Take Advantage of Baltimore's Waterfront in These Six Neighborhoods

In Baltimore, summer days should be filled with drinks near the Inner Harbor before an Orioles game, seafood at a dock or beach bar, casual walks on Federal Hill, and picturesque views of the water. And even at other times of the year, the water makes you feel a connection to the history of the city.

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, part of the Patapsco River, overtook Annapolis as Maryland’s primary port in the early 1800s. Large ships couldn’t make it into the Annapolis harbor, and soon, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad transformed the Inner Harbor into one of America’s busiest ports. At one time, the Inner Harbor filled with boats for passengers and goods bound across the country and the world. Baltimore’s massive steel industry also couldn’t have been possible without the shipping lanes of the harbor.

Nowadays, while you can still see cruise ships and occasional container ships coming and going, the waterfront in and around Baltimore is much more about enjoying the blue beauty and the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay. Although you can’t swim in the Inner Harbor (currently), the water still provides so much enjoyment for Baltimore area residents. 

Here are the neighborhoods in and around the city where you can get great views of the water, enjoy dock bars and restaurants, or actually get out on the water.

Fells Point

South Broadway St. in Fells Point.
South Broadway St. in Fells Point. 

This list has to include Fells Point. Once its own town separate from Baltimore, this historic neighborhood has been a sailor and waterman’s haunt for centuries. Most homes are nicely rehabbed late 1700s and early-to-late 1800s row houses, although in the last 10 years, developers have added taller condo and apartment buildings to the mix. 

You can get that Old Waterman feel at bars like The Wharf Rat and The Horse You Came In On Saloon. You can also sit on Thames Street and enjoy great views of the water, take a walk along the wharfs, dine on steamed Blue Crabs at Captain James Crabhouse, or check out seasonal bars like the Sandlot.

Canton

O'Donnell Square Park.
O'Donnell Square Park. 

In Canton, the (sometimes elaborate) rooftop decks bring the waterfront view to homes that aren’t necessarily right on the water. Usually perched on top of three-story Italianate row houses, the decks can provide gorgeous views of the city and water, plus a great place to hang out on a summer day. 

Living here means you can easily launch a boat into the water, take a jog in Canton Waterfront Park, or enjoy the First Thursdays music concerts in the park during the summer. SeaAffinity sailing school launches boats from right next to the park, while experienced boaters can dock at the Carefree Boat Club.

Cherry Hill and Brooklyn

The Middle Branch Marina and Hannover Bridge.
The Middle Branch Marina and Hanover Street Bridge. 

Cherry Hill and neighboring Brooklyn give you Baltimore’s other waterfront: the middle branch of the Patapsco River. South of South Baltimore and bordering Baltimore County, these two neighborhoods both include mid-20th century homes built during the steel production boom. This waterfront lets you get outside to enjoy nature, calm water, and wetlands in the city.

At Middle Branch Park, you can enjoy a picnic with views of the city, bike along the Gywnns Falls trail, or canoe or kayak up the Patapsco or out into the harbor. The larger Southwest Area Park along the river includes a boat launch, walking trails along marshes, a dog park, and playgrounds. And while you’re living the waterfront life, you can get seafood and crabs at spots like the casual Blue Crab Express or the nearby Crab Depot.

Dundalk

The Dundalk Shopping Center
The Dundalk Shopping Center. Photo by Hawkeye/CC BY-SA 3.0

On the peninsula between the Patapsco and Back rivers, Baltimore’s role as a port is alive and well. On the eastern (Patapsco) side, the Baltimore Sea Terminal loads and unloads container ships. Dundalk was also once home to the massive Bethlehem Steel plant on Sparrows Point, the hopeful site of future e-commerce and manufacturing.

In Dundalk and in the unincorporated area Edgemere, you can find a mix of free-standing homes with yards and rowhomes, in both older mid-1900s and new developments. Both also have lots of waterfront property, thanks to the large creeks that snake through the neighborhoods.

Dundalk offers up some of the best seafood spots in the greater Baltimore area, including Jimmy’s Famous Seafood, Costas Inn, and Mo’s Seafood. At the edge of the peninsula, you can enjoy fishing, boating, and hiking along the water at historic Fort Howard Park and North Point State Park. You can even play a round of golf with waterfront views at the Sparrow’s Point Country Club.

Essex

Homes along the Back River in Essex, Maryland.
Homes and docks lining the Back River in Essex, Maryland. 

Also in Baltimore County with easy access to I-95, Essex is another popular suburb for people who want to live near the water. The housing stock in Essex is varied, with older houses from the early 20th century to custom homes in new developments. Like Dundalk, you can also find waterfront properties along the Back River, Middle River, tributary creeks, and the Chesapeake Bay. 

If you don’t have a private dock, you can launch boats from Rocky Point Park or Cox’s Point Park.

Around here, it almost feels like you can’t drive a mile before you come across a crab house. Farther out on the peninsula, the Sue Island Grill and Crab House includes a large outdoor seating area with picnic tables perfect for picking crabs, while spots like Mr. Bill’s Terrace Inn, Al’s Seafood, and Riverwatch Seafood are great places to get seafood all year-round.

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