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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.
Onancock Creek is easily accessible from the Town Wharf area. Onancock Landing adjacent to the Town Marina parking lot offers canoe and kayak launching 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 as a museum. This 1842 building was the center of waterborne trade for the Shore, the local bank, and the Post Office for the community. Today the Hopkins Brothers Store serves as the town's Gateway information center where the visitor can view displays about the history of the town and gain information on local events and historic sites to see. There is also a waterfront restaurant on site that is open daily.
Onancock Historic District and Town Wharf is open year round.
(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)
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.
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. A local kayak outfitter offers a guided, interpretive kayak trip down Onancock Creek to learn of the local history and Onancock’s enduring ties to the Chesapeake Bay.
The Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society announced the grand opening of the Hopkins & Bro. Store Living History Exhibit and Visitor Information Center. Located in the main lobby of the Hopkins & Bro. Store and Mallards Restaurant, the mini-museum and visitor information center will open on Onancock’s Second Friday, April 14th from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Admission to the exhibit is free and open to the public.
This multipurpose visitor portal and educational venue will promote the Town of Onancock and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society through new exhibits and a visitor information center, which will highlight historic sites, points of interest, and events throughout the Eastern Shore. The exhibit will feature a visual display of Onancock’s historic and current business community and photographs of the wharf in its heyday as a maritime trading center and home port for steamboats traveling to Baltimore.
Most of the sites listed are handicapped accessible. Outside sites and activities are easily accessed without major mobility restrictions.
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. It is now a museum and the headquarters of the Eastern Shore Historical Society. Tours are available and the museum gift shop offers unique items. Call 757-787-8012 for information on upcoming events or go to www.shorehistory.org.
Historic Onancock School is the former town high school that is undergoing a transformation as a community cultural and art center with artisans and the Eastern Shore Watermens Museum on site.
The Commodore Zedekiah Whaley grave site honors a hero of the last major battle of the Revolutionary War fought in November 1782 against the Royal Navy. Commodore Whaley was killed in battle and his body interned in Onancock.
The Samuel Outlaw Black 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 planning to refurbish this site for periodic demonstrations.