7 Incredible Things To Do In Cape Charles VA For Beach-Loving Couples

Cape Charles VA, a pristine Chesapeake Bay beach town, was developed as a “planned community” by the railroad and ferry company in 1884, and now draws an increasingly upscale crowd.  For motorists who arrive by car, you can’t miss the black water tower built in 1996 as a replica of the Cape Charles Lighthouse. It has turned what is generally an eyesore into a work of art.

Black lighthouse water tower Cape Charles VA

Cape Charles is surprisingly suave and sophisticated, with a European-style coffee shop, great restaurants, friendly indie shops, a Brewery, a Distillery, a Cidery, bed and breakfasts, and a cool main street boutique hotel.

Cape Charles is also a beach and fishing town – small enough to manage with a golf cart. These ubiquitous vehicles give the town a golf club vibe, though not a snobby one. As with most towns on the Delmarva Peninsula, Cape Charles is genuinely warm and welcoming.

LOVE sign in sand Cape Charles VA
Love Sign on Cape Charles Beach

And it’s also being discovered. My latest visit just so happened to be on the heels of writers from Coastal Living Magazine and the Washington Post – and concurrent with the production staff of HGTV’s “Budget Beach House.” To avoid the crowds, plan a few days here off-season to chill out and get to know the locals. Your golf cart is waiting….

Cape Charles is on our list of 20 Surprisingly Romantic Getaways in VA. Check it out if you wish to explore the state further.

Looking for someplace dreamy outside of Virginia? Check out our 150 Best Romantic Getaways in the Northeast US (Virginia to Maine).

Things to Do in Cape Charles VA

Liam Duncan Cape Charles Distillery

TASTE/DRINK: Cape Charles Distillery

Cape Charles Distillery, owned by Bill Duncan, has upped the swank level of this bayside town. The ambience is low-lit gracious luxury. Artisanal cocktails are over-the-top delightful. And products are made from the essence of Mother Nature and are as pure as distilled spirits can be.

The tony Cape Charles Distillery tasting room and cocktail lounge moved into this Mason St. space in mid-2019 from another location in Cape Charles.

With its leather-luxe décor and speakeasy bar, it’s become quite the sensation in this small town for both tourists and locals. Open year-round, the Distillery is poised to become Cape Charles’ winter gathering place, with inventive craft cocktails that change with the seasons.

Distilling in The Blood

When he was a child, Duncan studied at the knee of his Georgia Grandfather who taught him to work hard, fish, and make moonshine. For several decades, Duncan worked in I.T., before deciding to revisit his childhood passion.

Liam Duncan Cape Charles Distillery
Bill Duncan and Haley Lewis, Cape Charles Distillery, Cape Charles VA

Duncan’s spirits are so smooth, they warm the gullet without the burn. Bourbon, Rye, Blackberry, and Apple Pie Moonshine, and the nine-times distilled and double-filtered Woo-Woo Vodka are fine both on their own and in mixed drinks.

My very favorite, Maple Whiskey, is particularly tasty on a cool fall evening.

Duncan’s “Three Ingredients for Success” – Customer experience, quality products, and educating the public – is paying off. Cape Charles Distilling was recently named the #1 Distillery in Eastern VA by Virginia Living Magazine.

Interior of Cape Charles Museum VA

VISIT: Cape Charles Museum

Walk into the former Electric Power Plant and inhale the strong scent of diesel oil – still clinging to the massive Busch-Sulzer St. Louis Marine diesel engine that dominates this rather scruffy glass case and poster-board museum.

Those interested in railroad and steamship memorabilia will find much to love here. I was most fascinated with artifacts and information about the 1963 Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel that runs 17.6 miles from shore to shore.

Fishing pier - boardwalk that runs beside Cape Charles Beach
Cape Charles Fishing Pier

WALK: Cape Charles Municipal Fishing Pier

Open during the day, and lit up at night for evening fishing, this wooden walkway on Cape Charles Beach gets you right out into Cape Charles Harbor. Great views and the occasional lucky fisherman.

Mason St Downtown Cape Charles at sunset
Downtown Cape Charles VA

SHOP: Stores and Galleries

Every store and art gallery on and around Mason Street is a treasure trove of unique gifts, art, and clothing. That they are independently owned is icing on the cake for those who seek to “shop local” when traveling. Here are my favorites:

Gordon Campbell with his Barrier Island photos Cape Charles VA
Gordon Campbell At Altitude Gallery Cape Charles VA

This incredible 3,000 sq ft. brick-walled photo gallery showcases the astoundingly gorgeous work of aerial photographer, Gordon Campbell who also owns the building, as well as the Campbell Field Airport.

