B&B: Queenstown Inn B&B, Queenstown, Md., about 48 miles from the Beltway in Queen Anne's County.
BEST FOR: Workaholics needing to unwind in a place where the biggest decision is wine or beer.
DRIVE TIME FROM BELTWAY: 55 minutes.
B&B co-owner Michael Lydon commutes daily to Washington and said that even on a summery Friday afternoon, the ride doesn't take more than an hour, an hour and a half tops. We trumped that: On a perfect-weather holiday weekend, we made it in less than an hour -- and that included two wrong turns. Departing late Saturday morning, we zipped along Route 50 east to the Bay Bridge, where only three cars were ahead of us in the toll line. The post-bridge trip was just as smooth, as we clipped along Route 301 north to the left turn onto Main Street -- oops, make that an erroneous first turn, then another (it's the second set of hazard lights, and the road is called Del Rhodes Avenue; the directions say Main Street, but that comes later). After a quick recovery, we were in eyeshot of the tiny triangle of a town and its sole inn, which sits across the street from the firehouse.
THE INN: In a town where you can count on your fingers the number of businesses and attractions (seven, including the B&B), you can't miss the circa-1830 property -- three interconnected structures with cheery grasshopper-green awnings, a brightly painted cast-iron facade and a suburban-size front yard. Lydon and his partner, Joshua Barnes, have filled the inn's capacious Gathering Room with a sit-and-sink-in corduroy couch, small TV and books and artifacts from Lydon's adventures in Africa, Europe and Russia. An open (!) bar -- beer, wine and soda are free to guests -- takes up the back corner, creating a "Cheers"-like social setting. Each of the five rooms is themed; we originally booked the Bayside, with its golfing decor, but moved to the larger Music Room (antique queen-size bed with quilt and a twin sleigh bed), decorated with all things melodic, including a music stand and book of love songs.
Though the two-story inn is curbside, the flower-filled back yard screams, "Relax here!" (Meanwhile, the front porch whispers, "Spy on the neighbors.") And so we did, dividing our time between the long enclosed sunroom, where continental breakfast is eaten (Lydon will also give guests a $5 voucher to the local diner), and the lawn furniture out back, where you can hear occasional squawks from inside the old carriage house, where pet birds Tito and Crackers live. There is also a gallery on-site, with a handful of local artworks, including some depicting the town's famous white squirrels (never saw 'em) and a defunct cafe (this is a one-coffee-shop town).
Of course, if you need a caffeine kick, you can always hop over to the Potter's Pantry and be back in your chaise before the cup has even cooled.
WE'D GO BACK FOR THE . . . house rule of "make yourself at home." When Lydon said it, he truly meant it. And so we raided the fridge, drank red wine late at night, ate seconds at breakfast, even put our feet up on the coffee table, much as we'd do in our own pad.
WE COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT THE . . . fire station across the street, whose bone-rattling alarm, which rouses the town's volunteers to work, went off three times in one day, including 1:38 a.m.
THE EXPERIENCE: Queenstown itself can be toured in one quick loop: There's the post office, bank, fire station, Potter's Pantry, town hall and 1708 courthouse-cum-museum (site of wartime slave drafts, hangings, lashings and brandings). Or in a slower circle that draws in Bowlingly Manor House, invaded by the Brits but now a private residence; a sliver of sand on the bay; and the park bench beneath the town clock, where we sat and watched no traffic pass by.
Yes, time moves at a mollusk's pace in Queenstown. But we found faster action up the road, in the little towns sprouting along the water. And few things in this Eastern Shore region are faster than a speeding bullet -- except, of course, the sporting clay(s) that got away. At Pintail Point (511 Pintail Point Lane, 410-827-7029, www.pintailpoint.com; $22 base rate for 50 targets), an outdoor-enthusiasts emporium with hunting, golfing, fishing, a working dairy farm, a hunting dog kennel, an inn and a sporting clay range (or "golf with a gun"), it took me 10 shots to down that bugger -- but trust me, that discus will never fly again.
For real birds and other wildlife, we hiked the well-shaded, untrammeled trails of Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area (410-827-7577) and cycled (Happy Trails bike shop, Stevensville, 410-643-0670; $8-$10 per hour) the 51/2-mile Cross Island Trail, which dead-ends at the woo-hoo marina bar scene of Kent Narrows. Of course, it's unwise to drink and drive a tandem, so we saved the cocktails for later, at the Angler's Shanty (Kent Narrows Way South, Grasonville), where a guitarist sang alt-rock songs, boaters sipped and swayed along the dock and I found a dollar bill floating in the water -- to be invested in the bar's Happy Hour, when drafts are only a buck.
WHERE TO EAT: The only restaurant in Queenstown is the Potter's Pantry (714 Main St.), which serves solid diner food, including an IHOP-esque breakfast for about $4. Kent Narrows and its environs are rife with seafood joints; one of the nicest (i.e., cloth napkins, marina views, smoked salmon wontons) is the Narrows (Route 50, Grasonville), with entrees from $12.75. For crab-pickin', try Kentmorr in Stevensville, where you can get a dozen crabs and a mallet for $36-$66. For less fishy fare, try Love Point Cafe in Stevensville, with vegetarian options. And for southern-style cooking: Chesapeake Chicken and Rockin' Ribs in Grasonville, with decadent side dishes and desserts.
INFO: Queenstown Inn B&B, 7109 Main St., Queenstown, Md., 888-744-3407, www.queenstowninn.com. High-season rates are $105 to $145, low season $80 to $120.
-- Andrea Sachs