Go Colonial in St. Mary's City, Maryland

Replica of the Dove, which carried the first Maryland colonists from across the pond.
  • Replica of the Dove, which carried the first Maryland colonists from across the pond.

Three hundred seventy-eight years ago, the state of Maryland was founded in St. Mary’s County. Leonard Calvert, representing his brother – the second Lord Baltimore – started a colony that would be hospitable to Catholics and all faiths, and St. Mary’s City (today, about two hours' drive south of D.C.) became the fourth permanent settlement in British North America.

Historic St. Mary's City looks as it did in the earliest colonial days. It's beautifully preserved across hundreds of acres not far from where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake. A reconstructed 17th-century chapel commemorates the founding of Catholicism in what would become the U.S.A.

Board the Maryland Dove, a reconstruction of one of the ships that brought colonists from England. Check out open, working archaeological sites. The Woodland Indian Hamlet shows how the local Yaocomaco Indian tribe lived. Historic reenactors walk the grounds.

Woodlawn, an estate, B&B and wine tasting destination through its sister vineyard, Slack Wine, is located on a serene cove that opens onto the Potomac. Rooms in the historic accommodations have been modernized with touches like hot tubs and heated towel racks.

Scheibel’s is a hidden locals’ secret: it’s a charter fishing center on Smith Creek, local-catch-of-the-day seafood restaurant and a karaoke lounge, alongside a modestly priced sportsman’s motel. To accommodate early A.M. fishers and hunters, they serve early breakfast every day except Monday.

Port of Leonardtown Winery is a co-op of Southern Maryland wine growers right in town. Enjoy wine tastings and live bands. Fuzzy Farmer’s Market is another, women-owned co-op; they sell everything from handcrafted blankets to jewelry.

Point Lookout State Park has fishing and swimming and was the site of a notorious federal POW camp for Confederate soldiers. Next to the entrance are two competing monuments: the only federal monument to Confederate soldiers, not displaying Confederate colors, and one defiantly erected by the State of Maryland, with the flags of all the members of the Confederacy.

Kevin Thompson of Kevin Thompson’s Corner Kafé comes from a family that’s been in the seafood business for decades. Try Maryland favorites like crab, rockfish and stuffed ham sandwiches in a come-as-you-are joint designed to look like a boathouse.

Stuffed ham sandwiches are an exclusively St. Mary’s County delicacy. Each part of the county has a different recipe. Towns have conflicting stories of how ham stuffed with spiced greens such as kale or collard greens – always served cold – came to be. Some accounts speak of it being a favorite Calvert dish; others, a slave kitchen creation.

W.J. Dent & Sons is a grocery store with one of the most popular versions. If you fall in love with it, they’ll ship to you.

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