Island Time

The Wylder Hotel offers a picture-postcard escape — without leaving the Eastern Shore

Written by Katie Riley
Lead photo by Bill Whaley
Inset Photos 1 & 3 by Jay Fleming

Crossing the Knapps Narrow Bridge onto Tilghman Island, a three-mile island in Talbot County on the Chesapeake Bay, one feels as though they’ve stepped back in time. There are few businesses in the small downtown, and most residents still make their living the way their ancestors did — on the water. The only sign of rush hour is the quiet hum of boats returning to the harbor to unload their hauls and the flocks of shorebirds that fly overhead. In the center of it all stands the Wylder Hotel, a former 1898 boardinghouse that now operates as a boutique hotel for travelers who want an authentic Eastern Shore experience.

Opened in 2018, the hotel has retained its original charm, with many rooms occupying the same space that housed working watermen a century ago. With its white clapboard buildings proudly standing on more than nine acres on the banks of the Choptank River, the hotel is ideally situated for island exploration.

Visitors are welcomed with Champagne at check-in and led through the historic lobby, decorated with antique fishing rods and vintage paintings. The 54 guest rooms and suites boast nautical décor in navy and white, with Egyptian cotton linens, Further bath products, and in-room concierge tablets. Rooms are minimally furnished in order to keep the focus on the view: a postcard-perfect waterfront landscape where guests can watch boats return to the adjacent Dogwood Harbor, home of the last working skipjack fleet in North America.

Whether arriving by car or boat — there’s a 25-slip marina with free docking for guests — it’s possible to stay at the Wylder for a weekend and never leave the property. Paddleboards and kayaks are free for guests, in addition to bike cruisers for those who want to explore the island or take a quick ride to the Tilghman Island Country store for provisions.  

There’s a sense of nostalgia at the Wylder not found at the more glamorous hotels nearby, where guests may sport tennis whites as they head off to the five-star spa. Luxury here can be found in the quiet lapping of waves against the dock and an afternoon spent lazily rocking on the hotel’s expansive front porch.

On any Saturday in the summer, one may find children playing bocce ball on the lawn, while parents lounge by the heated saltwater pool.
At night, guests enjoy the music of local acoustic singers or congregate to roast marshmallows around the waterfront firepit.

Chef Jordan Lloyd brings world-class culinary experience and creativity to the Wylder Hotel

Photography by Grant L. Gursky

The recent addition of Executive Chef Jordan Lloyd ensures a gourmet experience in the property’s two on-site restaurants, Tickler’s Restaurant and Bar Mumbo. Lloyd honed his chops in kitchens like Per Se in New York and Bourbon Steak in DC, and spent years as chef at the Bartlett Pear Inn in Easton. Despite his impressive résumé, Lloyd envisions a down-to-earth dining experience at the Wylder. 

“I want diners to have a four-star experience without all the fuss. The goal is to express all that the Eastern Shore has to offer,” says Lloyd.

With an emphasis on local ingredients, the menu at Tickler’s Restaurant is heavy on seafood, with classics like Maryland lump crab cakes and rockfish oyster stew and casual fare like oyster po’boys and slow-roasted spare ribs.

Lloyd is passionate about his sourcing and most ingredients, if not produced on-site, have made the short journey from farm to table. 

Vegetables and salads on the menu are selected straight from the hotel’s gardens, and Lloyd maintains relationships with dozens of the region’s farmers and purveyors. Cheese is sourced from local creameries, and chicken comes from the farm it was raised on, just up the road. 

“I want diners to have a four-star experience without all the fuss. The goal is to express all that the Eastern Shore has to offer.”

— Chef Jordan Lloyd

It’s not just in the kitchen that the Wylder draws from its natural surroundings. There is a sense of history imbued in the buildings and grounds that continues to pay homage to the island and its people. Sitting on the shores of the Choptank in one of the hotel’s many Adirondack chairs that dot the lawn, one can envision what life was like for the watermen who frequented the property
to bed down after a hard day’s work. No doubt they found rest and refuge in this slice of
tidewater heaven.