Think Your Chance For A Summer Vacation Has Vanished? Rethink It With An Easy Retreat To Virginia’s Eastern Shore—Just A Gull’s Cry Away.
At the first blush of summer, sun-filled days seem like they will last forever. But lost in the daze of life’s demands you can suddenly wake up and wonder, where did our summer go?
Relax. You can still relish a vacation with loved ones even if the thought of airport hassles or a long road trip makes you want to throw in the beach towel. Right in Hampton Roads’ own backyard within an hour’s drive you can discover a pristine peninsula where small, waterfront towns welcome and peaceful beaches beckon. Retreat to Virginia’s enchanting Eastern Shore for a long weekend—or longer. It’s as simple as grabbing a swimsuit and following the seagulls.
Follow the Gulls
Dorothy and friends had the Yellow Brick Road to bring them to their special destination, and you have the 21-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel that literally takes you over and through the beauty of the bay. It efficiently connects the Eastern Shore with the rest of the Old Dominion, but it’s also a destination in itself.
Stop for breakfast, lunch or dinner at the Chesapeake Grill with its bird’s eye view of the water and passing parade of ships. The charming shop here specializes in regional gifts and mementos. The Sea Gull Pier is popular for fishing, and the Bridge-Tunnel’s man-made islands are famed for their one-of-a-kind vantage points for bird watching.
Once you depart the bridge visit the Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center on the immediate right where professional travel consultants are waiting to answer your questions and provide maps and recommendations.
Take it From the Top
Island time is a great way to regain precious family time. Travel the traffic-less Route 13, the Eastern Shore’s main artery, to the northern end of the peninsula. You’ll delight in Chincoteague Island, a retro, seaside family resort and its sister isle of Assateague, home to Chincoteague’s National Wildlife Refuge, where the famed wild ponies play. Besides ponies the refuge provides miles of natural beaches, a historic lighthouse and scenic bike trails. The village of Chincoteague is steeped in sweet nostalgia with its Mayberry-like downtown filled with eclectic shops and seafood restaurants.
Campers will adore the waterside setting and the “treat you like family” attitude at Tom’s Cove Park. For decades the family-owned operation has been providing fun for all ages with fishing piers, boat ramp, marina, clubhouse and more. The perfect cure for “Mom, I’m bored.”
If a hotel stay is your style, Fairfield Inn & Suites promises to exceed your expectations. Overlooking the tranquil Chincoteague Bay, its location makes it easy to savor island charms as you stroll the downtown or visit the refuge and beach. Convenient too is the onsite Chincoteague Inn Restaurant, seasonal pool and fishing dock.
At the Island Resort hotel bay sunsets are an event. Kick back on your waterfront balcony or aside the pools—both inside and out, owned for more than 30 years by native islanders that have shown guests how to celebrate the Chincoteague creed “Relax, you’re on Island Time.”
Bayside, Seaside Treats
Back on Route 13 heading south and west toward the Chesapeake Bay, the petite harbor town of Onancock is worth a stop and an extended stay. This charmer chartered in 1680 is embraced by the beauty of Onancock Creek. Kayak tours allow you to explore the historic waters, and on land its esteemed history can be discovered at Ker Place, a stately circa 1800 Federal-style house museum. The headquarters of the Eastern Shore Historical Society, it’s known for intriguing events such as the day-long celebration of To Kill a Mockingbird on Sept. 28.
Along with its porch-graced homes the town is a surviving, thriving piece of Americana with a sophisticated edge. Downtown art galleries mingle with a community playhouse, vintage movie theater, and a variety of dining choices.
Where to start? If the locals love it, you will too. That’s Mallards At the Wharf, acclaimed for both its fresh, gourmet offerings and Johnny Mo, the Musical Chef. Set in the circa 1842 Hopkins Bros Store, it offers alfresco dining from its pretty harbor perch and the chance to hear Johnny Mo on guitar crooning about Eastern Shore life.
As for accommodations, those who long for true Southern hospitality will delight in the 1882 Colonial Manor Inn—the oldest continuous bed and breakfast on the Eastern Shore mainland. Pairing the beauty of the past while serving the needs of modern day travelers, innkeepers Linda and Carroll welcome families and pets on two genteel acres, a short stroll to all things Onancock.
South of Onancock, the seaside village of Wachapreague harkens back to the authentic water towns of old. Affectionately known as the Little City by the Sea, it’s a seafood lovers’ nirvana at the Island House Restaurant, smack dab in the middle of the popular charter fishing fleet. Oysters, clams, crab cakes—coupled with an unrivaled view of the wild barrier islands.
Spellbound? Stay a little longer at the Wachapreague Inn across the street from the waterfront. Retro-cute accommodations vary to meet the needs of family, pets and fishing enthusiasts. Your hosts Chris and Nikki will happily arrange a boat taxi to secluded barrier island beaches, a sunset cruise and more.
The Captivating Cape
At the Southern tip of the Eastern Shore, Victorian–era Cape Charles is an uncommon combination of small town, Southern sensibilities and upscale amenities perched perfectly on the bay. The historic downtown offers shopping, dining and throw backs to another era.
Bay Creek, a multi-faceted resort and residential beach community, rings the historic district and providing a posh marina, nationally acclaimed golf courses, resort rentals and fine waterfront dining. Aqua Restaurant, as its name suggests, is set on the Chesapeake and offers causal, gourmet dining and the place to catch a stunning sunset. The two signature golf courses designed by legends Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer intersect along magnificent water vistas. All this proves the Eastern Shore’s cape caps off an uncomplicated and unforgettable getaway.
Need one more reason to visit? Save the date! Saturday, Aug. 24 from 1–9 p.m., the Eastern Shore’s Own Craft Beer & Music Festival is for both beer and music connoisseurs. Party with headlining, regional bands while savoring a variety of popular microbrew beers and foods. Its outdoor setting is a quaint Eastern Shore village centrally located and is a fundraiser to support the non-profit ESO Arts Center. www.esoartscenter.org