Worcester County is known for being Maryland’s only seaside. Every summer, vacationers are drawn to the county’s sandy beaches bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
The savviest of travelers, however, will look beyond the beach to discover the charm of Worcester County’s main street communities. Towns like Pocomoke, Snow Hill, Ocean City and Berlin offer a variety of dining, shopping and entertainment for a summer getaway – not to mention the friendly locals.
Seafood lovers can dine along the Pocomoke River with a live music performance on the docks, while history buffs explore Furnace Town in Snow Hill or the Calvin B. Taylor House Museum in Berlin. Kids will definitely enjoy Pocomoke’s Delmarva Discovery Museum, as well as Ocean City’s boardwalk attractions.
Tucked away on the easternmost corner of the state, Worcester County is a unique summer destination, where you can find big adventures in small towns.
Riverfront dining in Pocomoke City
Pocomoke City, Maryland has been nicknamed the friendliest town on the Eastern shore.
During the pandemic, it was the kindness of locals that helped maintain Dockside, a community favorite restaurant and bar situated on the Pocomoke River.
“We opened in 2019 – just 8 months before the pandemic hit,” said Caitlin Evans, who owns and runs Dockside alongside her husband Jamie. “Even through COVID, the city of Pocomoke really rallied around us and all small businesses in town. That’s the stuff that really reminds you where you came from and what makes small towns great.”
Evans was born and raised in Pocomoke City and always knew she wanted to open a business in her hometown. Today, Dockside is the first restaurant to greet visitors as they cross the historic Pocomoke City Bridge. Hungry anglers can even park their boats right up to the dock.
The restaurant’s slogan, “Middle of nowhere, halfway to everywhere,” was partly inspired by their location.
“We get so many people coming from New Jersey or Pennsylvania, and they’re headed maybe to the Outer Banks, North Carolina,” said Evans. “Customers say, ‘You guys are the exact halfway point from where we started to where we’re going!’”
Dockside offers an all-American menu with a casual, coastal flair. The most popular dishes include Maryland classics like cream of crab soup, crab cakes and crab dip.
“[Dockside] truly is a family project,” Evans said. “My mom, who really instilled my initial love of cooking, comes in the restaurant and makes everything from scratch. She won’t even tell me her recipe! Mom keeps everything top secret, but I love that she’s very much a part of our restaurant.”
This year, Dockside is proud to host the inaugural Dock Jam, a concert series that will bring live music to the restaurant’s harbor area. Dock Jam events will bookend the summer, presenting Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye and Aaron Tippin for the Roots and Boots tour on May 20; and Lonestar, an American country music group from Nashville, on October 7.
“We’re so excited,” said Evans. “The bands will be performing as the sunsets over the river. It’s going to be gorgeous!”
Visitors planning a trip to Worcester County can purchase their Dock Jam tickets in advance.
Revisit history in Snow Hill
Spanning the banks of the Pocomoke River, Snow Hill’s history stretches back to 1686 when it served as a royal port and was home to a thriving shipbuilding industry.
Today’s visitors can explore the town’s history at Furnace Town Historic Site. This 19th century iron mining town is home to the Nassawango Iron Furnace which was erected in 1830 and produced about 700 tons of iron per year. The Furnace Town Village tour also showcases other historic buildings such as a blacksmith shop, the Old Nazareth Church and a weave house.
In addition to history, travelers should explore some of Snow Hill’s annual events such as the Worcester County Fair or the Blessing of the Combines, a parade of large farm machines celebrating local agriculture and honoring the town’s farm families.
The Pocomoke River also offers miles of outdoor water recreation and natural sightseeing. Plan your adventure along the river with a local outfitter such as the Pocomoke River Canoe Company and enjoy a gentle cruise, fishing excursion or kayak experience.
Festival-hopping in Berlin
A few miles north of Pocomoke City is Berlin, a town bursting with life and entertaining events.
“I like to say that Berlin is where you come to feel like a kid again,” said Ivy Wells, Berlin’s economic and community development director. “In Berlin, you’re surrounded by fun and interesting shops and people. You can just be yourself.”
Summer in Berlin is packed with downtown events for music lovers, foodies and kids. One of the most popular–and quirkiest–events in Berlin is the town’s annual summer bathtub race.
“Each participant has to create their own bathtub,” said Wells. “They can be anywhere from beer kegs to whiskey barrels to kayaks. Then people race their tubs down Main Street in a series of heats. It’s so much fun!”
The event draws hundreds of locals and visitors, all eager to see the winner receive the coveted Rubber Duck Trophy.
The town also shuts down streets downtown for the Berlin Farmers Market, which happens every Sunday, May through September from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wells says the producer-only market features 34 local farmers, food cultivators and bakers, as well as live music and face painting.
Every May, Berlin hosts Jazz, Blues, Wine & Brews, where festival goers are treated to live music while sampling from local breweries and vineyards. This year’s performances include Jazz & Blues legends the Nighthawks, the Rodney Kelley Jazz Experience, the Lowercase Blues and the Salisbury University Jazz Ensemble.
In addition to events, be sure to check out the various boutiques, toy stores and dessert shops downtown. Berlin is also home to The Mermaid Museum, a new attraction that blends pop culture and folklore in its exploration of mythical creatures.
Exploring the boardwalk in Ocean City
The resort town of Ocean City sits between the Atlantic Ocean and Isle of Wight Bay.
“Just crossing the bridge into downtown Ocean City and smelling the salt air brings such a feeling of joy and excitement,” said Melanie Pursel, director of the Worcester County office of tourism and economic development. “Ocean City is a very nostalgic, family-oriented beach town. Even the city’s tagline is ‘somewhere to smile about.’”
Ocean City’s boardwalk and pier are popular attractions, featuring games, amusement park rides and a miniature golf course. Visitors can take in the view from the top of the giant Ferris wheel and indulge in a variety of desserts like saltwater taffy and hot funnel cakes.
Northside Park, just fifteen minutes away from the boardwalk, offers park goers a 58-acre public recreation area with sports courts and playgrounds. On Sundays from June to September, Ocean City hosts Sundaes in the Park, bringing in live music and ice cream from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
“Northside Park is a beautiful location,” said Pursel. “It’s by the bay, so the view is great, and the Fourth of July fireworks show is really spectacular.”
History buffs should also make a stop by the Ocean City Life-Saving Station Museum. Here, you’ll find a collection of sand from beaches all over the world, as well as a display dedicated to surfing and its history in Ocean City.