Undoubtedly you know about the fantastic beaches of Coastal Virginia, but look beyond the warm sandy shores and check out the not-so-obvious attractions and things to do along the Chesapeake Bay and the Coastal Virginia region, comprised of Hampton Roads and the Eastern Shore.
1. Air and space is big business in Coastal Virginia with sites like the NASA Wallops Flight Facility near Chincoteague Island and the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton, but these additional sites have a few tricks up their sleeves, too.
- Air Power Park in Hampton is a free city park that happens to have aviation on display, front and center, with jets, missiles and rockets. Pack a picnic and enjoy the playground and floating dock on Newmarket Creek.
- Naval Station Norfolk in Norfolk offers a daily 45-minute tour for $10 per adult and $5 per child aged 3 to 11. The Naval Station is home port to more than 78 ships of the Atlantic Fleet, making it the world’s largest naval installation. It’s also one of the busiest airfields in the country. Cash only; photo ID required for adults. Schedule
2. Fort Boykin‘s presence dates to 1623 when the Castle fort on the bluff above the James River in Smithfield was built to protect Jamestown colonists from Native Americans and Spainards. Having been used during and restructured for the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and finally the Civil War, Fort Boykin is a preserved and mostly intact as a Civil War site depicting military architecture of the time. An additional note to the site is the black walnut tree, believed to be the second largest in Virginia and at least 200 years old. It’s on the list with the Remarkable Trees of Virginia Project. Brochure
3. Paddle or fish the calm waters of the Mathews Blueways Water Trails. Five routes offer unique points along the way, like the New Point Comfort Lighthouse which is only accessible by water. The trails range in distance from 10.7 to 22.1 miles. Outfitters are available for equipment rental.
4. The gardens of Eyre Hall in Cheriton are among the oldest in the nation, dating to 1800, but simply getting to them will take your breath away. A cedar-lined lane brings you onto the 1760 Eyre Hall estate. The Eyre family actually dates to 1623 on the Eastern Shore, however, as Thomas Eyre arrived to Jamestown in 1622. Do seek out the 1819 orangery ruin on site.
5. You can’t get much more out of the way than Tangier Island, a lost-in-time island in the Chesapeake Bay that takes up only 1.236 square miles and is only accessible by ferry or your own watercraft. Taste the bay as the watermen bring their harvest to shore, and do converse with the locals. You’ll delight in their Elizabethan speak. Take a day trip with Tangier Island Cruise out of Reedville, Virginia.
Enjoy your explorations!
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© Casey for Virginia’s Travel Blog, 2014