There’s a lot to love about Cape Charles. The word is officially out about this quaint town on the bay—accolades include Southern Living recently naming Cape Charles as the best little beach town in Virginia. 

As you’re considering family-friendly beach vacations in Virginia, you’ll want to have Cape Charles on your list. Here’s what you need to know as you're planning a trip - the best spots for ice cream, where kids under five can mini golf for free, and more.

The Beach

Cape Charles LOVEwork
Photo Credit: Adam Lewis, @adamtlewis

When families talk about Cape Charles, the free public beachfront comes up again and again. The shallow shore (knee-deep at least a hundred yards out) means that children and families can play without big waves crashing down, making for a more enjoyable water experience for little ones. Close to the beachfront, visitors can also walk down the fishing pier and check out the LOVE letters, which are particularly beautiful at sunset.

Kiptopeke State Park
Photo Credit: Johnny Molloy

Nearby Kiptopeke State Park is another great place to enjoy the Chesapeake Bay for various recreational activities, including fishing, hiking and swimming.

Depending on where you are staying, other areas of Cape Charles, including Bay Creek, offer private beachfronts.

Where to Eat in Cape Charles

There’s no shortage of good restaurants in Cape Charles, and most of them are kid-friendly.

The Shanty

For fresh seafood and water views, The Shanty is a great spot for lunch or dinner. The fry baskets and tacos will please little palates and adults will enjoy clams, oysters, and salad along with a number of other entrees and sandwiches.

Cravings offers sandwiches, salads and snacks in a grab-and-go deli format. The mini croissant sandwiches are the perfect size for kids, and adults will enjoy sandwiches, salads and dessert bars. This is the perfect place to grab lunch to enjoy on the beach or at your beach house if you don’t want to worry about cooking.

Brown Dog Ice Cream

On summer nights, you’ll often find a line out the door at Brown Dog Ice Cream, and with good reason. From cones to hand-packed pints and fresh squeezed lemonade, Brown Dog carries a variety of rotating flavors. If you want to avoid a wait, try going midday. Another great option for a sweet treat is Cowlick’s Creamery, a shop that serves up frozen custard. Both shops are located on Mason Avenue, so you could easily try them both - it’s vacation, after all!

At the end of Mason Avenue, Coastal Baking Co. is the perfect beach bakery. It’s a great spot to grab breakfast or lunch, but you’ll really delight your family if you pop in in the morning and bring back biscuits and gravy, ham biscuits and cinnamon rolls for everyone to enjoy. There’s nothing like a hearty Southern breakfast, right? 

The Beach Market and other local seafood markets are a great option for picking up local seafood that you can enjoy in the comfort of home, as long as you have a kitchen.

What to Do in Cape Charles

When there’s been enough sun and sand, Cape Charles has plenty to keep the whole family entertained.

Paddle Your Glass Off Kayak Tour
Photo Credit: Sam Dean, @sdeanphotos

For a more active experience, Southeast Expeditions offers kayak tours and rentals. For a fun twist on an outdoor excursion, the popular Paddle Your Glass Off Tour is a kayak-winery tour in partnership with Chatham Vineyards.

The many shops along Mason Avenue are a great place to stop for a trip souvenir from your family beach week. A visit to Cape Charles Candy Company can be an activity in and of itself. Spend your time perusing the many choices and don’t walk away without some fudge or saltwater taffy.

Cape Charles Mini Golf is the perfect vacation activity with kids in Cape Charles. There’s food, there’s soft serve and kids five and under play free. The 18-hole mini course is complete with two water features and beautiful gardens throughout.

Eyre Hall Gardens
Photo Credit: Scott K. Brown

Just a few minutes down the road from Cape Charles in Northampton, Eyre Hall is steeped in history and beautiful landscaping. The gardens are open to the public year-round during daylight hours and are the perfect place for a picnic and some solitude. 

Where to Stay in Cape Charles

Hotel Cape Charles
Photo Credit: Jason Hunter, @fuji.hunter

Right in the heart of town, Hotel Cape Charles is a great option for a weekend getaway. You’ll be close to all of the shops and restaurants and within walking distance to the beach with all of the conveniences that a hotel stay has to offer. Speaking of conveniences, Hotel Cape Charles has bicycles and beach chairs for guests to use on a first come, first serve basis, and golf carts available for rent.

If you’re planning a longer visit to Cape Charles, look at house rentals through Airbnb, VRBO and local realty companies like Blue Heron Realty Co. or Cape Charles Cottages. It’s worth noting these houses often book up well in advance for longer stays, so start your planning early, especially if you’re hoping to accommodate a larger group. You can often find stays for a few nights or off-season a little less far in advance.

The Jackspot at Sunset Beach

Looking for more of a camping experience? The Cape Charles / Chesapeake Bay KOA campground has its own private beach, two pools, a dog beach for furry companions and dining options. Kiptopeke State Park is another great option for lodging with two and three-bedroom cabins, six-bedroom lodges, RV and tent camping, yurts and a bunkhouse available.

How to Get Around in Cape Charles

Downtown Cape Charles
Photo Credit: Julie McCool, @funinfairfax

Last but not least, golf carts are a huge part of the fun when visiting Cape Charles. There are several local companies that rent golf carts by the day and the week, including CC Ryder Rentals and Eastern Shore Custom Carts.

Now that we’ve shared our tips for where to stay, dine, and play, what are you waiting for? It’s time to start planning your family trip to Cape Charles!