America’s First Freedom: A suggested two day itinerary for the Religious Freedom National Scenic Byway
Begin where Maryland began in St. Mary’s County with a visit to Historic St. Mary’s City, the first permanent settlement in Maryland and the first capital of the colony. Tour this historic landmark to see Godiah Spray Plantation, the reconstructed Brick Chapel, and a replica of the Dove, the early vessel that carried the first colonists from England. Head north and enjoy lunch in charming Leonardtown, where a number of restaurants and tea rooms will be available. If you have time, tour the Old Jail Museum and stop by Tudor Hall, a 250 year old Colonial house that is home to the St. Mary’s County Historical Society and operates a genealogical center. Continue north and turn left on Route 238 to St. Clements Island where the settlers celebrated mass before moving on to found the capital. The displays inside the museum give a thorough history of the first landing and the Calvert family. If weather permits, take a water taxi out to the island and tour the Blackistone Lighthouse. Along the byway and its side tracks in St. Mary’s County are a number of historic churches, among them are: Trinity Church, St. Francis Xavier, Christ Church, St. George’s, All Faith Church, St. Andrews, St. Ignatius, Trinity, All Saint’s, Dent Chapel, St. Mary’s Chapel and at Historic St. Mary’s is the reconstructed Brick Chapel of 1667. Spend the night in one of the hotels or inns in St. Mary’s and the next day continue your journey by traveling to Charles County.
Travel north to Historic District of Port Tobacco, the location of Maryland’s second largest seaport which was listed on early World Maps. Originally the site of the Indian Village of Potopaco, Port Tobacco was the first county seat until it was moved to La Plata in 1895. At the Port Tobacco Courthouse you can learn the story of this historic area from 1620 to the present. Travel west to the Thomas Stone National Historic Site for a visit to Haberdeventure, the plantation home of Thomas Stone, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This historic site is managed by the National Park Service and includes a Visitors Center that features exhibits and a gift shop. In the town of La Plata are many restaurants and tearooms and while you enjoy your lunch break, decide whether to take the scenic drive north to Smallwood State Park, or to visit the Mt. Carmel Monastery, or to leave American History behind for a bit and sidetrack to Purse State Park to indulge in some fossil hunting along the Potomac River at Wades Bay. End your visit to the place where Maryland and Religious Freedom began with a relaxing dinner in Popes Creek where you can enjoy a waterfront view while feasting on hot steamed crabs and shrimp, local oysters on the half shell or the fresh catch of the day! In Charles County, the historic churches that are along the byway are: Old Durham Church, St. Ignatius Church, and Christ Church in Wayside.
For additional information about the sites listed here and other things to do along the Byway, visit one of our Welcome Centers where guides will help you find all the information you could wish for!