( Photo: Patrick J. Hendrickson)
A narrow, 70-mile peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, the Virginia Eastern Shore is a coastal getaway where there are no board walks or vacation rentals stacked four deep along the beach. It’s just hours from New York, western Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina and Washington D.C. by car. By air, fly into the Norfolk airport and drive across the famous 20-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Two private airports accommodate small planes.
An Outdoor Paradise
Step out of your life and take a deep breath. The Virginia Eastern Shore is seventy miles of undeveloped barrier islands on the Atlantic, two National Wildlife Refuges, a National Seashore and six pristine public beaches including a state park right on the beach. Hundreds of miles of coastline draw beach combers, cyclists, boaters, surfers, fishermen, birders, nature lovers and kayakers. Dozens of expert outfitters lead adventures on water or land. Over 40 harbors and boat ramps line both coastlines. The fall and spring bird migrations attract birders from all over the world. For thrill seekers, there’s hang gliding, surfing, kite boarding and jet skiing.
Find An Adventure
Remote Tangier Island
You can only reach Tangier Island, a small town in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay, by boat or small plane. It was settled in the 1600s and its residents have been isolated from the rest of the world for four centuries. You’ll find ancient graves, a tiny museum, charming B&BS, casual restaurants and one of the East Coast’s best beaches. There are no cars – travel is by golf cart only. It’s culture shock, in a good way. The Onancock to Tangier ferry operates in the warmer months and the Crisfield Maryland Ferry operates year around.
Take the Ferry to Tangier Island
Miles of Pristine Beaches
No commercial beach front here. There are six public beaches, five on the Chesapeake Bay and one on the Atlantic Ocean, and two beach towns, Chincoteague and Cape Charles. Chincoteague is the gateway to the National Seashore on the Atlantic Ocean where you can drive right up to the beach and surf, fish, hike or lounge. Cape Charles is right on the Chesapeake Bay with a harbor and beach just steps from B&BS, hotels, restaurants and shops. Kiptopeke State Park’s mile-long beach has cabins, a fishing pier and other amenities. Savage Neck’s wild beach is an easy hike through marine forests. Don’t miss Tangier Island’s glorious beach or the deserted beaches on the 23 barrier islands. Some hotels, B&Bs, vacation rentals and campgrounds have private beaches.
Find the Perfect Beach
Find a Beachside Vacation Rental
It’s All About the Seafood
The epicenter of the Atlantic seafood industry, the Virginia Eastern Shore’s oysters, clams and crabs are served in fine restaurants from New York to California. Just-caught seafood – whatever’s in season – is on menus across the region. Over a dozen raw bars feature oysters with distinct tastes depending on the salinity of the local water they grow in. Buy fresh seafood at roadside markets and cook it up at your vacation rental. Year ‘round homegrown seafood festivals are informal and friendly. Explore aqua farming with boat or kayak guides. Museums and antique stores are excellent places to learn more about the region’s enduring seafaring culture.
Road Trip for Seafood Lovers
One of America’s Oldest Regions
The Eastern Shore of Virginia was settled in 1615; for you history buffs that’s five years before the Mayflower landed. The homestead of one of America’s influential colonial families is located here and is still a working farm; America’s oldest continual court records are housed here; and one of America’s oldest formal gardens is located here. Fifty plus National Register of Historic Sites and nine charming small museums preserve four centuries of culture, including the traditional waterman life, which is fast disappearing.
Step Back Into America’s Past
We’re Alive with Art
Meet artists and artisans who hand-craft exceptional works of art, food and wine, many of whom also provide hands-on activities you can take part in. Visit artist studios, agri/aqua-artisan farms, markets, wineries, museums and cultural sites. Take in local theater, dance and music or attend a local festival. The Virginia’s Eastern Shore Artisan Trail helps you discover unique, creative spaces tucked away in remote corners of the long peninsula.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore Artisan Trail
Studios and Galleries Across the Eastern Shore
Your Own Private Island
While the rest of the Eastern seaboard – and much of the world’s coastlines – has been radically commercialized, the Virginia Eastern Shore is much the same as it has been for hundreds of years. The barrier island beaches are stunning/ One of the world’s most delicate ecosystems, Virginia’s barrier islands are designated a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve. All 23 Virginia barrier islands, except Assateague Island, are accessible by boat only, and dozens of expert outfitters can navigate the shifting channels to reach them, point out wildlife, give you a historical perspective and educate you about the critical importance of these fragile wetlands and islands. It is an exceptional experience.
Explore Virginia’s Wild Coastline
Great Shopping Without the Malls
Unlike other coastal communities that have been overrun by outlet malls and national chains, the Eastern Shore has retained its small town charm and you’re likely to meet the business owner when you shop. Whether you’re a treasure hunter looking for antiques, an art lover waiting to be wowed by a dramatic sculpture, a bargain shopper who loves perusing thrift stores or a fashionista who craves one-of-a-kind items, you’ll find it on the Eastern Shore.
Plan a Shopping Trip
You Won’t Go Hungry
Stop by a farmer’s market or a roadside farm stand during the summer for locally-grown produce sold by the people who grow it. Pick your own peaches and berries in season. Shop mom and pop retail seafood shops for just-caught delicacies to cook up at your vacation rental or take home. Raw bars, waterside restaurants, upscale bistros, retro diners, crab shacks, delis, cafes, bakeries and ice cream parlors dot the region. Be on the lookout for unique regional dishes like sweet potato biscuits made from local Hayman sweet potatoes. There’s an ongoing debate about where to find the best crab cakes here and everybody has an opinion.
Restaurants, Raw Bars, Retail Seafood, More