Where to eat, play and stay with your pet on the Upper Chesapeake Bay

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Pet-friendly travel is on the rise and Elkton Maryland in Cecil County offers some fantastic options for you to eat, stay and play with Fido. This area known as Maryland’s Upper Chesapeake Bay region offers plenty of outdoor activities, terrific restaurants, quaint inns and so much more. But best of all your best friend is welcome.

As a former resident of Cecil County, here are some of my favorite pet-friendly and generally awesome places in the Upper Bay region of Maryland.

Where are Elkton, Cecil County, and the Upper Chesapeake?

If you are not familiar with Cecil County or only aware of the better-known Eastern Shore, let me give you the lay of the land.  Cecil County Maryland is a rural area located in the Northeast corner of the state. It’s situated on the Upper Chesapeake Bay and borders Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the Susquehanna River. Because of its unique location, it’s easily accessible from I-95 and only a 45-minute drive from both Baltimore and Philadelphia.

Dog at Turkey Point Lighthouse

One of the nice aspects of Cecil County besides its easy accessibility is that it offers both the best of rural and bay life. Cecil County still has significant farmland with u-pick orchards, wineries, hiking trails, and horseback riding. But if nautical is more your speed you can find an abundance of that as well. There is plenty of kayaking, crabbing, and fishing too.

Cecil County MD map

Awesome Hikes and bike trails for you and your pooch in and around Elkton

Cecil County offers some wonderful hiking trails for people (and pooches) of all ages and levels. And whether you seek a rural experience or a nautical one, you won’t be disappointed because there are some of each.

Horseback riding covered bridge  at Fair Hill Nature reserve
Turkey Point Light House located in the Elk Neck State Park provides a comfortable walk along mostly shady, wooded trails. Perched high above the Elk Neck River you will enjoy stunning views of the Upper Chesapeake Bay area. The walk to the lighthouse is roughly a mile and an easy stroll. Additionally, there is one area along the trail which is known to be particularly good for bird-watching. Both hawks and eagles have been spotted here. But even if you don’t get to see any of these majestic birds, the lighthouse and the views are reward enough.

Turkey Point Lighthouse North East MD Cecil County
If you are interested in a more rural hike or bike ride try the Fair Hill Nature Reserve, a 5,656-acre reserve offering more than 25-miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty. Some of the trails are mixed-use including walking, biking, and horseback riding.  The trails are part of the Maryland State Parks system.

My recommendation is to walk either the Orange or the Green Trail. Both will lead you to the Nature Center and the covered bridge. The Orange Trail is designated as difficult, but I think most people can do it. I believe it gets a more rigorous designation because unlike the Green Trail it has a number of spots that are dirt trails with loose stone.

Fair Hill is a popular mountain biking destination for people from neighboring states and Maryland alike. That is partially due to its proximity to Delaware and Pennsylvania but it’s also a solid place to ride. It has hills, dirt single track, some rocky areas, and streams as well as some ruins and a covered bridge. Fair Hill hosts NICA races for teams from PA, DE and NJ.

Dog on dirt trail at Fair Hill Nature Reserve

If you are looking for a mix of wooded trails and sunny fields, then the Red or Blue Trails are for you.
Both Turkey Point and Fair Hill are carry-in, carry-out locations so please be sure to clean up after yourself and Rover.

Woman with dog in the woods
The C and D Canal Recreational Trail offers a different experience than those offered by the Maryland State Park system. This 17-mile trail beginning in North Chesapeake City runs along the canal to Delaware City. These are mixed-use trails for walking, biking, and horseback riding.  If you are with your pet, it’s unlikely that you will walk the entire length of the trail. However, a walk and a bite to eat along the C and D Canal is a delightful way to spend an afternoon, especially in the fall.

Dog lying in the grass

In a single afternoon, explore two great small towns, one in Maryland and the other in Delaware with a lovely bike ride along the C and D Canal. Here’s everything you need to know.

