Ocean City, Maryland
Whether you're looking for boardwalks and beaches, seaside golf, world-class seafood, or just a change of scene, you'll find Ocean City, Maryland, a fly-in destination for all seasons and all reasons. Although often congested during the summer high season, you'll find it equally delightful and much more relaxing during the fall and winter months. Here's all the information you need to plan your getaway to N80.
Ocean City, Maryland is a destination for all seasons and all reasons. The southern tip of New Jersey points the way south along the coast of Delaware to this Maryland city on the Delmarva Peninsula. Those of us who remember boardwalks, cotton candy, roller-coasters and seashell hunting from our childhood excursions along the Atlantic Coast will not be disappointed.
Ocean City is a great summer destination that will please the entire family. The airport is in a convenient location for the weekend pilot who arrives without the worries and headaches of driving. In the summer, Ocean City gridlock can rival some of the more congested east coast areas. Because it is such a popular vacation spot for many Marylanders, overnighting pilots would do well to have hotel reservations before starting out.
Flying to N80
Ocean City airport (N80) is thirty nautical miles out on the 181 degree radial from Waterloo (ATR) VOR. The airport is uncontrolled. The CTAF is 122.8, and I have found Ocean City personnel to be quite responsive on the unicom. Be prepared for the possibility of jumpers over Ocean City throughout the summer. The jump pilots of Ocean City will always announce their intentions on the unicom frequency. Listen carefully to the CTAF at least twenty miles out to work yourself into the flow. In the summer, haze can make spotting the airport difficult. From the north along the coast, start counting bays once you pass Waterloo. The first one is Rehoboth Bay, and immediately next to that is Indian River Bay. The third is Assawoman Bay. By now, you're flying along the Ocean City waterfront. Just due southwest of the Ferris wheel, at the end of the boardwalk, you'll spot the airport.
Runway 02/20 is 3,200 feet and 14/32 is 4,070 feet. The localizer approach is aligned with runway 14. The field has pilot controlled lighting on 122.8. Runways are in great condition, with good space for run-ups. With a field elevation of 12 feet, the traffic pattern altitude is 800 feet.
The friendly folks at Patuxent Naval Air Station provide approach/departure control on 127.95, and clearance delivery on 121.75. VFR pilots should pay close attention to the restricted area associated with Patuxent, and if you're approaching from the south, mind your altitude over the wildlife preserve at Assateague.
Check NOTAMS before departure for Ocean City, and listen to the CTAF! When flying along the coastline in the summer, remember to think about the banner-towers, too, and keep in mind that you are between Patuxent and Dover Air Force Base. Enlist the help of your crew to see and avoid.
Upon arriving at Ocean City, you may be greeted by one of five airport staff members. The airport is run by the Ocean City Government. The new terminal building is spacious and bright, having only opened to the public in July 1995. It replaces an older building which was destroyed in a self-controlled burn.
The parking fee is eight dollars a day and is not waived with the purchase of fuel. Fuel is available Monday through Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.; Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. During the off-season, it is pumped from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily. There is currently no maintenance available at the field, but that may change in the near future.
Unfortunately, there is no food other than the obligatory vending machines. If you can hold on just a few minutes, once you reach the city you'll be presented with too many dining choices to make a decision. After you register, the staff will gladly call a cab for you if one isn't there waiting, or you could even find recreation right there at the airfield.
What to Do in Ocean City
Golfers will enjoy the Eagle's Landing Golf Course, Ocean City's eighteen hole course, which is open to the public. It's adjacent to the airfield, and depending on how busy the airfield staff is, it is sometimes possible to get a courtesy car ride over to the clubhouse. If that is not available, a taxi will be inexpensive. The course is open daily throughout the year, weather permitting. Rental clubs are available. The first tee time is 6:30 a.m., and the last is 5:00 p.m. The green fees are $23.00 to walk and $35.00 to ride.
If simple surf is what you're after, getting to the boardwalk and the beach could not be easier. A steady stream of taxi service between the airfield and the boardwalk ensures inexpensive transportation. The fare is $3.00 per person. Each time I visit I find one or more taxis at the airport awaiting the arrival of the next pilot. The standard drop-off point is Boardwalk and North Division Street. I jot down the taxi service phone number or take a card, and when I'm ready to return to the airfield, I call from a phone booth. I've never waited more than ten minutes. This procedure is much easier than finding a parking space or feeding meters!
Of course, on the boardwalk you'll find the usual assortment of boardwalk businesses: bars, tee-shirt shops and lots of food. (Watch the tram car, please!) A ride on the boardwalk train will only set you back $1.50. The southern end of the boardwalk is where you'll find the carnival rides and atmosphere. As you progress northward, the shops give way to hotels and houses with porches that join the wooden walk. In the summer Ocean City is a foot-friendly place. From mid-May through the third week in September, city buses cruise up and down the main drag, Coastal Highway. Turn off the boardwalk and check out the sights. Coastal Highway is dotted with your choice of amusements. The Convention Center at 42nd Street and Coastal Highway hosts a variety of events throughout the year-from Big Band Dances and the Christmas Festival of Lights in the winter, to antique shows and car shows in the summer. More carnival rides are available, and putt-putt golfers will be in heaven with all the choices presented. For $1.00 you can purchase an all-day bus pass. Use it whenever you feel like you need a lift. The large, air-conditioned coaches run 24 hours a day. Popular off-boardwalk eateries such as Phillips Seafood Restaurant and Fager's Island are a real treat. Just get on the bus and go!
For a different perspective of Maryland, surprise your cab driver at the airport and ask him to head the other way, eight miles south to Assateague Island National Seashore. This island boasts a herd of wild ponies made famous in the book Misty of Chincoteague. The popular Pony Swim is always held on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July. On Assateague you can enjoy biking, fishing, hiking, camping or just talking with the park rangers about this beautiful Maryland landmark. While there is plenty to do and learn, my most memorable event on Assateague was stepping out of the car and having a curious pony nibble at my sandals! Taxis will be happy to take you there for about ten dollars. But this is one of those times when you might enjoy the freedom of having a rented car. They are available at the airport. The Hertz counter there is open seven days a week and can often accommodate the last minute customer who has not made a reservation. Rates are variable depending on the season, but you can count on a compact starting at about $35.00 per day.
From Assateague, drive west and get a peek at the lifestyle of the southeastern shore of Maryland. Here you'll find Berlin, (accent on the "Ber") birthplace of 19th century naval hero Stephen Decatur. It's a town of antique shops and fine examples of old buildings. Many of the homes have metal cornices, stained glass windows and turrets. If you're into historic architecture, the walking tour is a feast for the eyes.
Where to Eat
Back in the city and looking for actual food for the body? At 21st Street and Coastal Highway you'll find a piece of Maryland culinary history. The Phillips Seafood restaurant at that location is the first of five in the Maryland area chain. The part of the building that is now the carry-out shop was the original restaurant. In 1956 the Phillips family started a dining tradition in the front and slept on bunks in the back. If you're not a seafood lover, there is a selection of other dishes, but treats from the ocean are definitely the specialty here. Lunch sandwiches are in the $7.00 range, and dinner seafood meals range from $20.00 up to the clambake for two at $50.00. This includes lobster, crab, steamed shrimp, mussels, clams, corn and potatoes. Trust me, many a Marylander would walk more than a mile for Phillips Cream of Crab or Maryland Crab Soup! This Phillips location closes on October 31st, but their location at 13th and Boardwalk is open year round. It is also a hotel.
Did you spot what looked like a red-roofed round lighthouse in the bay on your trip into Ocean City? You spotted a city landmark-Fager's Island. At 60th Street off the Coastal Highway, this restaurant can entertain as many as two hundred people in its dining room and another three hundred on the outside deck. Fager's Island specializes in-what else? Seafood! The raw bar is popular with Ocean City visitors, as are the lobsters and, of course, the Maryland Crab. Now sometimes we are traveling with our friends who don't do seafood, but Fager's Island sports a mean prime rib, too! Lunches begin around $5.50, and dinners start at $16.50. Fager's Island is open all year. In the summer, make dinner reservations to be on the safe side.
