The problem with vacation is you have to travel to get there. Sure there’s the staycation, but really, the best locations take some travel time.
That is certainly the case with the Outer Banks. Of course, we get a lot of visitors from Hampton Roads and the Richmond, Virginia areas, and it’s not too bad a journey from those places—an hour and a half to two hours from Hampton Roads or three hours for the drive from Richmond.
But for the longer drives, sometimes it’s nice to take a break…stretch your legs… and just get out of the car for a bit.
Knowing how nice it is to break up that long ride, we thought we could make some suggestions for quick side trips on the trek to the beach. Most of our suggestions will take an hour to an hour and a half, maybe two hours at most. We have tried to organize them based on what is usually considered the fastest or best route from the point of origin to the Outer Banks.
We will also add, these are just a few of the things to do. Stretch your legs, explore, and arrive relaxed when you get to the Outer Banks.
Beginning from: New York City metro, New Jersey and Philadelphia
This route generally follows the Delaware Turnpike to US 13 or US 113 through the heart of the Delmarva Peninsula.
The alternate route travels through Baltimore and Washington, DC. It is not a route that is conducive to arriving anywhere in a relaxed state of mind. The traffic around our nation’s capital has a well-earned reputation for horrific traffic jams and confusing roads. Unless there is a specific reason to use this route—wanting to visit some of the monuments to great Americans found in the city, as an example—avoid this route at all costs.
Things to Do
Dogfish Head Brewery
6 Cannery Village Center
This one is for adults only, so if the whole family is in the car, it’s not a good stop.
Dogfish ales and beers have garnered a well-deserved reputation for taste and innovation.
Milton is a pretty little town with a recognized historic district, so just to break up the ride it may be worth checking out.
The town is to the east of US 13, so this is a visit for anyone taking US 113 instead of US 13.
Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art
909 South Schumaker Drive
Brothers Stephen and Lemuel T. Ward are considered two of the finest decoy carvers there have ever been. Their decoys, carved primarily in the first half of the 20th century, command top dollar at auctions. After plastic decoys took over the market beginning in the 1950s, the brother began carving miniature and life-sized replicas of the birds of the Eastern Shore.
The museum, founded in 1992, is now a part of the University of Maryland at Salisbury and features decoys and carvings of the Ward Brothers as well as other examples of the art. There is also a small nature center and changing exhibits in the museum’s two galleries.
The Ward Museum is off US 13 in Salisbury. For travelers using US 113, the quickest way to get to Salisbury is to take US 50.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is actually part of Assateague National Seashore, although they are administered separately.
We’re recommending Chincoteague over Assateague for two reasons. Chincoteague is closer to the Outer Banks route; and the trails and things to see are much more centrally located.
There are a number of very easily navigated hiking trails—packed dirt and boardwalks mostly. The Assateague Lighthouse is in Chincoteague and a short but interesting trail is the Assateague Lighthouse trail.
The road to Chincoteague goes by Wallops Island, a NASA launch facility. There is a small information center at the entrance.
Take State Route 175 off US 13. It will take 15 or 20 minutes to get to Chincoteague.
Eastern Shore Of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge
32205 Seaside Rd
Cape Charles, VA
This is the last stop to get out and stretch your legs before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. The best access is at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Welcome Center which is the absolute last turnoff before the tolls.
Access to the trails is on either the north end or west side of the parking lot.
Virginia Air and Space Center
600 Settlers Landing Rd
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
717 General Booth Blvd
Virginia Beach, VA
This is an either-or choice. Both museums are worth a good hour and a half to two-hour visit, so pick one. The Air and Space Center is about 35 minutes off the route to the Outer Banks. The Aquarium is a little closer—figure about 25 minutes to get there.
The Aquarium’s animals include harbor seals, sea turtles, a Komodo dragon, and sharks. It’s fascinating and kids love it.
The Air and Space Center is at NASA’s Langley Space Center, which is where much of the computational work for space flights is done. Exhibits include aircraft from throughout history and a flight simulator.
When you’re back on the road, it’s only another hour and a half to two hours to your vacation destination.