Food, Wine, and Fun in Cecil County

Kilby’s Creamery 

If in addition to traveling with your pet, you have kids or grandkids in tow, you will want to make a stop at Kilby Cream.  Here you can indulge in one of more than 20 flavors of hand-dipped ice cream. You’ll find fun at The Dairy Store and Farm Petting Zoo where kids young and old can pet the calves, ponies, bunnies, and goats! And in the fall, make your way through their Corn Maze.

Fall at Kilby's Crream

Dove Valley Winery

If you love wine as much as you love your dog, you will want to visit Dove Valley Winery. This family-operated winery is located just outside Rising Sun. The winery produces over a dozen varieties and they have been winning awards since 2009. Throughout the year they host a number of events including hands-on art workshops, concerts, and theatre.

Wine Grapes

Pet-friendly Restaurants near Elkton

Allow me to tell you about some of my favorite places to eat in Cecil County. They are not favorites because they are pet-friendly, as I wouldn’t dream of bringing my misbehaved boys to an eating establishment. I consider them favorites because they are in amazing settings and offer scrumptious food.


Crabcakes and salad

Woody’s

If you’re a crab-lover you won’t want to miss Woody’s in the town of North East. This is a traditional crab house. The kind where tables are covered in paper and you pick (clean) your own crabs. Although, generally, if I’m picking my own crabs I don’t do it at a restaurant. This is an hours-long affair for me. However, I do enjoy the other items on Woody’s menu. My favorite is their crab cakes. Get them as part of a sandwich or as an entrée. Either way, you won’t be disappointed. I also recommend starting with either the Crab Bisque or Crab Soup. Both are yum.


Maryland Crabs

Unwined at Triton Marina

Located at Triton Marina situated on the Elk River, a major tributary feeding the Upper Chesapeake Bay, UnWined offers outdoor seating and an indoor bar.  Frequently they have live music and if you are so inclined, start a volleyball game or a round of Cornhole.

The restaurant at the marina has changed hands a number of times over the years. Its current occupant is UnWined is new-ish to the marina, though it has been a local establishment for many years. Since its move to the waterside, its menu has changed to a more casual dining menu, but you can still expect the same great food they have always delivered. And every Tuesday is Taco and Tequila Night and they offer daily Happy Hour Specials. 

 

Triton Bar and Grill Smokehouse Burger

Lee’s Landing

Another favorite place and one that I recently discovered is Lee’s Landing. This one is situated on the Susquehanna River in the quaint historic town of Port Deposit.  They too offer live bands and a festive atmosphere on the weekend.
If you go, I highly recommend the Roasted Brussel Sprouts and the Crab Mac and Cheese. These are both appetizers but if you order both you will have enough for a meal. I’ve heard great things about their Fish Tacos but I wasn’t wild about their Jamaican Me Crazy Jerk Chicken Tacos. I found the chicken dry and tasteless.

Lee's Landing Port Deposit at sunset

Pet-friendly dining on the C and D Canal: Schaefer’s Canal House and the Chesapeake Inn

Chesapeake City is lucky enough to be home to two local favorites Schaefer’s Canal House and the Chesapeake Inn. These establishments are quite similar. Both offer indoor and dockside dining overlooking the C and D Canal but from different sides. However, in my opinion, Schaefer’s has the better view as it looks across the canal at the charming historic town of Chesapeake City. However, it can be equally enjoyable to simply sit and watch the yachts maneuver in and out of the marina. Whichever you choose, weather permitting I definitely recommend the outdoor seating.
Schaefer's Canal House Chesapeake City MD
We typically visit the Chesapeake Inn for Sunday brunch. My husband is a fan of their Eggs Benedict while I usually go for the Chesapeake Benedict which is a variation on the classic topped with lump crab meat. The Chesapeake Inn is a popular spot for special occasions and wedding receptions.

In addition to being pet-friendly, both restaurants have a private marina for docking. And here’s a little secret: If you arrive at the Chesapeake by JetSki or dinghy there is free docking available. WooHoo! We’ve done this with our JetSki.

Pet-Friendly Accommodations in Elkton

Elk Forge B and B

If you are looking to get away from the chain hotels, Elk Forge Bed and Breakfast is the only non-chain accommodation in the county that is pet-friendly. This is a lovely property with 14 suites and 2 apartments with each unit uniquely decorated. All units have their own bathroom and most have a whirlpool tub and fireplace.

Elk Forge B and B Elkton MD
Only the ground-level suites are pet-friendly. This really is a convenience, I think. If you need to let Fido out in the wee hours you won’t need to traipse through the entire property to do so. You will, however, pay a bit more for these suites but you won’t mind that you did.
Elk Forge Suite
This charming inn sits on a beautiful 5-acre piece of land that backs onto the Fair Hill Nature Reserve. Walking trails can be accessed from the property.

After a day of hiking get your tired muscles massaged at the on-site Tea Garden Spa. The spa is a full-service spa offering massages, facials, wraps, and more. Packages are available.

Solarium Elk Forge BnB

Camping at Elk Neck State Park

If camping is more your style, then check out the sites at Elk Neck State Park. At this point, I should probably add a disclaimer. I am not a camper. However, I have personally been here. The State Park offers 250 campsites and 15 cabin rentals. Campsites come equipped with a firepit and bathroom facilities are conveniently located.  The campgrounds are just minutes from the hiking trail at the Turkey Point Lighthouse and a boat launch. Additionally, the park service offers a day-use area that includes a swimming area, canoe/kayak launch, picnic shelters, picnic tables, and grills.

Camping Elk Neck State Park
Next time you are looking for an active getaway with your pooch, I recommend giving Maryland’s lesser-known bay region, the Upper Chesapeake, a try. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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24 Responses

  1. This sounds like the perfect Sunday for me and my pooch! With hikes , horse back rides, kayaking, and an endless amount of things to see and do. I’ll have to refer to this article when I visit Chesapeake.

  2. I love the outdoors and this area looks perfect for dogs. With it being so close to the water, the seafood must be so fresh. I definitely would check out the fish tacos.

  3. This is a part of the eastern US we have not yet visited. So we will need to plan a visit to the Upper Chesapeake Bay Area. Lots of outdoor areas for hiking is a definite draw. Although I would definitely want my bike for the 17 mile C and D Canal Trail. Wine and ice cream would be the bonus for all that outdoor exercise.

  4. I love that you focused on pet friendly things! It\’s always such a struggle to find somewhere that\’s pet-friendly to stay at unless you go camping which I don\’t like doing.

  5. What a great idea to include information in this guide about how to travel with a dog. While I don\’t personally own a pet, many of my friends and family do and its a constant struggle to find information about what places welcome their furry friends.

    1. I do think it is getting easier to travel with pets. More of the chain hotels are starting to realize that some people wouldn\’t dream of going away without their pooch. If they don\’t offer it, the pet owner will find someplace that does.

  6. What a great article! We are always into pet friendly places to visit! Wine, water, and trails are always on the list! We would love to visit Maryland in the near future.

  7. Sounds like some great adventure with the pup! We need to bring ours along more often somehow! (It\’s hard with a full van of four young kids!) It\’s great there are so many dog-friendly options!

  8. I\’ve been in Maryland for ten years now, and I\’ve actually yet to explore Cecil County. It looks amazing and I love that you can take your furry friends! Looking forward to putting this on my list of local to-dos.

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Hi!! I’m Susan.

I love to travel, I’m fueled by caffeine, biking is a favorite pastime and I do my best thinking when I’m in the garden. It was from these passions that the idea for Beans, Bikes, and Blooms was born.

I’ve been writing professionally for over 20 years on business to women’s issues, and everything in between including travel, of course.

I live in southern New Jersey with my husband Bill and our 6 fur babies. All rescues!

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