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From the Sandaway, With Love

By Leigh Cort


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Late afternoon autumn sunset casting shadows on the Sandaway

I yearn to return to the Sandaway – quietly embracing the long Indian summer days on the shore of the Chesapeake, Choptank and Tred Avon Rivers. A graceful and stately mansion with sloping green lawns & gardens …dotted with white Adirondack chairs and chaises – reminiscent of a turn-of-the century postcard. It’s a sentinel of gracious Southern living – Oxford, Maryland embraces four centuries of American history surrounded by three renowned bodies of water.  

Maryland ~ one of the original thirteen colonies and accustomed to its position in the middle – where land meets sea and North meets South. I felt as though I landed in the most beautiful spot in the world. It was a quiet Sunday afternoon; schooners, sailboats and skipjacks dotted the waterways surrounding Oxford. People walked slowly to and from the ferry – occasionally dipping their toes into the chilly water along pristine little beaches. 

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Ferry circa 1931 – Sign says ‘Raise Flag for Ferry’!

For discerning visitors who enjoy tranquility, privacy and exclusivity, there aren’t many places on the globe that one can feel at home the moment you arrive. The tiny hamlet of Oxford (population 600) is perfect for walking along the river shores, exploring the lovely architecture of days gone by with many homes circa 1700’s – 1800’s and unhurriedly bicycling the town – all of which is an historic area. It sprawls a bit inland from the waterways into grandiose farm country known for corn, tobacco and soybeans yet is only 1.5 hour drive from Washington, D.C. and America’s Capitol commotion. 

Once the most thriving port of entry for the entire Maryland province (1694), Oxford enjoyed prominence as an international shipping center surrounded by wealthy tobacco plantations. Famous statesmen, sea captains, war heroes and industrialists brought acclaim to its borders. “During the early glory years, if you could buy riches and fineries of the world in Paris and London, you could buy it in Oxford too!” 

Once I checked in and wandered from the Sandaway, I discovered the famed Robert Morris Inn. Its pub and dining rooms lured me to dine for breakfast, outdoor verandah lunch and a late night dinner throughout the week. Only a block from my bed & breakfast, it was easy to see how a guest could truly relax and enjoy not caring about schedules except perhaps reading a book. Better yet – delve into the Sandaway’s library of books that impart the magical history of Oxford and the legendary Chesapeake Region of America’s Mid Atlantic coast.


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Robert Morris Inn

 The magnificent, seafood-rich Chesapeake Bay is one of the country’s great natural wonders. The mighty estuary played a formative role in the development of industry and culture in Maryland…and Maryland itself played a large role on the American stage. I was enchanted to know that the state had four signers of the Declaration of Independence…which defined its traditions of low-key individualism and religious tolerance. (Signers were Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, William Paca and Thomas Stone).

Inside the Oxford Library, I disappeared into a wondrous place in American history. The words that resonated over and over to me confirmed my affinity and delight in staying at the Sandaway Inn. H.L. Mencken wrote “Marylanders have a tradition of sound and comfortable living”.  

Sandaway owners Ken, Wendy and Ben Gibson reflect these words from the moment you drive through the welcoming circular driveway to gaze astoundingly at the grand glorious and glistening rivers. Throughout my visit their presence was everywhere ~ speaking kindly and softly to guests and staff ~ and to each other. Every detail of their home/hotel reflects a three-generations long family heritage of gracious hospitality.


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Ben Gibson ~ Innkeeper

I was delighted to open the door to my suite each morning and find a bounty of breakfast in my little crab basket: yogurt, cakes, granola, coffee, fresh fruit, juices, snacks and surprises. I felt free to take breakfast in my room, on the lawn, private verandah or just ‘away for a picnic’. The Inn’s tiny Boat House is a perfect hideaway too – a charming little place to spend time alone or to meet others. The most thoughtful spot in the house is the ‘library – TV room’ with deep comfy sofas and beverages/snacks available through the day and night. Note: it’s the ONLY place to watch TV. I loved NOT having one in my room, giving me time to just enjoy the view and other pleasures.


