Plan Your Visit
The Chesapeake Bay is big – 200 miles long – and easily approached from major airports and by car traffic through major interstates and backroads of the mid-Atlantic. This page will help you find things to do and themes to guide you as you pick an approach. Do you have a smartphone or tablet? For an easy take on it, go straight to the official NPS mobile app for the Chesapeake Bay -- Chesapeake Explorer.
National Gateways and Trails to the Chesapeake
Throughout the Chesapeake, there are places with stories so significant to the United States that Congress links them together and officially recognizes them:
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail: how the national anthem came to be written. That story was born out of the War of 1812 -- a time when the world's most powerful Navy, belonging to the British, dominated the Chesapeake, trapped citizens in their homes, and offered an interesting alternative to enslaved people who could escape.
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail: how the Chesapeake Bay was before Europeans permanently settled here. There are still places today that look like they did 400 years ago. And the Indians who were here then, are still here now. Use these trail sites to experience the old Bay.
Gateways and Watertrails Network: all the different ways to experience the Chesapeake. Each of the 172 places in the Network have a unique take on a Chesapeake Bay story -- colonial downtowns, watermen stories, lighthouses, boats, wildlife preserves, and parks to play in.
Play on the Water
Chesapeake Bay is all about the water. And there are ways to get out there and experience the thrill and the relaxation of seeing the world from on a boat.
Fun for Land-lubbers
State parks, county parks, forests, trails, and beaches . . . there are fun things to do with no fear of seasickness.
Key Tips for Enjoying Your Visit
Did You Know?
Did you know that the Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North American and the second largest in the world?