How this ‘quaint’ Eastern Shore town keeps people coming back


CAPE CHARLES, Va. — When it comes to a small town along Virginia’s Eastern Shore, it’s often difficult to find the words to describe it.

Most who visit fall in love within a few minutes.

“It’s just an easy, safe, enjoyable place to come,” Allison Spiller said.

This picturesque town is filled with Americana from billowing flags to colorful bunting.

“Family time, that’s what we’re all about, family,” William “Smitty” Dize, the mayor of Cape Charles, said. “Mother Nature is our biggest asset.”

The mayor is this town’s biggest champion.

“It’s pretty awesome, to be honest with you. I’m blessed, truly blessed,” Dize said.

The town of around 1,100 people swells during the tourist season.

“In the summertime, we go from about that to three, four thousand people,” Dize said.

To visit is to almost instantly fall under the town’s spell.

“We’ve only been coming here for about two years but we fell in love with it so much we bought a house here in February,” Shannon Last, a visitor, said.

“We thought, let’s try Cape Charles, seems like a nice quaint beach town, laid back and relaxed,” Rachel Aslan, another visitor, said.

The Spiller family from Richmond understands well the charm of this community.

“So we’ve owned a house here for seven years. It’s unique but it’s quaint because it’s still very very small, which is nice. It’s unique in the sense that it has original shops that people know and they’ve been here for almost a decade and everyone seems to just fall in love the first time they come,” Allison Spiller said.

The town itself is surrounded by water on three sides, something that is a major draw to many.

“The beach was our playground,” Andy Dunton, who grew up in Cape Charles, said. “Parents love to bring their kids because you can walk out forever and it’s not over your head.”

But change has brought another draw, a vibrant downtown that was years in the making.

“I see a bunch of buildings that used to be empty, entrepreneurs have come in and grabbed hold of and made them what they are today. It gives me chills right now just to talk about it because I remember when those buildings sat empty,” Dize said.

As renovations began downtown, houses began to be rehabilitated and tourists began to see the light.

“I think the charm, the quietness, is really appealing instead of like a crowded, busy beach,” Aslan said.

With business booming and rental properties staying full, the town’s coffers began to change due to occupancy tax increasing 30 to 40 percent in the last few years, something which helped out those who are locals.

“We were able to reduce some taxes in this year’s budget for the people who actually live here because of the tourism-related items,” Dize said.

The town came about because of the railroad and for decades, trains were an important part of the community. Now the rails sit quiet and often, and so do the roads as Cape Charles is now a golf cart community.

“It’s just so fun to zip around town on a golf cart and just go up to see a friend at her house or drop the kids at the park,” Spiller said.

Most who spend time in Cape Charles leave with the intention of coming back.

Cape Charles still remains a pleasant contrast to traffic jams, loud noises and just the hustle and bustle of life.

It’s here where peace can overwhelm your senses and the opportunity to relax is yours for the taking.

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