Water-focused day trips

There’s something serene about being near water. If you’re looking for an adventure that’s equal parts exciting yet relaxing, consider taking a trip to one of these nearby venues.

Paddle & Wine Tours
Take a day gliding through the waters of the Potomac River in either a canoe or kayak as you take in the surrounding wildlife: blue herons, ducks and maybe even get a peek at a bald eagle. This River & Trail Outfitter’s guided four- to seven-mile trip arrives at Tarara Winery in Leesburg where you will then get to imbibe in the winery’s featured wines, take in a concert and satiate your taste buds with barbecue or pizza. // Knoxville, MD; rivertrail.com/package/wine-tour-virginia
Travel time: 50 minutes

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Dolphin and Whale Watching Tours
This summer is your chance to catch sight of the majestic creatures of the sea with a cruise out of Fisherman’s Wharf in Lewes. Starting June 15, cruises depart where you are guaranteed to see dolphins, and some cruises go out looking for whales as well. If dolphins are all you seek, take the 9:30 a.m. cruise that returns around 11:30 a.m., but if it’s a glimpse of a whale you want, the 1:30-4:30 p.m. cruises are what you’re looking for. // Lewes, DE; fishlewes.com
Travel time: 160 minutes

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Baltimore Aquarium Dolphin Encounters
If one of your bucket list items is to get up close with one of the sea’s friendlier creatures, head over to the Baltimore Aquarium and partake in the Dolphin Encounter program. Those ages 8 and up can spend a morning with the aquarium’s marine mammal team and play with bottlenose dolphins. You won’t get in the water with them, but you’ll be close enough for some relationship building and play time. // Baltimore, MD; aqua.org/visit/immersion-tours/dolphin-encounter
Travel time:60 minutes

Courtesy of Baltimore National Aquarium

Explore Life Underwater
You don’t have to travel below the equator to find scuba diving options. Head to Dutch Springs in Pennsylvania and dive in a 50-acre lake that has depths up to 100 feet. Visibility is key when it comes to diving, and this spring-fed lake provides clear views of submerged vehicles, aircraft and more accompanied by aquatic life like rainbow trout, largemouth bass, koi and others. Another option is to head to Maryland’s Hyde’s Quarry, an 11-acre freshwater quarry where you can spot an underwater school bus, airplane, boats and more. // Bethleham, PA and Westminster, MD; dutchsprings.com/scuba and hydesquarry.com
Travel time: 210 minutes (Dutch Springs), 80 minutes (Hyde’s Quarry)

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Sandy Point State Park
A relaxing day in nature calls for a trip to Sandy Point State Park. You have 786 acres to revel in where you can go crabbing, fishing, boating, hiking, swim in the Chesapeake Bay or relax on the beach. There is a nature center with local wildlife like snakes, turtles and frogs, plus interactive programs for the younger ones. If a bit of history is what you seek, you can take in the sights of the Sandy Point Mansion and the Sandy Point Lighthouse, although neither are open for tours. If you visit May 19-20, you can partake in the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival. June welcomes the Bay Swim and September hosts the Maryland Seafood Festival (Sept. 8-9) and the Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Challenge. // Annapolis, MD; dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/southern/sandypoint
Travel time: 60 minutes

Mallows Bay // Photo Courtesy of Jim D’Intino

Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay
Goonies fans will get a kick out of a trip to Maryland’s Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay, the largest ship graveyard in the Western Hemisphere. Here you can see vessels that date back to the Revolutionary War along with 100 wooden WWI steamships known as the “Ghost Fleet.” Almost 200 ships lay in the bay, and you can take in the ospreys that have made the area their habitat. // Nanjemoy, MD; charlescountymd.gov/GhostFleetofMallowsBay
Travel time: 60 minutes

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Blackwater National Refuge
Serenity can be found at Blackwater National Refuge, a 27,000-acre Eastern Shore oasis just south of Cambridge, Maryland. This tidal marsh is home to snow geese, Canada geese, great blue herons, bald eagles and more. You can hike or bike through the marshes, take a tour by canoe or kayak, or drive along paths to take it all in. To get the most out of your tour, interpretive trail leaflets are available at the visitor center or at trail-head kiosks. While at the visitor center, take the time to stroll through the exhibits, the observation area and a butterfly garden. // Cambridge, MD; fws.gov/refuge/Blackwater 
Travel time: 130 minutes

Gunpowder Falls State Park
As one of Maryland’s largest state parks, you can do a lot at Gunpowder Falls. A mixture of tidal wetlands and rugged terrain, there are more than 120 miles of trails plus opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, swimming, relaxing on the beach, fishing, horseback riding, a marina and historic sites like the Jerusalem Mill Historic Village. At this Quaker village that dates back to 1772, you can go on site tours and on Sunday afternoons speak with interpreters about the history of the area as they demonstrate skills like woodworking, open-fire cooking, gardening and other daily tasks. During the summer months, there is an outdoor concert series and a Civil War engagement recreation in June. // Middle River, MD; dnr.maryland.gov/publiclands/Pages/central/gunpowder
Travel time: 80 minutes

And, if you’ve ever wanted to be captain of your own ship, these sailing schools will walk you through the necessary steps: DC SailMariner Sailing School at Belle Haven Marina, and Washington Sailing Marina.

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