Barrier Islands Center in Machipango
The trek to the Eastern Shore from Norfolk includes traveling over the 17.6-mile Chesapeake-Bay Bridge Tunnel. Nearly every Memorial Day weekend since 2015 we’ve traveled just north of Cape Charles to attend Art and Music on the Farm at the Barrier Islands Center in Machipango. Local artists from the Eastern shore bring photography, woodwork, paintings, ceramics and other crafts. Musical performances range from bluegrass to gospel, and the artists host workshops that introduce attendees to the history of their genre.
It’s easy to spend the entire day at the event, with an itinerary that also includes lunch from food stands, plant shopping, and learning about the history of the Eastern Shore at the Barrier Islands Center museum.
Sun Outdoors Camping
The Cape Charles area has few short-term places to stay, with tourists relying mainly on weekly rentals. Memorial Day is always filled for the Cape Charles hotel, so it is normally a day trip for us. This year we found availability for just one night at the Sun Outdoors Camping Resort, formerly the family-owned Cherrystone Campground. We’ve seen camping set-ups at many state parks, but had no idea what to expect from a privately-owned location that caters to mostly RVs. We opted for a “premium” tent site with power (a powerless site would have been further from the amenities and bath houses).
We arrived at check-in at 2:30pm (check-ins were not allowed prior to 2pm), parked at our site, and walked to the aquatic area with three pools and a splash area for younger children. The resort was filled with family-friendly activities; some were included (bounce clouds, playgrounds, staff-hosted games throughout the weekend) and some incurred additional fees (water-crafts on the bay rentals, paddle-boats on the pond, fishing excursions). Most of the families used golf carts or bikes to move around the resort, but we were easily able to walk just a few minutes to the beach and activity centers.
The beaches on the Chesapeake Bay are great for young children learning to swim, fish and kayak. The resort was very crowded and most of the families were in campers, and there were no remote sites. We were happy next to a small pond that provided plenty of amphibians for white noise at night.
Because there were few tent-only campers, most guests didn’t rely on the café for meals, and we were able to order pizza take-out easily for our dinner. The camp store was well stocked with additional needs, including beer, snacks, campfire food, firewood, clothing, tents and souvenirs.
The Town of Cape Charles
The town of Cape Charles has grown significantly over the last decade, with new restaurants and shops. Most notable are new local producers of libations, including cider, whiskey and beer. A bit out of the central downtown are a few of our favorite dining spots, the Oyster Farm Eatery, the Shanty, and Cape Charles Brewing.
Savage Neck Dunes Nature Preserve
For a remote beach adventure in Cape Charles we visited Savage Neck Dunes Nature Preserve in 2015. From a very small parking lot we hiked nearly ½ mile to a small beach. We hadn’t planned to swim, but young Alice promptly ran directly into the calm Bay waters, making the hike back feel much longer. The park has no restroom facilities or trash receptacles, so plan to pack everything you will need for the duration of your stay and pack everything out with you.