When I was 13, living in rural Ohio, I didn’t yet know that I would eventually develop a love affair with long, winding back-country roads and abandoned barns. In fact, I dreaded small town living. I distinctly remember daydreaming about where I would adventure to when I was old enough to explore.
One day, my dad received a letter from his best friend who had moved from Ohio, and been living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a few years. In this letter he wrote that, “you can throw a rock in any direction and hit water.” Soon after, my dad was planning a move for our family to a new place.
It was the summer before my freshman year of high school, and we had packed all of our belongings into a U-Haul and moved to Salisbury, a small town on the “Delmarva” peninsula on Maryland’s eastern shore.
It wasn’t easy moving into high school without any friends. I spent most of the weekends exploring the area with my mom, getting to know this small stretch of the state (about 170 miles long and 70 miles wide). We found cool little thrift shops and small towns. Little did I know that these moments are the same ones that I would treasure for a lifetime.
When I got into college, I knew that I wanted to be an art major. Initially, I took photography classes- mostly so that I would have a way to document these hidden gems along the backroads that I had come to love. Later, I chose a double major in photography/painting.
In the years post graduation, I spent most of my days off getting lost on winding county roads. With my camera in hand, I was able to meet many interesting people and step back in time.
Since then, my family and I have done the same…searching for abandoned beaches and local ice cream shops.
Here are a few of our favorite spots:
- Elliotts Island, MD. To get there: turn south in Vienna, MD. off of Highway 50 and just keep driving and driving. (make sure you have lots of gas) Home to about 70 locals, apparently, this part of the shore is not one to miss. Make sure to bring your camera and, if you’re hungry, check in at Upper Store- they may just be serving up Muskrat and Chicken dinner…
- Deal Island, MD. To get there: drive south on US 13 towards Princess Anne, MD. and turn right onto Deal Island Road…just keep going. – Made up of a little over 5 square miles, over 40% of which is made up of water, Deal Island offers stunning views of wildlife and waterways. Make sure to check out Deal Island beach- pack a bag to carry home some beach glass treasures and some rubber shoes to protect your feet. Keep driving to get to Wenona- you can get a craft draft beer for $3 at the local “hot spot” Arby’s.
- Onancock, VA. To get there: drive south from Salisbury on US 13. Turn right onto VA- 126. With an adorable downtown full of good restaurants, bed & breakfasts and galleries, you won’t have any trouble finding things to do. Go kayaking or take the Tangier Island Ferry to get to another really amazing do-not-miss stop on the peninsula. Or, drive up the road a bit to watch a sunset in Chincoteague- the drive over to it is worth it alone.
- Rumbley, MD. To get there: Drive south on US 13 from Salisbury towards Princess Anne. Take MD- 413 towards Westover and turn right onto Fairmount Rd./Frenchtown Rd. Stop by The Hideaway Grill for a meal on the water.
- Cape Henlopen State Park. Cape Henlopen, DE. To get there: google map it on your iPhone. (just kidding, but really- there are a lot of fun back road ways to get here!) Okay, okay. Locals might get mad at me for calling this place a “hidden gem” but, let’s be honest, in the off season it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere enjoying God’s un-touched country. Take your bike and pack a lunch. It will be a good time. (I couldn’t find my personal photos of Cape Henlopen, so I’ve attached a painting I did of it last year as part of a 50 state watercolor series.)
Have you ever been to the Delmarva? What special places have you discovered?
Want to see more photos and art celebrating this unique part of the US? Look here.<
All photographs © Rachel Alvarez Art