As one who does the “reverse commute” I can heartily recommend Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore as a weekend or weekday destination to help clear the head and help find your center.
My partner, Leon Parham, an architect specializing in historical restoration and preservation, and I moved to Cape Charles from Jersey City, NJ, eighteen years ago this month to rehab a 1906 Colonial Revival House and operate a Bed & Breakfast. We were innkeepers/owners of Wilson-Lee House B&B for about 8 years until burn-out took its toll. Statistics tell us that the average is about 5 years. So, I guess we did good. In any event, the architectural practice continued to flourish for Leon. I moved on to other things.
During the course of this time we began to yearn for an “urban fix” every now and then, so we purchased a condo in Ghent and would spend a couple of days a week in Norfolk. This was eleven years ago. Relocating to another condo in downtown Norfolk we have experienced a resurgence of energy in the new Arts District and have volunteered on the Better Block project and with Plot II, but I digress.
We now spend weekdays in the laid-back Town of Cape Charles. In the past eighteen years much has happened here, but little has changed. Properties have been bought, fluffed up, and sold several times. There is a ten-year old development called Bay Creek that offers residents and visitors two world-class Signature Golf Courses by Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. There are a number of homeowners in Bay Creek who commute from Chesapeake, Virginia Beach and Norfolk on the weekends so their children can roam the beach and various playgrounds in the carefree way that people lived 50 years ago. These folks will tell you that they can be at the front door of their house or condo in Cape Charles in an hour or less from their Hampton Roads residence.
If boating is your fancy, there is the Cape Charles Town Harbor, now outfitted with comfortable showers and restrooms that will take care of your needs. Kings Creek Marina on the north side of town on Kings Creek also has amenities for the sailor as well as AQUA, a beautiful fine dining establishment.
And speaking of dining, there are now a number of establishments that will please almost any palate. When we arrived here, there was only one restaurant in town. We now have Kelly’s Gingernut Pub on Mason Avenue (Cape Charles’ shopping street), which is a re-purposed bank building where one can have any number of draft beers and incredibly succulent shrimp among other delectable selections. Just down the street, Tim Brown, former instructor at Johnson & Wales, operates Hook U Up Gourmet, and farther along you will find the Cape Charles Coffee House, where you can enjoy fresh roasted coffees, delicious breakfasts and lunches and while away the time on your tablet or laptop (free wifi).
[images | Kings Creek Marina]
At the east end of Mason Avenue at Fig Street you will find Rayfield’s Pharmacy. In a new building, but cherishing the past, the Rayfield’s brought with the relocation an old fashioned soda fountain and several booths. Their hand-dipped milkshakes and sodas can’t be beat. Crossing Mason Avenue and meandering through the railroad yard you will arrive at The Shanty, a seasonal restaurant right on the water. I recently enjoyed some of the best rockfish I’ve ever had there.
Open only during the summer months, Brown Dog Ice Cream features incredibly rich and delicious home made ice creams. Their inventive sundaes are to die for.
If you wish to venture away from the main drag, a trip over the “hump” (a railroad bridge) takes you to Bay Creek and the Coach House Tavern, part of the golf pro-shop complex. It is relaxed dining with a casual menu from burgers to seafood, steaks and chops.
If you need a place to stay, there are still several Bed & Breakfasts as well as Hotel Cape Charles, a re-imagined hotel space on Mason Avenue. This is a boutique hotel to rival any in the country. The glass railed balconies facing Mason Avenue caused quite a stir when the establishment opened two years ago. It recently subsumed another smaller boutique Hotel Blue next door, so practically a block of Mason Avenue is occupied by lodging accommodation.
If you just want to hang out, fish or go to the beach, Cape Charles offers a terrific fishing pier at the west end of Mason Avenue and to the north of that a beautiful sandy beach along Bay Avenue. Cape Charles is the only town on the Eastern Shore to boast a public beach until Assateague 70 miles to the north.
So, I implore you – take the plunge and drive an hour and experience the land that time forgot.
Contact information for places to stay:
Bay Creek Resort Rentals, 331-8750
Bay Haven Inn of Cape Charles, 403 Tazewell Avenue, 331-2838
Cape Charles House B & B, 645 Tazewell Avenue, 331-4920
Cape Charles Vacation Rentals, Mason Avenue, (800) 421-1481(800) 421-1481
Casual Cottages , 212 Monroe Avenue, 331-4679
Chesapeake Bay View B&B, 212 Bay Avenue, 331-2087
Fig Street Inn, 711 Tazewell Avenue, 331-3133
Hotel Blue, 239 Mason Avenue, 695-3838
Hotel Cape Charles, 235 Mason Avenue, 695-3854
King’s Creek Inn, 3018 Bowden Landing, 678-6355
Kings Creek Marina and Resort Rentals, 500 Marina Village Circle, 331-8640
Peacock Motor Inn, 26369 Lankford Hwy, 331-1127
Rittenhouse Motor Lodge, 23054 Lankford Hwy, 331-2768
Sea Gate B & B, 9 Tazewell Avenue, 331-2206
Shore Stay Suites, 26406 Lankford Hwy (south of Cape Charles), 331-4090
Sunset Beach Inn, 32246 Lankford Highway (south of Cape Charles), 331-1776