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Atlantic Coast

Exmore and Eastville

Fifteen miles south of Accomac along US-13, the hamlet of Exmore has an architectural landmark that doubles as road-food stop: the Exmore Diner (4264 Main St., 757/422-2313), a streamlined Silk City prefab that has been in business here since 1954. Another 15 miles along, you can get a good idea of just how rural and quiet life is on Virginia’s Eastern Shore by visiting Eastville (pop. 305), the seat of Northampton County. A mile west of US-13 on a well-marked business loop, Eastville centers on the redbrick courthouse and old county jail, with a handful of even older buildings dating back to the mid-1700s. Eastville also has an excellent roadside crab shack along US-13: The Great Machipongo Clam Shack (757/442-3800) has crabmeat sandwiches, fresh steamed clams, and an astonishing variety of shellfish, most of it grown, caught, or picked by locals.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

One of the more impressive engineering feats on the East Coast is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel ($15 toll in peak season), which opened in 1964 at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and was effectively doubled in 1999 by the addition of an extra set of driving lanes. Almost 18 miles long, the structure consists of one high-level bridge, two deep tunnels, four islands, and many miles of raised causeway. Southernmost Sea Gull Island closed to the public in 2017 as the construction of a parallel tunnel began; completion is anticipated in 2022. The existing bridge-tunnel will remain open to road-trip traffic.

Virginia Beach

From the toll plaza at the southern end of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, US-60 heads east along Atlantic Avenue, passing through the woodland waterfront of First Landing State Park before winding up at the ocean and Virginia Beach (pop. 437,994), the state’s most populous city and its one and only beach resort. Hotels line the main drag, Atlantic Avenue, which is plastered with large signs banning cars from “cruising” the mile-long array of funfairs, surf shops, and nightclubs.

Unlike many coastal towns, Virginia Beach also boasts a significant history. Virginia’s first colonists landed at Virginia Beach on April 26, 1607, before settling upriver at Jamestown; the site is marked by a stone cross at Cape Henry, at the southern lip of Chesapeake Bay. Five miles south, the excellent Virginia Aquarium (717 General Booth Blvd., 757/385-3474, daily, $25 adults, $30 combo ticket for admission and movie) holds nearly a million gallons with sharks, sting rays, seals, and sea turtles, plus an IMAX theater ($8).

Along with the beaches and the aquarium, one of the big attractions in Virginia Beach is breakfast, thanks to the fantastic range of places up and down Atlantic Avenue, like the awesome Pocahontas Pancakes (3420 Atlantic Ave., at 35th St., 757/428-6352).

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