On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a 70-mile peninsula a short drive south from Washington D.C., explore the beaches of the Atlantic Ocean one day, and the Chesapeake Bay the next. In the summer months laze by the water’s edge or play in the surf. In the cooler months hike through maritime forests and watch for birds and wildlife. Best of all, most of these beaches are free – only Assateague Island National Seashore and Kiptopeke State Park charge entrance fees.
ON THE ATLANTIC
One of the world’s longest remaining stretch of wild barrier islands, Virginia’s outer banks are mystical in their isolation. You can visit these delicate barrier islands, most owned by the Nature Conservancy, via boat or kayak, as long as you follow the Nature Conservancy guidelines. Pack a picnic and walk for miles and miles along the deserted shorelines. Enjoy the solitude of no houses, no people and no civilization. If you don’t have a boat, hire an ecotour guide to take you to areas that allow commercial activity.
Assateague Island National Seashore
The only seaside beach accessible by land on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, Assateague Island’s 37 miles of pristine beach start in Virginia and extend north into Maryland. The island’s most famous residents, the wild Chincoteague Ponies, freely roam the island’s sands and marshes.
ON THE CHESAPEAKE BAY
Escape to another world. Take the ferry out of Onancock to Tangier Island spring to fall. This tiny island community is home to delicious seafood, friendly locals and a beautiful beach that is so isolated and pristine you’ll feel like you’re the last person left on earth.
Savage Neck Nature Area Preserve
A 300-acre preserve starts you on your hike through a maritime forest that leads to miles of dunes and beach. A small parking area leads to three marked hiking trails with interpretive signs. This is a very secret and hidden spot only the locals know about.
Cape Charles Beach
This is the only beach on Virginia’s Eastern Shore where you can park your car on the street, walk 100 steps and have your toes in the sand. This beach is popular with families for its ease of access and gentle, warm waters.
Kiptopeke State Park
Hike the trails and play along a half-mile of beachfront at a 500-acre state park with lots of amenities: campsites, cabins that sleep 16 people, a yurt, a boat launch and fishing pier, and picnic tables. The park’s hawk observatory is among the nation’s top 15.