Anthropologist Loren Eiseley said, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.” And there is no shortage of magical and memorable places to visit and things to do for the 50+ crowd on this multi-day, water-centric excursion starting near State College, Pennsylvania, and ending at Virginia Beach.
I love the water! Since I was a child, I’ve enjoyed water activities. Swimming, boating, kayaking, walking along the water, and playing water games are all activities I have enjoyed throughout the years. This Mid-Atlantic road trip offers various water activities, from scenic boat tours to playing in the surf. There are lots of opportunities to enjoy the scenic waterways or to get wet. The choice is yours.
The destinations and activities selected for this multi-day adventure all involve water in some way. All are stops where you could spend more than one day if you desire.
Visit Bucks County hosted my stay and activities in New Hope. Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park provided free admission. All opinions remain my own.
Penn’s Cave And Wildlife Park
Centre Hall, Pennsylvania (Near State College)
A scenic boat tour through Penn's Cave makes for the perfect relaxing kick-off to your water adventure. This guided boat tour of Pennsylvania's only all-water cavern, located in Centre Hall (near State College in the area known as Happy Valley), is a fun activity for visitors of all ages. There is a steep incline and some steps to get down to the cave entrance. Once you are in the boat, you can sit back and enjoy the view of various formations such as "The Garden of the Gods" and "The Statue of Liberty" The boat tour lasts 45 minutes to an hour, but there are other things to see and do. They have a large gift shop, a maze, and a wildlife tour. I would plan to spend half a day or longer enjoying Penn's Cave and Wildlife Park.
Pro Tip: The cave remains a constant 52 degrees year-round, so bring a jacket or sweater.
Raystown Lake Region
Raystown Lake is approximately an hour and a half south of Penn's Cave in Huntingdon County. It is the largest lake within the borders of Pennsylvania. Raystown Lake has a variety of activities for the mature traveler to enjoy. You can read about all there is to do in the area in my article on why Raystown Lake is Pennsylvania’s best-kept secret.
I recommend heading to the Lake Raystown Resort, where you can take a ride or a dinner cruise on the Proud Mary. You can feed the fish, and if you are inclined, you can rent a pontoon boat for a day or half a day. There are also kayaks and paddleboards for rent. Hiking trails of various degrees of difficulty are available. Be sure to have dinner at the Marina Cafe, where you can eat on the deck overlooking the lake. Spend a night or two in this area and stay at the lodge, rent a cabin, or even try glamping in their yurts.
Pro Tip: Make reservations well in advance since accommodations, including campsites at the resort, book up quickly. There are many other local places to spend the night if you desire.
Kayaking The Susquehanna River
The Susquehanna River offers loads of outdoor activities, including kayaking and paddleboarding. Explore the sparkling quiet beauty.
Enjoy floating past the Harrisburg skyline and secluded river islands. You can also learn about the culture and history through a series of interpretive panels scattered along a 53-mile span of the river. Interpretive panels can be seen from the Mason-Dixon Line to Harrisburg.
Susquehanna Outfitters provides a ride upstream so you can float back. They rent paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. Rentals are for 1, 2, 3, and 6 hours.
Float Down The Delaware River
New Hope, Pennsylvania
New Hope in Bucks County, is a town full of fun things to do and a great place to spend a few days. One fun thing to do while visiting is to enjoy a float in a tube, kayak, canoe, or raft down the river. Bucks County River Country offers rentals, and they even have two-person tubes so that you can be near your partner or family member the entire trip down the river.
This is a slow-moving, peaceful, and serene float. Plan to spend at least 4 hours on your river excursion.
Pro Tip: The road to Bucks County River Country takes you out into the country. You may think you are lost, but if you follow their directions, you will get there.
Take The Ferry In Cape May, New Jersey
You and your vehicle board the Ferry in Cape May, New Jersey, and ride it across the river to Lewes, Delaware. All types of vehicles are welcome, from bicycles to RVs to large tractor-trailers and tour busses. Reservations in advance are required, and when you arrive, you will be asked to present your reservation confirmation.
Just riding the ferry is a fun experience. It takes about 85 minutes to travel the 17 miles across the river. Most shuttles are wheelchair-accessible upon advance request.
When you arrive in Lewes, Delaware, enjoy a 14-stop walking tour of the First Town in the First State.
Pro Tips: Be sure to make reservations in advance and arrive in plenty of time to load your car before sailing, and for more Cape May inspiration, consider the best things to do in beautiful Cape May.
Hit The Beach In Delaware Or Maryland
Rehoboth, Bethany, Fenwick Island, or Ocean City, Maryland, take your pick, all are beautiful, and each has its own personality. I have visited all of them, and my personal favorite of the four is Ocean City, Maryland. My parents took me there as a child, and I still enjoy visiting. (Note that Ocean City, Maryland, is the most commercialized of the four.)
Whichever beach you select, plan to stay a night or two. Enjoy walking along the coast, putting your toes in the sand, and watching the waves. If the waves are a bit much for you, stay on the bayside in Ocean City and enjoy the calmer waters and beautiful sunsets.
Ride bikes on the boardwalk, take a charter fishing boat, or try parasailing or jet skiing. There are many shops, restaurants, miniature golf, and other fun activities to enjoy at all the beaches in Delaware and Maryland.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Next, we are heading south to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. Chincoteague is known for the wild ponies that live there. Do you remember the story about Misty of Chincoteague? It was a popular Little Golden Book back in the 1950s and ’60s (actually written in 1947.) A movie was made with the same name in 1961.
Whether you stay for an afternoon or a few days, Chincoteague is a serene destination offering beautiful unspoiled nature, spectacular sunsets, and a relaxed atmosphere. There are no traffic jams, boardwalks, or high-rise condos. Virginia's only resort island is the home of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. The Chincoteague Wild Ponies call the refuge home. Don’t be surprised if they walk by you on the beach. If you visit near the end of July, you can join other spectators and watch the annual Pony Swim.
The island is seven miles long and three miles wide, with lots of activities for all ages to enjoy. A favorite pastime on Chincoteague Island is crabbing. Using a net with a baited line, you try to catch the crabs and steam them in large crab pots with Old Bay Seasoning. Everything required to try crabbing can be purchased at any local hardware store or fishing shop.
Pro Tip: Be careful with food on the beach. I’ve heard of ponies helping themselves.
Cross The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Next, we will travel farther south to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Considered a modern engineering wonder and travel convenience, the bridge-tunnel crosses over and under open waters linking the Delmarva Peninsula and Virginia.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is a toll road that accepts E-ZPass.
I remember the first time I traveled on the bridge-tunnel. I was about five years old, and it was amazing to me. Although I was a bit fearful that the tunnel would fill up with water out in the middle of the ocean, I wanted to go back and do it again.
The bridge-tunnel ends in Norfolk, Virginia, and you have an 18-mile drive to Virginia Beach.
A coastal city, Virginia Beach sits where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of things to do related to the beach. There are three public beaches and a three-mile boardwalk that stretches along the beach oceanfront.
Virginia Beach is also home to the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. Exhibits about ocean life, including sharks, rays, and sea turtles, are featured in globally themed habitats.
Whether you spend a night at each stop or just pick a few places to focus on during this road trip, I hope you have a sparkling adventure, and who knows, maybe you will find some magic in the water along the way.