And stay overnight in an early 1900s fishing lodge—swoon!

By Marisa Spyker
July 25, 2019
Holly Bluff Island Guest House

As any Virginian might tell you, that moment when you make the 17-mile drive across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a transformative one. From the bustle of Norfolk, travelers are emptied out onto a bucolic stretch of land that feels worlds away in ambiance and geography. While empty pastures and one-stoplight towns deliver feel-good vibes on land, some might say that the best way to explore the Eastern Shore is from the water.

And that would include Mary and Bill Bunham. As the founders and hosts at Burnham Guides, the husband-and-wife team curate outdoor adventures from Costa Rica to Virginia, incorporating once-in-a-lifetime activities like ziplining through tropical rainforests and backcountry camping in the Florida Keys.

In Virginia, their Seaside Water Trail trip includes a guided kayak tour of the Eastern Shore’s picturesque barrier islands, with nights spent, if you choose, on a remote private island on the Atlantic side of the Eastern Shore. For those who want a closer look at the beauty of this pristine paradise—one of the largest undeveloped barrier island systems in the U.S. and home to an enormous concentration of coastal birds—this is very arguably your best bet.

Slicing through the calm waterways of the island system, guests have front-row seats to the Eastern Shore’s most magical views, from the marshes and sandy coastline to the abundance of wildlife. Visits to landmarks like the Cape Charles Lighthouse and Virginia's Smith Island can also be arranged.  

Burnham Guides

And paddling is only half the treat. By tour’s end, guests retreat to Holly Bluff Island, a private piece of land adjacent to a national wildlife refuge. Once used as an early 1900s fishing camp, the island has since been transformed into a unique rental property with the original lodge now used as a four-bedroom guest house.

Burnham Guides

Stays here with the Burnhams include the opportunity to harvest oysters, clams, and crabs from the surrounding waters for the freshest of nightly seafood feasts; morning yoga on the cottage’s large wraparound decks; and some of the most ‘Gram-worthy sunrise and sunsets you’ll ever see. And while the minimalist accommodations do come with beds, linens, hot showers, and refrigeration, lighting is supplied entirely by propane lamps, lending a campy feel without the inconvenience of actually camping. “It’s like going back in time, but with all the comforts,” says Mary Burnham.  

Burnham Guides

Want to book this one-of-a-kind Chesapeake Bay adventure? All-inclusive rates for a three-day, two-night tour (which come with kayaks and gear, instruction, all meals, lodging, and transfer of luggage via powerboat) start at $850 per person; for an extra day and night rates are $1,095 per person. Contact Burnham Guides for more information.

Related: The 25 Best Beaches in America, According to You!

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