click map to enlarge
One of Maryland's oldest towns, Oxford was a colonial port of entry and home to several heroes of the American Revolution. Today its allure is its quiet small townishness and many boating services. A compact community with shade-drenched sidewalks and charming homes, it is bordered by Town Creek and the Tred Avon River, where you'll see workboats, sleek yachts and a historic ferry go about their business.
A commercial listing and street map put together by the Oxford Business Association locates and describes stores, restaurants and marinas. Just as valuable, however, is the brochure's synopsis of local history and site map of places of interest. It suggests a self-guided walking tour leading to historic houses such as Bratt Mansion (c. 1848), once part of the Maryland Military Academy; Barnaby House, erected in the 1770s; Byberry, one of the area's oldest homes (records indicate it was standing in 1695); and the Grapevine House (1798), which has a grapevine planted in 1810 still growing in the front yard. (Copies of the guide can be downloaded at www.portofoxford.com). Get other perspectives on Oxford's past by perusing the artifacts and displays in the Oxford Museum or taking a guided tour of the town arranged by museum staff (reservations required). And don't miss the vintage boats and maritime memorabilia on display near the entrance to Cutts & Case shipyard.
Be as active or idle as you please. Enjoy water-oriented activities such as fishing and exploring by dinghy, or make use of the athletics facilities on the edge of town, including tennis courts, swings, a sports field and backstops. Sit on a small beach and watch boat traffic drift lazily by or take to one of the shaded benches and picnic tables in a grassy park overlooking the river.
Cyclists are familiar with the Eastern Shore's flat terrain and safer, extra-wide road shoulders. Oxford's roads are no exception. The surrounding countryside is ideal for cycling and you can even take an historic shortcut to St. Michaels. If you don't have bikes on board, rent them at Mears Yacht Haven, Hinckley Yacht Services or Easton Cycle and Sport (www.eastoncycleandsport.com) then head to the foot of North Morris Street to take the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry across the Tred Avon. Believed to be the oldest privately operated ferry in the nation, it began running in 1683 and has operated continuously since 1836. The ferry drops you off in the countryside on a road that shortcuts the seven or so miles between Oxford and St. Michaels. Hardier cyclists will find a longer, cross-country route to Easton equally enjoyable.
Paddlers may want to explore the nooks and crannies of nearby creeks. Easton Cycle and Sport (410-822-7433) and Eastern Shore Adventure Company (410-820-8881) rent paddlecraft and offer guided excursions.
Oxford's retail district, though small, holds a number of shops well worth browsing. Go treasure-hunting among the antiques and collectibles at Americana Antiques. The former also carries gifts, home furnishings and artworks, and the latter specializes in 18th and 19th century American folk art, furniture and paintings. You'll find used books and current titles at Mystery Loves Company, where whodunits share shelf space with books for all ages and interests. Shop for gifts, books and town memorabilia at the Oxford Museum's gift shop and small collectibles from the British isles at the Scottish Highland Creamery. Address all your nautical needs in the ship's store at Hinckley Yacht Services.
Oxford Market and Deli can fill your galley supply needs. More than a convenience store, it carries produce, groceries, dairy products, sundries and even rental movies. You can also restock at the Farmer's Market held Wednesday afternoons (in summer) at the Oxford Community Center.
Seafood and hospitality characterize the local restaurant scene and boaters will find that complimentary shuttle service is often available to and from establishments not located along the waterfront. Fine dining is key at Latitude 38 Bistro & Spirits (American cuisine served in dining rooms graced with handpainted murals), Pope's Tavern (a European style bistro in the historic Oxford Inn) and the Robert Morris Inn,near the ferry landing. The Masthead (a crabhouse/seafood restaurant at Pier Street Marina; free dockage for patrons) and Schooners on the Creek (featuring steamed crabs, live music; free dockage for patrons) are more casual. The Scottish Highland Creamery (designer ice creams, sorbets, handmade fudge) is worth the walk up Morris Street.
Oxford's relaxed atmosphere is reflected in its fun-filled, often boat-oriented annual events. Especially popular is the annual Cardboard Boat Race (contestants use "materials"—primarily cardboard—to fashion vessels held together with everything from staples to duct tape) in June. Ther town hosts an Independence Day celebration (including fireworks), and in August the Bay's famous log canoes compete on the river in regattas hosted by the Tred Avon Yacht Club. Throughout the year, the Oxford Community Center's calendar is filled with performances by the Tred Avon Players, concerts and special programs like the annual Fall Festival (visit www.wso.net/oxfordcc/ or www.tredavonplayers.org for info).
Information: Oxford Business Association, 410-226-5527; www.portofoxford.com or www.tourtalbot.org.