October 1, 2015
One of the last fishing villages on the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Island is located 12 miles off the coast of Virginia and makes for a truly extraordinary day trip from Norfolk. From seafood shacks to sparkling sands, take a look at our guide to visiting Tangier Island.
For thousands of years this unconventional, isolated island was a fishing and hunting ground for Native Americans. It was officially charted by Captain John Smith in 1608 and has long been a curiosity to linguists because the local dialect sounds more like Shakespearean English than American. Accessible only by ferry, Tangier is home to around 500 people, who rely mostly on tourism and crabbing for income.
Visiting Tangier Island is easy. From Norfolk, take the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the World) to Onancock, Virginia. From Onancock Wharf, you’ll ride a traditional Chesapeake Bay crabbing boat (converted into a 25-seat passenger ferry) to Tangier Island.
When you disembark the ferry, you’ll be greeted by a group of friendly ladies offering short, $5.00 guided golf cart tours of the island. This is highly recommended as you’ll get a lay of the land, and the opportunity to hear all about the island’s history, see important landmarks and ask questions.
For lunch, go to Lorraine’s Seafood Restaurant and try the Tangier Island hot crab dip or the soft shell crab sandwich, both of which are made with fresh-off-the-boat Chesapeake Bay blue crab.
The best way to explore the island on your own is by bike or golf cart. Across the street from Lorraine’s is Four Brothers Crab House & Ice Cream Deck, where beach cruiser bicycles and electric golf carts are available for hire.
On your explorations you’ll pass several B&B’s, a schoolhouse, Methodist church, a one-room post office, gift shops, family cemeteries that date back hundreds of years, and the Tangier History Museum. The modest museum offers a concise pictorial history of the island and, upon exit, a gift shop full of sundries handmade by islanders. You’ll find everything from painted Christmas ornaments to wind chimes made from driftwood and century-old coloured bottles.
Keep riding over wooden bridges, past marsh grass and canals, and you’ll eventually reach an untouched paradise of clean, fine-sand beaches and clear shimmering water that’s perfect for swimming.
End your day with a sweet treat of soft serve ice cream from Four Brothers. There are 65 flavours to choose from including root beer, apple pie, eggnog, pistachio, pumpkin, red velvet cake, classic chocolate and French vanilla.
Our partnership with Delta connects you to and from a range of destinations across the United States and Canada, making it easier to book flights to Norfolk. Get ready to sample some great seafood.
Are you planning on visiting Tangier Island? Have you been before? Let us know in the comments section below.