The Harbours at Solomons Island
On a peninsula in southern Maryland, jutting out into the Patuxent River on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, this community is for those who relish being near the water’s edge.
Rows of boats gently bobbing in the water, their white hulls gleaming in the sun, dot the Solomons Island harbor. Pleasure vessels, piers and the curving shoreline come into view from the crest of the 140-foot-tall Gov. Thomas Johnson Memorial Bridge crossing the Patuxent River. Solomons Island is on the southern tip of the peninsula, where the river flows into Chesapeake Bay. It is 65 miles southeast of Washington, DC, and 80 miles south of Baltimore.
“Solomons Island is a boating community; that was important for us,” says Joe Wharton, 70, a retired electrical engineer. In 2016, he and his wife, Linda, moved from Virginia Beach, VA, into The Harbours at Solomons Island, a neighborhood targeted toward those 55 and older.
The couple keep their boat at a marina down the street from the development, which is a small town called Dowell, ad-jacent to Solomons Island. “We enjoy cruising Chesapeake Bay, visiting Kent County and Crisfield, Cambridge and other small towns,” says Linda, 62, a retired nurse.
The Whartons chose a 2,308-square-foot home with three bedrooms, a loft and two-and-a-half bathrooms. “The neighborhood is compact and nicely laid out and the houses are modern construction,” Joe says. “The people are friendly.”
The Harbours, created in 2006, shut down during the Great Recession and reopened for sales in 2015. Developers plan to construct 251 homes on approximately 100 acres, with base prices ranging from about $360,000 to $405,000.
Residents are starting up social clubs, and Linda participates in the book group and yoga classes.
The clubhouse at The Harbours takes in vistas of creeks and rivers, the fishing and crabbing pier, kayak launch and nearby marina. Some future homes will have water views as well.
Officially, Solomons Island denotes the lower portion of town, a section separated from the mainland by a narrow canal. Unofficially, locals and visitors use the names Solomons and Solomons Island interchangeably.
Year-round Solomons’ residents total about 2,400. On summer weekends, boaters and sightseers swell the population, but crowds are much smaller than many regional shore destinations, especially since Solomons has few beaches and none are on the Atlantic Ocean.
But the river and bay are perfect playgrounds for avid boaters like Bruce Robertson and his wife, Phyllis Lantz. After they retired, they relocated from Westminster, MD, to St. Mary’s County. Despite the ideal location, “the property was just too much for us,” says Bruce, 71, a retired sales manager. “We were working ourselves to death.”
So in 2017, Bruce and Phyllis moved into The Harbours, where homes require little maintenance. They chose the 2,136-square-foot Sloop model. “We like that the homes are quality-built,” says Phyllis, 75, a former public school educator. “The insulation seems to be superior and the windows operate easily. We like the neighborhood and the fact that our HOA fee covers lawns, snow removal and other maintenance.”
The couple, who spent 25 years cruising Chesapeake Bay, sold their boat in 2017. “Now we’re looking for friends who have a boat,” Bruce says with a wink and a smile.
Another happy resident at The Harbours is Beverly Querry, who knew as soon as she walked into the 1,844-squarefoot Tradewinds model that it was the house for her. “There was light and sunshine,” she says. “I liked the granite counters and the hardwood cabinets. Although there’s not a lot of room, there’s a lot of space. It’s wide open.”
Beverly, 70, a retired financial analyst for the Navy, moved to The Harbours in 2016 from Mechanicsville, MD. She wanted to downsize after her husband died in 2015. “I lived in a house I loved for 33 years,” she says. “It was a big house with a pool on 2 acres, but it was a lot of work.”
She praises the development’s location as well as its pet friendliness. “We are not more than 2 or 3 miles from a gas station, doctors, urgent care and a pet store,” says Beverly, a dog lover who lives with two rescued Yorkshire terriers. “It was absolutely important to be in a
pet-friendly community. There’s hardly anyone here who doesn’t have a pet.” On dog walks and solo strolls, Beverly stops to chat with neighbors.
The Harbours’ pier is another favorite walking spot. “I like to sit by the water and watch the bridge,” says Beverly, who also enjoys hiking in Calvert Cliffs State Park, 4 miles north of Dowell. The park’s namesake cliffs edge Chesapeake Bay for 24 miles of Calvert County, creating a scenic backdrop to the beach. Rainwater and wind cause erosion that reveals fossils formed millions of years ago. Strollers on the beach have come upon fossilized shark teeth, dolphin skulls and various prehistoric shells. The park also offers the respite of nature trails and bay breezes.
