Love and Learning on the ESVA

Butterfly Trail at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

This 1.5 mile trail is a unique amenity of the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge. Located just behind the refuge Visitor’s Center, the path leads through a wooded area where you can learn about butterflies as you enjoy nature. Depending on the time of year, you will see monarch butterflies! Observe the butterflies in their natural habitat and supplement your observations with information listed on interpretive signs scattered throughout the trail. We recommend coming in the fall or spring during the monarch butterfly migrations through the area.

Learn more about monarch butterflies.

Learn more about the Butterfly Trail.

Download this map of the refuge.

Get directions.

WWII Bunker and Gun Barrel at the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

You may not know this, but the Eastern Shore of Virginia has played several roles in military history. What is now the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge was Fort John Custis from 1941-1948 and then became the Cape Charles Air Force Station from 1950-1981 before the refuge came to be in 1984. Today, this history is evident when you visit the refuge and make it to the Bunker Overlook and Marsh Overlook Trail. There, the WWII Gun Barrel is on display in an intact bunker with signage to learn more about its history. Designed to protect the naval bases in Hampton Roads, Gun Barrel #393 is quite massive.

Learn more about Gun Barrel #393’s history.

Learn more about the Bunker Overlook and Marsh Overlook Trail.

Get directions.

Eyre Hall Gardens

This colonial home was originally built in 1760 overlooking Cherrystone Creek. The mile-long, winding driveway is outlined by gorgeous cedar trees that seem to beckon you onto the estate. The gardens are not only drop-dead gorgeous, but they are also some of the oldest in the country and have been intact since the 1800s. The crape myrtles are over 200 years old, an exotic purchase from China, and were some of the first planted the United States. The property has an old smokehouse, dairy house, and an orangery that are quite unique in today’s world. Privately owned by the Eyre family, the home is available to tour during limited dates of the year, however, the gardens are always welcoming visitors dawn until dusk. When visiting, please remember the owners live on site. Please respect the property.

Check out this article about Eyre Hall written by Bay Creek.

Learn more about Eyre Hall.

Get directions.

Eastville Courthouse Green

Eastville has served as the seat of Northampton County since 1677. Although the green is steeped in all kinds of fascinating history, perhaps most notable is the old clerk’s office, home to the longest continual record of court documents dating back to 1632. In these historic documents you can see the real signatures of both Daniel Boone and Chief Debedeavon. In present day, the records are significant for genealogy research as well as general historic knowledge. The Northampton Historic Preservation Society also has dedicated a historic exhibit in the 1899 courthouse available for self-guided tours.

Learn more about the Eastville Courthouse Green’s history.

Learn more about the Eastville Courthouse Green.

Get directions.

Please note that some displays have been restricted due to COVID-19. Call ahead for more accurate information.

Barrier Islands Center

One of the most unique things about the history of the Eastern Shore of Virginia is the barrier islands protecting the mainland on the seaside of the peninsula. There are 14 barrier islands in total that now are abandoned, however many locals used to live on these islands as farmers and watermen. Cobb Island was home to a resort where people from all of the United States would come relax and hunt along the Atlantic Ocean. Hog Island was also home to elite fishing and hunting clubs that attracted wealthy sportsmen. These islands had their own unique culture that the Barrier Islands Center has done a wonderful job of preserving and sharing.

Learn more about the Barrier Islands Center.

Visit the Barrier Islands Center website.

Get directions.

Tangier Island Crab Shanties

Tangier Island is one of the most unique places in the United States of America. This island is inhabited by watermen that feel more at home on the water than on land. The canal of the island is lined with historic crab shanties where the watermen assess their bounty of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and have for generations. Get a first-hand experience by touring the shanties with the island’s own watermen.

Learn more about Tangier crab shanties tour with the mayor.

Learn more about Tangier crab shanties tours.

Get directions.

