Southern Living has partnered with Virginia.org to form a guest blogger network. Today’s post is provided by guest blogger Brianna Simmons of Casual Travelist. Check back every Monday and Thursday for new ways to explore the state of Virginia.
Virginia is well known for its natural beauty, history and booming food scene, but the Eastern Shore is often overlooked. Bordered by Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, this long peninsula is connected to the rest of Virginia only by the 21 mile long Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Visitors flock to the neighboring resort cities of Ocean City Maryland and Virginia Beach leaving the Atlantic barrier islands and inlets along the Chesapeake Bay blissfully uncrowded. You won't find overdeveloped beaches lined with resorts and souvenir shops; instead the Eastern Shore has miles of pristine wetlands, hidden beaches and small towns just waiting to be discovered. Home to a diverse mix of watermen, farmers and artists, life here moves at a slower place. Oyster shell roads lead out to the water, flip-flops and Wellies are the footwear of choice and everyone is greeted with a wave and a smile. This is where the south meets the mid-Atlantic, where oysters and blue crab are king. Here are my recommendations on how to experience the Eastern Shore, Virginia’s best kept secret.
Known most for the herds of wild ponies that call the barrier island home (including Marguerite Henry's beloved Misty of Chincoteague) and the windswept dunes of the Assateague National Seashore, this small town on the northern part of the Eastern Shore offers up your quintessential summer experience. The barrier islands of Chincoteague are best viewed from the water; explore in comfort with Captain Dan's Around the Island Tours, where you can take in the natural beauty of the wetlands, view the Assateague lighthouse and catch a glimpse of Chincoteague's wild ponies. Afterward sate your appetite at one of the new food trucks popping up around the island; the Farmer's Daughter offers an updated take on classic comfort food ( the stuffed softshell crab and daily mac and cheese special are not to be missed), while Pico Taqueria serves authentic street tacos with ingredients sourced from local farms. No visit to Chincoteague is complete without a stop by Island Creamery, serving up scoops of small batch ice cream since 1975. A short drive from the island, the Garden and Sea Inn is a pet friendly pink gingerbread Victorian B&B offering a relaxing retreat after your island adventures.
Centrally located mid-Shore the charming town of Onancock is perfectly situated for exploring all the Eastern Shore has to offer. The Inn at Onancock offers luxurious rooms with a sumptuous two-course breakfast, perfect for fueling up before taking the ferry to explore historic Tangier Island. Indulge your craving for fresh seafood with a view of the water at Mallard's on the Wharf or the Island House in nearby Wachapreague. Heading south of Onancock stop by Chatham Vineyards where you can sample their award winning Church Creek Chardonnay; and while you can certainly drive I think it’s much more fun to arrive by kayak on one of Southeast Expeditions "Paddle Your Glass Off" kayak-winery tours.
Looking for a relaxing beach destination without the crowds? Located at the southern tip of the Eastern Shore along the Chesapeake Bay, the soft sand and quiet waters of Cape Charles are the place for you. Start your day with a breakfast and a handcrafted cappuccino at the historic Cape Charles Coffeehouse before enjoying the sun and sand of Cape Charles Beach. Cape Charles quaint Main Street is also home to several art galleries and boutiques; At Altitude Gallery features stunning aerial images by photographer Gordon Campbell while next door Moonrise Jewelry offers one-of-a-kind jewelry made by hand onsite (I’m currently pining for one their necklaces made with real orchids). A visit to Brown Dog Ice Cream is a must any time I’m in town, flavors change daily based on what’s in season. Rest your head at the Hotel Cape Charles, where modern design and views of the water blend seamlessly the town’s history providing a comfortable and contemporary lodging option on the Eastern Shore.