Best of the Bay

In our annual Best of the Bay issue, we let you decide on long-running points of contention like, “What’s the best crab soup on the Chesapeake?” A true connoisseur would say there are three distinct categories of crab soup, and it would be imprudent to lump Maryland crab, cream of crab, and she crab soups into just one category. So of course, we list all three.

Other titles are even tougher to debate. “Most Charming Chesapeake Town” Sheesh, aren’t they all? Because the Chesapeake region is large (11,684 miles of shoreline, to be exact), we felt it fair to recognize winners in both Maryland and Virginia for this year’s Boating, Living, and Food categories.

We hope that you’ll consider these Best of the Bay awards not just points of pride for the people, businesses, and locales named winners; we hope you’ll use the winners as a guide to inspire future adventures on and around the Bay. Who better than your fellow readers, who hail from all pockets of the Chesapeake, to introduce you to a new favorite?

Catching a spunky rockfish on a top water fly ranks high on the list of best things about the Chesapeake, but it’s just one experience on a long list that includes stalking speckled trout and puppy drum in the skinny waters surrounding our marsh islands, wrestling with brutish cobia, outwitting houndfish, playing chess with freshwater trout, or seeking out the less glamorous Chesapeake species like spadefish, blue cats or snakeheads. Crabbing is just pure fun. Click here to see the winners.

A great thing about food is it gives you reason to explore. Be it driving out of the way to lunch on a favorite waterfront deck, taking a day to sample sips at a local vineyard, or devoting a weekend to slurping up oysters in Virginia’s Northern Neck, food gives you a reason to get out of the house and get out of your routine, whether revisiting an old favorite or checking out something new. And those excursions lead to new memories, which layer onto the flavor of bygone meals. Click here to see the winners.

For those with “day boats,” whether skiffs or runabouts, the Chesapeake gives us so much water for exploring, gunkholing, day cruises, sunset-watching, picnics, and tow sports, plus a cornucopia of fishing opportunities. Some develop lifelong loves for home waterways, while others take advantage of hundreds of launch ramps.

Even better, the Bay blesses us with four distinct seasons, at least three ripe for boating, within limits of prudence. Even the Chesapeake’s winter, though an acquired taste, invites us out for ventures afloat or walks along favorite beaches. For all of these reasons, we celebrate all that our Best Bay gives us every day. Click here to see the winners.

With over 200 photos submitted to the CBM Reader’s Photo Contest this year, the bar was set pretty high. We all know how beautiful the Bay is but to be able to capture it on film takes a keen eye and steady hand. Here is our selection of the best reader-submitted photos. Click here to see the winners.

Check out last year’s winners here.