I've lived in Virginia my entire life and have vacationed to the somewhat local beaches like Virginia Beach, Rehoboth, the Outer Banks and Myrtle. Somehow I had never heard of Cape Charles, a quiet little beach town on the eastern shore, until recently on a lazy Saturday when I was watching reruns on HGTV. I caught an episode of Beachfront Bargain Hunt that just happened to be featuring a beautiful place in Virginia called Cape Charles. I immediately felt the need to go and so I did.
I took the three-and-a-half hour drive from D.C. to Cape Charles with a friend for a weekend of peace and relaxation. This was like no other beach we had visited before. It was mid-summer, but the beach was quiet, the streets weren't jammed with traffic, everyone was so friendly and the restaurant scene was on point! If I had to recommend a weekend trip that everyone must take before the end of the summer, I would highly recommend Cape Charles. And if you can't make it before the end of summer, we hear it's just as beautiful in the fall.
If I have convinced you to take the short drive to the peaceful land we call Cape Charles, here is where to eat, what to see, and things to do:
Where to eat:
The Oyster Farm at Kings Creek: Make sure to dine outside on the patio overlooking the beautiful Chesapeake Bay, where you can see the shellfish growing areas (this is definitely a site to see). We recommend trying everything on the menu, but here are the top suggestions: the Oysters Rockefeller (best oysters I've had), Steamed Shrimp, She Crab Soup, simmered with sherry, brandy & cream, and on the lunch menu the Tuna Rice Bowl with edamame rice and thai chili sauce.
The Shanty: Watch boats come and go in the harbor while you enjoy a fresh seafood meal at The Shanty. Start your meal with the crab dip, it will be a hit at the table...so if you have more than two people, maybe order more than one. Ask your server about the fresh catch of the day because it might be something you don't want to miss! If you are in the mood for tacos, try the blackened fish or spicy shrimp tacos and add the fried avocado for an extra flavorful touch.
Kelly's Gingernut Pub: Have you ever thought about dining in an old bank vault? Well, Kelly's Gingernut Pub can make that happen! The building that houses this pub originated as a bank in 1907. The original brick walls, floors, and steel vault doors are still intact today. The most popular item on the menu is the Crab Cake Sandwich, but we also recommend the Cape Charles Cobb Salad that comes loaded with fresh crab, chicken, and avocado. Want to try something a little different? Order the Kelly's Exclusive Crab & Brie Burger -- a burger topped with a crab cake and a slice of brie.
Hook U Up Gourmet: This was by far my favorite meal we had on the trip. If you don't go anywhere else in Cape Charles, at least visit Hook U Up. Here's what to order: Appetizer - Crab Chesapeake en Bouche finished with sherry, country ham, shitake mushrooms & butter served over a puff pastry. Entrees - Okay, we couldn't choose just one! Try the Fresh Fish du Jour stuffed with jumbo lump crab and finished with white wine, lemon & butter, caramelized pearl onions, creamy farro with wild mushroom pilaf & grilled baby bok choy OR Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops over a potato & leek cake finished with butterbean succotash.
Cape Charles Coffee House: This is the place to grab coffee and breakfast! There are two things you need to get from Cape Charles Coffee House. The signature drink, Cafe Cape Charles and the French Toast. Order those two things and you will be a happy camper.
Where to get dessert:
Brown Dog Ice Cream: This is the famous Cape Charles ice cream shop. Brown Dog Ice Cream produces handcrafted small batch ice cream. Pick any flavor, you literally cannot go wrong.
What to do:
Wine tasting at Chatham Vineyards: Enjoy a tasting for $5 or $8 with a souvenir glass before heading out to the patio to sip on a refreshing glass of whatever you may choose. We recommend the steel-fermented Church Creek Chardonnay or Church Creek Rosé.
Paddle board or kayak with Southeast Expeditions: We took the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge kayak tour, but there are many other way to explore Cape Charles by water. Check out the Chatham Vineyards Kayak Trip (Paddle Your Glass Off) or the Aqua-Culture Clamming trip. No experience is needed for any of these trips and they are totally worth the money!
Hit up the beach: The Cape Charles Town Beach is located along Bay Avenue with beach access at the end of every block. The Cape Charles Town Beach is the only public beach on the Eastern Shore of Virginia that does not require an entrance or parking fee. Spend the day searching for hermit crabs (they are everywhere) and enjoying the sun. This is definitely a family-friendly beach and it's not crazy busy!
Check out the shops: Stroll up and down Mason Ave and shop the cute local beach shops.
Where to stay:
Hotel Cape Charles: This modern and intimate boutique hotel is located right on Mason Ave. in the middle of everything Cape Charles has to offer and only a short walk or bike ride away from the beach. Enjoy oversized rooms with amazing amenities like Nest bath products and organic locally made bedding. Rooms start at $165/night.