Some of the best cruising on the Chesapeake Bay is at Kent Narrows. Tag along with Chesapeake Bay Magazine for a tour of this laidback locale—a Bay island adventure that will have you dreaming of summer.
- Located on the eastern edge of Kent Island, 6 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
- Established 1631 as the first permanent English settlement in what is now Maryland, and the third oldest after Jamestown, Va. and Plymouth, Mass.
- The Bay’s largest island, it spans approximately 31 square miles.
What Makes It Unique
You probably know that Kent Narrows is where the Chesapeake Bay goes to cut loose. Its shoreline—less than a mile from top to bottom—has dock bars galore, from Red Eye’s Dock Bar on the Chester River side to The Jetty on the Eastern Bay side. Boats cruise the Narrows to see and be seen, and happy hours can last into the wee hours. Yet as fun as all that is, this is also the domain of the watermen who work out of the Narrows, harvesting the Bay’s bounty as they have for generations. There are great places to put in a kayak or SUP to explore the local streams, or you can climb on a bicycle to follow the Cross Island Trail. If you come for the party, don’t miss the other aspects that make it a great weekend spot.
Kent Narrows is a destination practically custom-made for smaller, shallower-draft boats; it’s the quick in-and-out nature of the dock-and-dine experience that is the star here. Not that Kent Narrows is out of the question for larger cruising boats—it’s doable, but can be a challenge for less maneuverable boats, especially those with an air draft of 18 feet or more. There’s a quick current, and in season the bridge only opens on the hour and half-hour. (As many cruisers know, it’s hard to hold place in a busy, narrow channel with a strong current.) For larger boats, a good option is to choose a marina on one side or other of the Kent Narrows bascule bridge so you don’t need to bother going through it at all.
For those of you arriving from the south—say, anything from Annapolis on down—Kent Narrows is 13 miles inside Eastern Bay, measured from its entrance buoy, green “1K”. From the north—say, anything from Baltimore north—the Narrows is six miles south of Love Point Light at the entrance to the Chester River.
From the Western Shore, take U.S. 50/301 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and across Kent Island to exits 41 or 42. Either one will do, but 41 will give you easier access to the west side of Kent Narrows and 42 to the east. You can always just cross the Watermen’s Bridge on Rte. 18 if you end up on the wrong side.
North of the bridge, Piney Narrows Yacht Haven occupies a basin cut into the west side. It’s pretty quiet, as the restaurants and dock bars are on the east side, and most of them south of the bridge. It’s next door to Ferry Point Park, with its trails, woods and marshes. To reach the restaurants and dock bars, you can either dinghy across or use the Cross Island Trail by foot or bike.
Safe Harbor Narrows Point North on the east side has plenty of slips and plenty to keep you occupied, including an Olympic-size pool and easy access to the Red Eye’s Dock Bar and Harris Crab House. To explore Ferry Point Park, just walk, bicycle or dinghy over.
South of the bridge on the east side of the Narrows, Wells Cove Marina has some transient slips and is convenient to hot spots like Jetty Dock Bar and Bridges Restaurant. Wells Cove has a depth of about five feet inside and can accommodate boats up to about 46 feet. (It’s also home to most of the Narrows head boats, so if fishing is in your plans you’ll be in the right place.) Formerly Lippincott, Cedar Point Marina is owned by the same well-respected family who runs Chesapeake Whalertowne in Grasonville and Annapolis. Its entrance channel avoids the Narrows South Channel altogether, making it ideal for larger and deeper-draft boats, and it can take boats up to 72 feet.
If you need boat work done, you’ll find reputable service facilities at Cedar Point and Kent Narrows Yacht Yard.
At Kent Narrows Boatel, next to Piney Narrows, they’ll store your boat on an inside rack, then bring it down to a floating dock when you’re ready for it. The onsite concierge service can stock it with goods, and the full-service Swan Cove Spa allows you to multitask while you wait. Summer 2022 brings the debut of Dockhouse Restaurant, overlooking the channel.
Staying on Land
Hilton Garden Inn Kent Narrows is a clean, contemporary 91-room hotel overlooking Wells Cove, with comfy rooms, onsite breakfast and an indoor pool. Book a balcony room to take in the lively goings-on at The Jetty next door.
If you want something quieter, ask for the opposite.
Hyatt Place Kent Narrows & Marina is a welcome addition due to open in the heart of Fisherman’s Village in fall 2022, with 120 waterview rooms, an indoor pool and fitness center, conference space and a 40-slip marina.