Campbell hails from Connecticut and New York, where he operated a series of photo-finishing shops, before moving to Cape Charles in 2005. He purchased what was the old Kellam Field Airport, and started out flying small planes around the Eastern Shore.

Gordon Campbell and his flying machine Cape Charles VA

Now, Campbell uses one of his flying machines – an open-air frame-only “Dragonfly”- to cruise “low and slow” over America’s coastline, capturing mind-blowing, luminous, aluminum-mounted photographs of vanishing barrier islands.

In this age of sea rise, offshore islands will soon disappear, so we must rely on these pictures to document them.

Fish Leather items at Moonrise Jewelry Cape Charles VA

Moonrise Jewelry

Stop in to learn about “Fish Leather” jewelry, bracelets, flasks, men’s bow ties, and more. Skin from different kinds of fish are used, each with its own characteristics.

For example, Tilapia leather has the appearance of “mermaid skin.” Though the material comes from Iceland, the products and jewelry are made right here.

Like A Sailor

Find socks, t-shirts, tea towels, and other gifts emblazoned with the off-color words a sailor would utter. Be aware before taking young readers inside.

Buoy 56

Opened in 2019, a portion of the proceeds from this casual living boutique goes to an organization that supports disabled kids. So buy seashore-themed home goods, clothing, and jewelry with good conscience.

Cape Charles Candy

Everything an old-fashioned candy shop should be.

The Boardwalk

Need a sculpted crab or octopus-based table? You’ll find it at this emporium that also features shore gifts and signs.

Interior of Lemon Tree Art Gallery Cape Charles VA

An immense amount of furniture and local art can be found here.

Table & Tonic

Though this shop specializes in craft cocktail items and cute paper goods, its best seller is delish Bourbon Honey.

Inside gift shop, Love Letters Cape Charles VA

Love Letters

Women’s clothing, baby clothes, and “Scout” bags emblazoned with the name and likeness of resident White Golden Retriever, Scout.

DO: Play Golf at Bay Creek Resort

It’s rare that a club open to the public sports two celebrity-designed 18-hole golf courses.  Both Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus created these gorgeously landscaped Chesapeake Bay front courses and you can arrange to play here for a (relatively) modest fee.

Salt marsh Eastern Shore National Wildlife Refuge
Eastern Shore Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

VISIT: Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge

At the tip of the Delmarva Peninsula, before jumping on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel crossing, plan a leg stretcher at this bird-rich Wildlife Refuge. According to the Refuge website, “this area is one of the most important bird migration funnels in North America.”

Before it was a haven for songbirds, this strategic land at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay was Fort John Custis. Visitors can wander through WWII bunkers and run their hands over a barrel gun from the U.S.S. Missouri.

If you have time, spend a few minutes in the Visitor’s Center where exhibits tell the story about this dramatic part of Delmarva. Both Birders and History Buffs will find plenty to see here.

GO: Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve

The Cape Charles Natural Area Preserve offers visitors a chance to immerse themselves in the diverse ecosystems of the Eastern Shore. Wander through maritime forests, gaze at the expansive salt marshes, and walk along the dune formations that provide critical habitat for a variety of wildlife. The preserve is particularly noted for its rare coastal dune environment and the nesting site it provides for the threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle.

DAY TRIP: Virginia Beach

Surf the Atlantic waves, stroll along the scenic 3-mile boardwalk, or explore the vibrant ViBe Creative District’s murals and local art. The city is also home to First Landing State Park, where trails wind through wetlands and forests, and the Virginia Aquarium, which showcases marine life from around the world. Discover all the amazing things to do in Virginia Beach in our travel guide.

Best Restaurants in Cape Charles VA

Exterior of The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery Cape Charles VA
The Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery

EAT: Oyster Farm Seafood Eatery

Yes, it’s a drive from town and tough to find, but as you make your way into a luxury shorefront development of multi-storied homes, painted in a prism of colors, you’ll know you’re in the right place.

On King’s Creek, as it flows directly into the Chesapeake Bay, this is where you want to be when that great ball of fire dissolves into the horizon at day’s end, optimally with a glass of wine and fresh oyster in hand.

Sunset from deck of Oyster Farm Seafood Restaurant Cape Charles VA

Dishes, such as Thai Shrimp, are very good, but it’s the gob-smacking scene at the end of day – a sunset over the Chesapeake right outside the window – that takes center stage. Join crowds out on the deck to say goodbye to the setting sun. It’s like Mallory Square in Key West – but with a knockout raw bar.

