Suggested Trip

Lighthouse and Otters and Sharks, Oh My!


It’s a "typical" Sunday morning in Annapolis, Maryland. The clock’s hands are barely ticking past the 11 a.m. hour and the weather is clear, crisp and –wait –comfortably warm in the high 60s! It’s precisely because of this unusualness that I decide to venture somewhere new. I find that changing the daily routine once in a while is a healthy habit to develop, especially with the environment itself  changing around you. It helps me open my mind, decompress, and savor the experience much more intensely. I decide on a visit to the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons.

I grab my backpack and stuff it with the essentials – my wallet, phone, car keys, notepad, bottle of water, and camera. On a second thought, I take the phone out knowing that if I take it with me, it’ll rob me of being in the present moment during the exciting adventure ahead of me. I hesitate, put it back in and hop in my car. I know my phone can take boomerangs of the otters I’m about to see, something my DSLR isn’t able to do. Yet, at least.

It’s an hour drive, but I don’t mind. The unseasonable weather allows me to roll down my windows and blast a couple of tunes as I drive through  Maryland’s countryside. I pass farms, horses, and open land until I see the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge. I take a left on Solomons Island Road and park outside of the museum. I’m most excited about the otters, but I’m also looking to find the lighthouse. As I walk towards the entrance, I turn to my left and there it is – Drum Point Lighthouse.

The Lighthouse

I make it just in time for the tour, in which our tour guide walks us through the history of this unique lighthouse.

Drum Point Lighthouse was built in 1883 near the mouth of the Patuxent River just where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. This is one of over 40 such screwpile “cottage-type” structures built in the Chesapeake. Its main role, of course, was to guide mariners safely in and out of Chesapeake waters for 79 years, until it was decommissioned in 1962.

In 1975, Drum Point Lighthouse was purchased by the Calvert Marine Museum and moved to its campus from its original location, with the help of a tugboat and barge with a steam-powered crane. The seven, solid cast-iron pilings of the lighthouse were cut at the waterline so that the three-story lighthouse could be lifted by the crane’s 110-foot boom and moved to the museum.

We go up a flight of steel stairs, where there is a kitchen, a bedroom, a dining room, storage closets, and a dedicatory tribute to Anna Weems Ewalt, who was born in the lighthouse. We go up to the second floor, where we find what would have been the children’s room, more storage space, and the fog bell, which would ring a double blow every 15 seconds in poor visibility.

As we go up the spiral stairs, we reach the third and final floor, where the light is located. In 1911, the light’s characteristic changed to a fixed white light with three red sectors covering dangerous shoals near the river’s entrance to warn mariners (depending on their positioning at sea). When mariners saw a white light, they knew it was safe to approach the river; whereas if they saw a red light, they knew there was a hazard ahead.

Otter time

Following the lighthouse tour, I head over to the otter exhibit, which I’ve been eagerly anticipating. At the exhibit, the otters are playing, swimming and enjoying their 8,000-gallon, freshwater pool on this warm afternoon. The museum only has three otters – but that’s enough to make this visit totally worthwhile.

I pull out my phone and start snapping as many photos as I can, because one otter photo is clearly not enough. Their diet consists of carrots, mushrooms and scallop treats, among other fish "ceviche." During my chat with their caregivers, I learn that otters have natural nose plugs and are most active in the morning.

If you’re planning a visit, the museum welcomes visitors to watch staff feed and play with the otters every day at 1:15 p.m. and 4 p.m. For those that can’t make it to the museum, be sure to check out the livestream ottercam that shows off the otters all day!

The great carcharodon megalodon

With a big smile on my face, I leave the otters and continue to stroll around the rest of the exhibits in the museum. I go into the Estuarium, down to the Discovery Room, into the Maritime History Gallery and make my way over to the Paleontology Hall.

This is where the carcharodon megalodon, which means "big tooth,” is housed. The museum has a 37-foot-long cast, which gives a close-enough glimpse of what the 50-foot-long shark would have measured back in its day. The extinct species weighed more than 50 tons and had seven-inch, sharp, serrated teeth. It was, undoubtedly, the ultimate underwater superpredator, feeding off of whales, dolphins, seals and anything else it came across, including dead sea animals.

The ultimate family experience

As I walk over to the museum store, I find more about field trips, meetings, cruises, concerts and other events that are family-friendly, welcoming people of all ages. There is a performance series that offers a varied mix of traditional music – from jazz to foot-stomping jigs.

There is also a Fossil Club that offers field trips throughout the year, a Canoe & Kayak Club, and a Model Boat Club, among many opportunities to get involved in the museum.

There are also annual events that promise fun and excitement. There is the OtterMania! celebration (where you get a chance to dance "the Swim" with the otter mascots), Sharkfest, Patuxent River Appreciation Day (PRAD), the Lighthouse Challenge, and the Solomons Christmas Walk.

And last but not least, I also find out that the museum offers free entry on the first Friday of select months throughout the year from 5-8 p.m.

Regardless of when you plan to visit, the Calvert Marine Museum is sure to provide you with entertainment and engaging activities.

I’ve completed my visit and make my way out. I’m still smiling as I happily scroll through the photos I’ve taken of the lighthouse’s rooms and giggle at the videos of the otters munching on carrots. Indeed, it was a successful day!

Calvert Marine Museum

The Calvert Marine Museum invites you to explore how our prehistoric past, natural environment, and maritime heritage come together to tell a unique story of the Chesapeake Bay. The museum is also home to the Solomons Visitor Center, a visitor center which will help you find your way to Chesapeake Gateways in Southern Maryland and to this beautiful town's other attractions.

Ariana Perez

Ariana moved to Maryland in 2016 after living abroad in a busy city for three years. She grew up in northwestern Spain, where she learned to appreciate maritime life from an early age. She loves being outdoors, exploring, and traveling.

February 14, 2020

Main image: All photos by Ariana Perez
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