Virginia’s Eastern Shore: Natural Beauty & Coastal Charm

kayak tour eastern shore poines

Eastern Shore Tourism Director invites you to discover why this unique peninsula is a jewel in Virginia’s crown

By Robert Sabbatini

Nestled between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Eastern Shore of Virginia offers a tapestry of natural beauty and unique experiences along its 70-mile coastline. This region, comprising Accomack and Northampton counties, is your gateway to exploring sunsets, history, culture and the legacy of watermen that have shaped its identity.

From small historic towns, like Cape Charles, Chincoteague, Wachapreague, Onancock, Parksley and Tangier Island to picturesque parks and wine trails, included here are some insights into why this peninsula is a jewel in Virginia’s crown.

NATURAL BEAUTY OF VIRGINIA’S EASTERN SHORE
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a sanctuary of natural beauty, offering an array of landscapes and outdoor activities. Barrier Islands and Coastal Treasures: Home to the longest chain of undeveloped barrier islands in the global temperate zone, this area is recognized as a United Nations International Biosphere Reserve. Among these is Assateague Island with its 37-mile-long coastline shaped by wind and waves, featuring trails and the historic Assateague Lighthouse. Wildlife and Natural Preserves: The region boasts more 78,000 acres of preserved parks, refuges and a national seashore. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge are pivotal for avian migration in North America. Visitors can explore Savage Neck Dunes, a 300-acre preserve with sand dunes, secluded beaches, and rich biodiversity, including butterflies and bald eagles. Unique Outdoor Experiences: Adventure seekers can take guided kayak tours through scenic marshes and creeks or explore secluded areas where wild ponies roam. For a more relaxed experience, visitors can camp or unwind at the pristine Assateague Island National Seashore.

HISTORIC TOWNS AND CULTURAL HERITAGE
Exploring the historic towns and cultural heritage of the Eastern Shore of Virginia reveals a tapestry of American history, maritime culture and architectural beauty. Coastal Charms and Historical Gems: Begin your journey in Cape Charles, a bayside gem with a welcoming public beach and fishing pier, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and exploration. Enjoy boutique hotels, artisan shopping, charming bed and breakfasts, and perfect sunsets while riding around town in a rented golf cart.

Onancock stands out with its rich history, hospitable atmosphere, diverse shops, galleries, and dining options. Notable sites include The Samuel D. Outlaw Blacksmith Shop, Ker Place and the Onancock Historic School. Islands of Natural and Historical Wonders: Chincoteague Island, known for its oyster beds, clam shoals and iconic wild ponies, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and local culture. The island is also home to the Museum of Chincoteague and the Assateague Lighthouse, providing stunning views and a glimpse of its maritime history.

The Barrier Islands Center in Machipongo, once a poorhouse, now houses over 7,500 artifacts. It provides an in-depth look at the communities that thrived on Virginia’s barrier islands, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts. Tangier Island: A Living Museum of Watermen Culture Tangier Island, accessible via ferry from Onancock, is a fascinating locale known as America’s “Soft Crab Capital.” The island’s watermen culture, unique dialect and fresh seafood offer an immersive experience into a way of life that has been cherished for generations.

OUTDOOR ADVENTURES AND ATTRACTIONS
For those seeking thrilling adventures and unique attractions, the Eastern Shore of Virginia is the place for you. Here are some highlights: Wildlife and Nature Exploration: The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for the famous Pony Swim and Auction, draws visitors from around the globe. The Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge are both ideal spots for bird watching. Kiptopeke State Park, just a few miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, includes a boat and kayak launch, two beaches, WWII concrete ships, a birding platform and fishing pier. Water Adventures: Kayak enthusiasts can embark on tours along Assateague and Chincoteague Islands, with options for sunset dolphin tours adding a magical element to the experience. For a more relaxed pace, paddleboarding in Onancock Creek offers a serene way to explore the creeks and historic waterfront homes. Rockets, Railroads and More: Have you ever seen a rocket lift off?  Check out NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility for a full schedule of launches. The Pearl of the Eastern Shore in Parksley lets visitors step into the golden age of railroads and enjoy an old fashioned five and dime and hardware store. For a different perspective, scenic flights offer breathtaking views of the Eastern Shore’s natural beauty. Known as the “Flounder Capital of the World,” Wachapreague is for any angler looking for paradise.

LOCAL CUISINE AND SEAFOOD
The Eastern Shore of Virginia is a haven for seafood lovers, offering an abundance of fresh, local delicacies that are a must-try for any visitor. Here’s a glimpse into the local cuisine and seafood: Oysters and Clams: Known for their fresh oysters, especially in winter, the Eastern Shore’s restaurants and aquafarms offer a variety of oysters and clams, served raw, steamed or roasted. Crab and Fish: The region boasts a rich selection of seafood including blue crabs, soft-shell crabs, rockfish and flounder. Many restaurants are renowned for their unique preparations of local catches. Unique Dining Experiences: Cape Charles, Onancock, Wachapreague, Saxis, and Chincoteague not only offer fresh seafood and a sunset view but also live music and entertainment. Wine enthusiasts can enjoy tastings in Machipongo, and beer lovers can explore the local brews throughout the Shore. 

For more information visit www.visitesva.com or www.esvachamber.org.

Robert Sabbatini
Robert Sabbatini

Robert Sabbatini is the executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Shore Tourism Commission. He previously served as Dean of Students at Hampden-Sydney College.

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