The scenic drive to Hoopers Island, Maryland, about 40 minutes from Cambridge, feels a bit like going to another world. Hoopers Island actually encompasses three islands with authentic working watermen villages. The drive takes you through quiet areas and small waterman’s villages with the Chesapeake Bay on the west and the Honga River on the east. The nearly two-mile causeway provides dramatic and close-up views of those waterways.
The namesake of Hoopers Island is Henry Hooper, whose family settled here in 1669. At various periods in its history, islanders farmed, built ships, canned tomatoes, and sewed overalls and jumpers. Today it is a center of seafood catching and processing and charter sport fishing. Two of the three islands, Upper Hooper and Middle Hooper, are connected to the mainland by high arched bridges. A wooden bridge to the third island, Lower Hooper, was washed out years ago and has never been replaced.
Today, the tradition of “working on the water” continues. In many of these villages, particularly in summer when crabs are “running,” you’ll find men—and a few women—baiting their trot lines or unloading the day’s catch. Many of the same watermen refit their boats in late fall and winter for harvesting oysters. Other watermen have retooled and offer charter boats for fishing (especially for rockfish and croaker) or sightseeing. Yet others here work in the seafood processing and packing factories.
HOOPERS ISLAND HIGHLIGHTS
Old Salty’s Restaurant
Old Salty’s, the community’s only full-service restaurant, housed in the former school. But not only locals come here. This is a destination restaurant that draws people from far and wide for their delectable crab cakes, soft shell crabs, and many other seafood dishes. Plus a tiki bar with a view of the water. And a dock so you can arrive by boat or by car.
2560 Hoopers Island Road, Fishing Creek; 410-397-3752
Hoopers Island General Store
As its name suggests, Hoopers Island General Store has a little bit of everything, from groceries to tools to hunting and fishing supplies to a gas station. Plus deli and self-service café. Known for their cheesesteak subs, crab cakes, and homemade salads and desserts. Usually open at 5am (except on Sundays, when it opens at 8am).
2806 Hoopers Island Rd, Church Creek, MD 21622; 410-397-3123
Part of the traditional working waterfront on the eastern side of Hoopers Island.
1814 Hoopersville Road, Hoopersville.
Crab Picking Operations
Hoopers Island has long been home to a good chunk of the crab processing facilities in the state. While the seafood industry has changed over the years and is less vibrant than it used to be, Hoopers is still home to several crab picking operations including A. E. Phillips & Son, GW Hall & Son, Old Salty’s, Rippons Bros. Seafood, and Simmons Chesapeake Bay Seafood.
Hoopers has become home to some oyster aquaculture facilities, including Hoopers Island Oyster Co. and Madhouse Oysters. Hoopers Island Oyster Co. has a seafood market in Cambridge. Or contact the growers about buying oysters directly.
Hosier Memorial United Memorial Church was the first church on Hoopers Island and dates back to 1896. 2637 Hoopers Island Road, Fishing Creek.
Hoopers Memorial Methodist Church was built in the late 1800s and has its back to the Chesapeake Bay. Unusually high water damaged it and many island buildings following the 2003 Hurricane Isabel. 1746 Hoopersville Road, Hoopersville.
Hoopers Island Lighthouse
On a clear day, you can see the lighthouse, about three miles off the western edge of Hoopersville on Middle Hooper Island. The 63-foot high caisson lighthouse began operating in 1902. It’s no longer in operation. Hooper Island Lighthouse is the only cast-iron caisson lighthouse in Maryland with a watch room and lantern surmounted on the tower.