Scott Hall Cemetery

Located in the historic town of Onancock, Scott Hall Cemetery dates back to the 18th century and is the final resting place of Maryland’s Commodore Whaley. Commodore Whaley was killed in the Battle of the Barges, also known as the Battle of Kedges Strait, just outside of the mouth of Onancock Creek on November 30, 1782. The battle was the last naval action of the Revolutionary War. Onancock local, Lieutenant James Cropper, joined Whaley in the battle. Only 11 men escaped. Other names of those buried in the cemetery include Bagwell, Ker, Snead, Corbin, Riley, Teackle, and Wise.

Find a grave at Scott Hall Cemetery.

Learn more about Scott Hall Cemetery.

Learn more about the Battle of the Barges.

Get directions.

Ker Place

Ker Place is a federalist era mansion built in the Georgrian style in the heart of Onancock. Building began in 1799 and it took four years until the home was finished for the merchant farmer John Ker and his wife, Agnes. The former home houses a museum, a genealogy room, temporary exhibits, local artwork, archives, collections, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society headquarters, and that’s just the inside. Ker Place also has beautiful grounds, even an herb garden complete with interpretive signage. The circular herb garden was designed to be an authentic historic period replica garden that John and Agnes Ker likely had when they lived in the mansion. Currently, the grounds are open and the interior is open by appointment only.

Learn more about Ker Place.

Learn more about the herb garden.

Get directions.

Please note that some displays have been restricted due to COVID-19. Call ahead for more accurate information.

Eastern Shore Railway Museum

The railroad defined much of Eastern Shore history, and that history has been put on full display at the Eastern Shore Railway Museum in Parksley, Virginia. The museum is complete with authentic, restored railcars that you can access, historic railway buildings, exhibits, artifacts, and more. Take a guided tour of the 1927 Diplomat railcar, a elegant parlor car, a 1949 caboose, and a 1950 sleepcar when you visit the museum.

Learn more about the Eastern Shore Railway Museum.

Get directions.

Makemie Memorial Park

Francis Makemie, the founder of American Presbyterianism, was responsible for the creation of many churches in Maryland and Virginia. Makemie emigrated to the United States from Ireland in 1680 as a missionary assigned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. He married his wife, Naomi, the daughter of a prominent figure in Accomack County, and they were granted land in the county for their home. Francis Makemie Presbyterian Church in Accomac and Naomi Makemie Presbyterian Church in Onancock commemorate he and his wife’s memory and continue to teach his teachings today. Makemie Memorial Park is Francis’ final resting place The park has a statue present in his honor and is a beautiful park for bird watching, picnics, or enjoying the outdoors.

Learn more about Francis Makemie.

Learn more about the Makemie Memorial Park.

Get directions.

NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor’s Center

Wallops Island, aka Space Island, is home to a flight facility and museum dedicated to NASA’s past, present, and future. The flight facility visitor’s center has exhibits featuring aeronautics, orbital rockets, scientific balloons, current missions, and previous missions at the flight facility. The visitor’s center is offering virtual field trips during COVID-19 restrictions. Several times a year, the flight facility launches rockets that can be seen for miles. Popular viewing spots include several locations on nearby Chincoteague Island.

Learn more about NASA Wallops Flight Facility Visitor’s Center.

Learn more about NASA Wallops Flight Facility.

Learn more about virtual field trips.

Learn more about rocket launches.

Get directions.

Please note that some displays have been restricted due to COVID-19. Call ahead for more accurate information.

Assateague Lighthouse

This 142 foot red and white striped lighthouse is located on the Virginia side of Assateague Island on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. Built in 1867, the light was originally kept lit with oil. The keeper of the lighthouse would have to climb all 172 steps to the top of the light every hour to keep the light lit for those at sea. In 1933, the lighthouse was converted to electric in 1933. The light is comprised of two rotating lights that can be seen for 19 miles out at sea. Now the lighthouse still aids those at sea but is open to the public to explore, giving way to a gorgeous panoramic view of Assateague Island. The lighthouse is open every weekend from April-November from 9am-3pm.

Learn more about the Assateague Lighthouse’s history.

Learn more about the Assateague Lighthouse.

Get directions.

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