For centuries, fishing, oystering and boating sustained the locals. The Native Americans who lived by the river long before English settlers arrived in the 17th century fished and hand-harvested oysters from shallow waters. In 1867, Capt. Isaac Solomon, the island’s namesake, established a commercial oyster cannery in southernmost Calvert County. Ship building, fishing and canning surged. Although those industries diminished, the river and bay remain integral to the town.
In 1942, the government constructed the U.S. Naval Amphibious Training Base — Calvert Marina in Dowell, which served 67,698 seamen from 1942 to 1945. Maps of the base show multiple piers jutting into Back Creek, part of the Patuxent River. The Harbours as well as the adjacent Calvert Marina sit on what once was Navy land. A set of pillars from the old gate remain and the Navy’s redbrick power plant now serves as The Harbours’ clubhouse, a facility with a meeting area and gym. Without a gate, long driveway or access restrictions, the development has homes that flow seamlessly into the larger Solomons.
Joe likes the lack of crowds here. “We came from Virginia Beach, which has much more traffic,” he says. “We can get to BWI (Baltimore-Washington International), Reagan National and Dulles airports fairly easily.”
Joe and Linda also enjoy Solomons’ wildlife and parks. “We’re into nature,” Linda says. “We love walking and observing deer, eagles, osprey nests and sometimes foxes. We didn’t see that in Virginia Beach.”
The Whartons also praise Calvert County’s parks, especially Flag Ponds Nature Park, 10 miles north of The Harbours, whose paths wind through the woods. Walkers also enjoy strolling along Chesapeake Bay shore.
Solomons and Dowell clearly qualify for small-town status, but residents find plenty to do. Bruce and Phyllis take visitors to the Calvert Marine Museum, which focuses on the area’s ecology, maritime history and life on the river and bay. One exhibit shows rows of fossils in glass cases, and visitors learn about historic watercraft and the critters that live in the surrounding waters. Exhibits dedicated to oystering are shown at the nearby J.C. Lore Oyster House, where fast-handed shuckers once toiled.
The star of the waterfront is the hexagonal, screw-pile lighthouse, which stands on an elevated wrought-iron base affixed to the creek bottom. The 1883 lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Annmarie Sculpture Garden and Arts Center, a Smithsonian Institution affiliate in Dowell, less than 1 mile north of The Harbours, surprises newcomers. “It’s a neat place with a wooded area that has sculptures, indoor galleries and art classes,” Phyllis says. An impressive bronze and granite sculpture of an oyster worker, called a tonger, graces the front lawn. Additional works and pieces on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden adorn the paths.
Just across the bridge, St. Mary’s County offers parks, a historic plantation and bike paths, including the Three Notch Trail following a former railway line.
Another nearby attraction is Point Lookout State Park in Scotland, MD, where Chesapeake Bay meets the Potomac River. Here, visitors can fish, use the boat launch and browse a museum that explains the park’s years as a prison for more than 52,000 Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.
Historic Sotterley Plantation dates to 1703 and spreads out on 95 acres along the river. Exhibits examine the lives of the slaves and free laborers who worked the farm, not just the wealthy Europeans who arrived by boat. Trails lead to the water and through the woods where eagles nest in the treetops.
Solomons, and The Harbours specifically, brings Phyllis and Bruce lots of beauty and contentment. A stroll along the river or bay is never more than a few minutes away. The water laps the shore, providing calming moments. “We love where we are,” Bruce says. Phyllis echoes her husband’s train of thought. “It’s just a wonderful time in our lives,” she says.
Quick Facts: The Harbours at Solomons Island
The Harbours at Solomon Island is a nongated neighborhood in Dowell in southern Maryland, 65 miles southeast of Washington, DC, and 80 miles south of Baltimore. Baltimore-Washington Marshall Airport is 70 miles north.
The Classic Group LLC developed and built the community.
Home sizes and prices:
Options include a 1,844-square-foot attached cottage home and four single-family models, ranging from 1,894 to 2,308 square feet. Base prices range from $359,990 to $404,990.
Of the first phase’s 54 homes, 40 homes have been built. At completion, the development will have 251 homes on approximately 100 acres.
The 1,400-square-foot clubhouse at The Harbours, used for community functions, features a meeting area and a gym with exercise equipment. The neighborhood has a fishing pier, private beach, kayak launch and pool. An independently owned marina adjacent to the property has deep water slips for boaters.
The homeowners association dues of $162 per month cover common area and lawn maintenance, snow and trash removal as well as use of the beach, pier and pool.
The Harbours targets those 55 and older.
The majority of residents are retired and have relocated from Maryland.
Visitors can stay at nearby hotels.
The Harbours at Solomons Island, 13888 Victory Lane, Dowell, MD 20629, HarboursAtSolomons.com.