by Robin Fillmore
Though it is only hours from Washington, D.C., a true hidden gem lies just to our south. Off the Eastern Shore of Virginia are the barrier islands which protect seaside tidal creeks, bays, marshes and the mainland, providing habitat for abounding nature, including migratory songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, shellfish and finfish. Visitors are welcomed with the sign “You’ll Love Our Nature.” For many in the D.C. region, Virginia’s Eastern Shore is becoming the place not only to discover on vacation, but also to find their dream retreat or retirement home.
On one side of the peninsula lies the Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the U.S. With more than 150 rivers and creeks flowing into the bay, it provides sandy tidal areas, suitable for boat docks and marinas, as well as beautiful beaches to enjoy. On the other side lie the barrier islands and the Atlantic Ocean, knit together with bays, inlets and salt marshes. Except for a few “grandfathered” properties, the barrier islands are uninhabited; however, they can be easily enjoyed by kayak or boat. There are many free public boat launches available for easy access to the islands or deep sea fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. Fourteen of the barrier islands make up the Virginia Coastal Reserve and has earned the distinction of a United Nations Man and Biosphere Reserve.
Since the 1970s, nonprofit, federal and state conservation partners, including The Nature Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Commonwealth of Virginia have invested more than $100 million to protect and restore 133,000 acres of coastal and mainland habitats, including barrier islands, marshes and upland forests, and have led to a reintroduction of a species of bay scallops to the coastal bays, which had not been seen there for more than 80 years due to habitat loss.
The bounty and beauty of the Eastern Shore are important economic drivers for the entire region, with agriculture, including aqua-farming, research and tourism as the industries that provide this growth. With its clean water in tidal creeks and bays, the area is home to the U.S.’s largest oyster and clam aquaculture. The rural coastal landscape provides an ideal location for one of NASA’s premier rocket launch facilities. Additionally, the Eastern Shore hosts one of the National Science Foundation’s prestigious Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Program sites operated by the University of Virginia, which has transformed the region into a center for world-class coastal science research.
With such bounty and beauty to offer, as well as the relaxed lifestyle in the area, the Eastern Shore of Virginia is noted in many retirement guides as one of the best places in the country to live or retire. In one’s own backyard it is possible to fish, hunt, bird-watch, kayak, golf or simply enjoy the beach. For those looking for indoor activities, there is excellent shopping and antique hunting, as well as cultural and community events. Recently popping up throughout the area are kayak trips with stops at local wineries and oyster tastings. Plus, the weather is good all year. Even though residents enjoy all four seasons, the winters are not hard and the mean average temperature is 59 degrees, which keeps energy costs low.
Most of the homes are on large three-to-five acre tracks and zoning is for single family homes. These protections come from the commitment to environmental conservation, but the benefit for the homeowner is a spacious lot with marvelous views, and in many cases, waterfront or beachfront access.
As more people seek a balanced lifestyle with the opportunity to enjoy healthy air and water, it is unlikely that the gem of the Eastern Shore of Virginia will stay hidden for long.
The Kirkwood Group offers beautiful waterfront properties, beachfront properties and water access properties along the Chesapeake Bay and the creeks and coves that feed into the bay. For example, High Knoll at Country Club offers a 4,500-square-foot waterfront home on 106 acres or 24 lots of 3+ acres each. To see their current listings, visit KirkwoodOnTheShore.com.
Robin Fillmore is the publisher of Natural Awakenings, Washington, D.C.