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 your right and the Honga River on your left. 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.
Highlights of Hoopers Island:
- Old Salty’s, the community’s only restaurant, housed in the former high 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. 2560 Hoopers Island Road, Fishing Creek; 410.397.3752
- Sawyer Charters: Join a fishing trip, cruise, or crab feast on the water. Group-friendly. 410.397.3743.
- Rippons Harbor: Part of the traditional working waterfront on the eastern side of Hoopers Island. 1814 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. Read more about the lighthouse.
- A. E. Phillips & Son: The famed Phillips Seafood restaurant chain, with locations throughout the East Coast, got its start in the seafood business in 1916 with this processing plant. 2423 Hoopers Island Road, Fishing Creek; 410.397.3188
- Churches: 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.
NOTE: Hooper Island is subject to high tides and storm surges. Use caution if you see water on the road. Also, there are no gas stations in the area, so be sure to fill up before you go.