Everything you need to know: Public launches, Cambridge Yacht Basin, private marinas, kayak and SUP tours ready to welcome 2024 visitors to Dorchester County, Maryland.

Dorchester Boat RampsDorchester Marinas Paddling   |  Fishing  |  Boat Cruises  | Dining by the Water  |  Boat-Related Events

Updated June 7, 2024

There’s something about getting out on the water – feeling the breeze, taking in the wide open beautiful views, feeling the sway of the current. And sometimes, just watching the water is enough to add some serenity to our lives. With 1,700 miles of shoreline and waterways all around, Dorchester County, Maryland is a great place to explore and enjoy the water, whether you have a boat, want to rent a vessel, or prefer to take it all in from land. Here’s a look at how to get out on the water in Dorchester County.

Sunrise on Cambridge Creek | Visit Dorchester

Sunrise on Cambridge Creek. Photo by Jill Jasuta

Dorchester Boat Ramps

Boat ramps in Dorchester County, MarylandWith 25 public boat ramps and soft launches for kayaks and canoes, Dorchester is the only county on the Mid-Shore that does not require permits and fees at public landings.

Access to four major rivers leading to the Chesapeake – Choptank, Little Choptank, Honga and Nanticoke – is easy when launching a motorized vessel or personal watercraft from a Dorchester County public boat ramp.

Two Cambridge locations – Franklin Street and Gerry Boyle Park at Great Marsh – offer dual ramps and plenty of parking on the Choptank River and are in close proximity to Rt. 50. The Nanticoke River boat ramp in Vienna also provides easy access to the highway. Carryout dishes, beverage, ice, gasoline and supplies can be purchased at nearby restaurants and convenience stores in each city.

Other Dorchester ramps like those at Ragged Point, Taylors Island and Hoopers Island deliver quick passage to the Chesapeake and popular rockfish trolling grounds. Additional inland locations are good choices for those with jon boats and skiffs looking to land snakeheads on the Chicamacomico (New Bridge ramp) and Transquaking (Bestpitch Ferry ramp) rivers. Ramp users are reminded to use designated parking areas for vehicles and trailers and avoid nearby roads.

Cambridge Municipal Yacht Basin - Dorchester County, MD

Cambridge Municipal Yacht Basin

Dorchester County Marinas

The Cambridge Yacht Basin – within walking distance of downtown – and a choice of private marinas in the county offer affordable slips for sailboats and cruisers that make it easy and enjoyable to explore the Heart of the Chesapeake.

Located along the waterfront near downtown Cambridge, the Yacht Basin is one of the most convenient and affordable marinas for day use and overnight stays on the Chesapeake. A short stroll up historic High Street leads boaters to Cambridge’s shops and restaurants offering indoor and outdoor dining. See a listing of downtown Cambridge restaurants.

With a maximum depth of 13 feet, the Yacht Basin can accommodate boats of all sizes. All marina services – laundry, bathhouses, gas, diesel and ice – are available and facilities are cleaned regularly. Slips should be reserved in advance.

Some of the Chesapeake’s most popular boating destinations can be found around the county, including the marina at Suicide Bridge Restaurant on Cabin Creek, just off the Choptank north of the Rt. 50 Bridge; and Slaughter Creek Marina feeding into the Little Choptank where Palm Beach Willies Restaurant is located. The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge has the 150-slip River Marsh Marina, which offers overnight boaters access to all the amenities of the resort.

At Hoopers Island, Rippons Harbor and P.L. Jones Boatyard & Marina accept boaters for overnight visits with quick access to the Honga River and the Chesapeake Bay.

Cambridge is also home to the Cambridge Yacht Club, the oldest yacht club on the Eastern Shore, located on the beautiful Choptank River.


Kayaking in Dorchester County, MD - Photo courtesy Maryland Tourism

Paddling at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. Photo courtesy Maryland Tourism.

Soft Launches for Canoe, Kayak and SUP

One of America’s top paddling destinations for wildlife and scenery, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge can be explored from water access points or soft launches at MD. Rt. 335, Shorter’s Wharf and Key Wallace Drive, where Blackwater Adventures offers kayaks and stand-up paddleboards (SUPs)  for rent and also guided tours by advance reservation, as well as kayak fishing tours. (They can also deliver kayaks/SUPs to your vacation rental!)

