Pet-friendly travel is on the rise and Cecil County Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Bay region offers some fantastic options for you to eat, stay and play with Fido.
If you are not familiar with Cecil County or only aware of the better-known Eastern Shore, let me give you the lay of the land. Cecil County Maryland a rural area located in the Northeast corner of the state. It’s situated on the Upper Chesapeake Bay and borders on Pennsylvania, Delaware and the Susquehanna River. Because of its unique location, it’s easily accessible from I-95 and only a 45-minute drive from both Baltimore and Philadelphia.
One of the nice aspects of Cecil County besides its easy accessibility is it offers both the best of rural and bay life. Cecil County still has significant farmland with u-pick orchards, wineries, hiking trails, and horseback riding. But if nautical is more your speed you can find an abundance of that as well. There is plenty of kayaking, crabbing, and fishing too.
Walks and Hikes
Cecil County offers some wonderful hiking trails for people (and pooches) of all ages and levels. And whether you seek a rural experience or a nautical one, you won’t be disappointed because there are some of each.
Turkey Point Light House located in the Elk Neck State Park provides a comfortable walk along mostly shady, wooded trails. Perched high above the Elk Neck River you will enjoy stunning views of the Upper Chesapeake Bay area. The walk to the lighthouse is roughly a mile and an easy stroll. Additionally, there is one area along the trail which is known to be particularly good for bird-watching. Both hawks and eagles have been spotted here. But even if you don’t get to see any of these majestic birds, the lighthouse and the views are reward enough.
If you are interested in a more rural hike try the Fair Hill Nature Reserve, a 5,656-acre reserve offering more than 25-miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Some of the trails are mixed use including walking, biking, and horseback riding. The trails are part of the Maryland State Parks system.
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My recommendation is to walk either the Orange or the Green Trail. Both will lead you to the Nature Center and the covered bridge. The Orange Trail is designated as difficult, but I think most people can do it. I believe it gets more rigorous designation because unlike the Green Trail it has a number of spots that are dirt trails with loose stone.
If you are looking for a mix of wooded trails and sunny fields, then the Red or Blue Trails are for you.
Both Turkey Point and Fair Hill are carry-in, carry-out locations so please be sure to clean up after yourself and Rover.
The C and D Canal Recreational Trail offers a different experience than those offered by the Maryland State Park system. This 17-miles trail beginning in North Chesapeake City runs along the canal to Delaware City. These are mixed-use trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding. If you are with your pet, it’s unlikely that you will walk the entire length of the trail. However, a walk and a bite to eat along the C and D Canal is a delightful way to spend an afternoon, especially in the fall.
Food, Wine, and Fun
If in addition to traveling with your pet, you have kids or grandkids in tow, you will want to make a stop at Kilby Cream. Here you can indulge in one of more than 20 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. You’ll find fun at The Dairy Store and Farm Petting Zoo where kids young and old can pet the calves, ponies, bunnies, and goats! And in the fall, make your way through their Corn Maze.
If you love wine as much as you love your dog, you will want to visit Dove Valley Winery. This family operated winery is located just outside Rising Sun. The winery produces over a dozen varieties and they have been winning awards since 2009. Throughout the year they host a number of events including hands-on art workshops, concerts, and theatre.
Dining with Doggie
Allow me to tell you about some of my favorite places to eat in Cecil County. They are not favorites because they are pet-friendly, as I wouldn’t dream of bringing my misbehaved boys to an eating establishment. I consider them favorites because they are in amazing settings and offer scrumptious food.
If you’re a crab-lover you won’t want to miss Woody’s in the town of North East. This is a traditional crab house. The kind where tables are covered in paper and you pick (clean) your own crabs. Although, generally, if I’m picking my own crabs I don’t do it at a restaurant. This is an hours-long affair for me. However, I do enjoy the other items on Woody’s menu. My favorite is their crab cakes. Get them as part of a sandwich or as an entrée. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. I also recommend starting with either the Crab Bisque or Crab Soup. Both are yum.
Triton Bar and Grill is a favorite of mine. Every now and then I enjoy a good burger and Triton has become my go-to place in the area. The setting is beautiful and the burgers juicy. I like the Smokehouse and the Black and Bleu burger.
Located at Triton Marina situated on the Elk River, a major tributary feeding the Upper Chesapeake Bay, Triton Bar and Grill offers outdoor seating and an indoor bar. Frequently they have live music and if you are so inclined, start a volleyball game or a round of Cornhole.
Another favorite place and one that I recently discovered is Lee’s Landing. This one is situated on the Susquehanna River in the quaint historic town of Port Deposit. They too offer live bands and a festive atmosphere on the weekend.
If you go, I highly recommend the Roasted Brussel Sprouts and the Crab Mac and Cheese. These are both appetizers but if you order both you will have enough for a meal. I’ve heard great things about their Fish Tacos but I wasn’t wild about their Jamaican Me Crazy Jerk Chicken Tacos. I found the chicken dry and tasteless.
Chesapeake City is lucky enough to be home to two local favorites Schaefer’s Canal House and the Chesapeake Inn. These establishments are quite similar. Both offer indoor and dockside dining overlooking the C and D Canal but from different sides. However, in my opinion, Schaefer’s has the better view as it looks across the canal at the charming historic town of Chesapeake City. However, it can be equally enjoyable to simply sit and watch the yachts maneuver in and out of the marina. Whichever you choose, weather permitting I definitely recommend the outdoor seating.
We typically visit the Chesapeake Inn for Sunday brunch. My husband is a fan of their Eggs Benedict while I usually go for the Chesapeake Benedict which is a variation on the classic topped with lump crab meat. The Chesapeake Inn is a popular spot for special occasions and wedding receptions.
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In addition to being pet-friendly, both restaurants have a private marina for docking. And here’s a little secret: If you arrive at the Chesapeake by JetSki or dinghy there is free docking available. WooHoo! We’ve done this with our JetSki.
If you are looking to get away from the chain hotels, Elk Forge Bed and Breakfast is the only non-chain accommodations in the county that are pet-friendly. This is a lovely property with 14 suites and 2 apartments with each unit uniquely decorated. All units have their own bathroom and most have a whirlpool tub and fireplace.
Only the ground level suites are pet-friendly. This really is a convenience, I think. If you need to let Fido out in the wee hours you won’t need to traipse through the entire property to do so. You will, however, pay a bit more for these suites but you won’t mind that you did.
This charming inn sits on a beautiful 5-acre piece of land that backs onto the Fair Hill Nature Reserve. Walking trails can be accessed from the property.
After a day of hiking get your tired muscles massaged at the on-site Tea Garden Spa. The spa is a full-service spa offering massages, facials, wraps and more. Packages are available.
If camping is more your style, then check out the sites at Elk Neck State Park. At this point, I should probably add a disclaimer. I am not a camper. However, I have personally been here. The State Park offers 250 campsites and 15 cabin rentals. Campsites come equipped with a firepit and bathroom facilities are conveniently located. The campgrounds are just minute from the hiking trail at the Turkey Point Lighthouse and a boat launch. Additionally, the park service offers day-use area which includes a swimming area, canoe/kayak launch, picnic shelters, picnic tables, and grills.
Next time you are looking for an active getaway with your pooch, I recommend giving Maryland’s lesser-known bay region, the Upper Chesapeake, a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.