15 Practical Tips to visiting the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Travel to Maryland’s Eastern Shore to discover the beauty of life on the Chesapeake Bay. We love visiting this part of the state whenever we get the chance, especially in summer and autumn. Although it is an easy drive from D.C., it feels a world away.

One of our favorite Maryland museums is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. We talked to Bethany Ziegler, Content Marketing Manager at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, to find out what makes this Eastern Shore museum so special, why you should visit, and what you need to know before you go.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Oystering Exhibition • credit Bethany Ziegler

Where is the museum located?

Location: Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, 213 N. Talbot Street St. Michaels, MD 21663

What topics does the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum cover?

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving and exploring the history, environment and culture of the entire Chesapeake Bay region, and making this resource available to all.

What is the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum claim to fame?

CBMM’s collection of historic Chesapeake Bay watercraft–maintained by shipwrights and their apprentices in our Working Shipyard–is the largest in existence.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Hooper Strait Lighthouse • credit Bethany Ziegler

What is your favorite exhibit or artifact in the museum?

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s most iconic exhibition is the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse. The 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, now standing on Navy Point, was originally built in 1879 to light the way for boats passing through the shallow, dangerous shoals of Hooper Strait, a thoroughfare for boats bound from the Chesapeake Bay across Tangier Sound to Deal Island or places along the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers.

As a “screwpile” lighthouse, it is built on special iron pilings which were tipped with a screw that could be turned into the muddy bottom for a depth of 10 feet or more. Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s lighthouse is the second lighthouse constructed at Hooper Strait – the first one was destroyed by ice in 1877.

What kinds of special exhibits and events do you host throughout the year?

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum hosts regular festivals, educational programming and workshops in its working Shipyard.

While closed, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has begun offering virtual programming like trivia nights and online exhibitions.

Are there guided tours available?

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum does not offer guided or audio tours, but allows guests to explore at their own pace.

CBMM’s campus includes a floating fleet of historic boats, 12 exhibition buildings, and changing special exhibitions, all set in a park-like waterfront setting along the Miles River and St. Michaels’ harbor.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Floating Fleet • photo credit Bethany Ziegler

How much time should someone plan to spend at the museum?

Admission is good for two days, but highlights can be visited in as few as 90 minutes. Exploring all exhibition buildings takes around 3-4 hours.

What should someone bring with them and what items are not allowed in the museum?

Bring re-usable water bottles (a bottle filling station has been added to campus as part of Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s commitment to sustainability). Please feel free to bring lunch and have a picnic on campus.

Leashed dogs are welcome on CBMM’s campus, but are not permitted during special events and festivals, with the exception of certified service dogs. Nor are they permitted inside any exhibition buildings, or on museum vessels. Clean up bags and water are available.

Is photography allowed inside (without flash)?

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum welcomes photographs and videos of CBMM, taken for personal use, as well as sharing and tagging CBMM through your social media avenues (find us at @chesapeakemaritime on Instagram, for example).

Commercial photography is prohibited, unless prior permission from CBMM’s Communication’s Department has been made.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Maritime Museum • photo credit Bethany Ziegler

What should parents of young children know before visiting the museum?

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum creates and encourages a memorable, hands-on experience in all of its permanent exhibitions, making it a fun place for all ages to experience time and again.

Children can try their hand at tonging for oysters, play on replica workboat Thor and follow the crab’s journey from Bay to table.

CBMM also offers a free after-school program called Rising Tide for students in grades 6-9, to teach students basic boatbuilding and woodworking skills in a welcoming, relaxed environment.

What’s the coolest item for sale in the gift shop?

CBMM’s Museum Store is your homeport for maritime merchandise and more! The Museum Store offers a wide selection of nautical, museum, and Chesapeake Bay area apparel, books, home decor, fine jewelry, and toys.

Is there a museum cafe or restaurant?

CBMM does not have a cafe or restaurant, but guests are welcome to bring their own food and picnic on our park-like campus.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Floating Fleet • photo credit Bethany Ziegler

What should teachers planning a field trip know before reaching out to you?

At the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, we are dedicated to teaching students about the history and culture of the Chesapeake Bay’s communities and environment. Whether at CBMM, in your classroom, or out on the water, our hands-on programs and curriculum units are designed to inspire, challenge, and enlighten your students about the Chesapeake’s unique people and places.

Reservations are required for groups. At least two weeks’ advanced notice is required for all guided programs. Prices include general admission to the museum.

Programs and tours are available throughout the year and welcome all public, private, and home-schooled students, as well as youth organizations. For information, contact Program Administrative Assistant, Laurel Seeman, at 410-745-4947 or [email protected].

What else should a visitor know before visiting?

CBMM members and guests enjoy transformative experiences at CBMM as they encounter Chesapeake Bay history first-hand through real people, real work, original artifacts, visual arts and indigenous watercraft.

Each day offers something unique–get your hands wet exploring a waterman’s shanty, talk with a shipwright or visiting captain about his or her work or vessel. Be be sure climb to the top of the historic 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse for the best view of St. Michaels’ harbor and the Chesapeake’s Miles River in the historic Town of St. Michaels, MD.

What are your normal days and hours of operation?

CBMM and the Museum Store are open year-round, and closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s days. From May to October, CBMM is open from 9am–5pm and from November to April, CBMM is open from 10am–4pm.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum
Lighthouse • credit Bethany Ziegler

Does the museum have a bag check or coat room?


Is there parking available?


Is there an admission fee?

General admission is good for two days:

  • $16 – Adults (ages 18-64)
  • $13 – Seniors (65+)
  • $13 – Students (age 17+ with college ID)
  • $12 – Retired Military (with ID)
  • $ 6 – Children (ages 6-17)
  • FREE – Active Military
  • FREE – Children (ages 5 and under)
  • FREE – CBMM Members

Active-duty military members receive year-round, free general admission. As a Blue Star Museum, CBMM provides free general admission to active-duty military, National Guard, and Reserve personnel and their spouse/partner and up to three children from Armed Forces Day (May 18) through Labor Day (Sept. 2). All prices are subject to change.

CBMM is a Museums for All participant, which enables low-income families to visit CBMM for a minimal fee of $3 per person for up to four people with the presentation of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card and photo ID.

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