a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Coast is clear

By Scott Beveridge

EASTVILLE, Va. – At the height of summer travel season, the most that can be found on a bay-side beach at the Eastern Shore in Virginia are a few empty folding chairs.
There might be a lonely boat, too, anchored between blue crab traps in the water, as this Chesapeake Bay shoreline has miraculously escaped over development common to vacation spots like Ocean City, Md.
“Our tiny peninsula is the last pristine stretch on the East Coast,” boasts the Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Web site. “Where the bay meets the sea, watermen till the tides and family farms stretch lush and green. Our small towns are as Southern as sweet potato pie.”

The Jamestown government, led by Capt. John Smith, staked claim to the 20-mile-wide strip of land in 1620. Some of the same old family names hold title to its sprawling working farms to this day.
The tiny colonial town of Eastville can be found 48 miles north of Norfolk and across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel, whose high tolls help to keep visitors away from the peninsula.
With its 42 families and 203 residents, Eastville is the county seat of Northampton County. It’s courthouse holds the oldest continuous court records in the United States.

Off the Atlantic shore to the east sits an abandoned U.S. Coast Guard hurricane station, the remains of which are shown below:

Atlantic island

A row of aging private beach cottages can be found a few miles west along the dead-end Smith Beach Road. Some are available as short-term rentals, if a traveler is lucky enough to know the right local residents who can put them in touch with a property owner. People here don’t tend to answer their telephones. If you ask around, however, you can find a guide and a boat to one of the deserted islands in the Atlantic Ocean.

Atlantic island

At the same time, it might be difficult to pull away from a beach chair. The Smith Beach cottages, and their bare-bones accommodations, provide views of spectacular sunsets and the perfect oasis to plant yourself with a good book.