Updated 1/24/24 by Lori
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Welcome to Cape Charles, Virginia – a charming coastal town on the Eastern Shore that offers a unique blend of history, natural beauty, and Southern hospitality. Cape Charles is the perfect destination if you’re looking for a relaxing and picturesque getaway.
Founded in 1886, Cape Charles has a rich history still evident in its architecture, streets, and community. Once a bustling railroad and ferry hub, the town has transformed into a peaceful seaside haven that attracts visitors from near and far.
One of the town’s most notable attractions is its beach, which stretches for miles along the Chesapeake Bay. The soft sands, calm waters, and stunning sunsets make it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and strolling. Other popular attractions include the historic Palace Theatre, the scenic Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, and the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.
But what truly sets Cape Charles apart is its welcoming atmosphere and friendly locals. Whether enjoying a seafood dinner at one of the town’s restaurants, browsing the quaint shops along Mason Avenue, or simply relaxing on the beach, you’ll feel right at home.
So, whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, Cape Charles is the perfect place to unwind and create unforgettable memories.
It’s one of my favorite weekend getaways, and once you see it for yourself, it’ll be one of yours too.
Table of Contents
What is Cape Charles Known For? A Lot!
Cape Charles, Virginia, is known for its beautiful beaches, historic architecture, and unique shops and restaurants. Reminiscent of the Victorian era, the town grew with the help of the railroad.
Some specific things that Cape Charles is known for include:
- Cape Charles Beach: This beautiful beach is one of the main attractions in town. It offers excellent swimming, sunbathing, and fishing opportunities and a beautiful view of the Chesapeake Bay.
- Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel: The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a 17.6-mile-long bridge and tunnel complex that connects the Eastern Shore to the rest of Virginia. It is considered an engineering marvel and is a popular attraction for visitors to the area.
- Historical architecture: Cape Charles has many historic homes and buildings dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. The town’s architecture is a testament to its rich history and culture.
- Railroad Museum: Cape Charles is home to a railroad museum that showcases the town’s history as a railroad hub. The museum features exhibits on the town’s railroad history, interactive displays, and model trains.
- Bay Creek Resort and Club: Bay Creek is a premier golf and resort community in Cape Charles. It features two championship golf courses, a marina, and a variety of luxury amenities.
Does Cape Charles, VA, Have a Beach? Yes, it Does.
Yes, Cape Charles has a beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Cape Charles Beach is a public beach that offers visitors a beautiful view of the Bay and a relaxing place to swim, sunbathe, and enjoy the water. And you can see a mini-version of the famous Virginia Beach King Neptune statue!
The beach is located at the end of Mason Avenue in downtown Cape Charles and is easily accessible from nearby restaurants, shops, and accommodations.
The beach is open to the public and is free to use. During the summer, the beach is staffed by lifeguards, and restroom and shower facilities are available. Overall, Cape Charles Beach is one of the town’s main attractions.
Is Cape Charles Beach Nice?
Cape Charles Beach is a lovely beach! It’s known for its clean, clear water and soft sand. Visitors to Cape Charles Beach often comment on the peaceful, relaxing atmosphere and the stunning view of the Bay.
The beach is also popular for swimming, sunbathing, and fishing, and there are several nearby amenities, including restaurants, shops, and public restrooms. During the summer, the beach is staffed by lifeguards, and showers and changing facilities are available.
Cape Charles Beach is a beautiful and well-maintained beach that visitors and locals enjoy. If you are looking for a lovely beach in Virginia to visit, Cape Charles Beach is worth considering.
Is there a ferry to Cape Charles?
While it’s true that the passenger ferry service across the Bay was discontinued in 1953 due to the construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, there’s still plenty of excitement when arriving by car. While crossing the bay, you can watch rail barges depart from the town, carrying rail cars over the open waters, and experience the thrill of seeing a piece of history in action.
