On Virginia’s Eastern Shore, the centuries-old town of Onancock is a good launch point for exploring the dynamic shoreline
If you go …
Where To Eat
In Onancock, the Corner Bakery is the place for doughnuts and worth the calories. Janet’s General Store Café focuses on soups, salads and specialties such as scallion-cheddar muffins. Bizzotto’s Gallery Caffé (bizzottosgallerycafe.com) serves seafood with an Italian flair. Grab drinks or dinner at the casual Mallards at the Wharf (mallardsvamd.com) to catch a sunset over the creek; its menu includes local seafood, burgers and meatloaf. I enjoyed crabcakes and French green beans at the elegant Charlotte Hotel & Restaurant (thecharlottehotel.com), which sources locally and has homemade ice cream.
On the Atlantic side, the Island House Restaurant & Marina (theislandhouserestaurant.com) in Wachapreague, a town known as the “Flounder Capital of the World,” dishes out local clams, oysters, crabs and shrimp, with preparations ranging from steamed to frittered. Its fried oysters were truly delectable, as was the made-to-order chopped salad with wasabi-cucumber dressing. The restaurant also sells local art and nautically themed gifts.
Where To Stay
We enjoyed The Apt. at Holly Cove (airbnb.com/rooms/17103650), which overlooks Onancock Creek and is located a few miles from town (by road, not water). You can walk to the end of its long pier and sit a spell. In town, the 130-year-old Victorian Inn at Onancock (innatonancock.com) has feather-topped beds and a “wine down” hour each evening, with a relaxing patio and porch. Its boat, Inn-Courage (cruiseonancock.com), offers a daily shuttle to a nearly private beach and sunset cruises. The Wachapreague Inn (wachapreagueinn.com) offers rooms, efficiencies and a house to rent, along with free bikes to explore the flat terrain, and will also book fishing trips.
Where To Shop
Many local shops are open only Thursday through Sunday, so plan accordingly. In Danny Doughty Gallery (dannydoughty.com) you’ll find colorful paintings by the self-taught artist. The shop abuts the Red Queen Gallery (facebook.com/redqueengallery), a purveyor of cool and eclectic paintings, pottery and jewelry by local artisans. North Street Market (northstreetmkt.com) is a worthy stop for wine, Barrier Island salt, flavored vinegars and artisanal chocolates. Ten Good Sheep (tengoodsheep.com), which specializes in artisanal hand-dyed luxury yarns (spun from its own flock of sheep), is part of the artists’ community housed in the refurbished Historic Onancock School (historiconancockschool.org). The site has a small Eastern Shore Watermen’s Museum and Research Center (esvawatermen.org) that’s open on Saturdays. The store Dawn carries women’s clothing, accessories and home furnishings, including some stylin’ hats.
Where To Explore
Burnham Guides (burnhamguides.com) offers kayak, bike and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) rentals, along with personalized, guided tours around the barrier islands, which can include overnight stays, wine tasting and hang gliding. SouthEast Expeditions (southeastexpeditions.com/onancock) provides rental kayaks and SUPs and guided tours of Onancock Creek, Chincoteague and Cape Charles, along with a “Paddle Your Glass Off” tour to the local Chatham Vineyards. If paddling isn’t your thing, from May through October you can take a two-hour sail up the creek on the catboat Gratitude with Onancock Sailing Adventures (onancocksailingadventures.com). Captain Meriwether Payne of Seaside Ecotours (facebook.com/seasideecotours) will take you birding, shelling, clamming or just exploring in the barrier islands.
In Onancock, the stately, Federal-style Ker Place (shorehistory.org/ker-place) is home to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society and offers tours and special events, including lectures on history. Located in a historic almshouse near the town of Machipongo, the Barrier Islands Center (barrierislandscenter.org) chronicles the histories of those who once lived on the now uninhabited islands, and offers live music and special events. The center has a gift shop with wares by local artisans. For more ways to explore the Eastern Shore of Virginia, visit visitesva.com.
Arlington writer Amy Brecount White always enjoys the view from the water, particularly if she’s paddling.