Cool nautical-themed things to do in Annapolis

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West

Cool nautical-themed things to do in Annapolis

It’s that time of year again! The weather is (finally) warming up and thoughts turn to sailing. One of the best ways to kick off sailing season is the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show. Last year we put together a guide to making a weekend out of your boat show visit – check it out here: Annapolis Boat Show – The Perfect Weekend Getaway.  In keeping with the boat show theme, here are some more of our favorite nautical-related things to do in Annapolis.

Sailboat show

This year’s Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show runs from April 20-22 at Annapolis City Dock. The big draws are the boats – from Bavarias to Valiants and everything in between. But there’s much, much more. You can stock up on boat supplies and new gear for the season. Plus there are in-water demos of kayaks and SUPs, workshops, music, and free drink tastings. It’s a lot to see and do, so pre-game your boat show visit by checking out the show guide and planning your days accordingly. Pro tip: shoes aren’t allowed onboard most of the boats (and you’re going to want to see them!) so wear shoes you can slip on and off easily. Also: layers. Spring weather can be a little fickle so come prepared.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show

Sure sign of a popular boat at the show: lot of shoes on the dock. Photo by 12° West.

Get on the water

Annapolis is the all about the water, so getting out on it is one of the top things to do in Annapolis. Want to learn to sail? The Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show offers First Sail Workshops to give a taste of the sport to sailing newbies. Be sure to reserve in advance, as they book up fast.

Looking for something a bit more sedate or romantic? Schooner Woodwind offers daytime and sunset cruises with fun themes on their two 74 foot, two-masted staysail schooners. Fun fact: Woodwind II appeared in the movie Wedding Crashers, sailed by Christopher Walken himself!

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Schooner Woodwind

Schooner Woodwind sailing into the sunset. Photo courtesy of Schooner Woodwind.

A unique (and eco-friendly) way to experience the Annapolis waterfront is on a battery-powered boat from Annapolis Electric Boat Rentals that you drive yourself. Their boats seat up to 10, coast along silently under battery, and you can bring your own food and drink. Plus, they have the best tagline: “like a Tesla, but slower”.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Annapolis Electric Boat Rentals

Cruising around Annapolis harbor in an electric boat. Photo courtesy of Annapolis Electric Boat Rentals.

If self-propelled water action is more your style, check out Annapolis Canoe & Kayak in Eastport. You can rent a kayak, canoe or SUP by the hour or day, and launch right from their floating dock on Spa Creek.

One of the best (and cheapest) ways to explore Naptown by water is the Annapolis Water Taxi. Their friendly captains will take you to most points in Annapolis Harbor, Spa Creek and Back Creek – as well as give you a bit of history and a great restaurant recommendation – all for under $10. You can’t beat that.

History and culture

Located on the site of Eastport’s last remaining oyster packing plant – McNasby Oyster Company –  the Annapolis Maritime Museum packs a lot into a relatively small space. The museum’s interactive experiences highlight the oyster and its role in shaping both the history and maritime culture of Annapolis. You’ll also learn about Arnie Gay, a dedicated sailor who was instrumental in transforming the run-down Annapolis waterfront into the “Sailing Capital of America.” Admission is free, but spend a few dollars on a guided tour with one of the exceptionally knowledgeable docents – you’ll get a lot more out of the experience.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Annapolis Maritime Museum

The Annapolis Maritime Museum, housed in the old McNasby Oyster Company building. Photo courtesy of Visit Annapolis.

Lighthouse lovers shouldn’t miss the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. Built in 1875, it’s the last screw-pile lighthouse on the Bay still in its original location, one-and-a-half miles offshore in the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the South River. It’s still a working lighthouse and an active Coast Guard-maintained aid to navigation. Get a good view of the lighthouse from land at Thomas Point Park. To get a closer look, each summer the United States Lighthouse Society and Maritime Museum partner to offer tours that take you inside the historic structure. That’s a lighthouse lover’s dream!

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse

Sunrise at the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse. Photo courtesy of Visit Maryland.

Of course no visit to Annapolis is complete without a visit to the United States Naval Academy. The campus itself is gorgeous, especially in the spring. Be sure to see the beautiful domed chapel, which houses the crypt of John Paul Jones, father of the U.S. Navy. The excellent visitors center, guided tour, museum and bookstore are all well worth your time.

Nautical shopping

When thinking about things to do in Annapolis, shopping should be on your list. There are many unique local shops that offer nautical-themed merchandise.

Specializing in sailing and maritime history, Annapolis Bookstore has an extensive nautical collection. So does Old Fox Books, which has an onsite coffeehouse to boot. Both stores are located on charming Maryland Avenue, so grab something off the shelf, sink into a chair at either place and enjoy spending time in an increasingly rare local and independent bookstore.

In 1996, Re-Sails became the first in the market to manufacture sail bags and accessories out of re purposed sails. Today you can find all manner of bags, accessories, home goods and apparel at their shop on Randall Street, close to the Naval Academy.

With the motto “Unique Things from the Seven Seas” Annapolis Maritime Antiques has a large assortment of nautical decorative items and authentic nautical antiques and artifacts. They also do beautiful custom woodwork utilizing authentic antique hatch covers from World War II-era Liberty ships. We could browse here for hours.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Annapolis Maritime Antiques

So many nautical treasures at Annapolis Maritime Antiques. Photo courtesy Visit Annapolis.

One of our regular stops in Annapolis is Local by Design on Main Street. This unique shop carries an ever-evolving collection of art, jewelry, home decor, painted furniture, gifts, apparel and accessories from over 60 local artists, many with a nautical influence. Pretty sure we’ve never walked out of there empty-handed.

Eat and drink

You’ll be thirsty and hungry after you’ve explored all these things to do in Annapolis! Luckily, we know of some great nautical-themed eateries where you can try the local specialties, including crabs and oysters.

Where do the local sailors go? Some well known haunts are Boatyard Bar & Grill in Eastport and McGarvey’s Saloon & Oyster Bar near City Dock. Another favorite of local sailors and watermen is Davis’ Pub. This is a true neighborhood pub with friendly bartenders, a juke box, Maryland sports on the tv, and excellent bar food. Davis’ was even featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive Ins and Dives. We can testify that their crab pretzel really is all that!

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Don’t miss the lively crowd of locals and the crab pretzel at Davis’ Pub. Photo courtesy of Foursquare.

Local watermen deliver fresh catch daily to the dock outside Cantler’s Riverside Inn on Mill Creek. The Cantler family has been in the seafood industry for five generations, and Cantler’s is an Annapolis go-to for the authentic crab house experience. They serve ears of steamed corn alongside trays of crabs; pick up a mallet and have at it.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Cantlers Riverside Inn

Steamed hard-shell crabs at Cantler’s Riverside Inn. Photo courtesy of Men’s Journal.

Located in uptown Annapolis, Sailor Oyster Bar is a different but equally unique experience. Sailor serves a menu of fresh oysters, gourmet tinned fish from Portugal, and an outstanding charcuterie and cheese board. There’s no kitchen at Sailor; everything is prepared behind the bar, where the oysters are also shucked. There’s a daily happy hour with $1 local oysters on the half shell, making it totally worth the trip a little farther up West Street.

Things to do in Annapolis - 12° West - Sailor Oyster Bar

Sailor Oyster Bar on West Street in uptown Annapolis. Photo courtesy of Capital Gazette.

So many things to do in Annapolis!

Clearly you won’t have any problem filling your time in Annapolis! In fact, you’ll probably need to come back in the fall for the spectacular United States Boat Show – and to check out all the cool nautical-themed things to do in Annapolis. Enjoy your visit!

Come see 12° West at the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show. We’ll be in Tent A, Booth 20, showing some new styles of women’s sailing gear for summer! And check out our other guide to Naptown: Annapolis Boat Show – The Perfect Weekend Getaway.