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Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

The Longest Bridge-Tunnel Complex

Mileage18 miles (29 km)
DurationThe duration is an estimate of a one-way drive and does not include any stops or side-trips.27 minutes
SeasonsThe seasons listed are the best seasons for this scenic drive. If Winter is not mentioned, the road may be closed during the winter.All Seasons
RoadwaysUS Highway 13
Toll RoadYes
ServicesThe cities or towns listed have either Food or Services such as gas, hotels, pharmacies, etc.Burtons, VA, Colonial Place, VA, Elizabeth Park, VA, Elizabeth River Shores, VA, Norfolk Highlands, VA, Norfolk, VA, Norvella Heights, VA, Pembroke Manor, VA, more...Plymouth Park, VA, Portsmouth, VA, Princess Anne Plaza, VA, and Virginia Gardens, VA
Rating
3.8 average from 16 votes
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Elevation Graph for Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

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Just moments from Virginia Beach is the longest Bridge-Tunnel Complex ever built. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a graceful, engineering marvel that has become a tourist attraction in its own right — as well as a convenient way to travel from Virginia Beach to the Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Officially renamed in 1987 to the Lucius J. Kellam Jr. Bridge-Tunnel after the man who was instrumental in getting it built, the four-lane, 20-mile structure travels on high bridges to underground tunnels. Along the way, four man made islands are a rest stop for migrating birds and popular with birding enthusiasts who come to see the Peregrine Falcon, American Oystercathcher, Harlequin duck and more.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge

From Virginia Beach, head north on Atlantic Ave and then follow Shore Drive west until you reach the US-13 junction. This route is a toll road payable at the entrance.

Stop at Sea Gull Island (V1). Have your camera ready for stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, to the west. Observe cargo ships, personal watercraft, US Navy warships and aircraft carriers as they travel through one of the world’s busiest shipping channels. The history of the Navy’s presence on Chesapeake Bay is highlighted in a series of interpretive panels. Experience deep-sea fishing on the 625-foot wheelchair accessible fishing pier. Popular year-round, there is a certified weighing station and a place to post photos of your big catch! No fishing license is required. There is a restaurant and gift shop on the island.

Leaving Sea Gull Island, the road descends into the mile-long Thimble Shoal Tunnel. You exit on Thimble Island and travel on a bridge for the next mile before entering the Chesapeake Channel Tunnel.

Out of the tunnel, spectacular views of open sea await as you travel across the North Channel Bridge, made famous as a location in the movie Mission Impossible 3. It is a unique vantage point for spotting seals, dolphins and humpback whales.

Fisherman Island features pristine coastline managed by the National Wildlife Refuge. One of only 17 sites in the United States designated “A Wetland of International Importance.” Upland forest, brackish ponds, salt marshes, beaches and grass-covered dunes create an ideal habitat for the herons, egrets, osprey, brown pelicans and more that live here, and are vital to the thousands of species that nest and feed here during spring and fall migration. The Island is only open for guided tours on Saturdays from October to March. Reservations can be made by contacting the Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge.

Crossing the 460-foot long Fishermans Inlet Bridge, our scenic drive ends as you arrive on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore is made up of rural farmland and quaint, historic towns which are a delight to explore. Dotted with sandy beaches and lighthouses, enjoy the warm, friendly atmosphere dining at a seaside restaurant, taking a vineyard tour, digging for clams or learning more about the rich, local history at one of the museums.

Just three miles away is Kiptopeke State Park (H1), a tranquil setting for picnics or romantic strolls along the beach. Wildlife watching may offer a glimpse of a loggerhead turtle or white-tailed deer. Swim, explore the hiking and biking trails or stay overnight as camping, lodges, RV hookups and yurts are available.

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