Virginia's Eastern Shore

Trip Planning

Underrated RV Destinations: Virginia’s Eastern Shore

Jeremy Puglisi shares his tips for visiting Virginia's Eastern Shore including what to do, what to see, where to eat, where to stay, and when to visit.

The Eastern Shore of Virginia is an 80-mile stretch of land located between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean–packed on this peninsula, you will find a divine RV destination. From the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island to the enticing beaches of Cape Charles, this region is home to fresh seafood, charming coastal towns, and boundless outdoor adventures.

More travelers are familiar with the Virginia Beach area, which is okay since that means the Eastern Shore has less hustle and bustle and more peace and relaxation. But, I’m willing to let you in on all of the best the Eastern Shore has to offer, which includes family fun, quaint diners and seafood shacks, and some amazing campground options.

Family Fun & Outdoor Activities

You may have heard of Chincoteague Island from Marguerite Henry’s classic children’s book Misty of Chincoteague. To this day, wild ponies still roam the dunes and marshes, with even more located on Assateague Island, a bit to the north. You can drive there or book a boat or “Over Sand” vehicle tour.

For more wildlife viewing, Chincoteague Island’s National Wildlife Refuge is not to be missed. Notable for its wild birds and its wild ponies, the refuge offers hiking and biking trails, fishing, beachcombing, and more. Bring comfortable shoes and binoculars for an active day of birdwatching, or just bring sunscreen and a beach chair for a lazy day at the beach.

Chesapeake Bay is a watery playground. Rent jet skis and explore the fascinating World War II era concrete ships, which served as breakwaters. Or, take a boat tour to watch for dolphins and other marine animals. Paddleboarding, kayaking, and boating can be enjoyed across the region.

If you want to dip your toes in the sand or take a splash in the waves, top-rated beaches include Tangier Island, Cape Charles Beach, and those found in Kiptopeke State Park. Don’t forget the Atlantic Coast, which offers a different experience than the bayside beaches. The barrier islands are only accessible by water–and it’s worth the effort to explore these pristine habitats. The water is usually warm and inviting from mid-spring to late October. 

Located all along the peninsula, you’ll find charming coastal towns offering boutique shopping and local restaurants. Victorian homes line the streets in the sleepy towns of Onancock and Wachapreague, while Cape Charles and Chincoteague are bigger hubs with great dining and active nightlife--especially in the summer.

Where to Eat

We can’t talk about Virginia’s Eastern Shore without talking about seafood. Whether you crave clams, oysters, or fresh-caught fish, you can find everything from colorful seaside shacks to top-tier fine-dining establishments serving it up.

The Great Machipongo Clam Shack may not look like much from the outside, but it earns rave reviews. For an upscale experience, head to the Island House Restaurant & Marina, notable for views of the marshes and barrier island. Save room for the famous chocolate bread pudding.

While in the Chincoteague area, bring your sweet tooth. Join in the epic battle to decide whether Mister Whippy or Island Creamery has the best ice cream. It’s always fair to declare a tie since both are awesome–and serve totally different styles. Whether you enjoy it for breakfast or dessert, you have to hunt down the Sandy Pony Donut food truck, which serves up 25 fun flavors.

Looking for dinner, drinks, and desserts in Cape Charles? Start your day with coffee from Eastern Shore Coastal Roasting Company, found at locations across the area. Grab a meal at Exmore Diner, which has a retro ambiance and classic diner fare, or Sting-Ray’s, where the sweet potato biscuits are made with love. Wrap your day up at Brown Dog Ice Cream.

Campground Recommendations

The Eastern Shore covers a lot of ground, with most campgrounds located at the northern part, near Chincoteague Island, or the southern part, Cape Charles. You may pick a basecamp on either end or stay at both. Here are some top picks from north to south:

Jellystone Park Chincoteague Island (formerly the Chincoteague KOA): As you can guess by the Jellystone name, this park is geared toward kids. However, parents won’t mind spending time at Maui Jack’s waterpark thanks to the amazing cabanas. Campsites vary in size and amenities.

Sun Outdoors Chesapeake Bay (formerly the Tall Pines Harbor Campground): Located along the Pocomoke Sound in a grove of towering pines, this RV park has some campsites nestled in the trees and some with water views. Of course, your kids won’t care about the views once they see the waterpark. Enjoy your own slice of the sound at the park’s private beach.

Sun Outdoors Cape Charles (formerly the Cherrystone Family Camping Resort): With 300 acres of waterfront along the Chesapeake Bay, this park offers so many activities and amenities onsite that you could have a whole vacation without leaving the property. Between the bayfront beach, the five pools, and the splash zone, you can play in the water at a different spot each day of the week. Full hookup and water-view sites are available.

Kiptopeke State Park Campground: Recreational opportunities abound, with swimming, fishing, crabbing, and boating available. Finding full hookups in a state park is always a perk, and this one offers both full hookup and water-electric sites. Most are in an open field, so pack along a sunshade if you are visiting in summer.

Cape Charles / Chesapeake Bay KOA Resort: The stretch of bay directly in front of this campground is absolutely stunning and great for families with small kids. The water is clear and calm, and at low tide families can spread out in the water and pick their own little piece of paradise. This is a near perfect place for RV owners that love to travel with their own paddle boards or kayaks.

Best Time to Visit

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is truly a delight any time of year, with relatively mild temperatures through the winter (it only rarely dips below freezing). However, summer is when the shore shines the brightest, allowing you to delight in the warmer water temperatures and all of the outdoor recreation the region has to offer.

No matter when you go, be sure to put Virginia’s Eastern Shore on your list. This RV destination may be underrated, but that’s only because so few people are in on the secret.

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-author of Where Should We Camp Next? A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and Other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. He is also the host of The RV Atlas podcast.

Jeremy Puglisi

Author and co-host of the RV Atlas podcast

Jeremy Puglisi is the co-host of the RV Atlas podcast and the co-author of See You at the Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors, and Where Should We Camp Next: A 50 State Guide to Amazing Campgrounds and other Unique Outdoor Accommodations. He loves nothing more than hitching up and heading out to the next campground with his family.