Onancock is a hamlet on Virginia’s eastern shore, poised on a peninsula and surrounded on three sides by water. Here, the Onancock Creek courses for about five miles to empty into the Chesapeake Bay. Easy schooner access to the bay made Onancock a shipping hub as early as the late 1600s, and it’s proximity to the peninsula’s rail line kept that going into the 20th century. Today, the artists, entrepreneurs, retirees and tourists drawn to this small and walkable town still love it for the water, the open land that surrounds it, the leafy quiet and the wharf with its compact commercial district, which sends the friendly message that Onancock is also a working town. There are plenty of entertainment options in town such as the North Street Playhouse, the Roseland classic old-time movie theater (built in 1950) and a variety of galleries and boutique shops including Dawn, which sells everything from home furnishings to women’s clothing, and Willie Crockett’s art gallery and studio on Market Street. This fall, one of the most significant collections of antique maps and original Audubons ever assembled in Virginia is traveling to Onancock for a special exhibit at the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society Ker Place Museum. You can visit Tangier Island by ferry from the marina, only a 4-mile trip that runs daily (except Monday) from May through September. There are plenty of great dining options in town from Mallards at the Wharf (with outside seating and amazing homemade crab cakes) to the Corner Bakery to satisfy your sweet craving (their cream puffs are to die for). If you want to get out on the water, you can charter a fishing boat, rent a kayak from Southeast Expeditions, next to the marina or drop a fishing line from the wharf with the locals. There is truly something for everyone in this small, friendly town.
Where to Dock
- Onancock Wharf and Marina (757-787-791, onancock.com) is the only docking facility in this very well protected harbor. The marina has a brand new harbormaster building with new bathrooms, showers and laundry.The marina welcomes pets and can accommodate boats up to 90 feet. Gas and diesel are available, as is electricity (30 and 50 amp). If you need provisions, the harbormaster will transport you to the local grocery. Just outside his office, you’ll find good conversation with locals gathered on the Liar’s Bench.