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.

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Ocean City MD boardwalkOcean City, Maryland is a destination for all seasonsand all reasons. The southern tip of New Jersey points the way south alongthe coast of Delaware to this Maryland city on the Delmarva Peninsula. Thoseof us who remember boardwalks, cotton candy, roller-coasters and seashellhunting from our childhood excursions along the Atlantic Coast will not bedisappointed.

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 arriveswithout the worries and headaches of driving. In the summer, Ocean City gridlockcan rival some of the more congested east coast areas. Because it is sucha popular vacation spot for many Marylanders, overnighting pilots would dowell to have hotel reservations before starting out.

Flying to N80

 Ocean City airport (N80) is thirty nautical miles out on the 181 degree radial fromWaterloo (ATR) VOR. The airport is uncontrolled. The CTAF is 122.8, and Ihave found Ocean City personnel to be quite responsive on the unicom. Beprepared for the possibility of jumpers over Ocean City throughout the summer.The jump pilots of Ocean City will always announce their intentions on theunicom frequency. Listen carefully to the CTAF at least twenty miles outto work yourself into the flow. In the summer, haze can make spotting theairport difficult. From the north along the coast, start counting bays onceyou pass Waterloo. The first one is Rehoboth Bay, and immediately next tothat is Indian River Bay. The third is Assawoman Bay. By now, you’re flyingalong the Ocean City waterfront. Just due southwest of the Ferris wheel,at the end of the boardwalk, you’ll spot the airport.

Ocean City MD airport (N80)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 controlledlighting 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/departurecontrol on 127.95, and clearance delivery on 121.75. VFR pilots should payclose attention to the restricted area associated with Patuxent, and if you’reapproaching from the south, mind your altitude over the wildlife preserveat 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 thebanner-towers, too, and keep in mind that you are between Patuxent and DoverAir 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 staffmembers. The airport is run by the Ocean City Government. The new terminalbuilding is spacious and bright, having only opened to the public in July1995. It replaces an older building which was destroyed in a self-controlledburn.

The parking fee is eight dollars a day and is not waived with the purchaseof 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 maintenanceavailable 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 bepresented 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 youcould 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 eighteenhole 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 possibleto 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 6:30a.m., and the last is 5:00 p.m. The green fees are $23.00 to walk and $35.00to ride.

If simple surf is what you’re after, getting to the boardwalk and the beachcould not be easier. A steady stream of taxi service between the airfieldand the boardwalk ensures inexpensive transportation. The fare is $3.00 perperson. Each time I visit I find one or more taxis at the airport awaitingthe arrival of the next pilot. The standard drop-off point is Boardwalk andNorth Division Street. I jot down the taxi service phone number or take acard, 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 thanfinding a parking space or feeding meters!

Of course, on the boardwalk you’ll find the usual assortment of boardwalkbusinesses: 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. Thesouthern end of the boardwalk is where you’ll find the carnival rides andatmosphere. As you progress northward, the shops give way to hotels and houseswith porches that join the wooden walk. In the summer Ocean City is afoot-friendly place. From mid-May through the third week in September, citybuses cruise up and down the main drag, Coastal Highway. Turn off the boardwalkand check out the sights. Coastal Highway is dotted with your choice ofamusements. The Convention Center at 42nd Street and Coastal Highway hostsa variety of events throughout the year-from Big Band Dances and the ChristmasFestival 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 heavenwith all the choices presented. For $1.00 you can purchase an all-day buspass. Use it whenever you feel like you need a lift. The large, air-conditionedcoaches run 24 hours a day. Popular off-boardwalk eateries such as PhillipsSeafood Restaurant and Fager’s Island are a real treat. Just get on the busand go!

For a different perspective of Maryland, surprise your cab driver at theairport and ask him to head the other way, eight miles south to AssateagueIsland National Seashore. This island boasts a herd of wild ponies made famousin the book Misty of Chincoteague. The popular Pony Swim is always held onthe last Wednesday and Thursday of July. On Assateague you can enjoy biking,fishing, hiking, camping or just talking with the park rangers about thisbeautiful Maryland landmark. While there is plenty to do and learn, my mostmemorable event on Assateague was stepping out of the car and having a curiouspony nibble at my sandals! Taxis will be happy to take you there for aboutten dollars. But this is one of those times when you might enjoy the freedomof having a rented car. They are available at the airport. The Hertz counterthere is open seven days a week and can often accommodate the last minutecustomer who has not made a reservation. Rates are variable depending onthe 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 southeasternshore of Maryland. Here you’ll find Berlin, (accent on the “Ber”) birthplaceof 19th century naval hero Stephen Decatur. It’s a town of antique shopsand 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

