Spring on the Shore
The Eastern Shore: a world apart, yet just a short drive away
There is an incredible feat of engineering that connects Virginia Beach to the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been called one of the seven engineering wonders of the world. But there is something even more amazing about the structure than the sum of its concrete and steel parts. As you travel across it, it becomes a virtual massage therapist that lifts the weight and tension of the city from your shoulders as you transcend into a lifestyle that seems so far removed, yet is really just a mere few minutes away.
From shore to shore the CBBT is approximately 17.6 miles long. But there is so much to see and do on the Eastern Shore that you’ll want to give yourself plenty of time to take it all in and savor the experience.
Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center
Begin your journey at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center, which is just minutes away from your initial arrival on the Eastern Shore. Inside, you will encounter professional travel consultants who can help you make the most of your trip to this enchanted peninsula.
Outside, the Welcome Center has hiking trails that lead you through the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge to a bird-watching facility and to the remains of what was once known as Fort John Custis—an Army artillery battery that was built at the beginning of World War II to help defend the Chesapeake Bay from enemy ships. Today, a trip to the top of the battery provides a great view of the ocean, bay, islands and marshland surrounding the Eastern Shore.
The Welcome Center is also the starting point for the Southern Tip Bike & Hike Trail, a 2.6-mile paved path that follows the Old Cape Charles Railroad bed to just outside Kiptopeke State Park.
Kiptopeke State Park
If you’re looking for a place to be near nature, Kiptopeke offers six-bedroom lodges, RV and tent camping, a yurt and camping trailers. Guests can also enjoy the park’s boat ramp, lighted fishing pier, beaches, picnic areas and miles of hiking and biking trails. Just off the shore from the park are two rows of concrete ships that were partially submerged in 1949 to form a breakwater. The ships were used to transport military supplies during World War II.
A little bit farther up the road is the quaint and historical town of Cape Charles, the largest town in Northampton County, where visitors will find several shops and restaurants, as well as a public beach and marina. Nearby, the Bay Creek Resort and Club offers a clubhouse as well as Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus signature golf courses.
Continuing north, you’ll eventually reach the town of Onancock, where you’ll find close to a dozen different opportunities to grab a great meal and half a dozen different places to spend the night. There are plenty of opportunities for canoe and kayak enthusiasts, so bring yours along or rent one in town.
The historic downtown area is a great place to meander and shop and, if you’re the kind of person who never goes anywhere without the family dog, look for the Pet-Friendly decals in the windows of local shops and businesses. Well-behaved canines are allowed entry anywhere you find the sticker, as long as they remain on a leash. There are also plenty of designated areas where you can walk your pooch, complete with waste bag dispensers if you forget to bring your own.
Onancock is also where you can catch a ferry out to Tangier Island, where cars are not allowed and the only way to get there is by boat or small plane. Once on the island, there are plenty of rental opportunities for bicycles or golf carts to effectively get around. Along your journey you’ll find the Tangier History Museum, in addition to a number of waterside restaurants and a few comfortable places to lay your head at night.
Located out in the Chesapeake Bay, there are plenty of opportunities for seeing the world from the water’s perspective, including historic and educational water tours, crab shanty tours, sunset tours and, of course, charter fishing.
Chincoteague and Assateague Island
Just before you get to the Maryland border, you’ll find a turnoff that takes you past NASA Wallops Flight Facility and NASA Wallops Visitor Center on your way to Chincoteague Island. Home of the annual wild pony roundup each summer, Chincoteague is a great place to visit any season, especially if you want to spend time on one of the best beaches on the East Coast—Assateague Island. Visit the Assateague Light (a 142-foot-tall lighthouse), look for wild ponies, take a bike tour or just kick back and relax. Then come back to Chincoteague for some delicious seafood and some fun shopping opportunities.
Known as the “Little City by the Sea” and “Flounder Capital of the World,” this town of 250 residents shines with small town friendliness. Its setting along emerald green marshes is the scene stealer. Marinas provide an active charter fishing fleet, boat slip rentals, bait and tackle shop, boat and kayak rentals to explore the pristine barrier islands. If enjoying fresh seafood with amazing water views is your thing, look no further. Family fun can be had each summer at the nostalgic Wachapreague Fireman’s Carnival.
These are just a few of the main stops you can make on your journey across Virginia’s Eastern Shore. There are many other smaller towns with unique histories you won’t want to miss, so plan to spend some time getting to know this gem across the bay.