Not long ago, we featured a drive along the Atlantic Coastline of the Delmarva Peninsula. This time, we are going to drive up along the Chesapeake Bay side of the Peninsula, stopping at the charming out of the way places that give this region its unique flavor. From the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel, your drive back up the Bay side of the peninsula is slower paced and not as direct, since many of the highlighted places are on narrow necks of land reaching out into the Bay, or on islands you can reach only by boat.
Travel north on Route 13 till you get to 184, turn west to Cape Charles, a bayside town with a charming collection of shops, restaurants, and parks. It is a welcoming place to spend the day. One of the best-kept secrets of the Delmarva Peninsula, the Cape Charles beach is big, clean and quiet and offers calm waters and great sunsets, plus lots of close parking.
Near Eastville, look for Kendall Grove, a historic plantation home. It was built about 1813, a Federal period frame house with two-story projecting pavilions, as well as smaller two-story wings dating to 1840. Pear Valley is a one-room cottage preserved in Eastville; it is one of the most architecturally compelling examples of a small, historic home in Virginia. In Machipongo, visit the Barrier Island Center, in the old almshouse on an eighteen-acre farm, for a look into the lives of those who have Virginia’s 23 remote barrier islands home.
Glebe of Hungars Parish is a historic glebe house in Franktown, built between 1643 and 1745; this ancient 11/2-story brick structure has a gable roof with dormers, and two interior end chimneys. It was the official residence of the ministers of Hungars Parish for about 100 years. Hungars Parish Church, the old Episcopal Church is in Bridgetown; it dates to the 1740s.
At Onancock, established in 1680, you can tour the Colonial era Ker Place, a Federal style stately home museum, dating back to 1799. Also see the Watermen’s Heritage Foundation, where Virginia’s Eastern Shore’s waterman culture is preserved and highlighted. Take the ferry from Onancock Wharf to Tangier Island to explore, and to learn about Tangier’s role in our country’s history, at the Tangier History Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center. This isolated island community has a distinct history, culture, and language. Leave time for a 12-mile one-and-a-half hour boat ride each way and a 2-hour visit on the island. Or stay the night at Hilda Crockett’s Chesapeake House, the oldest operating bed and breakfast on Tangier Island. It opened in 1939.
From Onancock, take the country roads, 179, 126 and 361 as you head northward through Greenbush with its tiny post office, to the town of Parksley, to visit the Eastern Shore Railway Museum housed in the 1885 New York, Philadelphia and Norfolk railway station. Continue north on 693 to 702 and then back to 13 to Pocomoke City, Maryland, to visit the Delmarva Discovery Center, popular with families with small children. Take 13 to 673 at Westover to see the historic Rehoboth Presbyterian Church, the oldest Presbyterian Church in the USA, located at 5757 Coventry Parish Rd, Westover.
For a side trip, meander down 413 to Crisfield, out on the edge of the water. The Gov J. Millard Tawes Historic Museum here focuses on the history of the Lower Shore region. You might have a meal at the Old Crisfield crab and steak house. Tangier Island cruise boats may be accessed here as well. Or drive out to Deal Island, by way of Dame’s Quarter and Chance, to visit an island you don’t need a boat to reach. Have a meal there at Lucky’s Last Chance Paradise Grill or at Shredders.
Return to 13 and head for Salisbury, with its great (and free) hideaway zoo. Pemberton Historical Park and Poplar Hill Mansion are also in Salisbury. Then take 50 over to Cambridge, a busy port on the Choptank River, to stroll the town and visit the Harriet Tubman Museum. Dine at Bistro Popular or Carmela’s Cuisina. If you drive over to Oxford, you can take the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry over to Bellevue and then continue either to St. Michaels. Or drive to Easton and then over to St. Michaels, with its collection of shops, Hooper Straight Lighthouse (which serves as a symbol for the whole region) and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Take a boat tour, visit the winery or the distillery, and dine at Stars Restaurant. If you have time, drive all the way out to the remote beauty of Tighlman Island.
Grasonville is home to the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center. Grasonville is also your gateway to Kent Island, where the Kent Manor in Stevensville, is an excellent historic lodging choice. Centreville is the county seat of Queen Anne’s County, and is home to the Queen Anne’s Museum of Eastern Shore Life.
Your northernmost destination is Chesapeake City. Tour the historic distinct and be sure to visit The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the third busiest canal in the world. Only the Panama and Suez canals are busier. You can see it up close and learn more about it at the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal Museum. The museum is located in the original pump house used to lift water into the uppermost waterway. The replica Bethel Bridge Lighthouse is also located near the museum and is an example of the lighthouse that used to warn vessels of locks and bridges prior to 1927. The Museum is open Monday-Friday from 9 am to 4 pm and is beautifully maintained by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Schaefer’s Canal House is a good place to eat.
There is so much to see, of history and natural beauty, that these are just hints, so do go down the unanticipated roads to find your own discoveries as well. As you follow the byways that lead to these hidden gems of the Delmarva Peninsula, be sure to take the time to slow down and savor this world apart.