Exploring by Water
We don’t recommend that you launch your paddle craft directly onto Kent Narrows; the strong current and heavy boat traffic make it a tricky and dangerous proposition. There are plenty of alternatives, however. At Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center, you can launch your kayak or SUP into the quiet waters of Prospect Bay. The Cabin Creek Water Trail runs the edge of Prospect Bay to Cabin Creek, for about 3.5 miles. (CBEC has rental kayaks as well; book ahead online.) To explore Eastern Bay west of the Narrows, launch at Goodhands Creek Landing for the 2.5-mile loop around Hog Island.
North of the Narrows, launch from Jackson Creek Landing and make the loop of the creek. Ferry Point Nature Park is another great launch spot. From here, you’ll find a good paddle to the west by looping Piney Creek. This is best in light winds, since the wind has a long fetch down the north-south leg of the Chester River.
SipAhoy TikiBoat offers 90-minute cruises on a thatched-roof pontoon boat (choose 6 or 16 passengers), operating out of Safe Harbor Marina North. You bring the beer, wine, snacks and friends; they’ll supply the captain and take you for a spin around the surrounding creeks.
Kent Narrows is minutes away from world-class fishing grounds. Fish from your own boat, charter a captain or show up at Wells Cove Marina to board a headboat like Miss Violet or Captain Tyrone Charters’ Island Queen II.
Or arrange a crabbing cruise with Spittin’ Feathers Outfitters , which docks at Harris Crab House. You’ll find more options at kentnarrowsmd.com, a fantastic online resource.
Exploring by Land
The Watermen’s Way Heritage Trail begins at the Chesapeake Heritage & Visitors Center (where you can also pick up a copy of the Trail brochure) and goes on to eight sites in the area, including the Watermen’s Memorial Drawbridge (aka Kent Narrows Bascule Bridge), the Maryland Watermen’s Monument and a stop at Fisherman’s Inn to see Betty Schulz’s collection of 400 vintage oyster plates.
Ferry Point Nature Park has 41 acres of tidal and non-tidal wetlands, surrounded by three bodies of water: Chester River, Kent Narrows and Piney Creek. A stroll on the mile-long wetland waterfront will do you a world of good, as will just sitting on a bench and taking it all in. Interpretaive signage tells you what you’re looking at.
The Kent Island Cross Island Trail can be done on foot or by bicycle. Park under the west side of the bascule bridge and pick it up there, or just walk across the bridge and begin. The 6.5-mile trail passes through marshes, woods and farmland, ending at Terrapin Park overlooking Bay, with a number of access points along the way.
Maryland’s Eastern and Western shores mix and mingle at the slew of dock bars. Big Owl Tiki Bar and The Jetty are both located on the south side of the bridge; Red Eye’s Dock Bar is on the north. All three feature open-air dockside seating, with plenty of room for tying up; cold beer, cocktails and icy crushes; causal, fun menus (think rockfish tenders, steamed shrimp, wings and more) and live bands most nights in season.
Kent Island is home to a bevy of classics that have been there for decades, each with its own loyal following. You can’t miss the bright blue exterior of Fisherman’s Inn. They’ve been serving fresh seafood since 1930 and open their neighboring Crab Deck in summer months. Along with the food, we love the vintage vibe, including a model train that runs through the rafters and their collection of oyster plates. The Harris Crab House family has been in the seafood business for four generations, with the restaurant since 1985; steamed crabs on their marina-front deck is a summer staple, but they’re open year-round. The Narrows, owned by a longtime Annapolis restaurant family since 1983, is known for their crabcakes and crab imperial. Bridges Restaurant opened in 2010 and puts a high-end spin on Chesapeake cuisine, with fresh salads and seafood along with pizzas and steaks. We love the abundant café tables spread around their waterside patio, and they do dockside delivery to go as well. Lastly, don’t miss Dessert First, a dockside sweets shop run out of Harris Crab House, for baked goods, ice cream and Rise Up coffee drinks.
The full-service Bay Bridge Marina sits on the western shore of the island at the foot of the Bay Bridge, and accepts boats up to 70 feet. It’s a short walk to the Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, a boutique hotel with 77 rooms, a freestanding spa, takeout gourmet market and loads of event space. (It’s a favorite wedding space for the mid-Atlantic.) Enjoy stellar Bay-to-table eats at Knoxie’s Table or their newest outlet, Libbey’s Coastal Kitchen; set in the former Hemingway’s, overlooking the Bay Bridge, the food and service is now as stellar as the view.