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Take a quick glance to the right as you glide to the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; you can’t miss Hemingway’s Restaurant. Hands down, this is the best place to enjoy a late afternoon libation, unobstructed view of the Chesapeake Bay and stunning sunsets. With indoor and outdoor seating, the view is a sure-bet rain or shine. (Debbie Evans)

Kent Island: Maryland’s hidden Eastern Shore gem

Just a short cruise across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge rests one of the most overlooked destinations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Take the first exit when you hit the Eastern Shore and discover Kent Island, a fantastic escape just 45 minutes east of D.C.

With both modern and historic attractions, plus amazing westward sunset views, spring is the perfect time to enjoy a quick escape with fabulous food and a few special treats only the locals know about (for now).

Kent Island is certainly close enough for a day trip from DC, but why rush?

Take a quick glance to the right as you glide to the end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge; you can’t miss Hemingway’s Restaurant. Hands down, this is the best place to enjoy a late afternoon libation, unobstructed view of the Chesapeake Bay and stunning sunsets. With indoor and outdoor seating, the view is a sure-bet rain or shine.

Kent Island is home to numerous local restaurants so if you want to stretch your legs while making room for fresh seafood and scratch made deliciousness, you’ll want to head left as soon as you exit Route 50 and check out Terrapin Beach Park. A 3.25-mile walking trail will lead you through wildflower meadows and wetlands to a beautiful sandy beach and peaceful view of the Bay Bridge. Be sure to bring a camera.

It’s time to disclose one of Kent Island’s hidden gems, Blackwater Distilling. For $5 admission connoisseurs of liquor, or those who are just curious, can sample vodka and rum from the first distillery to open in Maryland since Prohibition. At Blackwater Distilling you’ll learn exactly what causes that hangover and why it truly is worth it to go for the good stuff - called “hearts” by those now in the know. Blackwater’s tasty Picaroon Maryland Rum is made from raw sugar instead of molasses giving it a fruity, vanilla, creamy effect that is fantastic to sip all alone or in a cocktail.

Tasty libations are not Kent Island’s only treasure. With more than a dozen shops, studios and eateries, Historic Stevensville’s designated arts and entertainment district is a charming combination of old and new. Visitors will find a mix of local markets offering antiques, art, furniture and small town hospitality. Shop hours vary so be sure to check before you visit.

Love Point Antiques and Home Décor is not your typical small-town antique shop. While you will find plenty of antiques, this cute cottage with outbuildings offers unique finds including coastal inspired jewelry, furniture, oyster tins, vintage home implements and plenty of inspiration.

With a unique combination of women’s clothing, accessories, home décor and chalk paint (lots of chalk paint), Paris Gray Cottage is on trend for a chic, up-cycled, coastal inspired lifestyle. Nearby, My Little Studio and Island Arts features work by local artists in a low-key, friendly for all ages, environment.

Perhaps Kent Island’s most precious hidden gem is the Stevensville Crab Shack. Locally owned, open seasonally, Stevensville Crab Shack crab is small and mighty. From a petite open-air kitchen the local owners make everything from scratch including their famous Maryland crab soup and homemade sides. Steamed crabs are most popular but you can’t beat the crab cake platter with two homemade sides for $11.99. Really. It’s just $11.99. This year Stevensville Crab Shack is open March 22 through Thanksgiving delivering edible goodness seven days a week. There is limited indoor seating and a dog friendly outdoor patio with picnic tables.

Kent Narrows, the small waterway that separates Kent Island from the Delmarva Peninsula, is hiding some of the most authentic restaurants and bars on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Big Owl Tiki Bar has a Key West vibe with a small indoor bar, outdoor pier seating, live entertainment, fantastic views, plus some amazing fish tacos among other tasty delights. Open seasonally due to the heavy mix of outdoor and open-air seating, Big Owl is a “must-stop” from April 1 through October 31.

The Narrows Restaurant offers fine dining in a casual atmosphere with award winning crab cakes and, yet again, spectacular water views. There is an extensive wine list, full service bar, and top-notch service provided by loyal staff. Even better, their popular crab cakes, crab balls and crab soup can be shipped anywhere in the U.S.

There’s great shopping too, on “The Narrows” as locals refer to it, at Coastal Cottage. You can literally stop by Coastal Cottage every time you hit the “Shore” and find something new. Staples include hand painted coastal furniture, rugs, jewelry, linens, serve ware and artwork, much of which is created by local artists.

There’s a lot to do on Kent Island, but where to stay?

Kent Narrows alone has three hotels including the Hilton Garden Inn, which is steps from Coastal Cottage and just a hop from several other Narrows restaurants. Kent Island is a popular wedding destination so accommodations are at a premium on spring and summer weekends but calling the hotel directly can net more attractive pricing for weekday overnight stays.

The new Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club was designed with wedding parties in mind but casual visitors will enjoy the well-appointed rooms, upscale décor and beautiful grounds. Knoxie’s Table offers low-key service and fantastic farm to table fare in a warm, comfortable environment. The Spa compares with many destination spas around the country and offers a full array of treatments, many using organic and local products.

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