Maryland residents.