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Chesapeake Bay's Best Crab Decks

Crabs in the Bay

By
Susan
Elnicki Wade

Around the Bay, images of the iconic red crustacean appear everywherefrom flags, hats and T-shirts to bumper stickers, menus and refrigerator magnets. Outsiders might wonder about a regional mascot with spindly little legs and oversized claws, but locals see this beloved aquatic creature as a symbol of summertime and a tasty reason for gathering family and friends.

The ingredients for an authentic Chesapeake crab feast are quite simple: a bushel of live crabs still kicking and snapping their claws, a picnic table covered with brown paper, wooden mallets for cracking stubborn shells and bright yellow canisters of Old Bay seasoning. A waterfront view and a dash of sunshine set the mood for perfect picking. Patience is required while waiting 25 minutes for crabs to steam, so creamy coleslaw, hushpuppies, silver queen corn and a bucket of cold beer stand at the ready to stave off hunger. When piles of hot red crabs finally land on the table, the bay's favorite epicurean rumpus begins.

Prying the shell open and liberating meat from the muck takes a little work. But when a nugget of tender jumbo lump reaches your tongue, you taste the essence of the bay and welcome the arrival of Chesapeake summer. If your stomach is now rumbling for sweet Maryland crabs, set your sites for these 12 destinations where you can eat your fill and savor the season's bounty.

CAPTAIN JAMES SEAFOOD PALACE & CRAB HOUSE - BALTIMORE, MD.

With a building that looks like a merchant ship docked on Boston Street and a wooden crab deck that floats above the waves, this family-owned restaurant has dished out fresh local seafood since the 1970s. Go for a dozen or all-you-can- eat steamed crabs accompanied by popular dishes such as crab soup, crab cakes and steamer pots bubbling with mussels, shrimp, clams or snow crab legs.

MIKE'S CRAB HOUSE NORTH - ARNOLD, MD.

Just off the Patapsco River awaits a crab picker's paradise that gets everything just right. The long waterfront deck holds rows of picnic tables shaded by umbrellas as red as the steamed crabs and shrimp beneath them. Music flows from the outdoor bar, where cool cocktails and brews magically appear in your hand. The spacious indoor dining area pays tribute to Bay watermen with nautical artwork and vintage photographs.

JIMMY CANTLER'S RIVERSIDE INN - ANNAPOLIS, MD.

It takes five generations of watermen to create a place as crab-friendly as Cantler's. Daily catch from the bay rolls in every morning on fishing boats, giving each seafood dish a freshness that's second to none. Families and neighbors pick crabs on the outdoor deck while children play on the pier. In shedding tanks near the water, crabs molt their outer shells and are brought to the kitchen to become fried soft-shell delicacies.

SKIPPER'S PIER RESTAURANT & DOCK BAR - DEALE, MD.

It's no surprise that a town like Deale that's packed with so many boats would be home to a fantastic waterside restaurant. Recent renovations to the double-deck dock bar make sunsets over Rockhold Creek an unforgettable experience. New chefs and an upgraded menu conjure up innovative dishes such as crab bruschetta and crab-crusted broiled oysters. Traditional steamers of crabs, clams and mussels remain big crowd pleasers.

GILLIGAN'S PIER - NEWBURG, MD.

If you prefer to pick crabs in a tropical setting, this is the place for you. Gilligan's 1.5-acre beach along the Potomac River, with dozens of swaying palm trees and tiki bars overflowing with orange crushes, creates an idyllic summer getaway. The menu is laced with crab dishes and gives a nod to the 1970s shipwreck sitcom with items such as Mary Anne's Salads, The Professor's Sandwiches and Thurston's fried seafood baskets.

WATERMAN'S CRAB HOUSE RESTAURANT & DOCK BAR - ROCK HALL, MD.

When a menu touts locally caught steamed crabs, along with award-winning stuffed rockfish and jumbo lump crab cakes, you've hit the seafood lovers' lottery. Plus, it's hard to resist the spectacular sunsets, live bands on weekends and 30 deep-water slips at this Upper Bay paradise. Caribbean steel drums on Sunday afternoon will make you consider calling in sick to work on Monday morning.

FISHERMAN'S INN & CRAB DECK - GRASONVILLE, MD.

A trinity of heavenly crabitude awaits on Kent Island: Fisherman's Inn Restaurant with the Nauti Mermaid Bar, the bustling waterfront Crab Deck and a seafood market to carry out all kinds of delectable seafood. Watch watermen unload bushels of crabs that are cooked to old-school bay standards and then served at your table. Steamed variety pots invite you to sample a medley of crabs, shrimp, clams and mussels.

