Chesapeake Bay USA: Captivating Culture

Discover the beauty and culture of the Chesapeake Bay via more than 130 gateways, including parks, wildlife refuges, maritime museums, historic sites and water trails in and around Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge, gateway to Maryland's Eastern Shore
Annapolis, Maryland waterfront
Annapolis, Maryland - America's Sailing Capital
Aerial view of Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland
Fort McHenry, birthplace of the United States National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner”
Hooper Strait Lighthouse, Maryland
Discover Maryland's maritime history at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, St. Michaels
Stratford Hall Plantation, Virginia
Walking the grounds of Stratford Hall Plantation, Virginia
Ships at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia
Jamestown Settlement, replicas of the three ships that sailed from England to Virginia in 1607
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Annapolis, Maryland waterfront
Aerial view of Fort McHenry, Baltimore, Maryland
Hooper Strait Lighthouse, Maryland
Stratford Hall Plantation, Virginia
Ships at Jamestown Settlement, Virginia

Just off the Atlantic Coast, the massive Chesapeake Bay is America’s largest estuary and a key part of the region’s culture, economy and cuisine. Chesapeake Bay gateways include parks, wildlife refuges, maritime museums, historic sites and water trails. Explore the entry points below to pick your preferred way of experiencing this noteworthy natural attraction.

Maryland

Annapolis Maritime Museum
The museum is located on the shores of Back Creek and boasts unequaled views of Annapolis Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay. Take a once-in-a-lifetime tour of the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, an icon of the Bay.

Fort McHenry National Monument & Historic Shrine 
Fort McHenry successfully defended Baltimore from the British during the War of 1812 and is the birthplace of the United States' national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key.

USS Constellation 
Launched in 1854, the USS Constellation is the last all-sail ship built by the U.S. Navy. Discover life on board this Civil War-era vessel through demonstrations and activities.

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge 
Encompassing more than 25,000 acres on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge is a major stop on the Atlantic Flyway. Huge flocks of ducks, geese and swans migrate through the refuge in November and December. Blackwater is home to the largest nesting population of American bald eagles on the East Coast.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum 
The museum’s twelve exhibit buildings sit on 18 waterfront acres offering vistas of the beautiful Miles River. Encounter Chesapeake Bay history first-hand through the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, a working boatyard, traditional craftsmen and original exhibits.

Historic St. Mary’s City 
Historic St. Mary's City is the site of Maryland's first capital and the fourth permanent settlement in British North America.

Virginia

Great Falls Park 
At Great Falls, the Potomac River builds up speed and force as it falls over a series of steep, jagged rocks and flows through the narrow Mather Gorge. The Patowmack Canal offers a glimpse into the early history of this country.

George Washington Birthplace National Monument 
George Washington was born on his father's Popes Creek tobacco farm on Feb. 22, 1732. See costumed interpreters recreate the sights, sounds and smells of 18th-century plantation life.

Stratford Hall Plantation
Stratford Hall is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee and the boyhood home of Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, the only brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. The plantation encompasses 1900 acres of farmlands and forests on a high bluff overlooking the Potomac River.

Yorktown Visitor Center & Battlefield 
Yorktown Battlefield is site of the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War.

Jamestown Island
Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World. On May 13, 1607, 104 Englishmen arrived in three small ships and moored them to the trees on this island. The following day, the English came ashore – never to leave.

First Landing State Park 
On April 26, 1607, English settlers landed here and established the first elective government in English America before pushing up the James River to establish Jamestown. The park offers a chance to explore a habitat featuring lagoons, large cypress trees and rare plants. 

Washington, DC

Anacostia Park
Authorized almost 100 years ago as a multi-use park, Anacostia Park serves as a playground while protecting the natural scenery and water quality of the Anacostia River.

Related: 
Outdoors & Nature