In the tiny riverfront community of Whitehaven, the historic ferry that takes vehicles across the Wicomico River is a popular topic of conversation among visitors.
For some residents, the trip over the river to a rural area of Somerset County is a regular part of their commute, but for Whitehaven Hotel guests, it’s a novelty.
“The moment they walk in the door, they’re asking me questions about the ferry,” said Cindy Curran, who has been the innkeeper at the hotel for more than a decade.
Among the questions people ask are how much it costs and whether they need to make an appointment, she said.
The answers: It’s free, and people can just drive right up. No appointments are necessary – or taken.
The ferry has been running since 1688, which means it recently celebrated 330 years. There have been changes over the years, as one would imagine, but it’s thought to be the oldest continuously operating ferry in the country.
On the Whitehaven side, Whitehaven Road stops where the ferry begins, with water taking the place of the road. There’s a small white building and a sign for the ferry, and it’s right by the Whitehaven Hotel.
The cable ferry can hold three vehicles, with a maximum of six passengers, and it takes only a few minutes to travel the short distance across the river. It’s a slow, peaceful ride. Passengers can look out and see the expanse of water on either side.
Heading toward Wicomico County, passengers can see the light yellow Whitehaven Hotel, with accents of green and a reddish color, along with a row of houses. Heading toward Somerset County, they see a rural area with wildlife.
Curran said she likes answering guests’ questions about the historic attraction.
“To me, it’s unbelievable that it’s that old,” she said. “And not only that, but that we have two ferries in Wicomico County, which is kind of unheard of.”
The Upper Ferry is not too far away – about 10 miles from Whitehaven on the northern side of the river. Curran enjoys a ferry-to-ferry bike ride, which is about 30 miles. For those who want to do the ride, just be sure to check both ferry hotlines to make sure they’re running as normal, she said.
Reasons the ferry can be closed include high or low tides, maintenance, ice and fog.
Although the ferry predates it by more than a century, the Whitehaven Hotel is a longstanding part of the Wicomico County landscape, as well. The hotel was built in 1810, Curran said.
Some Whitehaven Hotel guests come for the ferry; others are surprised by it, she said. People will watch it go back and forth across the river.
“It’s definitely an attraction for the hotel,” Curran said.