Cape Charles, Virginia is a sleepy little town on the northern side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The region has all the beauty of the Eastern Shore region without the crowds, noise, and traffic of the bustling Virginia Beach area. We’ve now spent two week-long family vacations here and it’s become on of our favorite summer getaways.
There are so many things to do near Cape Charles, and it seems there is a new treasure to be found around every corner. Here are twelve of our favorite finds so far. We will be sure to add more to the list on future visits!
Stay at the Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA
We’ve stayed at the Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA on both visits to the Cape Charles area, and we absolutely adore it. You can read a complete campground review here, and listen to us talk more about it on the podcast by clicking on the arrow at the top of this article. This KOA is a resort with all of our favorite amenities: a pool, restaurant, full-service bar, and a gorgeous bay beach. The kids go back and forth between the beach and the hammocks all day long. Maggie loves the pet-friendly beach and enormous dog park. We love that we get to actually kick back and relax when we stay here.
The sites here are not the largest, and they don’t offer any shade. But we hardly spend any time at the campsite anyway. You’ll find us crabbing in the morning, floating in the bay in the afternoon, and watching a movie like Jaws on the beach at night.
Rent Jet Skis from Poseidon Watersports
One of the things that makes the KOA so amazing is the fun rentals available right at the campground beach. You can rent kayaks, paddle boards, and floats. And you can also rent jet skis from Poseidon Watersports. They’ll give you a lesson on operating the jet skis, and then send you off to explore the World War II concrete ships to the north or to try to spot dolphins to the west.
The owner, Raven, is looking to add jet ski tours to his offerings in the future and we were lucky enough to serve as Guinea pigs. We took off at sunset, exploring the National Refuge and even spotting dolphins. It was magical.
Order tacos at The Jackspot
The Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA has our very favorite on-site restaurant of any campground we have ever visited. (Except for Fort Wilderness…but it’s not really fair to compare anything to Disney World). Everything on the menu is excellent, but the tacos were our personal favorites. We ordered the shrimp, brisket, pulled pork, and Mahi tacos and still can’t decide which ones were the best. For appetizers, try the mini crab cakes and steamers!
Paddleboard on the Chesapeake Bay at Sunset
The Chesapeake Bay is so accessible at this campground and we spend so much time paddling around the generally calm waters. The campground faces west, so campers get the added bonus of spectacular sunsets.
Take a boat tour with Captain Meriwether
Captain Meriwether Payne is one of those spectacular guides that knows how to make you fall in love with a region. She runs Seaside Ecotours around the Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge. You can find (and book!) a trip with her through her Facebook page.
Visit Kiptopeke State Park
Just north of the Cape Charles/Chesapeake Bay KOA is Kiptopeke State Park, offering hiking, biking, bird watching, and bay access. There’s also a campground on site with full hook ups, if you prefer a quieter camping experience.
Tour the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge
The Visitor’s Center has a touch tank, butterfly garden, and interpretive display that kids will love. They also offer a Junior Ranger program that can be completed at the Visitor’s Center. This is a good rainy day activity if you end up needing one during your vacation.
Enjoy a wine tasting at Chatham Vineyards
Chatham Vineyards is located on Chatham Farm, which has been a working farm for four centuries. The Tasting Room is open daily during the summer season, showcasing the winery’s Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc. You can also check out their website to see if any events are happening on site during your visit to the Cape Charles area.
Get a cone at Brown Dog Ice Cream
This is probably one of the most important things to do near Cape Charles, so don’t miss out on a local favorite. And don’t be scared off by the line…it’s most certainly worth the wait. Brown Dog Ice Cream is made daily and the flavors vary. Regardless of what ice cream you choose, try it on a waffle sandwich. Yum.
Order the Sweet Potato Biscuits at Sting-Rays
Yes, this restaurant is in the back of a gas station, but that only makes the place more of a local treasure. We found this restaurant in our much-loved Roadfood book and it didn’t disappoint. The Sweet Potato Biscuits are the most famous menu item, but the creamed chipped beef over toast was like a big, soft hug from your grandmother.
Create your own Surf and Turf at the Exmore Diner
The Exmore Diner is another Roadfood find in the Cape Charles area. It’s got all the retro ambiance of a classic diner, plus lots of great seafood options fresh from the local waters. Build your own surf and turf by sharing an order of the Country Fried Steak and the Scallops.
Buy a pound of coffee from the Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company
Another one of the most important things to do near Cape Charles is get your hands on LOTS of pounds of coffee from this roaster. Our personal favorite is the Fog Cutter, but you might want to sample the different offerings for yourself. Their website has a complete listing of where you can buy the coffee. We always get ours at the adorable Machipongo Trading Company.
See you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy