Beautiful Baltimore! The heart of Maryland is a scenic whirl. From farms to forests, from Victorian elegance to modern splendor, Baltimore offers a little bit of everything.
If you’ve got a reliable car at your disposal, why not take a day trip (or multi-day trip) down Maryland’s historic roads? Here are 5 of the most scenic drives near Baltimore. Most of these routes connect with or run through Baltimore, even if they wind up diverging into far areas of the state. Other drives don’t run through Baltimore, but they’re not a long way off.
1. Star-Spangled Banner Byway
Here’s the history: during the War of 1812—America’s “Second War of Independence”—British troops launched the Chesapeake campaign. They launched a ground invasion of the United States and marched northward from Virginia to Baltimore. The invasion culminated in the Battle of Baltimore, where Fort McHenry was bombarded all night long by British ships. The American victory inspired the Francis Scott Key poem, and national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”.
The byway retraces the route of the British invaders and stops at numerous historic battle sites along the way. Some of the great sightseeing along this route include:
- Battle Creek Cypress Swamp Sanctuary
- Battle of Bladensburg Visitor Center and Waterfront Park
- The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House
- Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine
Beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay coast complement the historic sites.
2. Historic National Road
There are plenty of historic roads in the United States, but few are quite as historic as the interstate Historic National Road. The HNR is considered the first modern highway in the United States. The Historic National Road began construction in 1811, and it would eventually stretch from Baltimore to Cumberland to the Pennsylvania line.
The road was built to carry western settlers into the unsettled lands of Illinois. Back in the day, the journey was lovely but not very comfortable, because travelers had to use stagecoaches and covered wagons (nowadays you can stop by an Audi dealer near Baltimore and pick up a much smoother ride). Although the mode of transportation has changed, you’ll still be cruising through the same beautiful Baltimore forests, and there remain many historic towns scattered about the route.
Some of the sightseeing you’ll find along the way include:
You can even go gambling at Rocky Gap Casino Resort.
3. Chesapeake Country
The Star-Spangled Banner byway stretches along the western shore of Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Country byway cruises along the eastern shore. This is a gorgeous tidewater region that has a rich history of farming and shipbuilding. This route makes for the perfect drive if you’re looking for a small-town getaway.
Along this Chesapeake route, there are fishing lines to be cast. Boats to be rowed. Trails to be hiked. You can go kayaking, paddleboarding, and bird-watching. Stay at bed-and-breakfasts, go wine tasting, or take a pleasure cruise on the bay.
Some of the big attractions you’ll find include:
Kitty Knight was a brave woman who stopped British soldiers from burning down civilian homes. The site where she did that is located on a hillside that now houses a tavern and inn.
4. Horses and Hounds
Just north of Baltimore is the Horses and Hounds route. You’ll love this quiet drive if you enjoy rural life. Farms, pastures, and rolling green hills abound. If you’re a fan of horse racing, check out the 300-acre steeplechase course Shawan Downs, which runs numerous equestrian events that draw excitable crowds of tailgaters.
Some of the other fun activities you can partake in include:
- Oregon Ridge Nature Center and Park
- Prettyboy Reservoir
- Lawdew Topiary Gardens
- Boordy Vineyards
- Hampton National Historic Site
The communities in this area move at a slow tempo, so make sure you drive at an equally relaxing pace and enjoy the serenity.
5. Falls Road
Falls Road received its name because of Jones Falls, a water source that powered many old cotton mills around here. The goods produced at these mills were taken into town via what’s now referred to as Falls Road.
Nowadays, these old mills operate as shops, galleries, and homes. You’ll find gorgeous architecture and elegant communities along this route. Some of the lovely attractions you’ll find along the way include:
Depending on which direction you drive, you’ll commence from the urban charm of Baltimore to the rural beauty of the countryside, or vice versa.
Adventure awaits! Hop into your vehicle (stagecoach acceptable) and get pleasure cruising along Baltimore’s best byways.