Dine on She Crab Soup, Fresh Eastern Shore Crab Dip, local oysters, or clams, Oyster Farm Crab Cakes, Steak, Chicken, and Burgers, while watching watermen harvest oysters and clams through the window. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see dolphins at play. And here’s a tip: Don’t pass on the warm crusty/soft rolls. They are out of this world good.

Cape Charles Coffee House

EAT/COFFEE: Cape Charles Coffee House

You may feel as if you’ve stumbled into a Venetian coffee house when you walk into this arcade-style building evocative of the Victorian era. Hanging plants, old wood floor, locals chatting and reading newspapers – it’s a step back in time. Plus, the coffee is excellent. And so are the breakfast items and lunchtime sandwiches.

Fourteen years ago, Roberta Romeo purchased the building, which once housed a bank and then a department store. It has since become the center of Cape Charles life in the off-season. You might just find a group of women playing Mahjong or Canasta, or men and women engaged in a Book Club discussion.

“We have a great local crowd who make themselves scarce between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It’s so crowded with visitors they can’t get in,” Romeo asserts. “If you want to meet the regulars, come here in the cooler seasons.”

Interior of Cape Charles Brewery
Cape Charles Brewing Co. VA

EAT/DRINK: Cape Charles Brewing Co.

Great craft beer on tap – Cobb Island IPA, Ole Reliable Lager, Smith Island Imperial Oyster Stout to start – also find “great burgers” according to the hordes eating and drinking there.

Buskey Cider on the Bay Cape Charles VA

DRINK/TASTE: Buskey Cider On the Bay

Hard Cider all kinds of innovative ways in a joyful, nearly waterfront space at the end of Mason Street close to the beach.

The Shanty's newest inclosed deck bar. Cape Charles VA

EAT: The Shanty

This fun, casual spot right on a Cape Charles Harbor wharf is known for Steamer Buckets, live music, and a new enclosed bar.

Exterior Brown Dog Ice Cream Shop Cape Charles VA

ICE CREAM: Brown Dog Ice Cream

This Mason St. staple seems to be the place to go on balmy nights after sunset.

Cape Charles VA Hotels

Exterior shot of Hotel Cape Charles VA

STAY: Hotel Cape Charles

A boutique in every respect (small number of rooms, design-forward, easy-breezy reception), The 22-room Hotel Cape Charles is a smashing way to stay in this beach town near the Southern tip of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Lobby of Hotel Cape Charles

Right on Mason Street, Hotel Cape Charles placed me squarely in the middle of everything, (and, most importantly, right across the street from Cape Charles Distilling). Right out the front door to the right and left were shops and restaurants. The beach and fishing pier were just a five-minute walk away.

Hotel Cape Charles Guest Rooms

Upscale funky Guest Room Hotel Cape Charles

My balcony room was both soothing and poppy – with white comforters, earth-hued carpeting, wood bedside tables, high ceilings, canary yellow bed headboards, a large flat-screen TV, and a small balcony with seating overlooking Mason St.

Pristine modern bathrooms Hotel Cape Charles VA
Bathroom Hotel Cape Charles VA

Handsome grey-scale bathrooms sport Carrara Marble sinks and contemporary tiled walls and showers.

Guests can rent a “street legal” golf cart for the day, or try for one of 6 cruising bicycles to use for free. The hotel provides beach towels and private outdoor showers complimentary for guests as well.


  • Malerie Yolen-Cohen

    Malerie Yolen-Cohen is the Author of the cross-country travel guide, Stay On Route 6; Your Guide to All 3562 Miles of Transcontinental Route 6. She contributes frequently to Newsday, with credits in National Geographic Traveler, Ladies Home Journal, Yankee Magazine, Shape.com, Sierra Magazine, Porthole, Paddler, New England Boating, Huffington Post, and dozens of other publications. Malerie’s focus and specialty is Northeastern US, and she is constantly amazed by the caliber of restaurants and lodging in the unlikeliest places.

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4 thoughts on “7 Incredible Things To Do In Cape Charles VA For Beach-Loving Couples”

  1. Visited last month and great article on this unknown village of greatness. Found Hook @ Harvey to be one of best meals ever and then enjoyed sunset on beach that reminded me of Naples, Fl. A jewel of a place to hang out for a few days.

  2. What a great article in our gem of a town and man…. you got around! Thank you for sharing your experience so others get a sneak peak.
    I know it’s hard to feature other accommodations when you stay at one but I wanted to mention ( as you alluded to) we have tons of greater historic and restored B&B’s and Air BnB’s too! I might be biased since I own one! Ha

    Again, fabulous job!

  3. wonderful article spotlighting my hometown! You hit most of the high spots for sure. Please go back for another visit and report on the B& B’s, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, Kiptopeake State Park, etc.
    So much to love on the ESVA!

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