Ocean City Off Season
Keep in mind that many Ocean City businesses are seasonal. In the summer, expect Ocean City to provide you with a quick ocean getaway with plenty of hustle and bustle, crowded lively streets, hot weather and refreshing waves.
My favorite times to fly to Ocean City are the late fall and throughout the winter. The usual veil of mid-Atlantic haze drops away, making the trip that much more scenic. When I arrive, the taxi service is just as available as in the summer. At the boardwalk I find...relaxation. The energetic and sometimes boisterous teens of summer give way to couples and friends of all ages. Most are just strolling along the boardwalk or sipping coffee while staring out into the sea. A few beachcombers are around, and you can feel an entirely different attitude. People are more relaxed. There is more time to have friendly conversations with the residents of Ocean City.
Few boardwalk businesses are open in the winter. You can find some summer clothing bargains and get a bite to eat. I always try to stop by the Dough Roller for pizza or other Italian dishes. It's located at 3rd and Boardwalk. Generous sandwich platters will run you about $6.00, dinners about $11.00. On our last visit, we shared a medium pepperoni pizza for about $11.00. This is beach pizza the way I remember it as a boardwalk-crazed youngster-just enough crust to give the sauce, cheese and pepperoni something to sit on. The kind of pizza that flops over your hand when you pick it up, and you have to eat it before the cheese slides off. Wonderful! The service was efficient and friendly, even during the lunch rush. It's important to note that this restaurant accepts cash only. In the winter, they are open only on weekends from noon to 8:00 p.m. During the summer they open at 7:00 a.m and close at 2:00 a.m.
Where to Stay
At some point you've had enough to eat. You're done with the ocean for the day and looking for a little rest. There are dozens of hotels, motels and B & Bs to accommodate you. The Sheraton Fountainebleu, located at 101st Street and Coastal Highway, is open year round. With 24 hours notice they will pick you up from the airport. This is a full-service hotel. You'll enjoy a full spa, beach front property, a sauna and Jacuzzi, an indoor heated pool, aerobics, a weight room, a restaurant and entertainment throughout the year. There are six different rate structures, but generally, the winter low can be as reasonable as $39.00 a night, and the summer high can be as much as $300.00 per night. There is a three night minimum for holiday weekends. The hotel runs close to 98% full through July, August and September, so at this time of year call ahead. Off season it is quite easy to get a room at the last minute.
If you're a boardwalk enthusiast, try Harrison Hall. This is one of the hotels that has its front porch right on the boardwalk. The 97 rooms all have private baths and small refrigerators. There is a pool, hot tub and restaurant. Availability is good in April, May, June, September and October. Harrison Hall even offers package plans as low as $64.00 per person for two nights and four meals. Rates differ, depending on the season.
If you've been to Ocean City in the summer, try it in the winter. A day by the sea in the middle of a dreary season can be a real pick-me-up. For a summer getaway, Ocean City could not be more user friendly. The tourism industry runs like a well-tuned engine and has obviously gone to great lengths to make it easy to get around without a car-perfect for us pilots. You can be buried up to your earlobes in sand within twenty minutes of registering at the FBO, while many other day visitors who arrived before you are still cruising for a parking space. I hope it goes as well for you as it always does for me. See you there!
Ocean City Information
Area Code: 410
Ocean City, MD Municipal Airport: 213-2471
Aviation Association of Ocean City: 289-8344
Ocean City Convention Center: (800) OC-OCEAN
4001 Coastal Highway
Whit's Taxi: 289-TAXI
Atlantic Taxi: 289-1333
Sheraton Fountainebleau: (800) 638-2100
101st and Coast Highway
Harrison Hall: (800) 638-2106
15th and Boardwalk
Atlantic House B&B: 289-2333
501 North Baltimore Ave
Fager's Island: 524-5500
60th Street -In the Bay
Phillips Restaurant: 289-6821
21 St. at Coastal Highway(closes October 31st)
The Dough Roller: 289-2599
3rd and Boardwalk
Eagle's Landing Golf Course: 800-2TEE-TIM