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Destinations: Havre de Grace, Maryland

Water landings and weddings on the Susquehanna River

Editor's note: As of August 12, aircraft registration for the AOPA Aviator Showcase in Manassas, Virginia, has sold out. Tickets are still available for those who plan to drive.
At the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the head of the Chesapeake Bay is a historic waterfront town that celebrates Maryland’s natural resources such as its bay, waterfowl, seafood, and environment.
Briefing August 2021

It has the oldest continuously operated lighthouse in Maryland, a nearly mile-long waterfront promenade, and an active seaplane base.

The 36-foot-tall Concord Point Lighthouse was established in 1827 at the end of Lafayette Street. It is now a museum. The waterfront boardwalk stretches for nearly one mile along the bay from Tydings Memorial Park (named for U.S. Sen. Millard Tydings of Maryland, who was born here) to the lighthouse. Visitors can view the waterfowl and natural landscape of the shoreline. An active Amtrak line buzzes across the Susquehanna River Bridge, taking travelers along the Northeast Corridor. The seaplane base was established in the 1970s by then-owners Arnold and Elsie Stackhouse. In 2014 Nick Contis and Kim Barth renovated the base and the structures on site—including a nineteenth century bank—as a wedding venue, La Banque de Fleuve. The summer sees Maryland’s only seaplane base boasting about 25 to 30 operations, according to Barth.

“We have pilots come from up and down the East Coast, with one pilot landing just to get one of Maryland’s oh, so famous crabcakes. La Banque at the Seaplane Base operates as a wedding venue on the adjacent land and our couples have the opportunity to arrive in style...in a seaplane,” Barth said.

“The Seaplane Base opened in 1974 and is considered a historic property in Havre de Grace. We open it frequently to the public and love for visitors to come down on First Fridays or some other event being held in town. While this is private property, we consider it an artifact of the City of Havre de Grace and want the general public to be able to enjoy it whenever possible.”

Famous for its waterfowl decoy carvings, Maryland’s largest collection of Chesapeake Bay decoys is housed in the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. There are more than 2,700 objects by more than 300 artists. Havre de Grace is considered the “Decoy Capital of the World.” Other monikers for Havre de Grace include HdG, but its name comes from the Marquis de Lafayette who, on visits during the Revolutionary War, said the waterfront town reminded him of Le Havre in France. The town was incorporated as Havre de Grace in 1785. George Washington slept here on his way to his inauguration, and during the First Congress in 1789, just one vote kept HdG from becoming the capital of the United States.

There are lots of interesting places to stay and restaurants to enjoy Maryland cuisine. The Vandiver Inn is a bed and breakfast in an 1886 Victorian main house owned by the city’s then mayor and it is a charming tangle of private rooms in a variety of different houses. There’s Backfin Blues, Tidewater Grille, The Bayou, and Price’s Seafood for seafood. It is a walkable town with lots of eclectic shops.

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WHY YOU SHOULD GO

Summer in Maryland—seafood, crab feasts, waterfront festivals, and sunsets are all a part of what makes Havre de Grace special. Watch sailboats, try SUP (stand-up paddle boarding), and paragliding on the water.

Briefing August 2021GETTING THERE

Havre de Grace Seaplane Base (M06) is on the shore of the west side of the Chesapeake Bay. It has been in continuous operation for more than 50 years. Open May through November, a floating airport dock serves the 8,000-foot by 200-foot water north/south and east/west runways in freshwater.

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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