Ayers Creek softly ripples by the idyllic location where Steven and Suzy Taylor run their kayak and canoe center. Despite being situated near Ocean City, the watery spot is quiet except for the occasional stirring of a duck, heron, or standup paddleboard. Steven has been a neighbor to the animals in this stretch of coastal Maryland since childhood, and the couple now operates their business from their own bankside property. Both Suzy and Steven spent decades mastering the waters on their own before they began giving tours of the salt marshes and wetlands. Steven, an environmental consultant, often narrates on these tours, reliving his boyhood awe for visitors as groups encounter deer and fly-by cameos by bald eagles. Committed to preservation, the Taylors sprinkle guided adventures with educational factoids about the area's diverse ecology as paddlers conquer the headwaters.
While waiting for a group of tour participants aboard his kayak on Cape Island Creek, Bob Lubberman made a new acquaintance when a 4-foot great blue heron landed on the nose of his boat. It's not an entirely new experience for the owner of Miss Chris Kayak Rentals and Tours, as opportunities to commune with nature came often as he crabbed and fished as a child from his grandmother's dock. Now he's able to connect visitors to this ecosystem as they independently paddle rented sit-on-top kayaks or as they participate in guided kayak or boat tours.
Paddlers on kayak tours often catch close-ups of ospreys, terns, and other birds, and see diamondback terrapin turtles sunning themselves on the shore or trying to hold their own ice-cream cones. Day and sunset tours let guests explore the wildlife-rich salt marshes, and night tours led during high tide let them paddle over grassy terrain to otherwise inaccessible areas. Guests explore similar territory on tours aboard the Osprey as they watch migrating shore birds or look out on the harbor's historic buildings. Kayak tour guides include an associate naturalist and a Cape May Bird Observatory field associate, and land-based staffers maintain a touch tank on the Miss Chris mooring dock, which they temporarily fill with conches, eels, and other sea life pulled up using open-sided conservation traps.
The friendly staff of the family-owned and family-operated Pier 88 Marina aims to create an all-inclusive setting for local boaters and visiting tourists alike. Docking services accommodate boats of up to 35 feet, and a fillet table and a bait-and-tackle shop accommodate anglers who seek the area's flounder, striped bass, and yellowfin tuna. The business also rents out single and tandem kayaks for self-guided jaunts into Townsend Sound or organized tours led by nature experts.
Operating since 1903, Beaver Dam Boat Rentals provides access to the quiet waters and plentiful wildlife of Oranokin Creek. Initially prized by the Lenape Indians for its abundance of crabs, the creek offers crabbing enthusiasts a chance to snag up to a bushel of prized blue claws. Staff can tow guests to one of the four salt ponds where the crabs are hiding and help lure them out with free subscriptions to People magazine. Beaver Dam will stop by throughout the day to tow boats to a more attractive location, and can provide all necessary supplies.
Sightseeers can also test out Oranokin Creek in an old-fashioned rowboat, or rent fiberglass boats ($50–$60) that hold five passengers or party boats that hold up to six ($70). Beaver Dam Boat Rentals also offers guided kayak tours suited to participants' experience and fitness levels, and operates a boat ramp for the start of duck-hunting season.:m]]
Having finished a project that was nine years in the making following a destructive fire, Colonial Beach Yacht Center's owner, Kyle Schick, and his daughter Robin proudly hoisted their Virginia Clean Marina flag in 2011. The newly overhauled marina had undergone a series of transformations, from recycling more than 4,000 pounds of metal from the yard to installing its own recycling centers. In addition to slip rentals and a dockside restaurant, the center also offers canoe and kayak rentals for an eco-friendly way to explore the surrounding waterways.
When Pete and Kate Vonderheide moved from Hawaii to Annapolis to live closer to their family, they thought they'd have to give up a career of ocean kayaking to resume responsible office jobs. Soon they recognized the historic city harbor's lack of kayak tours and knew they couldn't stay inside forever. Their shared passion for history spurred them to research and interview the locals until they'd compiled enough historic material to start leading tours. Today, their tours can teach something new even to locals.
The Vonderheides continue to assemble a team of outdoor guides certified in CPR and first aid who all bear a well-researched knowledge of area wildlife and history. These experts lead two-hour scenic tours through the historic harbor. Starting each excursion with a brief paddling lesson, they put first-timers at ease with basic instruction and an amiable demeanor, unlike guides who rely only on their convincing Captain Ahab impressions. Excursions begin at the Spa Creek headwaters in Truxtun Park and lead participants into open-harbor waters to drift in full view of the state capitol building, the US Naval Academy, and historic Eastport. Trips peak at the City Dock, where participants receive a break to take photos and rest. On the return trip, guides field open-ended questions about city history such as presidential visits, the crabbing and oystering trade, and whether George Washington had to swim using floaties.