For nearly 80 years Betterton, Maryland, was a big deal. It was a major shipping stop for Eastern Shore produce and a beach resort for vacationers out of Pennsylvania, Baltimore, Delaware, and New Jersey. Now, it’s a village of summer-getaway and retirement homes with a good-sized public swimming beach.
Betterton as a Party Town
The Chesapeake Bay had a number of Victorian beach resorts with grand hotels, Ferris wheels, roller coasters, arcades, and dancing halls. Betterton was one of the bigger ones. It was across the main route between Philadelphia and Baltimore, and the water here is less briny making it a more pleasant place to swim with fewer jellyfish during the hot summer.
Most of the Victorian resorts faded away and the communities disappeared. But Betterton hung on.
In the late 1970s, the Town of Betterton bought the beach and began cleaning up its image. Dilapidated buildings were torn down and the town scrounged up state funds for rehab.
The town is now a tidy, little waterfront community. There are a few of the big Victorian homes left, but not many. Summer cottages are more prevalent, but they’ve been rehabbed into year-round homes. Modern condos now line the cliff-tops.
What’s in Betterton?
The catholic church in town was turned into a community center and the Betterton Heritage Museum takes up a bit of the entrance with a couple of cases of historic items contributed by the residents.
The museum tells the history of how the town started as a fishing village and expanded into a shipping port when steamships came along, then became a beach resort. The resort business died when the Bay Bridge was built and steamships were no longer used.
But as for a place to visit, it’s at the end of a long peninsula through farm-country and there’s not much there. It really is just a small cluster of homes — about 400 year-round residents — and a beach.
There are no shops, not even a convenience store. The only restaurant is at the edge of town. The locals go to Still Ponds, Maryland, for a general store (about 3 miles away) or to the nearest large town, Chestertown (about 12 miles down the road) for a full-sized grocery store and strip malls.
If you just want to go for a drive or a boat ride, this is a scenic stop. The view of the upper Chesapeake Bay is amazing from Betterton. And the swimming? It’s still a nice beach.
For information about Betterton Beach