With your toes in the sand and a cool cocktail in your hand, you might feel like you're lounging on a Caribbean island. But those swaying palm trees above your head are planted along the Chesapeake Bay, creating a getaway groove without the hassle of passports or long international flights.
The sunny shores of Maryland and Virginia are popping with places that bring the tropics to you. They feature tiki masks grinning on bamboo walls, sunsets splashing heavenly colors upon the water, and soft sands beckoning you to unfold a beach chair and relax. Extra bonus: The Bay's unique spin on tiki time mixes citrus juices into a delectable libation called the Orange Crush and showcases local seafood delicacies with steamed crabs taking center stage.
This summer, take a tropical tour of Polynesian-inspired dock bars and beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. Marinalife has pulled together the following list of 12 tiki spots and a map to guide the way. Let's see how many you can visit this season!
White Stone, VA, 804-436-1818
Where the Rappahannock River flows into the Chesapeake Bay awaits an ultimate beachy getaway with a panoramic waterfront view. Extensive renovations to the marina, facility, docks and swimming pool create a boater's paradise. Kick back on the massive stone patio or grab a bite of casual fare at turquoise picnic tables while live music and salty breezes fill the air.
Where to Dock: Windmill Point Yachting & Fishing Center
Colonial Beach, VA, 804-224-8433
When pirates hook up with tiki revelers on a 2.5-mile beach along the Potomac River, good times are guaranteed. Since 2005, the restaurant has prepared superb seafood and steaks on the boardwalk. When they added a tiki bar in 2009, guests could leave their flip-flops under wooden tables and dance barefoot in the sand under strings of cheery lights. In summer, the historic seaport town bustles with eateries, beach shops and antique stores.
Where to Dock: Bayside Marina & Cottage
Newburg, MD, 301-259-4514
On the Potomac River shoreline, truckloads of sand and dozens of palm trees pay homage to the castaway spirit of the 1960s sitcom Gilligan's Island. The 1.5-acre beach caters to families by day and dance parties by night. Amenities: a grass skirt tiki bar, picnic tables in the water, volleyball courts and a sand hill for kids. Enjoy steamed crabs, casual food and signature drinks called Swamp Water and Pier Punch. Tie up at the dock, or anchor and let the water taxi bring you to this southern Maryland tiki utopia.
Where to Dock: The Docks at Gilligan's Pier
Solomons, MD, 410-326-4075
When you arrive at Solomons Tiki Bar, you have reached the Bay's epicenter of Polynesian pleasure. This open-air bar is famous for its signature Mai Tai, but bartenders also deliver fruity cocktails from the Kokomo to the Pink Panty (raspberry vodka mixed with Crystal Light). Located on Back Creek off the Patuxent River, this destination rocks with palm trees, tiki décor, huge Easter Island stone heads, colorful beach chairs in the sand and live music.
Where to Dock: Harbor Island Marina
The New Sue Island Grill & Crabhouse
Essex, MD, 410-574-0009
There's always something happening at this sprawling tiki treasure off Middle River local bands, Taco Tuesday, Music Bingo, Open Mic Jam Night, an annual car show and more. Friends gather here to toss cornhole, eat fresh local crabs and seafood, and share good times in an upbeat location filled with palm trees and fun.
Where to Dock: Sue Island Marina
Essex, MD, 443-559-9158
You might have a hard time choosing which crush flavor will wet your whistle -- orange, grapefruit, blueberry, pineapple/strawberry or lemon --- but everything else at Crazy Tuna is about easy living. A festive tiki bar, picnic tables in the sand, a waterfront view and terrific food make this place a local favorite. Crabs and seafood dominate the menu, accompanied by a nice selection of chicken, burgers, salads and scrumptious entrees.
Where to Dock: The Marina at Crazy Tuna
Middle River, MD, 410-630-2031
Sunset Cove makes you want to sneak out of work early on a Friday afternoon and wash away your cares watching boats cruise along Frog Mortar Creek. Grab a fruity drink at the outdoor tiki bar and take a dip in the cool waters flanked by tropical foliage. The restaurant has a comfy vibe and chefs who combine crabs and local seafood with dishes that sport Caribbean and Tex-Mex flare.
Where to Dock: Maryland Marina
Port Deposit, MD, 443-747-4006
Cruise to the top of the Bay where a conga line of bridges crosses over the Susquehanna waters. At this lively and welcoming location, a 3,000-foot wooden deck wraps around the restaurant that serves good local seafood, meaty entrees, and specialty drinks. Kids turn into happy scallywags at a pirate ship playground, and boaters enjoy 1,100 feet of free dockage. Everyone relishes the riverside view.
Where to Dock: Tome's Landing Marina
Tolchester Beach, MD, 410-778-1400
About a short boat ride north of the Bay Bridge delivers you to the laid-back lifestyle at the Shanty. Open on weekends in the summer, the thatched roof building is home to a live band concert series and refreshing Mudslide cocktails. Big wooden decks right on the beach, wide umbrellas and plush tropical plants create a jolly vibe. Sunsets will take your breath away.
Where to Dock: Tolchester Marina
Dirty Dave's Tiki Bar & Kentmorr Restaurant
Stevensville, MD, 410-643-2263
With the iconic image of the Bay Bridge in the distance, it's hard to imagine a more idyllic location for tiki on the Chesapeake. The thatched roof tiki bar and snack shack are surrounded by a sandy beach, palm trees, lazy-day hammocks, and patrons holding fresh-squeezed Orange Crushes and tropical cocktails. If a day in the sun sparks a hearty appetite, head next door to Kentmorr's for excellent seafood straight from the docks.
Where to Dock: Kentmorr Marina
Whitehaven, MD, 410-546-5443
Red Roost Restaurant on the Delmarva Peninsula is famous for fried chicken and steamed crabs. A short shuttle ride takes you down to the water where you'll discover its dock bar called Bull Lips. Live music and cornhole entertain guests by day; a crackling fire pit surrounded by Adirondack chairs brightens the night. Paradise Punch delivers a healthy dose of vitamin C, and light fare baskets are perfect for snacking under the sun.
Where to Dock: Nanticoke Harbor Marina
Cape Charles, VA, 757-331-1776
At the southern tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore just below Cape Charles is a perfect place to unwind. It features an expansive beach, massive wooden decks and a cozy seaside restaurant that serves casual seafood and sandwiches. Bands play on weekends, while guests cradle specialty cocktails in their hands ranging from pineapple mojitos to rumrunners. The view is amazing, and the urge to stay overnight at the campground or hotel is irresistible.
Where to Dock: Cape Charles Yacht Center
By Susan Elnicki Wade, author of Crab Decks & Tiki Bars of the Chesapeake Bay
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