Paddle Your Way Through the Northern Neck and Eastern Shore!
Are you looking for a socially-distanced and scenic adventure before the cold weather arrives? Why not load up your kayak or stand-up paddle board (SUP) and take a long weekend to visit the Northern Neck & Eastern Shore of Virginia?! Don’t worry if you don’t own a kayak or SUP, there are plenty of ecotours hosted by Virginia Certified Ecotour Guides along the way!
Start your trip in Colonial Beach, where you can launch from the Colonial Beach Public Boat Ramp and paddle through Monroe Bay and up Monroe Creek. This beginner water trail offers variations based on how far up the creek you wish to paddle and loops you back to the boat ramp. Looking for a more advanced trail? Launch from the same Colonial Beach Public Boat Ramp and paddle out toward the Bay, following the coastline of Colonial beach, along the Virginia-Maryland border. If you’re feeling hungry after all that paddling, be sure to check out Denson’s Chesapeake Bay Farm to Table where you can order curbside takeout and enjoy a picnic in the local Torrey Smith Recreation Park.
Continue your trip by making your way to the tiny fishing town of Reedville, where you can find an intermediate trail leading you from Shell Boat Landing up through Cockrell Creek. Take in the views and check out the Northern Neck working waterfronts and landmarks such as Reedville Fishermen’s Museum. Enjoy dinner out at the Crazy Crab, overlooking the marina, for some Chesapeake Bay classics.
Wake up the next morning and be sure to reserve your spot on the Tangier Island Cruises passenger-only ferry. For a small fee you can bring your kayak along and plan a paddle through historic Tangier, known for its crabbing history and very unique American-English accent, which originated from 17th- and 18th-century British English. Tangier has several trails for all levels of paddlers; check out the intermediate loop, launching from the marina, which will take you through West Ridge Creek and Tangier North Channel around the center portion of the island along Canton Ridge and West Ridge. Spend about three hours enjoying the paddling and history of the island – don’t forget to visit Four Brothers Crab House & Ice Cream Deck for fresh seafood or an ice cold treat – before the ferry returns for pick-up.
Spend the next day travelling from Reedville to Cape Charles on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. You’ll get the chance to experience the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel – one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World! As you cruise along the Shore, be sure to keep an eye out for our Eastern Shore working waterfronts, where the majority of our seafood is farmed, caught, and sold; thanks to our working watermen and aquaculture businesses, we have the freshest seafood you could hope to taste!
Upon reaching the Eastern Shore, take a lunch break at one of the many restaurants in the town of Cape Charles, such as The Shanty, which is conveniently located on the Cape Charles Harbor. After lunch, you can launch your kayak or SUP right from the Cape Charles Boat Ramp and take a relaxing paddle around the harbor. For the more advanced paddlers, follow the water trail that leads to Cape Charles Beachfront before returning back to the harbor and loading up for your next stop. If you’re looking to stay the night in Cape Charles, there are plenty of quaint bed & breakfasts, hotels, and seasonal rentals. Swing by Eastern Shore Custom Carts and rent a golf cart for the night – yes, you can drive these all around town! Take the golf cart to visit the Cape Charles Museum and end the evening with a stop at the Cape Charles Brewing Company.
As you prepare to leave, be sure to stop in Oyster and walk the recently renovated boardwalk which overlooks the seaside. This beautiful boardwalk is also one of 24 Birding Eastern Shore sites, where you will be given the chance to see Herons, Egrets, Terns, and Black Skimmers to name a few. Other Shorebirds you may see are Dunlin, Whimbrels, Marbled Godwits, American Oystercatchers, and sometimes a few Red Knots. For more information about Birding Eastern Shore and tips on sighting these gorgeous creatures, visit Birding Eastern Shore, Village of Oyster.
Making your way up the Eastern Shore, you can cruise along scenic Seaside Road or Bayside Road, or zip up Route 13! Once you make it to Accomack County, grab lunch from The Island House Restaurant, overlooking the Eastern Shore’s Barrier Islands! After lunch, make your way to the Bayside town of Onancock. As you wind down main street past antique shops and local businesses, notice of the historic Hopkins & Bro. Store right on the wharf, overlooking Onancock Harbor. From the Dinghy Dock, you can easily launch your kayak or SUP into Onancock Creek, which offers several water trails varying from beginner to advanced. For a leisurely paddle, head out of the creek toward the Hopkins & Bro. Store, venturing up the small creek and making a loop back to portage. For a more advanced trail, follow the creek out and paddle up to or around Parkers Marsh Natural Area Preserve, where you’ll be sure to find a wide variety of plant and animal species native to the Eastern Shore, including the federally threatened Northeastern beach tiger beetle!
From Onancock, the return trip is all yours! Continue heading North on Route 13 into Maryland, or head South and visit some of the places you didn’t see on your way up. If you’re interested in checking out additional destinations throughout the Eastern Shore and Northern Neck, including where to stay, must-visit sites, and delicious eats, read this article: A Road Trip Through Virginia’s Northern Neck and Eastern Shore, by Terry Ward.
As you seek additional places for meals, lodging and things to do, visit the Virginia Oyster Trail for an extensive listing of welcoming, local travel sites throughout the region.
Be sure to bookmark the Virginia Water Trails maps on your computer or smartphone so you have the highlighted routes handy! (Bear in mind that these water trail maps are not for navigational purposes, rather they are to simply highlight trails you can paddle. Always practice trail safety.) Interested in hiring a guide for any of your paddling adventures? Visit the Hire an Ecotour Guide page of the Virginia Water Trails website!