We had a delightful time on our visit to Norfolk Naval Base, our tour of the nuclear submarine, USS Boise, and our climb up the Cape Henry Lighthouse. We hope our readers enjoyed the visit as well. Now, we have the opportunity to tell you about the next new place we discovered and have been exploring for the last two days. It truly has been love at first sight.
We are staying at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station or “Pax River” as Navy personnel refer to it. It is located on the Patuxent River which is the longest river in the State of Maryland and feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. We arrived on Saturday (8/22), and checked into a lovely room in the Navy Lodge. We’ve been on the road for six days now, so the task of sorting out what is needed, and which bags to lug in, is becoming less arduous than when we started. We settled in quickly. Once we had everything place, we asked Desirae, our very friendly Lodge host, about her recommendations for dinner. Without hesitation, she said we needed to take the ten minute drive to Solomon’s Island…we’ll never repay the favor.
The drive itself is simply spectacular. After leaving the highway adjacent to the base and following the signs leading to Solomon’s Island you soon come to a bridge that rises steeply and crosses the Patuxent River. Below the bridge you could see several marinas filled with sailboats and some beautiful waterfront homes scattered about. We were traveling with the setting sun behind us and the view of the waterfront and the sailboats in our foreground is one we’ll not soon forget. Solomon’s Island was once a real island, but, at some point in the past, the northern end of the island was filled in with dredged material and the island became part of the peninsula. Also, once the causeway bridge was built, Solomon’s became connected to the mainland and saved its visitors a twenty five mile drive to a bridge to the north that would eventually allow one to reach the town.
On this Saturday evening the activity level was brisk as there were many families on the short boardwalk and fishing pier which runs along the Patuxent River. There are several public parking lots beside the boardwalk but I had to search hard to find a spot for us. As luck would have it, a van pulled out of a spot in front of me just as I was about to give up.
Solomon’s Island is both quaint and small so the restaurant choices are somewhat limited. Helen had done her thing and decided that we would give Stoney’s Seafood restaurant a try based on the reviews in Trip Advisor. We wanted Maryland crab cakes, and all reviews led to Stoney’s.
We were seated outside on the deck over the water and things couldn’t have been more perfect. The weather was as good as you could want. Temperature in the low 70’s, no wind, setting sun. There were ducks floating around the deck and we spotted an occasional jellyfish checking us out during our dinner. We were greeted by our waiter, Joey, and ordered a craft beer that was brewed locally. I’ve posted a link to Stoney’s here, so please check them out. Our meal was awesome!
After dinner, we took a stroll along the boardwalk to walk off our meal and found that experience equally delightful. Lots of children were lined up at the soft serve ice cream stand and playing on the playground nearby. We were taking pictures of the sky as the sun had dipped below the horizon, when a young man walked up and offered to take our picture. We relented. We soon set out for our temporary home at the Navy Lodge, but resolved to return the next day.
The next morning, Sunday, we rose early and helped ourselves to the breakfast served at the lodge. We next did some exploring around this huge base which fronts the Chesapeake Bay. Pax River Naval Base was created in 1943 to test aircraft and aircraft parts for use in World War II. It still does some of that, but it also hosts a school for Navy test pilots. We learned that the runway here is two and a half miles long and is the longest runway on the East Coast. We drove around it on this excursion then set out for the return trip to Solomon’s.
By now it was near lunchtime so we decided to go somewhat big for lunch and somewhat light for dinner. Tough choices, but we do know how to rough it!
Again, based on Trip Advisor, we ventured to the Dry Dock Restaurant at a marina on Solomon’s Island. Our waiter was a nice young man who gave us his name, but I didn’t quite catch it. I think it was Adolfo, but if I’m wrong, I hope he’ll forgive me because the service was super. Helen (adorable wife) ordered grilled scallops served on quinoa, and I asked for fried oysters eggs benedict. We summarized the details of our lunch in a separate post in the food segment of Easin’ Along. Here is a link to that post. Trust me, we ate well.
After lunch Helen wanted to take a boat ride to tour this lovely area by water. The hostess at the Dry Dock told us that the Calvert Marine Museum just up the street had just what we wanted.
We made it to the Museum with just nine minutes to spare before the next cruise. We paid our seven dollars each (senior discount rate once again), and hopped on the William B. Tennison for a one hour cruise of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay around the southeastern point of Solomon’s Island. We joined maybe twenty other passengers for a splendid afternoon on the water.
The ship captain narrated the cruise and did an excellent job giving us the history of the island and directing us to the many points of interest both on shore and off. One of the most interesting things he shared with us related to the boat we were on. The William B. Tennison was built in 1899 in Baltimore as a two mast sailing vessel and used for dredging for oysters. It was constructed from nine hollowed logs in the construction method prevalent in the the time it was built. Later, it was converted to a motorized vessel and moved to this area where it was purchased by the museum for tourism.
As we came back in to port we were greeted by a group of senior citizens who had gathered to pilot their remote controlled sailboats from the dock behind the museum. The small sailboats were impressive and you could tell that these fellows were having a grand afternoon.