Directions from Richmond or Hampton Roads area
Take 64-East (from Richmond) West (from points south) toward Route 13 N. (Northhampton Blvd) in Virginia Beach. Cape Charles is just one mile west of U.S. Route 13, one of the east coast’s major north-south corridors.
Once on Route 13, you’ll find Cape Charles, approximately 12 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. At the first stop light after the CBBT, turn left onto Route 184 and continue to reach Cape Charles for one mile.
- Richmond: 128 miles/2hr 4min
- Hampton: 52 miles/1hr 2min
- Chesapeake: 48 miles/56min
- Virginia Beach: 44 miles/56min
Directions from the DC area
Take Route 50 East from the 95/495 DC beltway to Route 13 South. Drive through Northampton County for about 25 miles until you reach the Route 184 intersection. From there, turn onto Route 184 and drive one mile to Cape Charles.
- From DC: 215 miles/3hr 59min
What are Some Things to do in Cape Charles, Virginia?
Cape Charles Beach: A no-brainer, the beach is the town’s main attraction. Cape Charles Beach is a beautiful stretch of sand along the Chesapeake Bay. It is perfect for swimming, sunbathing, fishing, or anything else you love to do at the beach.
Kiptopeke State Park: Explore the beauty and history of Kiptopeke State Park! Situated on 562 acres between the Bay Bridge-Tunnel and the Atlantic Ocean, this park offers a range of recreational activities. Strolling along a mile of pristine beach or hiking or bike ride through the park’s picturesque woodlands, Kiptopeke State Park is a must-visit destination.
Cape Charles Natural Area: Discover the breathtaking beauty and vibrant wildlife of Virginia’s Cape Charles Natural Area. Spread across 1,200 acres of stunning coastline; this park is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers. Pristine beaches, inviting hiking trails, and fascinating flora and fauna–your next adventure awaits.
Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve: Experience history amongst nature while visiting Savage Neck Dunes Natural Area Preserve. Named after Thomas Savage, a young English boy who lived with Chief Powhatan’s tribe in 1608, this park is a testament to the enduring relationship between humans and the natural world.
After escaping from the Native Americans, Savage became a prosperous farmer on this coastal land.
This 300-acre park is home to a stunning array of ecosystems, from sandy beaches and dunes to salt marshes and maritime forests. And with rare and endangered plant species like the northeastern beach tiger beetle and prickly pear cactus, you’ll be exploring a one-of-a-kind natural wonderland. The park’s hiking trails offer ample opportunities to spot migratory birds – a birdwatcher’s dream come true.
Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge: Are you ready to immerse yourself in Virginia’s natural beauty and wildlife? Get over to The Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge.
With its variety of habitats and abundance of wildlife, this refuge is a nature lover’s paradise. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher or just looking for a scenic hike, you’ll find something to love here.
Breweries & Distilleries
- Cape Charles Distillery– If you’re a fan of locally distilled spirits, get to Cape Charles Distillery. They use the essence of Virginia’s natural bounty by cooking their locally grown corn and grains with pure mountain spring water. Every ingredient is carefully chosen from the finest sources in Virginia, ensuring that their handcrafted vodkas, gins, and whiskeys are top-notch. These guys really love their home state and their Eastern Shore community, and they pour that love into every bottle they make.
- Buskey Cider on the Bay– Are you a cider lover? This business launched in 2016 with a fresh, new approach to cider-making. They use only the freshest, locally sourced Virginia apples, with no added sugar, dilution, or acid adjustments. Buskey has become a local favorite, expanding its brand all over the city and beyond.
- Cape Charles Brewery– Cape Charles Brewing Company has it all. This family-owned business was started by two brothers, Mark and Chris Marshall, and their mother, Deborah. Their passion for home-brewing great beer with delicious food led them to create the ultimate brew-pub experience. And with their love for fishing and boating, Cape Charles was the natural choice for their production brewery.