Traveling along designated kayak trails in the tidal marsh, paddlers may see bald eagles, herons, osprey, egrets and other migratory waterfowl. Blackwater Adventures also offers a guided Harriet Tubman tour to explore the waters and landscapes where the heroic Marylander was born and enslaved and returned to lead family members and friends to freedom.

Dorchester County Tourism publishes an excellent paddling guide for exploring the county’s waterways.


Snakehead Fishing and More

snakeheadBlackwater Refuge is also northern snakehead central in Dorchester County and a great spot to experience one of Maryland’s most popular fishing crazes. Those with fishing kayaks can get in on the action casting topwater lures and minnows dropped under a bobber. The Woolford Store is the local headquarters for supplies, bait, fishing equipment, guide services and expert advice on catching the monster fish.

Parking can be limited at access points, landings and fishing holes. Individuals should heed posted signs restricting roadside parking.

Plenty of other fishing is available. With water ranging from salty to fresh throughout the county, anglers snag rockfish (aka striped bass), speckled trout, spot, croaker, white perch, drum, blue catfish, yellow perch, Spanish mackerel, and more. Consider arranging a fishing charter to help you find the best spots.

Try your hand at the Invasive Species Fishing Tournament, which runs through December 1, 2024. In this Mid-Shore Fishing Club tournament, anglers target blue catfish and northern snakehead inside the boundaries of the Eastern Shore. Payouts are awarded for most fish and largest fish. See the rules.

For the latest conditions, take a look at the latest Fishing Report from Maryland Department of Natural Resources – and review the Maryland Guide to Fishing & Crabbing.


Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester

Cruising on the Choptank River aboard the Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester.

Boat Cruises

Don’t have your own boat? No problem.

  • The Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester offers public sails on an authentic oystering boat to share the story of oystering and watermen. Join a sail most Saturdays through October, or go for the Third Thursday Sip ‘n’ Sail evening event June 20 and July 18. Custom charters also available.  Reserve a spot on their website or find out more on their Facebook page.
  • Join a riverboat cruise with Choptank Riverboats, authentic padddlewheelers that cruise the Choptank River. Choose from lunch or dinner cruises, crab feast cruises, murder mystery cruises, or sightseeing cruises. The 2024 season runs through October. See the schedule.
  • Captain Phil Gootee of Gootee’s Marine is offering various on-the-water experiences, including lighthouse tours, scenic sunrise cruises, Hoopers Island eco tours, and fishing charters. Find out more on the website or by calling or texting 443-521-0817.
  • The classic Chesapeake 1938 buyboat Dudley offers charters for special events from weddings and reunions to birding and birthdays; even watching powerboat races.


Waterfront Dining

Enjoy views of our local waterways at these waterfront restaurants:

Boats & Hose – Unassuming spot located in an old firehouse at Chapel Cove, Taylors Island. Get there by land or by boat.

Blue Point Provision Co. – Located on the Choptank River at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort in Cambridge with great views of the river. Open seasonally, with Thursday evening deck parties from 5 to 7pm through the summer. Get there by land or by boat if you use the River Marsh Marina.

Old Salty’s Restaurant – Includes a tiki bar on the Chesapeake Bay. Located on Hoopers Island, about a 40-minute scenic drive from Cambridge.

Portside Seafood Restaurant – Offers great views of the drawbridge over Cambridge Creek. Get there by land or by boat.

River View at the Point – Some seats have views of the Choptank River in Cambridge.

Snapper’s Waterfront Cafe & Tiki Bar – The tiki bar is right on Cambridge Creek, just a few blocks from heart of Downtown Cambridge. Get there by land or by boat.

Suicide Bridge Restaurant – Large, destination restaurant with a tiki bar on Cabin Creek. Tucked away in Hurlock, about a 20-minute drive from Cambridge. This is also where the Choptank Riverboats are docked. Get there by land or by boat.

Water’s Edge Grill – Restaurant at Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort with views of the Choptank River.



Boat-Related Events

Boat races, boat-docking contests, and more – you’ll find them here!

Eastern Shore Sailing Association (ESSA) Sailing Races 

Thunder on the Choptank Powerboat Races – July 20-21, 2024

Log Canoe Regatta – usually in August; check for the latest

Taylors Island Boat Docking Contest – Aug. 24, 2024

Waterman’s Rodeo (Hoopers Island Boat Docking Contest) – Sept. 8, 2024

Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race – Sept. 28, 2024


For more a more in-depth look at getting out on the water in Dorchester County, be sure to read noted Chesapeake Bay author John Page William’s story about exploring local waters here.

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