VIRGINIA’S BARRIER ISLANDS
Along the seaside of Virginia's Eastern Shore are a chain of uninhabited barrier islands, stretching from Assateague Island at the Maryland border, to Fisherman's Island at the foot of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These 23 shifting islands of sand, as well as a swath of marshland and lagoons, constitute one of the longest undeveloped stretches of shoreline on the East Coast. In fact, they are the longest chain of undeveloped barrier islands in the global temperate zone, designated by the United Nations as an International Biosphere Reserve.
Barrier islands get their name from the fact that they serve as a literal barrier between the brute force of the ocean and the mainland. They protect coastlines from being ravaged by storms and they harbor several unique habitats that serve as protected refuges for an abundance of wildlife, many of which are birds traveling the Atlantic Flyway during migration.
Today, most of the islands are protected by the Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve and almost nothing remains of the beach resorts, hunting and fishing clubs, and even entire communities that thrived on these islands until they were washed away by sea and storm. Only the northern-most islands are accessible by car.
If you'd like to visit the barrier islands by boat, we suggest Eastern Shore Adventures, Eastern Shore Boat Tours & Seaside Ecotours. If you plan to take your own boat, please review the Nature Conservancy Virginia Barrier Islands Visitation Policies or website of the government agency managing each island.