Maryland is one of the US' great maritime states and its capital Annapolis remains an essential stop-off for anyone sailing the eastern seaboard. And as well as the boating itself, Maryland has some of the country's best seafood - particularly crab - and some wonderful smaller waterfront communities. But it's appeal is not all marine - there are plenty of lively family attractions in the big city of Baltimore, and a handful of significant sites preserving Quaker and Civil War history.
On 17 September, 1862, 23,000 men were killed or wounded at the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle in the American Civil War. George B. McClellan's Union forces clashed with the Confederate Army of North Virginia, and when the blood and dust settled after relentless hours of combat, the Confederate advance into Northern territory had been savagely stopped. The victory prompted President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and shifted the war into a whole new stage. At the site today a visitor center screens two films and showcases numerous exhibits on the battle and its historical context, and there are also signposted walking and driving routes through the battlefield.
Getting there: The Antietam National Battlefield is located a 1.5-hour drive northwest of both Baltimore and Washington DC and makes for an easy day trip from both. The closest airport is the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, which is just a bit closer than Baltimore.
Baltimore's Inner Harbor is a treasure trove of attractions and activities, arrayed around the masts and mooring points of the city's picturesque harbour. A fleet of cruise boats showcase the sights of the town, some with a focus on narrative history and some take it slow and relaxing as the city passes by. Onshore, there's a nationally renowned Aquarium, with a walk-through rainforest and impressive 4-D Immersion Theater, alongside a sprinkling of museums on topics from science to maritime history. There's a gleaming Discovery Center for kids, a big mall for shopaholics, and plenty of restaurants to refuel after a day's sightseeing. Then at night the families leave and the clubs and bars open, as the area transforms into a buzzing nightlife quarter.
Getting there: Baltimore is a quick 50-minute drive northeast of Washington DC and can be easily visited by travelers based in DC. Otherwise, the city is connected to the rest of America via the Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
This fresh and scenic state park centers on a pair of waterfalls, the Big and Little Gunpowder Falls, and the Gunpowder River that feeds them. Tidal wetlands shelter a vocal bird population, while craggy hills and leafy forests roll out from the park's eponymous waterways. Threading through all this are over 100 miles of hiking trails, and if you get tired of travelling by foot, there's also a swimming beach, a marina, and several streams ideal for traversing via kayak. And the park also opens a small window onto Maryland's history at the Jerusalem Mill Village, a living history museum with various buildings that once composed a Quaker village.
Getting there: The Gunpowder Falls State Park is less than a 30-minute drive north of Baltimore and makes for a great day out.
Maryland's state capital, Annapolis, is one of the country's great maritime cities, and it remains a terrific place to tune into the romance of the open sea. Visitors head to the port, the heart of the town's economy for most of its history, where awaits a terrific Maritime Museum, appropriately housed in the area's only remaining oyster packing plant. Then from there, it's a quick trip onto Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in North America and a mecca for the country's hobbyist sailors. There are many ways to do so – some take their own boat, compete in a race, rent a paddle boat, or take a tour aboard a schooner, cruise ship or kayak.Visitors who also have a bit of time can drop into the US Naval Academy, the contemporary center of Maryland's maritime world, before finishing off the day feasting on the region's famous steamed crabs at, for example, the superlative Boatyard Bar & Grill.
Getting there: Annapolis is about equal distance from both Washington DC and Baltimore, 50 minutes by car. Travelers wanting to fly to Annapolis will first have to land in either Washington or Baltimore and drive.
Over the Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis lies a peninsula with a stretch of shoreline known as the Eastern Shore, which is perennially the most popular tourist destination in Maryland. Strewn along the waterfront are a series of historic towns and resort communities, interspersed with areas of remarkable natural beauty. Hopping from one pretty town to another is best way to explore the area: from the art galleries and antique shopping of Chesapeake City, it's a scenic picturesque 30 mile drive to Chestertown, an important port of arrival for early settlers with several restored colonial homes and churches. There are also plentiful opportunities for swimming, biking, playing golf, birdwatching and fishing, and the towns hold various colorful annual events such as seafood festivals, fishing tournaments and boating regattas.
Getting there: Ocean City, Maryland, is about as remote as it gets in Maryland. The city is situated almost a three-hour drive from both Baltimore and Washington DC. As far as air travel goes, travelers have their choice of flying to either Baltimore, Washington or Philadelphia.