THE CRAB CLAW RESTAURANT - ST. MICHAELS, MD.

The building was a clam- and oystershucking house in the 1950s, morphed into a seafood restaurant in 1965 and has been a haven for traditional Chesapeake seafood ever since. Waitresses deliver heavy trays piled high with steamed crabs to the waterfront deck, while guests inside the two-story dining rooms enjoy vintage maritime décor and a bird's eye view of St. Michael's beautiful harbor.

TIM'S II AT FAIRVIEW BEACH RESTAURANT & CRAB HOUSE - KING GEORGE, VA.

Dining out on a long wooden pier with a panoramic view is hard to beat. Tim's II has that fun waterfront set-up yet takes things up a notch with 12-foot tall red and yellow plastic palm trees, a beach area, live bands and cocktail tables sunk waist-high in the waves. Classic bay seafood dominates the menu with hot crabs, steamed shrimp and fish tacos leading the pack. Sunsets here are legendary.

URBANNA SEAFOOD MARKET & RAW BAR - URBANNA, VA.

The amiable market staff offers to wrap up seafood meals as carry-out, but the location along Robinson Creek is so lovely you'll want to dock your boat and stay for a while. Red and blue tarps are stretched across the wooden deck to protect diners from the sun's rays while they devour scrumptious home-style seafood. Steamer buckets of crabs, shrimp, clams and mussels are ideal for lazy summer days. The oysters are phenomenal.

THE SHANTY - CAPE CHARLES, VA.

It's new but authentic, traditional yet innovative. With only a few years under its dining service belt, The Shanty artfully combines opposing culinary concepts by tapping into the easy-going spirit of Virginia's Eastern Shore. Food here is simple and fresh - pulled straight out of the bay just before it hits your plate. After a hearty meal, parents can soak up magnificent views while kids keep themselves busy with cornhole and other games.

CRAB SHACK SEAFOOD RESTAURANT - NEWPORT NEWS, VA.

Located between a beach area and fishing pier overlooking the James River, this place is all about water, sun and local seafood. Since 1993, it has specialized in steamed hard-shell crabs and sautéed soft shells that are nurtured in shedding tanks on site. An impressive raw bar is stocked with regionally harvested oysters. The casual, family-friendly atmosphere makes it a terrific place to bring the entire crew for the day.

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The Captain Cider

Ingredients:

1.5 oz Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
1.5 oz Cranberry juice
1.5 oz Hard apple cider

Instructions:

Fill a rocks glass with ice and combine all ingredients. Gently stir and garnish with a cranberry and apple slice.

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Hot Captain Cider

Ingredients:

2 oz Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum
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Instructions:

Combine the rum and apple cider in a small pot and microwave or heat over a stove. Carefully pour drink into a mug and garnish with a cinnamon stick and apple slice.

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Maritime Museums in the Caribbean
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The Caribbean is well known for its clear blue tropical waters. But as rich as it is in beauty, the islands have an even greater wealth of his- tory. Luckily, museums are located across the region to share the stories and significant events that can provide glimpses of what maritime life was like throughout the years. Their exhibits, relics and archives will have you looking at the region in a whole new light.

Here are eight Maritime Museums: 

National Museum of Bermuda Flagpole

NATIONAL MUSEUM OF BERMUDA

You can find this treasure trove of artifacts in the Atlantic Ocean 650 miles east of North Carolina, the nearest land mass to this collection of islands. The museum shows how maritime events shaped the history, people and culture of Bermuda. It is located at the historic Royal Naval Dockyard within Bermuda’s largest fort. Exhibits cover 500 years of the country’s history from how the German U-505 submarine was captured by the U.S. Navy and concealed in Bermuda to how sailing races from North America to Bermuda have influenced the development of ocean-worthy boats and blue water sailing. Be sure to experience the museum’s unique spaces by strolling through the two-story boat loft to catching a dolphin show at the Keep Pond Terrace to taking in the expansive ocean views at the flagpole.

Where to Dock: Kings Wharf or Heritage Wharf

TURKS AND CAICOS NATIONAL MUSEUM

Turks and Caicos National Museum opened in 1991 to store artifacts found in the excavation of the Molasses Reef shipwreck, an unknown Spanish ship that sunk in 1515 on the Caicos Bank. The museum spans two locations: the Guinep House on Grand Turk Island, believed to be more than 180 years old and named after the large guinep tree on its property, and the Village at Grace Bay on Providenciales, where visitors can tour the Heritage House, an historically correct rendition of a typical 1800s Caicos dwelling. In addition to showcasing shipwreck artifacts, visitors also learn about the evolution of The Grand Turk Lighthouse as well as the rise and fall of the island’s salt industry. On Museum Day, the first Saturday in November, visitors can tour the exhibits for free, and in May, the Village at Grace Bay holds a “Back in the Day” event with activities reflecting historical life on the island.

