When the lilies bloom in our back yard the second week of June, it has meant one thing since our children were very small. For over 30 years, we packed up our gear, hitched up our trailer and headed for Cherrystone Family Campground on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Traditionally, school ended around this time and our family looked forward to a full week of camping on one of Virginia’s most beautiful pieces of real estate. My children are grown now, but their kids are finding the same love for the Chesapeake Bay and all it has to offer, and so the tradition continues.
The beauty of this 300-acre campground in Cheriton is that it offers something for everyone.
There are over 700 camping sites from pull-through RV sites to primitive camping with a tent and Coleman lantern. But for those without campers and gear, Cherrystone offers deluxe, furnished trailers and cottages on site.
All you need is food, and often you can catch your own food right at the campground. There are 4 fishing piers, plus boat rentals to motor out and patrol Cherrystone Creek and drift for flounder, croakers, trout, puppy drum and bluefish. The grassy bottoms of the bay also harbor many blue crabs, eager to latch on to a fish head or chicken neck.
We have caught bushels and bushels of hard crabs, and when the moon is right, we have scooped up soft shell crabs within a few yards of our campsite. There is also some prime clamming areas with soft bottoms and burrowing clams awaiting.
For those with boats, this is a fisherman’s paradise. There is a very nice boat ramp on the campground property and a short boat ride to the mouth of Cape Charles harbor puts you in the heart of grey trout country — flounder, too.
Then, a few miles north of Cherrystone there is a nice ramp at Kiptopeake, within sight of some world-class fishing at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. Last year, we drifted in a creek near the tunnel and caught some really nice flounder and big croakers on most every drift.
But you don’t have to be a waterman to enjoy Cherrystone Family Campground. The kids, especially, have a world of fun things to do.
There are four swimming pools, ponds for paddle boats, a rec hall full of video games (and ice cream treats), plus bike rentals and trails, bingo games, organized youth activities and wading in the shallows to catch “critters.”
Adults can just sit back and enjoy brilliant sunsets, put a few burgers on the campsite grills and maybe roast a s’more or two.
You really don’t need to ever leave the campground for entertainment, but in the past we have often made the hour long trip up to Chincoteague and Assateague to see the ocean and wild ponies.
As things begin to open up, many are taking advantage of campgrounds and the open spaces.
If the lilies are blooming in your yard, just maybe you need to head for the Eastern Shore.