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Upper Chesapeake Bay Boating

McDaniel Yacht Basin

Anyone who loves sailing, power boating, fishing, or cruising, knows that the Upper Chesapeake Bay is the mecca of the boating world. It’s by far the largest estuary bay, with the most coastline, of any other within the continental United States. Its northernmost point is where the mighty Susquehanna flows down from Pennsylvania into the bay and the vibrant port cities of Baltimore, Annapolis, and Washington DC grace the coastline. The fact is, it’s simply “all that!” Plus, this region has some of the most interesting and navigable rivers and inlets in the country. For all these reasons, and more, if you’re an avid cruiser and haven’t been to the Upper Chesapeake Bay yet, there’s no doubt it’s on your bucket list.


This timeless boater’s playground has far more to offer than many are aware. Not only does it bring a different kind of fun and challenge to bay cruisers and fisherfolk, but the ports and towns sprinkled along the coastlines cater to their beloved boaters. So, when, not if, you cruise the Upper Chesapeake Bay, here are the fishing, anchorage and eating spots you absolutely don’t want to miss:


Where to reel ‘em in on the Upper Bay (But don’t tell anyone!)

The Upper Chesapeake Bay has been receiving more than its fair share of notoriety over the last few years due to rising catch rates and overall weights reported in tournaments. Fish aren’t always predictable, but you can be sure they’ll be hanging around certain “hot spots” like the Sassafras River and the Choptank River. Both are perfect fisheries for Largemouth Bass.


Favorite Upper Bay anchorages

One of the many things that make the Upper Chesapeake Bay so exceptional is all its rivers, coves, and creeks. They are the ideal places to drop anchor and spend a lazy day. Everywhere you look there’s beautiful scenery, plentiful and diverse wildlife, and great fishing. There are five rivers in the Upper Chesapeake, the Susquehanna, North East, Elk, Bohemia, and the Sassafrass. They’re all unique in their own right, and hold benefits worth making the trip for. Unlike the Lower Bay and its rivers, the Upper Bay’s rivers don’t host the pesky stinging sea nettles – so getting into the water to cool off and relax on a hot summer day is a much more enjoyable pastime.


Another great feature of these rivers, is that they are very easy to navigate with few obstacles, like submerged jetties and rocky shoals, saving both the boat and the captain’s pride from harm. Not far from the shoreline, the hard sandy bottom changes to a soft oozy mud – quite forgiving to any boat bottom, propeller, and again, captain’s ego.


Upper Bay Dock & Dine spots

To get a real “taste” for this area, simply cruise on up to the many dock & dine spots to pick crabs and savor local seafood. The intoxicating aroma of Old Bay seasoning practically guides you in. From dock dive bars to upscale restaurants featuring farm-to-table ingredients, chefs are creating dishes you won’t be able to wait to devour. With the region’s abundant crab population and wealth of delectable sea creatures, there’s no end to the options. Here are a few Upper Chesapeake Bay dock & dine restaurants just waiting for you to visit:


In charming Havre de Grace, MD, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, is Coakley’s Pub. It’s famous for its chicken wings coated with a seemingly endless choice of seasonings, but its menu offers everything from Irish eggrolls and salmon to filet Mignon. It also has a spectacular selection of signature cocktails you can sip on their outdoor patio bar area. Coakley’s doesn’t have its own dock, but it’s a short walk from the waterfront where you can dock at the Havre de Grace Yacht Basin.


Heading south, on the West River in Galesville, MD, is the Pirate’s Cove Restaurant and Dock Bar. It’s the place to enjoy fine classic and casual seafood dining year-round. From their patio, you can enjoy the scenic charm of the West River and even watch the sailboats competing in the Wednesday Night Races. And if you’re in the mood for a romantic, or just private, dinner on your boat, you can order a meal or beverage and they’ll deliver it right to you. That’s service!


The World-Famous Nauti Goose in North East, MD, with its two decks and five bars, is the place for casual waterfront dining with simple good eats and good drinks. Their crab dip appetizer comes highly recommended.


A crab lover’s dream, Bo Brooks Crab House, in Baltimore, MD, has been serving up the regional beauties since 1964. Their Maryland crab soup is legendary and a secret family recipe – and chock-full of Blue Crab meat.


Where to dock to enjoy the Upper Bay?

Once you make it to the Upper Chesapeake Bay, you want a full-service marina that will not only take care of you and your boat, but that also has plenty of things to do and explore. There are two sure to pass muster – with generous amenities, experienced staff and ideal locations.

One is the Nomad Marina at McDaniel Yacht Basin in North East, MD. In operation since 1954, and under new ownership and management now, McDaniel features more than 20 acres of well-protected anchorage and has more than 200 wet slips. The other marina worth visiting, also in North East, MD, is Nomad Marina at Shelter Cove Yacht Basin. The marina features 17 acres of anchorage and 150 wet slips. In addition to superior services, these marinas are nearby to the lively town of North East known for first-rate entertainment, local restaurants, retail shops and warm welcomes.


Written by: Jo Montgomery