Where to Dock: Blue Haven Resort & Marina

Map of the driving routes on the Grand Cayman Heritage Trail
Grand Cayman Heritage Trail Driving Routes | GCHT

MARITIME HERITAGE TRAIL & CAYMAN ISLANDS NATIONAL MUSEUM

If you like to take in history outdoors, these exhibitions are for you. The trail consists of 36 stops across all three islands (Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands) and is best traveled via car. Each stop is marked by a road sign that shares a notable historic event or contribution related to the maritime industry. Learn how turtling shaped the islands’ early economy, how ships were cleaned and repaired before boat lifts by a process called “careening”, and hear stories of notable shipwrecks. If you prefer to learn Cayman Island history in one place, you can check out the Cayman Islands National Museum, housed in Cayman’s oldest surviving public building, which has a series of permanent and rotating exhibits.

Where to Dock: The Barcadere Marina

COLUMBUS LIGHTHOUSE (FARO A COLÓN) MUSEUM IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Completed 500 years after Christopher Columbus arrived on the island of La Hispaniola, the Faro a Colon (aka The Columbus Lighthouse) is one of the Dominican Republic’s most popular attractions. Constructed in the shape of a Latin cross spanning the width of two soccer fields, the lighthouse was created to recognize the first “encounter between two worlds.” It includes a mausoleum that houses Christopher Columbus’ remains as well as a museum displaying original and replica artifacts from the time of Columbus’ voyage. The lighthouse also has a library containing documents and maps displaying some of the earliest drawings of the Americas.

Where to Dock: Marina Zarpar

Boats in the water with green hills in the background
Nelson's Dockyard | Source Alexa Zizzi

NELSON’S DOCKYARD IN ANTIGUA

The Antigua Naval Dockyard, now named Nelson’s Dockyard, was built in the mid-1700s to serve as a strategic post and support the Royal Navy battle against the French and protect trade routes in the region. The dockyard officially closed in 1889 and reopened in 1961 as an historic site. In addition to exploring the dockyard, take advantage of the park’s 12 miles of hiking trails, two forts, and tours such as the “Rum in the Ruins” where you can listen to stories of the dockyard while sipping on a cocktail. If traveling by boat, get the best view of the gorgeous English Harbour and snag a slip at nearby Nelson’s Dockyard Marina, the only continuously working Georgian Era dockyard in the world.

Where to Dock: Nelson’s Dockyard Marina

BEQUIA HERITAGE MUSEUM

Opened in 2020, the Bequia Heritage Museum includes the Boat Museum and Annexe that display and educate visitors about the boatbuilding and whaling industries as well as artifacts dating back to the period of the island’s European settlement. Vessels on display at the museum include a traditional Amerindian dug-out canoe and the decommissioned boat, Rescue, that was originally used for whaling.

Where to Dock: Bequia Marina

Curaçao Maritime Museum | Credit CP Hoffman

CURAÇAO MARITIME MUSEUM

Located in a mansion built in 1729 on the Waaigat inlet, the Curaçao Maritime Museum shares with visitors the story and events that influenced Curaçao’s involvement in the maritime industry. Learn how trade ebbed and flowed in and out of Curaçao’s ports, reflective of the events happening around the world to the arrival of the first cruise ship in 1901 from New York, sparking the cruise tourism industry until the 1970s when air travel took over as the primary way for tourists to visit the island. Visitors can explore the museum at their own pace or take a guided tour.

Where to Dock: Seru Boca Marina

GRAND BAHAMA MUSEUM

With a decent internet connection, you can visit the Grand Bahama Museum from the comforts of your remote anchorage or mooring. Bahamian history and culture are explored through digital exhibits ranging from the islands’ natural landscapes and the history of the port authority to the role the Bahamas played during the Golden Age of Piracy. Learn about the first recorded piece of mail sent from the Bahamas in 1761 and the evolution of mailboats. Or savor a dark and stormy while reading about the Bahamas’ role in the rum-running industry during U.S. Prohibition. The Grand Bahama Museum was originally housed at The Garden of the Groves but was unfortunately destroyed by weather and time. To reach a wider audience and share Bahamian history and culture, the museum decided to move to a digital platform.

