“North East” is the name of a quaint, day-trip worthy village at the top of the Chesapeake Bay, just off I-95. You can spend a pleasant day strolling through shops or hit the outdoor sports. 

The town, located about 50-miles from both Baltimore and Philadelphia, is small with fewer than 4,000 residents, and fills only two-square miles. That adds up to a couple of blocks wide and about five blocks long.

Downtown North East

Downtown North East, Maryland

North East captures the essence of Main Street USA where you can shop for that antique or collectible treasure you’ve been hunting for.

The downtown is filled with boutiques, antique stores, fun shops, and restaurants. It’s a popular stop for Baltimore and Philly residents who want to get away for an afternoon of lunch and shopping.

For the outdoor set, there’s a lovely community park on the North East River, along with Elk Neck State Park which has a beach just down the road from North East.

North East River at the Community Park

The town was settled by the English in 1658 and was the first permanent settlement in Civil County. Not much from the Colonia era is left.

North East has mainly stayed in the era of the 1900s, with many of the historic buildings from the turn of the 20th Century.

North East has two parallel main drags — they’re both one-way streets — Main Street going south through the downtown area and Mauldin Avenue taking you back north through mainly residential neighborhoods.

North East

The two streets split from Highway 272 at the start of North East, then merge again after North East, like a Tootsie Roll twisted at the north and south ends of town.

The town doesn’t dwell much on its history, but they’ve held on to their old general store and mill, along with other former trade buildings.

Those buildings are now shops and restaurants along Main Street.

Interestingly, North East has a beach-town vibe, similar to what you’d find at Rehoboth and other small Delaware towns near the ocean. But the closest beach is nine miles away.

Chocolate shop in North East, MD

There’s street parking all along Main Street, but there’s also a big public lot and a public restroom behind North East Town Hall. It continues behind the shops.

Neighborhoods of North East

The town has a number of historic homes, including the home of a former coffin maker and a combination inn/stagecoach stop. The homes range mainly from Victorian to Queen Anne styles.

It’s a pleasant walkabout to see the historic homes. Not all are fixed up, but even the ones that aren’t can be interesting.

North East was the first permanent settlement in Cecil County.

South of the downtown area on Main Street, you’ll come across the colonial St. Mary Anne’s church which dates back 300 years, and, across the street, the 1903 craftsman-style North East United Methodist Church.

Both are still active churches.

North East United Methodist Church was built in 1912 in the stylish “craftsman” style popular in those days.

St. Mary Anne’s has a lovely cemetery that dates back to the colonial days. Graves of Susquehannock Indians date back to the 1600s.

St. Mary Anne's Episcopal Church in North East, MD
St. Mary Anne’s Episcopal Church. The cemetery backs up to the North East River.

The North East River starts north of the town of North East. It flows through town as a creek and widens at the south end of town into a river.

Fishing just south of the downtown shopping area

There’s a great view of North East Creek from the back of the St. Mary Anne’s Church cemetery.

North East’s Waterfront Park

Located at the end of Walnut Street on the Northeast River, North East Community Park is 10 acres with four pavilions

Even though it seems like there should be a beach nearby — because it really does look like a beach town — there is no public access to the river until you go to the south end of town, and hang a right where the two streets merge.

That’s where you’ll find North East Community Park, a large beautiful park overlooking the river where it widens into the start of the Chesapeake Bay.

North East Community Park has a number of walking paths with benches pointing toward scenic spots

North East Community Park is well worth visiting. There’s no beach here, but there is water access.

It has 10 acres of waterfront park with a boat dock, kayak launch area, walking path, playground, and picnic tables.

Inside the park, you’ll find the Upper Bay Museum, focusing on the region’s fishing and hunting heritage.

However, be aware that seeing the museum exhibits can be tricky. The volunteer-run museum doesn’t keep regular hours; it varies by season and other events going on in town.

The Upper Bay Museum was created to preserve the lifestyle of the local watermen and hunters. Visitors can see outlawed gunning rigs and skillfully carved decoys. It also claims one of the country’s best collections of boat engines.

Check the website or call before heading over if you want to visit.

You can rent bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards at Bay Venture Outfitters near the park.

Near the park’s boat dock is the Nauti Goose Restaurant and tiki bar, a summer hotspot with spitfire seafood and cocktails on the bay.

And as they point out, it’s one of the very few waterfront restaurants on the upper bay with ample car parking and boat docking.

The shopping area is easily walkable, but the riverfront park is about a mile down the road, so it’s better to cycle or drive over.

Just Outside North East

Elk Neck State Park is nine miles south of North East. That’s where the beach is, on the western portion of the park on the North East River. Because it’s on the fresh-water river, it’s a popular beach year-round. Jellyfish don’t go there.

Elk Neck State Park Beach

The park is also known for its hiking and the Turkey Point Lighthouse at the southern tip of the Elk Neck Peninsula, providing sweeping views of the Chesapeake Bay.

Historic Gilpin’s Falls Covered Bridge is less than four miles north of North East. It crosses North East Creek.

Gilpin's Covered Bridge
Photo courtesy mdcoveredbridges.com

It was built in 1860 and is the longest covered bridge in Maryland, at 119 feet.

There’s a 1.7-mile hiking trail to the bridge that goes past a waterfall. The Gilpin’s Falls Trail is considered an easy hike, starting from Cecil College.