14 Best Things to Do in Cape Charles, VA

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If you love the beach and outdoors, then Cape Charles, VA is the perfect destination for you!  

There are many things to do in Cape Charles to make your next vacation there memorable.

In particular, Cape Charles has several major preserves and parks where you can go kayaking with dolphins, see millions of birds, and explore rare Maritime Dune Woodlands. 

Cape Charles also has one of the best collections of Victorian homes and buildings along the eastern United States.

Plus, you’ll find world-class golfing, jetskiing, dolphin tours, kayaking, breweries, amazing seafood, and so much more! So no matter what your interests are, you’ll find plenty of things to do!

(Top photo courtesy Poseidon Watersports.)

Where to Find Cape Charles, VA

Cape Charles is the southernmost town on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. It’s just 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This makes it a convenient location from Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake, VA.

Cape Charles is about a four-hour drive from Northern Virginia, a two-hour drive from Richmond, and only about an hour’s drive from Virginia Beach and Norfolk. 

Source: Google Maps

14 Best Things to Do in Cape Charles, VA

Whether you’re interested in the beach, breweries, the outdoors, or history, Cape Charles has plenty of things to do. Below are some of my top recommendations of the best thing to do in Cape Charles, VA.

1. Cape Charles Lighthouse

No trip to Cape Charles would be complete without getting a chance to see the Cape Charles Lighthouse. 

The towering lighthouse is very striking and unique with its wrought-iron frame. It is 191 feet tall and has the distinction of not only being the tallest lighthouse in Virginia but also the second tallest in the United States! 

It has a prominent position on Smith Island at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. 

The lighthouse is visible from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge tunnel, though it is located on a remote island and otherwise not easily accessible. 

It is not currently open to the public, but it is worth a chance to see this unique landmark of Cape Charles. 

2. Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve

Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve is an important natural habitat in the area. The 29-acre preserve is part of the DWR Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. 

There is a long, wheelchair-accessible boardwalk that allows visitors to explore the unique habitat. The boardwalk ends with a view of the Chesapeake Bay. 

One of the most noteworthy parts of the preserve is that it is home to a rare Maritime Dune Woodland. 

3. Cape Charles Beach

Cape Charles Beach is definitely one of the top places to visit in the area! The water tends to be calm, which makes it a great spot for families and children. 

Cape Charles Beach - one of the best things to do in Cape Charles
Source: Poseidon Watersports

There are plenty of other watersports and activities to enjoy at the beach. You can also go on a boat tour or go jet skiing. 

Cape Charles is a free public beach.  

You can learn about even more of my favorite beaches in Virginia!

4. Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park is another destination you’re not going to want to miss. One of the top things to do in the park is to go kayaking and paddle boarding in the marshlands.  

Kiptopeke is actually the site of nine partially sunken concrete ships called the Ghost Fleet. In fact, you can even go on a kayak or paddleboard trip right near these ships! 

Kiptopeke is also home to dolphins and sea birds, which you may get a chance to see up close while kayaking, which can be an incredibly magical experience! 

Please note that you will have to bring your own kayak and paddleboard. 

5. Eastern Shore of Virginia Natural Wildlife Preserve

Eastern Shore of Virginia Natural Wildlife Preserve has a unique location that makes it an especially special location for bird watching.

If you go in the fall, you could actually see millions of birds and butterflies fly through the area as they migrate south for the winter!  

6. Eyre Hall Gardens

Eyre Hall Gardens is another noteworthy place to visit in Cape Charles if you love nature and history. The property dates all the way back to 1623!

The English-inspired gardens date back to 1800, which makes them some of the oldest in the country. The property is filled with boxwoods and crape myrtles. There is also the ruins of an orangery dating back to 1829. 

7. Cape Charles Brewing Co.

During your next trip to Cape Charles, you’ll definitely want to make a stop at Cape Charles Brewing Co.! 

The brewpub features a wide selection of quality beers on tap that are inspired by its Eastern Shore, beach setting. 


You can find light and breezy brews like the citrus-flavored Assateague Island New England IPA, the tangerine-inspired Tangier Island DIPA, and the Bayside Belgian Farmhouse Ale. 

On the darker side, they have the Smith Island Oyster Stout (with oysters actually used in the production process!), and the Puddle Pirate Porter. 

The brewpub also has a full-service restaurant, with a great selection of starters, burgers, sandwiches, and salads. 

On Fridays, the brewery hosts live music performances, which makes it the perfect spot to chill on your vacation.  

8. Cape Charles Museum and Welcome Center

Cape Charles Museum and Welcome Center is dedicated to preserving the history of the lower Eastern Shore of Virginia and Cape Charles in particular. 

The museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn more about the region. Cape Charles was once the terminus of the New York, Philadelphia, & Norfolk railway line, and so trains and locomotives feature prominently at the museum. They even have a collection of various railway cars, plus the reconstructed Bloxom Railway Station to explore.

Water is of course another important part of the city’s history. The museum is also home to Chesapeake Bay steamship and ferry models.

Some of the exhibits at the museum include the history of African American Businesses and an exhibit on the Cape Charles Rosenwald School.

9. Cape Charles Historic District

Cape Charles has a rich Victorian History. It’s definitely worth exploring the many Victorian buildings of the Cape Charles Historic District. Many of the buildings date back to the late 19th century and early 20th century and were constructed from 1885 to 1920. 

Cape Charles also has a rich railroad history as the headquarters for the Eastern Shore Railroad. You can learn more about that history at the Cape Charles Museum and Welcome Center. 

You’ll also find many great shops and restaurants in the historic district, including The Shanty Restaurant, Cape Charles Coffee House, and more.

10. Savage Neck Dunes State Natural Area

Savage Neck Dunes State Natural Area is another great place to explore the unique natural habitat of Cape Charles. The natural area is 298 acres in size and includes three hiking trails. 

You can access the Chesapeake Bay shoreline during low tide, and also explore dunes and maritime forests. Along the trails, you’ll find many species of birds, plus northeastern beach tiger beetles. 

Along the trails, you’ll also find Custis Pond, which is home to green tree frogs and southern-painted turtles. 

Please note that there is only a small parking lot with eight spaces. 

11. Shanty Restaurant

Shanty Restaurant is one of the top restaurants in Cape Charles that you’ll want to check out. They’re located right on the water and feature gorgeous sunset views! 

If the weather’s nice, you can sit out on the outdoor patio for great water views. 


You’ll find plenty of excellent, fresh seafood on the menu. Some of the dishes include clam chowder, hush puppies (always a favorite of mine!), local oysters on the half-shell, crab cakes, and Mid-Atlantic Scallops. 

They also have plenty of non-seafood dishes, including burgers and Tempura Chicken Tacos. 

Shanty Restaurant also hosts live music performances. 

12. Bay Creek Resort and Golf Club

For the ultimate golf experience, you’ll definitely want to check out Bay Creek Resort and Golf Club! It was designed by none other than Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.

The course features 27 holes and regularly ranks among the best in the U.S. It also boasts gorgeous views of nearby Chesapeake Bay. 

Beyond the golf courses, Bay Creek is also home to a 350-acre Nature Preserve that you can explore. There are 12 trails that are perfect for walking or biking. There are also several areas along the trails where you can launch canoes and kayaks to explore the nearby waterways.  

13. Watersports and Water Activities

Cape Charles has a ton of fun watersports to help take your vacation to the next level! Whether you’re interested in jet skiing, renting a boat, kayaking, or paddle boarding, you’ll find plenty of opportunities. 

Watersports - one of the best things to do in Cape Charles
Source: Poseidon Watersports

Here are some top companies to check out:

📍Poseidon Watersportsthey’re one of the most popular companies in town. You can rent jet skis, kayaks, paddle boards, or even a boat! They also have bike rentals if you want to spend an afternoon exploring Cape Charles by land.  

📍SouthEast Expeditions – they offer both guide tours and equipment rentals. They even have a kayaking tour that takes you to Chatham Vineyard, where you get a wine tasting along with a guided kayak eco-tour along Church Creek! You can also choose your own adventure by renting a kayak, paddleboard, or bicycle. 

14. Go Horseback Riding

Horseback Riding is another memorable activity in Cape Charles! I personally love going horseback riding on vacations. It’s a unique way to explore the beautiful landscape of the Eastern Shore while getting a chance to meet these amazing animals! And you can go horseback riding with minimal or even no experience. 

horseback riding - one of the best things to do in Cape Charles

📍Esperanza Riding Company is located on Eyreville Plantation just 10 minutes from Cape Charles. They offer riding tours that will take you through the lovely wooded paths and ponds of the historic farm, as well as paths along the shoreline.

FAQs about Cape Charles, VA

Before your next trip to Cape Charles, learn even more about this unique Virginia town.

What is Cape Charles Known For?

Cape Charles is known as the southernmost point on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It is also on the National Register of Historic Places, and had one of the largest collections of Victorian-era buildings on the East Coast. 

Is Cape Charles a good place to vacation?

Yes, Cape Charles is a good place to vacation. It has historic Victorian buildings to explore, one of the best beaches in Virginia, and many nature areas and preserves to explore.  

Can you swim in Cape Charles, VA?

Yes, you can swim in Cape Charles, VA. Cape Charles Beach is a public beach known for its gentle waters along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay.  

Is there a ferry from Virginia Beach to Cape Charles?

There is no longer a ferry from Virginia Beach to Cape Charles. Visitors can travel between the two cities by driving through the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. 

Cape Charles Hotels

Before your next trip to Cape Charles, you can check out some of my top hotel recommendations in town.

The Baywood Bed & Breakfast

The Baywood Bed & Breakfast is your perfect beach escape! It even has its own private beach. The rooms are cute and cozy. There is also an included full breakfast.

🛏️ Book your stay at the Baywood Bed & Breakfast by clicking here! 🛏️

Shore Stay Suites

Shore Stay Suites is a good pet-friendly destination. The rooms come with a full kitchen which is convenient.

🛏️ Book your stay at the Shore Stay Suites by clicking here! 🛏️

Conclusion: 14 Best Things to Do in Cape Charles, VA

As you can see, Cape Charles is the perfect vacation destination for anyone who loves the outdoors! The town features one of the best beaches in Virginia, plus there are great nature preserves, parks, trails, and wildlife to explore all around!

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