Hey there, lighthouse lovers! You will want to take advantage of these two stunning beacons of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. First up is the Cape Charles Lighthouse, a towering structure standing an impressive 191 feet and easily visible from miles away.
Not accessible by car; it’s just a short hop from the shore by boat. However, it photographs well from the land for those with the right amount of lens.
But the lighthouse fun continues beyond there. Make your way up Route 13 to the picturesque shores of Assateague Island, where you’ll find another incredible lighthouse, among the most beautiful in America. Located on the shores of the Atlantic, the Assateague Island lighthouse is the perfect spot to soak up some sun and take in incredible views.
And if you want to see even more Virginia lighthouses, get out our guide to 11 Stunning Virginia Lighthouses.
Play golf at Bay Creek Resort and Club: This premier golf course offers two championship courses and beautiful views of the Bay.
Take a bike ride or walk on the Rails to Trails bike path: The path runs from Cape Charles to Chesapeake and offers beautiful views of the Eastern Shore.
Go fishing or boating in the Chesapeake Bay: Cape Charles is a popular destination for fishing and boating, and several local charters and marinas offer trips and rentals. Tidewater Charters and Top Dog Charters will get you outfitted and on the water fishing in the best spots in the area.
Some of our favorite shopping in Cape Charles include (but are not limited to):
- Gull Hummock Gourmet Market– Gull Hummock Gourmet Market is a must-visit destination for foodies and anyone looking to indulge in high-quality, delicious food and drink in the charming setting of Cape Charles.
- Local-ish Art– Local-ISH™ Art is a collaborative art gallery that brings together artists from the Eastern Shore and the commercial district of Cape Charles. Whether you call Cape Charles your home or your go-to vacation spot, you’ll discover an exceptional piece of art at Local-ISH™ Art.
- Drizzles– At Drizzles, they specialize in gourmet olive oil and balsamic vinegar products, delivering high-quality offerings from around the globe. Their selection includes sea salt, peppercorns, locally roasted single-origin coffee beans, stuffed olives, dipping oils, gift baskets, and locally-made art.
- The Boardwalk– The Boardwalk Shop is known for its friendly and helpful staff, who are always on hand to offer recommendations and help visitors find exactly what they’re looking for. In addition to its excellent selection of beachwear and souvenirs, the store also features a variety of toys and games for kids, making it an ideal destination for families.
- Moonrise Jewelry-One-of-a-king jewelry inspired by the world’s most beautiful coasts. I love their “eco-friendly exotic leather crafted from the by-products of the Icelandic seafood industry.” Named one of the South’s best boutiques by Southern Living.
- The Lemon Tree Gallery and Studio– This is a wonderful fine art gallery and performance venue. Enjoy local and fine art, or come on Friday evenings from 6-8 pm for a mixer on their lovely patio.
- R and T Nautical-This place is a dream for those who love all things beach and nautical. Natural slabs of driftwood, trinkets, and sea glass. A “must-see” if you’re in town.
- K-Coast Surf Shop– You’ll think you’re on the California coast in this shop dedicated to surfboards, surf, and skate clothing—one of my favorite shops in town.
- The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery– A classic raw bar and cocktail lounge offering a generous supply of oysters and other delectable treats. Start with the savory she-crab soup and follow it up with seafood or a land-based main course. Indulge in a scoop of locally-made Brown Dog ice cream on a hot summer day after your meal.
- The Shanty– With its dog-friendly policy, The Shanty is a waterfront gem with an exceptional lunch and dinner experience, making it one of the top dining spots in Cape Charles. Dine on the patio for a great view of the water. Conveniently located near the town center.
- AJ’s Bar & Grill– You’ll find a diverse selection of satisfying dishes to please your palate, including shrimp quesadilla, grilled pork ribeye, pasta, smash burgers, and waffles. You can’t go wrong with AJ’s tasty offerings!
- The Jackspot at Sunset Resort-Situated on the beach, The Jackspot Restaurant is a popular beach-front spot serving casual food, cocktails, beer, and wine to a crowd of adoring customers. It’s one of the top destinations to enjoy a delicious meal while basking in the stunning sunset view over the Chesapeake Bay.
- Kelly’s Gingernut Pub– I ate here on the patio on my last trip to Cape Charles. This is an old bank repurposed into a pub–it’s just a super cool atmosphere. The food isn’t fancy, but it’s delicious and plentiful.
- Peach Street Coffee, Expresso & Books– Peach Street Books, owned by sisters Dr. Carol Sabo and Beth Ann Sabo, offers more than 10,000 books, both gently used and new, alongside a café serving freshly brewed coffee, featuring local favorite Eastern Shore Coastal Roasters coffee drinks.
- Coastal Baking Company– Beloved by locals, Coastal Bakery is not only known for its baked good but is a go-to restaurant. Managed by the husband and wife duo of Bobby and Cassie Patel, it’s a definite winner for those of us with a sweet tooth.
- Take a tour of the town’s historic homes and buildings: Cape Charles has several historic homes and buildings, many of which date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s.
- Cape Charles Museum and Welcome Center: This museum exhibits the town’s history and culture and information on local attractions and events.
- Barrier Islands Center: This museum and education center focuses on the history and culture of the Eastern Shore’s barrier islands.
- Attend a local festival or event: Cape Charles hosts several festivals and events throughout the year, including the Cape Charles Farmers Market, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Run/Walk, and the Virginia Eastern Shore Artisan Trail.
Resorts and Camping in Cape Charles: Rustic to Luxury
There are several resorts and places to camp near Cape Charles. Whether you want a luxurious retreat or a family camping experience, it’s all here.
Sun Outdoors Cape Charles Virginia
If you’re looking for the perfect vacation spot for the whole family, Sun Outdoors Cape Charles (formerly known as Cherrystone Family Camping Resort) is the place to be. With over 300 acres of beautiful waterfront, you’ll be treated to stunning sunsets and wildlife up close. Plus, there’s plenty to keep everyone entertained with tons of onsite activities.
Ready to dive in? You’ll have access to five swimming pools, an 18-hole mini golf course, and four fishing piers right on the resort. Whether you’re looking to take a dip, show off your putting skills, or cast a line and reel in some fish, there’s something for everyone.
- Pet-friendly with two dog parks
- 173 Full hookups 30AMP
- Back in sites for mid-size trailers to large motorhomes
- Cottage rentals
- Tent camping available
- Adult salt pool
- Clean bathhouses
- General Store and restaurant
- Live music
- Paddleboard and kayak rentals
- Golf carts allowed
- Fishing piers
- Family-friendly with a playground, kiddie pool, and mini-golf.
Sunset Beach Hotel and Beach Club
Get to the Sunset Beach Hotel & Beach Club in Cape Charles, Virginia, for a fun, family-friendly waterfront escape. With stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay and a private beach right at your doorstep, your entire family will have a great time.
And the best part? The hotel rooms are pet-friendly so you can bring your furry friend along for the adventure. Plus, you’ll enjoy convenient amenities like free Wi-Fi and flat-screen TVs.
- Private Beach
- 2 Pools
- Beachfront restaurant with live music
- Free Wifi
- Market and cafe
Cape Charles Virginia/Chesapeake Bay KOA
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, bring your fishing gear, kayaks, and paddleboards to take advantage of the terrific setting at the Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA.
This resort offers various accommodations for campers and glampers, including RV Rentals, RV Sites, Deluxe Cabins, and Safari Tents.
With 1,700 acres of parkland surrounding the campground, the possibilities are endless. You can paddle and kayak among wetlands teeming with wildlife, hike through the lush maritime forests or even witness the spectacular fall migration of butterflies and birds. And if you’re in the mood for a peaceful stroll, take a walk on the wild side and explore miles of empty beaches on the barrier islands.
Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA offers a ton of amenities for you to enjoy no matter how you’re camping with us – in your RV, one of our RV rentals, a cozy cabin, or a trusty tent.
- 50 Max Amp
- 75′ Max Length
- Cable TV
- Pool (5/6 – 10/11)
- Snack Bar
- Bike Rentals
- Golf cart rentals
- Shuttle service
- Fitness center
- Private Beach
Bay Creek Vacation Rentals
Are you looking for a stress-free vacation that will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed? Look no further than Bay Creek Vacation Rentals! Located on the beautiful shores of the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll have the opportunity to experience both the charm of historic Cape Charles and the modern magic of Bay Creek.
If you’re a golf enthusiast, you’ll love relaxing by the fairways and greens designed by Palmer and Nicklaus in the Golf District. Or, if you prefer a more laid-back vibe, you can enjoy the fabulous Chesapeake Bay sunsets from the decks of breezy cottages in the bustling Marina.
The vacation homes are named by their owners and come fully equipped, linens included. Many homes also have decks or patios, grills, beach chairs, and all the modern-day comforts you need to make your stay unforgettable.
The Oyster Farm at Kings Creek
Another option for a luxurious waterfront vacation is The Oyster Farm at Kings Creek. This 124 Slip Marina & Resort is the ultimate destination for relaxation and luxury.
Stay in a one-bedroom or two-bedroom suite/flat above The Pier House, complete with full kitchens, large living areas, and top-quality amenities. You’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the Chesapeake Bay and King’s Creek from your suite.
The three Island Villas are perfect if you’re looking for even more space. Choose from one, two, or three-level villas. The Island Villas can sleep up to 12 people, making them ideal for groups or families.
Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State park is a short 10-mile drive from Cape Charles, making it a great place to camp. With a variety of options to choose from, including camping, family lodges, cabins, a yurt, and even a bunkhouse, there’s something for everyone. Want to know more about availability and park amenities? You can easily reserve online or give them a call at 1-800-933-PARK.
Remember that rental rates for Kiptopeke’s cozy cabins and camping spots vary depending on the season, dwelling, and park. But don’t worry – just check out their website to determine the best season for your visit and the applicable rate.
You’ll find a variety of accommodations, including camping, family lodges, cabins, yurts, and a camping lodge.
- During peak season (Memorial Day to Labor Day), a week-long stay is required for camping and lodges. The requirement drops to four nights three months out and to two nights in the last month before arrival.
- During the rest of the year, there is a two-night minimum stay for camping and lodges.
- The yurts are a unique option for a tent blend and cabin experience. Kiptopeke has four yurts, each with a wooden deck, picnic table, grill, and fire ring. Smoking, cooking, and pets are not allowed.
- The camping lodge (bunkhouse) has seven bunk beds, a large deck, picnic tables, a water spigot, and a fire ring. There is a two-night minimum stay during peak season but no full-week requirement. Smoking and cooking are not allowed inside.
- Camping is available from the first Friday in March until the first Monday in December. All campsites are site-specific, and sewer is only available on specific sites.
- While only a select number of sites have sewer hookups (B-1, B-3, B-5, B-7, B-9, B-11, B-13, and all campsites in C Loop), there are still plenty of excellent campsites to choose from.
Cape Charles Virginia: The Best Weekend Getaway in Virginia? Maybe.
No matter which direction you are coming from, Cape Charles, Virginia is worth the trip. With its small-town charm and stunning natural beauty, there’s no shortage of things to do. Cape Charles is one of my favorite weekend getaways in Virginia, which says something.
The views of the Chesapeake Bay alone are enough to take your breath away. And with various activities and attractions to suit any taste, you’ll always be entertained. Cape Charles, Virginia, has got you covered whether you’re into golf, shopping, kayaking, fishing, or just soaking up the sun on the beach.
So what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and experience the best little getaway in Virginia.