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.