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Breakfast in a Crab Basket at your door

My accommodation was a perfect combination of alluring linens on the plush king bed and a step-out porch that lured me to the view and symphony of autumn breezes. It became obvious that Ben and the Gibson family enjoy seeing their guests take pleasure in the Inn’s privacy and natural setting. It was haunting yet romantic to be somewhere on the property at noon and 6:00pm when the church bells tolled, echoing through the town. I learned about the ‘cardboard boat races’ and other boating activities in which Oxford takes pride. The water has served Marylanders as much for pleasure as for serious business; even George Washington was known to enjoy boating entertainment on the Chesapeake! 

The Sandaway’s appeal grew day after day. Unlike other destinations where I’ve felt compelled to plan meals and activities, I realized that once on the Eastern Shore, my watch seemed to not have any minute hands. I felt that I was re-energizing, re-connecting and re-flecting. The small Oxford market is a short walk away where I found (simply) two small aisles of groceries, ice cream and sandwiches. It was 1950 all over again and it felt great! Missing from the landscape were mailboxes at each home. There aren’t any. Residents go to the post office and pick up their mail. Alas – a wonderful morning activity! 

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Sandaway ~ a Sentinel of History

 The Tred Avon Yacht Club across the ‘Strand’ from the Sandaway is a thriving club that carries the traditions of yesteryear into the 21st Century. Boasting the oldest privately owned ferry in the United States – the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry – (est. 1683), a trip across the Tred Avon to historic St. Michael’s was my personal favorite boating adventure. Only a short � mile trip that takes 7-9 minutes, it reminded me that Oxford is still a waterman’s town. Disembarking near the delightful village of St. Michael’s, I found that it’s replete with thriving shopping, dining and tourist adventures. It’s not to be missed when creating a jam-packed vacation but there is nothing sweeter than leaving the people and activities behind when you board the Ferry and let the river’s breezes blow you back to the Sandaway!

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Oxford Bellevue Ferry nearly full with ONE truck aboard!

Now that I’m not a stranger to Oxford, I eagerly await my next visit to again step back in time, savoring the simple pleasures of walking along the Strand, sitting under the shade trees in a rocking chair and cherishing the Sandaway’s timeless grace and privacy. I plan to return soon to meet some of the town’s artists and attend a play at the Tred Avon Players. Kayaking on the Choptank River from the Inn’s sandy beach awaits me too, and taking an historic walking tour through the town with Les Nollmeyer – Oxford Museum’s curator, official tour guide and native son.  

When James Michener wrote his book ‘Chesapeake’ he often visited Oxford and lived nearby to inhale the past that influenced his writing. I’m waiting to fall in love again and continue my story and love affair with Oxford and the Sandaway!


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Where the Chesapeake and Choptank Rivers
grace the Sandaway Shore

For travel inspiration, enjoy the video: “On the Chesapeake Bay”








Sandaway Waterfront Lodging
103 W. Strand Rd. Oxford, Maryland
P.O. Box 70
Close to St. Michaels, Easton, and Cambridge



Robert Morris Inn serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch daily. Historic setting with celebrated British master chef/partner Mark Salter. His innovative award-winning style is evident in every season’s menu. The cozy tavern and classic dining rooms are romantic; the outdoor patio and verandah irresistible! One of America’s oldest inns (circa 1710)


Latitude 38 Bistro & Spirits serving dinner Tuesday – Tuesday and Sunday brunch. Where the locals meet – in a casual pub setting. The setting is friendly ~ the prices very affordable. From crispy skin rockfish to steak & frites their nightly specials can’t be beat.


Masthead @ Pier Street Crabhouse is opened and bustling in season until early October. In the winter, don’t miss weekend dinner with a killer view of the River; the breathtaking sunsets lure even the ‘who’s who’ from Washington, DC to take a drive for their blue crabs, clams and regional fare.


Pope’s Tavern serves dinner on the weekends in an intimate 40-seat European Bistro atmosphere. Request that the cool English Taxi pick you up!



  • Oxford Museum & Gift Shop
  • Oxford Market & Deli
  • Mystery Loves Company Booksellers
  • The Treasure Chest

…..are all within walking distance to the Sandaway. Innkeepers will let you know shop hours and days opened!


If you’re a boater: 

  • Oxford Boatyard – Ship’s Store
  • Campbell’s Boatyard @ Jack’s Pt
  • Hinckley Yacht Services’ Ships Store
  • Mears Yacht Haven



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