We have come to think of Labor Day weekend as our last chance at summer—last dip in the pool, last ride on the boat, last burger on the grill, last stroll on the beach, last ice cream cone, and so on. The days will get busier and shorter and chillier, and so we throw ourselves into a long weekend of all things “summer.” And even if it isn’t actually “the end” (for September can be warm and full of outdoor activities), sometimes a symbolic end is just as meaningful, if not more so than the real thing.
So maybe you are looking for one last summer trip over the upcoming long weekend. One of our favorite places to visit is the small, waterfront town of Oxford on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If you live in the area, it’s perfect for a low-key daytrip to soak in the lingering sights and sounds of the Chesapeake Bay region before summer ends.
It is most fun to get to the historic town by way of the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, which means you drive toward St. Michael’s and look for the sign to the long winding road leading to the pier where the ferry picks you up. (If the boat isn’t there yet, the waiting is all part of the fun). Then the short ferry ride takes you across the Tred Avon River, and it will put you in the right mindset for the quaint, old town of Oxford that you will see in the distance.
One of the oldest towns in Maryland, Oxford was established as a seaport in 1683. The main street, Morris Street, has old brick sidewalks and tree-lined lanes leading to water on both sides. The houses are classic and colonial in style, and most are white clapboard with columned or simple porches, gardens of clipped boxwoods and roses, and yards with magnolia and weeping cherry trees. All of this as the backdrop to the white picket fences. In fact, Oxford is known for its white picket fences and each year artists paint small sections of fence that are displayed all around town (you can get a map of them at various places in town.)
When you drive off the ferry, you will pass the Robert Morris Inn on your left. It is the large ochre-colored colonial with the double porch and the patio where people will most likely be having a meal or a cocktail while enjoying the water and town views. There is a proper dining room and a tavern. Originally a boarding house, it is now a place where people stay to unwind and turn off their devices (there are no televisions or WiFi in the rooms.)
On Morris Street you will want to stop in the Oxford Market and Deli, the Oxford Museum, and The Treasure Chest, a tiny gift shop. They are right in a row. Before you leave town, be sure to go down Tilghman Street, where you will pass the working shipyard. And at the end of the street on the dock is the Scottish Highland Creamery for the best ice cream (there is always a line, but it is worth the wait), and Capsize, a newly renovated restaurant with a large, bright dining room decorated in a crisp but casual blue and white modern style that suits the location quite well. The main attraction though is the outside deck where boaters often come for a drink and the non-boaters have a wonderful view of the Tred Avon River and surrounding landscape.
Oxford is a place of quiet charm and timeless style, a place of time-honored activities, like strolling, and picnicking, and plein air painting, and watching the boats sail by and the sun set. My favorite part is walking along the streets and looking at the lovely old homes with their porches and gardens, and just dreaming a bit because isn’t that what the end of summer is for…dreaming a bit.
Whatever you do, I hope you have a happy Labor Day weekend!