While the last few shores have told stories about my history, Newtowne tells a part of my personal story much more relevant to the present day. That’s not to say Newtowne Neck doesn’t have a history, because the shoreline actually held some really interesting tidbits waiting to be unearthed. By tidbits I’m of course talking about 57mm WWII projectile tidbits, but that’s a different story altogether. Maybe I’ll include a followup about that part of the shore, as this place is admittedly one of my favorite shores. We’re talking about me here though, right??…
The first time we went to Newtowne was as a family in May of 2020 (yes, that 2020, you remember it I’m sure?). And the first time we went there we actually didn’t stay. The four of us didn’t really know what we were in store for, and at first sight, it was a bit of a let down (we were so wrong). Like Point Lookout State Park, it’s off the beaten path at the end of a peninsula. Also like Point Lookout the “End of County Maintenance” road sign doesn’t extend to the end of the road. Be warned, you can feel it. But unlike Point Lookout, Newtowne is dedicated to staying undeveloped, which means there’s no facilities, trail markers, and a minimal amount of parking. So when we decided to see what Newtowne had to offer on that first weekend in May, the parking lot for the beach was full (which only holds 10-12 cars).
A separate parking lot is located a half mile up the road though, so we found a spot and got out to explore… a cornfield. Let it be known though that I’m a map kind of person. I love looking on maps to see what’s nearby, and it’s how I plan most of our trips in fact. So I knew there were shores all around us, both on St. Clement’s Bay, and Breton Bay. From our view in the cornfield we could see glimpses of St. Clement’s, we just couldn’t see a path to get there. We attempted to push through the small copse separating the field and the shore (so close!). But while I’m willing to brave brambles and thorns, I do draw the line at poison ivy. So we turned back, dejected, and truth be told a little unsure of why this place is a State Park to begin with.
As we were driving away though, I caught a glimpse in the rear view mirror of a couple scurrying across the road into the woods (I say scurrying, because I consider them to be well and truly up to no good, by seemingly being in possesion of knowledge I didn’t possess, making me thoroughly envious). There was a small access road they must have gone down, but it was gated, with a sign clearly stating “authorized vehicles only”. But they DEFINITELY went down that path, I thought to myself. I was fixated on this injustice for longer than I probably should have been, but it was 2020. So what else did I have to do back home but sit around and think. Plus I had the map! The shores were all around! That couple must have known something I didn’t know, and I couldn’t let that injustice stand. A day or so later, still fixated on the hidden potential I knew it had, I decided I’d do a little “scouting” of my own, by taking a jog down there on my own to cover as much territory as possible (I jogged more in 2020…).
So I parked my car in the same parking lot as before, and darted across to the access road (I dart, not scurry), thinking at the time that it could still potentially be against the rules! The map told me it couldn’t have been more than a 5-10 minute jog in any direction, and there were supposedly shorelines all around. Shorelines all around there certainly were.
Truly joyful moments were particularly hard to come by for me in the spring of 2020. But it’s no exaggeration to say that when I jogged out onto the first beach, it really and truly felt like I’d come out of the woods for the first time in three months. I’m not a particularly religious person, but I remember distinctly yelling “this is heaven!!” to a random couple having a picnic on the beach. I spent the next 30 minutes or so scouting as much territory as I could before heading back, with good news to report.
Over the summer of 2020, we hit Newtowne at least twice a week. Each beach earned a specific name. “Split Beach” was the spot where the path ended in a choice of beaches to the left and the right, with 50 yards of rip rap extending in either direction to symbolically point you either way. But most of them were named for wildlife we encountered on our trips. “Snail Beach” and “Stingray Beach” for obvious reasons. And, of course “Snake Beach” for obvious reasons as well... you get the idea. There was also both a “Secret Beach” and a “Hidden Beach”, but I’m still not allowed to talk about them.
Believe it or not, the one beach we never went to in 2020 was “Main Beach”. Main Beach was the only spot you could physically drive to (or at least near enough to consider it), and for obvious reasons was the most popular beach at Newtowne. So we kept our distance, as was the recommendation at the time. Parking (and the road) at the beach proper has also been a bit skimpy, which was a blessing in keeping the crowds to a minimum during that summer. On a number of occasions, the park rangers would have to turn cars away a half mile up the road due to the rise in popularity. We’ve eventually made it to main beach at this point of course, bit we still prefer the gentle walk through the woods to one of the smaller beaches with more character. Get there early, as they say.
This story is a likely refrain for many of you at this point who found yourselves in similar spots across the Chesapeake. Newtowne, like most parks in the Chesapeake watershed had an almost immediate rise in popularity and we were certainly a part of that. Visitation skyrocketed at all the parks in the region, and I’m thankful to the rangers who likely never thought they’d be turning cars away from our lesser frequented parks like Newtowne was. In some ways, all that time exploring new shores influenced what I’m doing right now, and maye your own future outook too. So we’ll call that a silver lining.