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ESCAPE KEYS: Va.'s Eastern Shore

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

GETTING THERE: Go east on Route 50 to Route 13 south to Cape Charles (about four hours), or go south on Interstate 95 to I-295 south to I-64 east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to Route 13 north to Cape Charles.

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WHEN TO GO: Anytime except winter. Fall migration attracts bird-watchers. Several popular outdoor festivals are also held in fall. The Eastern Shore of Virginia Birding & Wildlife Festival (757-787-2460, http://www.esvachamber.org), featuring nature workshops, birding field trips and boating excursions, is Sept. 18-21. The Lure of the Shore Festival (757-787-8268, http://www.lureoftheshore.com), with regional artisans and seafood served from watermen's boats, is Sept. 13.

WHAT TO DO: Outdoor activities are the main draw. Outfitters include Southeast Expeditions in Cape Charles (877-225-2925 http://) and Broadwater Bay Ecotours in Exmore (757-442-4363, http://www.broadwaterbayecotour.com). The Serenity of Cape Charles (757-710-1233, http://www.schoonerserenity.com) offers sunset cruises.

Wineries include Chatham Vineyards in Machipongo (757-678-5588, http://www.chathamvineyards.net), Holly Grove Vineyards in Franktown (757-442-2844, http://www.hollygrovevineyards.com) and Bloxom Vineyards in Bloxom (757-665-5670, http://www.bloxomwinery.com).

WHERE TO STAY: Cape Charles House in Cape Charles (757-331-4920, http://www.capecharleshouse.com, $120 to $200 a night) is a restored Colonial Revival home filled with family heirlooms and run by two former Sears executives. My trip cost $530 for two nights' stay and a full-day guided kayaking expedition for two. For more bed-and-breakfast choices: Virginia's Eastern Shore Bed & Breakfasts, http://www.virginiabedbreakfasts.com.

Kiptopeke State Park in Kiptopeke (800-933-7275, http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/kip.shtml) offers camping, yurts, trailers, cabins and lodges, ranging from $24 for a basic tent campsite to $2,226 ($2,004 for Virginia residents) for a six-bedroom lodge during high season; taxes extra.

PLACES TO EAT: The Machipongo Trading Company in Machipongo (757-678-0005) serves coffee, breakfast and lunch, and features local products; salmon panini are $6.45 each. The Great Machipongo Clam Shack in Nassawadox (757-442-3800, http://www.greatclams.com) is the "home of eat and drive seafood." Sandwiches are $7. Eastville Inn in Eastville (757-678-5745, http://www.eastvilleinn.com) is the place for fine dining; entrees from $14. For local food products to go, head to the Blue Crab Bay Co. in Melfa (800-221-2722, http://www.bluecrabbay.com); the Sting Ray Bloody Mary Mixer for $8 is excellent.

INFORMATION: Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission,757-787-2460, http://www.esvatourism.org; Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge,757-331-2760, http://www.fws.gov/northeast/easternshore.

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