Where to Dock: Grand Bahama Yacht Club or Flamingo Bay Hotel & Marina

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Florida's Fall Calendar of Events 2022
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From the Gulf to the Atlantic and every bay in between, boaters and their families have plenty to look forward to on the Florida coasts this fall. Start the season with a couple of pints at Oktoberfest and spooks at a haunted ghost tour, throw in a boating event or two, and round it out with a lighted boat parade.

OCTOBER

Black trolley with "Ghosts and Gravestones" logo on the side
Source: Adonis Paul Hunter

HAUNTED GHOST TOURS

St. Augustine

Daily/weekly

Learn about the haunted history in the oldest city in the United States through the lens of the undead. Get tickets for haunted pub crawls, trolly tours and walking tours. You’ll get in the Halloween spirit and learn the stories behind St. Augustine’s most spirited locations from professional storytellers with just the right amount of spook. Kids are welcome on trolly and walking tours, and pets are allowed on walking tours! Check out Ghost Tours of St. Augustine or Ghosts & Gravestones.

Where to Dock: Camachee Cove Yacht Harbor

Band walking in a parade playing tubas
Oktoberfest | Credit Pixabay

OKTOBERFEST

Jacksonville Beach, Tampa

October 7-9

Kick off the fall season with Oktoberfest on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast with Beaches Oktoberfest and Oktoberfest Tampa. With Tampa’s event ranking in the top five in the country and Jacksonville Beach’s being the largest in the state, you’re sure to find the brew for you! beachesoktoberfest.com

Where to Dock: Fort George Island Marina (Jacksonville), Westshore Yacht Club (Tampa)

FLORIDA BIRDING & NATURE FESTIVAL

Apollo Beach

October 20-23

Just across the Bay from Tampa and St. Pete, Apollo Beach is teeming with wildlife on land and on the water. At this four-day festival, you’ll find a free expo with nature organizations and artwork, daily field and boat trips to sites not accessible to the public, and expert wildlife and conservation seminars. Nature aficionados won’t want to miss this opportunity at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Suncoast Youth Conservation Center.

Where to Dock: Apollo Beach Marina

PALM BEACH KENNEL CLUB 2022 MUTT DERBY

West Palm Beach

October 22

Has your dog always wanted to be an (un)professional racer? Now is Fido’s time to shine! Register your pup for a day full of zoomies, Doggie Costume Contest, and plenty of BBQ and entertainment for the whole family. Proceeds benefit Furry Friends Adoption, Clinic & Ranch.

Where to Dock: Palm Harbor Marina

Jazz band on stage under bright lights playing instruments

CLEARWATER JAZZ HOLIDAY

Clearwater

October 14-16

No matter your music taste, you’re sure to find something to jam out to at this three-day festival, from smooth jazz and blues to funk and zydeco. You’ll find plenty of vendors at the festival, and Tampa’s Ybor City neighborhood offers old-school charm and Latin American eateries. St. Petersburg offers hip breweries, coffee shops and more.

Where to Dock: Clearwater Beach Municipal Marina

SARASOTA WATER LANTERN FESTIVAL

Sarasota

October 22

Join in a celebration of life at the Water Lantern Festival this fall. Start the day with food trucks, music and family- friendly fun, and end by releasing your personalized lantern on the water at sunset.

Where to Dock: Marina Jack

Two dark grey mega-yachts docked at the boat show
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show | Credit Informa Markets

FORT LAUDERDALE INTERNATIONAL BOAT SHOW

Fort Lauderdale

October 26-30

The largest in-water boat show in the world offers viewings and demos of everything from superyachts to kayaks and fishing gear. Stop by the Superyacht Village to sip a cocktail on one of the most luxurious boats in the world, the Convention Center for watersport and innovative boating gear demos, and take the family to a kid-friendly fishing seminar.

Where to Dock: 17th Street Yacht Basin, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Pier 66 Hotel & Marina

NAPLES STONE CRAB FESTIVAL

Naples

October 28-30

Join the Old Naples Waterfront Association in the historic center to kick off stone crab season! Eat stone crab to your heart’s content in a prime harvesting location of the tasty crustacean and enjoy plenty of entertainment, from live music to local galleries and craft vendors. floridarambler.com/florida-festivals/ florida-seafood-festivals-calendar

Where to Dock: Naples Bay Resort & Marina

NOVEMBER

close up view of a seafood platter with vegetables, salmon, scallops, and shrimp
Florida Seafood Festival | Source VISIT FLORIDA

58TH ANNUAL FLORIDA SEAFOOD FESTIVAL

Apalachicola

November 4-5

Cruise to the charming Apalachicola, tucked away among expansive wildlife reserves and just a bay away from the Gulf. Along with some of the best oysters and seafood you can eat, the whole family will enjoy a parade, carnival, Blessing of the Fleet, hours of live music every day, and competitions such as the oyster shucking contest and blue crab races.  

