Onancock Historic District and Town Wharf
Onancock, VA
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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Brief Description: The Onancock Historic District and Town Wharf has been coined the “Gem of the Eastern Shore”. Explored by Captain John Smith in 1607 and chartered in 1680, Onancock is one of King James’ original 12 royal ports in Colonies. Blessed with deep water access to the Chesapeake Bay and offering a natural safe haven from stormy weather, Onancock was for over 250 years the trade center of the Eastern Shore, closely tied in maritime commerce to Baltimore and Norfolk. Onancock today remains a working port for watermen and waterborne commerce while offering recreational boaters a unique port of call.
Location / Directions:

Onancock is approximately 50 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. If you're coming from the north, we're 60 miles south of Salisbury, Maryland.

When entering the town of Onley on Route 13 from the North of South, take Route 179 West.  The Onancock Historic District is approximately 2 miles West.  When arriving in the business district on Market Street (Route 179), public parking lots are available at the first right (North St) and left (Ames St.) intersections. 

Driving to Onancock from  Wilmington, Delaware (and points north): Take Delaware SR-1 (toll road) south from Wilmington 43 miles. Take the US-13 exit for Norfolk/Salisbury, go 2 miles. Turn left onto US Highway 13. Stay on US-13 for 115 miles. Turn right onto VA 179 (Market Street). Downtown Onancock is 2 miles straight ahead.

Driving to Onancock from Washington/Baltimore: Cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Go east on US-50 to Salisbury, 79 miles. Exit onto the Salisbury Bypass/US-13, following signs for Norfolk, and travel 60 miles south on US-13. Turn right onto VA-179 (Market Street). Downtown Onancock is 2 miles straight ahead.

Driving to Onancock from Norfolk/Virginia Beach: Take the Northampton Boulevard exit from I-64. Stay on Northampton Boulevard to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Cross the Chesapeake Bay. Drive north on US Highway 13 50 miles. Turn left onto VA-179 (Market Street). Downtown Onancock is 2 miles straight ahead.

Address: Onancock Historic District and Town Wharf
Town Hall
Onancock, VA 23417
Phone: (757) 787-3363
E-mail: onancockfd@gmail.com

The historic Town of Onancock offers opportunity for a leisurely walk or bicycle ride around the historic sites, shops and galleries using a self-guided Walking Tour Map.  Local kayak outfitters offer a guided, interpretive kayak trip down Onancock Creek to learn of the local history and Onancock’s enduring ties to the Chesapeake Bay.

Ker Place was built in 1799 by John Shepherd Ker and is on the National Register of homes as one of the finest examples of Federal architecture of the period.  Tours are available and the museum gift shop offers unique items.

The Onancock School is the former town high school that is undergoing a renaissance as a regional cultural and art center with artisans working in painting, sculpting, stained glass, pottery, photography, and quilting.

The Commodore Zedekiah Whaley grave site honors a hero of the last naval battle of the Revolutionary War fought in 1782.  Commodore Whaley was killed in battle and his body interned in Onancock.

The Samuel Outlaw Back Smith Shop was a thriving African-American owned business from the early to mid-1900’s.  Samuel Outlaw served both local farmers and Onancock Creek watermen in maintaining the equipment of their trades.  The Eastern Shore Historical Society is working to refurbish this site for periodic demonstrations.

Onancock Creek is easily accessible from the Town Wharf Area.  Onancock Landing has a planned opening in 2010 to offer waterfront access to the Onancock Creek Water Trail and the Bay, as well as a picnic area.  The Town Wharf is also home to the Hopkins Brothers Store, a National Register site owned and maintained by the Easter Shore Historical Society.  This 1842 building was the center of waterborne trade for the area, the local bank, and the Post Office for the community.  Today the building also houses Onancock's Port of Entry Information Center, where you can view displays about the history of the town and gain information on local events.  There is also a restaurant on site that is open daily.

Onancock Creek also offers seasonal access to Tangier Island (late April to October) with a ferry departing the Town Wharf daily at 10:00AM and returning 4:30PM except Monday. 

Bay Art & Decoy Carving Biking Birding and Wildlife Viewing Boat Access Educational Programs Fishing Tours / Walking Tours Canoeing / Kayaking

Operating Hours: Open year round.
Fees: Free parking areas are located in the historic district and Town Wharf area. A public boat ramp is located at the Town Wharf with a daily launching fee of $5.00 for non-residents. The ramp is available for both kayak and canoe access. The Town Marina can accommodate visitors arriving in large boats. Call the Harbor Master at 757-787-7911 for details.
Visitor Facilities: Onancock’s Virtual Welcome Center can be accessed at www.onancock.org. Onancock's "Port of Entry" Information Center at the Town Wharf (GPS coordinates N37-42.723/W75-45.309) can answer visit related questions. The center is planned to be staffed on weekends but please check for open hours. Brochures on “Historic Onancock, Virginia”, the self guided Walking Tour brochures, and copies of the weekly, “What’s Going On In Onancock” list of weekly local activities are available at the center. Restrooms are available at the Town Hall on North Street, the Information Center , the Town Wharf and many of the sites listed.
Accessibility: Most of the sites listed are handicapped accessible. Outside sites and activities are easily accessed without major mobility restrictions.
Website: http://www.onancock.org

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY