Things to do / Travel Guide
You've likely watched the birds sail above the coast, peering down at the arching shoreline and white-crested waves of the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay - so why not see things through their eyes? Though eastern North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland's scenic overlooks take a bit of traveling to get to, your spirits will soar when you cast your eyes out on the fantastic scenery.
Scenic Overlooks on the Delmarva Peninsula
Walk to the top of a WWII bunker at Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge in Cape Charles, and you will have earned yourself a breathtaking view of the Delmarva Peninsula's seaside barrier island chain. You will find another, equally beautiful bunker-turned-view at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware on the Delmarva Peninsula. Climb to the top of a concrete observation tower used during WWII to spot enemy ships for a supreme panoramic look over the deep, blue Cape Henlopen, located at the mouth of the Delaware Bay.
For the kind of wide, sweeping sea views that give you insight into the vastness of the area, try the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which connects Virginia's eastern shore (on the Delmarva Peninsula) to Virginia Beach, near Norfolk. Anywhere along this manmade wonder will offer you a great view of large commercial and U.S. Naval ships plying the choppy waters. And if you want a view of the snaking bridge-tunnel itself, try the official Scenic Overlook at the southern extremity of Virginia's eastern shore, on the west side of the roadway.
Scenic Overlooks in Eastern Virginia
At Westmoreland State Park in Montross, climb up to Horsehead Cliffs for a bird's-eye view of the Potomac River. The boardwalk at New Point Comfort Nature Preserve and Observation Walkway in Mathews affords great views of tidal shallows and mudflats of Chesapeake Bay, and it is also the best place to view the New Point Comfort Lighthouse, standing straight like a soldier.
For a pleasant, grassy-green overlook, climb up Norfolk Botanical Garden's NATO Tower, in Norfolk. From the top, you'll see the curving, winding canals that weave their way through the rainbow patchwork-landscape of the magnificent grounds and gardens. Also at Norfolk Botanical Gardens is Baker Overlook, which is a pleasant meditation-perch situated on a two-tier deck that offers tranquil views of the surrounding trees and plants.
Scenic Overlooks on the North Carolina Shore
Track the boardwalk at Currituck Banks National Estuarine Research Reserve, located at the end of State Road 12, to the viewing platform with one of the best glimpses around of Currituck Sound. Jockey's Ridge State Park is home to the highest sand dune on the East Coast. The shifting mountain varies in height from 80 to 140 feet (depending on the way the wind has shifted the sand). Climb to the top for a view of the Wright Brothers Memorial, and the communities of Kill Devil Hills, and Nags Head - from Roanoke Sound all the way to the Atlantic Ocean (sunrises are particularly magnificent).
Lighthouse Lookouts in Eastern North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland
Eastern North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland lighthouse lookouts are well-worth the huff and puff to their summits. On the Delmarva Peninsula, the Assateague Lighthouse in Assateague, Virginia, is a 142-foot-high brick lighthouse positioned atop a high, rocky promontory. On weekends, from spring through fall, you can climb up this red and white “barbershop” tube for sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Delmarva Peninsula coast.
To get a bird's eye view of eastern Virginia's Chesapeake Bay, climb the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, near Fort Story. Old Cape Henry presides over the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean and is open year-round for your viewing pleasure.
Reputed to be the tallest lighthouse in the U.S. and the tallest brick lighthouse in the world, you can bet the 198-foot-high Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, on the North Carolina shore, will give you a lofty perspective. In the summer you can climb the beloved black and white candy stripe-style lighthouse for some of the region's best 360° views of the elegant arc of the Outer Banks.