A Cruise to Tangier Island
Out in the Chesapeake Bay lies one of my favorite places to get away from it all: the quaint and remote Tangier Island.
Barely above sea level and short on dry land (many deceased are buried in their loved ones' front yards), tiny Tangier was discovered by Capt. John Smith in 1608 and permanently settled in 1686. In fact, the local accent hearkens back to the Elizabethan English. It's not a Nantucket or a Martha's Vineyard, however, for Tangier's charm is in visiting a remote and authentic fishing village -- the "Soft Shell Capital of the World," as evidenced by the many crab pens lining the channel into the harbor.
Tangier also has the best beach in Virginia -- actually an arm of sand stretching for more than a mile south of the island. You will have all or most of this narrow peninsula to yourself once the daily cruise boats have returned to the mainland.
Weather permitting, Tangier Island Cruises (tel. 804/453-2628; www.tangiercruise.com) leave from Buzzard Point Marina, off U.S. 360 near Reedville, daily at 10am from May 15 to October 15. The voyage takes 90 minutes. The return trip leaves Tangier at 2pm, leaving you with 2 1/2 hours on the island. Round-trip fare is $25 for adults, $12 for children 6 to 11, free for children 5 and younger, and $5 for bicycles. Reservations are required. You can also get here from Crisfield, Maryland, on the eastern shore.
Local citizens await your arrival to take you on a 10-minute island tour by oversize golf cart (there are few cars or trucks on the island). You can bring your own bicycle or rent a bike or golf cart at the wharf, although you can walk to almost every place worth seeing within 30 minutes.
Most day-trippers opt for all-you-can-eat, family-style lunches at Hilda Crockett's Chesapeake House (tel. 757/891-2331; www.chesapeakehousetangier.com). I prefer Fisherman's Corner (tel. 757/891-2900), which serves fresh soft shell crabs. Waterfront Restaurant, at the cruise boat dock (tel. 757/891-2248), has sandwiches.
After lunch walk up Main Street to the Tangier Island History Museum (tel. 302/234-1660; www.tangierhistorymuseum.org), which has informative exhibits and free kayaks for exploring the creeks winding through the marshes and actually cutting the island in two.
You can overnight at Hilda Crockett's, although I stay at Bay View Inn Bed and Breakfast (tel. 757/891-2396; www.tangierisland.net), in a 1904 Victorian house on the island's western side. The upstairs "honeymoon" room has a small balcony with a fine view of the bay. Sunset Inn Bed & Breakfast (tel. 757/891-2535; www.tangierislandsunset.com) actually is closer to the mile-long beach. All three charge about $130 and up for a double and accept MasterCard and Visa.
Note: Tangier is a "dry" island, so bring your own alcoholic beverages. And be prepared to dine early since the restaurants close at 7pm.