Ocean City MD downtownBack in the city and looking for actual food forthe body? At 21st Street and Coastal Highway you’ll find a piece of Marylandculinary history. The Phillips Seafood restaurant at that location is thefirst of five in the Maryland area chain. The part of the building that isnow the carry-out shop was the original restaurant. In 1956 the Phillipsfamily started a dining tradition in the front and slept on bunks in theback. 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 sandwichesare in the $7.00 range, and dinner seafood meals range from $20.00 up tothe clambake for two at $50.00. This includes lobster, crab, steamed shrimp,mussels, clams, corn and potatoes. Trust me, many a Marylander would walkmore than a mile for Phillips Cream of Crab or Maryland Crab Soup! This Phillipslocation closes on October 31st, but their location at 13th and Boardwalkis open year round. It is also a hotel.

Did you spot what looked like a red-roofed round lighthouse in the bay onyour trip into Ocean City? You spotted a city landmark-Fager’s Island. At60th Street off the Coastal Highway, this restaurant can entertain as manyas two hundred people in its dining room and another three hundred on theoutside deck. Fager’s Island specializes in-what else? Seafood! The raw baris 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’tdo seafood, but Fager’s Island sports a mean prime rib, too! Lunches beginaround $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 ofhustle and bustle, crowded lively streets, hot weather and refreshing waves.

My favorite times to fly to Ocean City are the late fall and throughout thewinter. The usual veil of mid-Atlantic haze drops away, making the trip thatmuch more scenic. When I arrive, the taxi service is just as available asin the summer. At the boardwalk I find…relaxation. The energetic and sometimesboisterous teens of summer give way to couples and friends of all ages. Mostare just strolling along the boardwalk or sipping coffee while staring outinto the sea. A few beachcombers are around, and you can feel an entirelydifferent attitude. People are more relaxed. There is more time to have friendlyconversations with the residents of Ocean City.

Few boardwalk businesses are open in the winter. You can find some summerclothing bargains and get a bite to eat. I always try to stop by the DoughRoller 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. Thisis beach pizza the way I remember it as a boardwalk-crazed youngster-justenough 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 youhave to eat it before the cheese slides off. Wonderful! The service was efficientand friendly, even during the lunch rush. It’s important to note that thisrestaurant accepts cash only. In the winter, they are open only on weekendsfrom noon to 8:00 p.m. During the summer they open at 7:00 a.m and closeat 2:00 a.m.

Where to Stay

At some point you’ve had enough to eat. You’re done with the ocean for theday and looking for a little rest. There are dozens of hotels, motels andB & Bs to accommodate you. The Sheraton Fountainebleu, located at 101stStreet and Coastal Highway, is open year round. With 24 hours notice theywill pick you up from the airport. This is a full-service hotel. You’ll enjoya 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 canbe 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. Thehotel runs close to 98% full through July, August and September, so at thistime of year call ahead. Off season it is quite easy to get a room at thelast minute.

If you’re a boardwalk enthusiast, try Harrison Hall. This is one of the hotelsthat has its front porch right on the boardwalk. The 97 rooms all have privatebaths and small refrigerators. There is a pool, hot tub and restaurant.Availability is good in April, May, June, September and October. HarrisonHall even offers package plans as low as $64.00 per person for two nightsand 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 bythe sea in the middle of a dreary season can be a real pick-me-up. For asummer getaway, Ocean City could not be more user friendly. The tourism industryruns like a well-tuned engine and has obviously gone to great lengths tomake it easy to get around without a car-perfect for us pilots. You can beburied up to your earlobes in sand within twenty minutes of registering atthe FBO, while many other day visitors who arrived before you are still cruisingfor a parking space. I hope it goes as well for you as it always does forme. 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

Transportation

Whit’s Taxi: 289-TAXI
Atlantic Taxi: 289-1333
Hertz: 213-2400
Thrifty: 524-4222

Lodging

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

Dining

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

Golf

Eagle’s Landing Golf Course: 800-2TEE-TIM