The Eastern Shore’s Historic Garden Tour is Virginia’s largest. People flock here from all over the mid-Atlantic to steal a look inside the gracious homes – often with breathtaking water views — hidden far from the public eye. Buy tickets for the self-guided Saturday tour then linger for a long weekend. Spend some time wandering quaint waterside towns and finding the galleries, shops, museums and restaurants in Cape Charles, Wachapreague, Onancock and Chincoteague.
WHERE TO STAY
Pick a hub on the lower or middle part of this narrow 70-mile peninsula where the garden tour itinerary centers. Don’t be surprised to find yourself staying in a historic hotel or B&B with a beautiful garden – it’s not on the tour, but it could be. Stay in a small town off the main road in Cape Charles, Wachapreague or Onancock. They are all charming towns with boutique hotels and B&Bs, shopping and restaurants. Don’t miss the dozens of vacation rentals, retro hotels, fishing lodges and B&Bs that are not in a town proper. Pick from major chain hotels along Rt. 13 or camp/RV at one of the area’s campgrounds, most of them on the water or just steps from it.
WHAT TO DO
Cape Charles Historical Society Low Country Shrimp Boil
This classic low country seafood bash at the Cape Charles Museum is always held the Saturday of the Eastern Shore’s annual garden tour and features steamed shrimp with red potatoes, corn on the cob, smoked sausage, onion and peppers and local clams. Sides include homemade rolls, coleslaw and desserts and beer and wine is available. In addition to the feast there is a silent auction, a 50/50 raffle and live music. Purchase tickets by credit card via email to email@example.com or call 757-331-1008. There are tons of other great events across the Eastern Shore on garden tour weekend, from live local music to outdoor fun at Kiptopeke State Park.
A short hike through Savage Neck’s maritime forests leads to a breathtaking wild beach. You may be the only one around except for the wildlife. Photo: Dave Harp
Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve
One of the Eastern Shore’s most enchanting spots is this 300-acre nature preserve with three hiking trails through maritime forest habitats. Keep a lookout for Engelmann’s umbrella-sedge, dwarf burhead and southern bladderwort. At the end of the hike, you’re rewarded with a view of the Chesapeake Bay from a pristine, isolated beach.
Gardens and beautiful houses pair perfectly with the creative artists and artisans on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
The Artisan Trail
Across the Region
Visit dozens of artists, artisans and agri artisans from north to south and everywhere in between along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Grab a map anywhere you see the Artisan Trail sign, or download one here, and you’ve got a passport to studios, theaters, vineyards and organic farms down long country roads and in small walk-able towns. You’ll meet the people who live, work and create artisan food and wine, fine art, pottery, rugs, wearable art, decoys, furniture and mosaics, and sometimes, get in on the action.
Eyre Hall is on the garden tour every year but people often miss the beautiful public gardens, which are open year round. These gardens are among the oldest in the country, circa 1800. Ancient boxwood and gnarled crape myrtles tower over the traditional swept paths, all enclosed by a wall of brick brought as ballast from England. On the sunny side, English-style mixed borders add color, and opposite is the family graveyard and romantic orangery ruin from 1819.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Chincoteague is north of the garden tour itinerary, but it’s well worth the trip. Spend the morning looking at native plants and wildflowers along one of the nature trails that are open for exploration in this 14,000 acre refuge.
Drive right up to the Atlantic Ocean at Assateague Island National Seashore. Photo: Virginia Tourism Corporation
Assateague Island National Seashore
You’ve paid the entrance fee to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and lucky for you, the permit includes parking at the the Assateague Island National Seashore, which abuts the refuge. This breathtaking wild beach stretches for 37 miles north into Maryland. And you can drive right up to it.
For more information about the Eastern Shore of Virginia, check out our website and follow us on Facebook and post your pics to #visitesva on Instagram. Here is a list of Places of Interest from the Eastern Shore of Virginia House and Garden Tour.