Where to Dock: Apalachicola Marina

RIGHT WHALE FESTIVAL

Fernandina Beach

November 5

Celebrate the annual return of the North Atlantic right whale to the coasts of Florida and Georgia to give birth and nurse their young in historic Fernandina Beach. Learn about threats and conservation efforts for these gentle giants, participate in a beach clean-up, and enjoy family fun at educational exhibits, athletic events, and food and craft vendors.

Where to Dock: Oasis Marinas at Fernandina Beach

KEY WEST OFFSHORE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP

Key West

November 6-13

Cruise to Key West for three days of epic racing and a full week of family-friendly fun. Don’t miss the World’s Fastest Boat Parade on the first Sunday, or any three of the races throughout the week: the Truman Waterfront Cup, Southernmost Continental Champion, and Championship. Use downtime to explore the Race Village at Truman Waterfront and try out local pubs, shops and restaurants.

Where to Dock: Conch Harbor Marina

crowd on the beach admiring a large sand sculpture
Credit JJS Photo

SIESTA KEY CRYSTAL CLASSIC INTERNATIONAL SAND SCULPTING FESTIVAL

Sarasota

November 11-14

Visit Siesta Key Beach to watch sculptors from around the world turn piles of white sand into sculpted masterpieces. Professional competitors have 24 hours to build their pieces, and visitors have the chance to participate in amateur sand-sculpting competitions and see the masters at work.  

Where to Dock: Safe Harbor Siesta Key

SARASOTA FALL FINE ART FESTIVAL

Sarasota

November 19-20

Art connoisseurs and amateurs alike will love this boutique art competition and festival in the scenic cultural center of Sarasota. Masters of different media—ceramics, jewelry, graphic art, painting, and more—will put the best of their work on display for patrons to browse and buy to their hearts’ content.

Where to Dock: Marina Jack

Mansion at night-time with palm trees filled with warm white holiday lights
St. Augustine Night of Lights | Source Om Flickr

ST. AUGUSTINE NIGHT OF LIGHTS

St. Augustine

November 19-January 31

Ready to get in the holiday spirit? Cruise back to St. Augustine as early as before Thanksgiving for a dazzling display of more than 3 million lights in the historic district. Gaze in awe at the twinkly lights and find photo ops at the Bridge of Lions and the Christmas tree at the center of Plaza de la Constitución. Enjoy the sounds of the All Star Orchestra on the first night and stroll to businesses open later than usual.

Where to Dock: St. Augustine Municipal Marina

DECEMBER

ART BASEL

Miami Beach

December 1-3

Since the 1970s, this annual art extravaganza brings works of contemporary and modern pieces by renowed and emerging artists from around the world to showcase in Miami. Held at the Miami Beach Convention Center, for three days the public can gaze upon unique masterpieces presented by leading galleries from five continents.

Where to Dock: Sunset Harbour Yacht Club

OCEAN REEF CLUB VINTAGE WEEKEND

Key Largo, FL

December 1-4

This annual four-day event showcases classic antique yachts, automobiles and aircraft to celebrate those who restore vintage collections. Experience a full schedule of events kicking off with a welcome party and dinner buffet on Thursday, then a weekend packed with drive-bys, shows, dinners, cocktail receptions, a costume party and more.

Where to Dock: Ocean Reef Club

HOLIDAY BOAT PARADES

With so many spectacular lighted boat parades on the coasts of Florida, we couldn’t choose just one! Dock at any of these coastal towns on the first three Saturdays of December to ring in the season on the festive Florida waterfronts.

Palm trees lined with warm white holiday lights and a sunset with boats in the background
Credit Florida Historic Coast

Daytona Beach Christmas Boat Parade
December 3


Palm Coast Yacht Club Holiday Boat Parade
December 3


The Seminole Hard Rock Winter Boat Parade
December 10


St. Augustine Regatta of Lights
December 10


Naples Bay Christmas Boat Parade
December 10


Northwest Cape Coral 2nd Annual Boat Parade
December 17

Read More

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