Stepping off the ferry onto Tangier was like taking a step back in time. We welcomed the slow pace and absence of internet and cell phone service. The locals do have internet, but limited cell service. We shut ours off, and enjoyed the serenity.
I had made reservations at Shirley’s Bay View Inn. When I made them a few weeks prior to our stay, I was surprised that they did not take a deposit or credit card number. In fact, I was a bit concerned whether I still had a reservation so I confirmed a few days prior to the trip. Shirley (the owner) took my call. She was helpful by offering information such as that there were no banks or ATM’s on the island. She said a few places accepted credit cards, but most only accepted cash or check. I had chosen this B&B (no hotels on the island) because it was the prettiest one and offered a choice of a cabin. It was also the only one that offered internet, even though I had agreed to leave my laptop behind. It was agood thing, the internet had been taken out. Our cell phones did not work (text or call) from that side of the island, but we did see teens on the other side of the island texting like crazy!
Wallace is Shirley’s husband. His granfather built this home in 1904. Wallace restored in in 1995, and added two cabins at a time on each side of the house. I think they now have three rooms in the house and five cabins with porches (ten total) on each side of the house. Shirley runs the house, and Wallace maintains the grounds. It is by far the prettiest house on the island. They yard has several decks and gazebo like places to sit and take in the view. Every where you turn there is a porch swing, glider, or some sort of whimsical statue, and all is surrounded by a white picket fence. The grounds are charming and immaculate. There are three B&B’s on the island. One is closer to where you unload at the dock and the other is closer to the beach area. This one is midway which worked out perfectly for us.
Wallace met us at the ferry in his passenger/luggage carrier golf cart. He told us about the island and all the great places to eat on our way across the island to the house where his wife Shirley promptly checked us in and delivered us to our room. They were gracious hosts. They are truly good people, honest and personable. We enjoyed our conversations with them. It’s like any small town where everybody knows not only your name but your business. Each morning, we were served a plentiful homestyle breakfast. Our waitress (and she may have prepared the food as well but I’m not sure) was a very sweet woman named Linda. She met us with a delightful smile each morning. It was kind of like going to your next door neighbor’s house for coffee. Except we had way more than coffee. We were served family style in the dining area. We were fed unlimited amounts of home cooked bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, sliced cheese, fried potatoes, french bread toast, strawberry preserves, juice, and coffee. The family style service gave us the opportunity to meet and talk with other guests.
The beaches are pristine. We rode our rental bikes over once, and we met three people leaving as we got there. We were the only ones there the entire time. The second time, we stopped on our kayak trip. We were the only ones there again. As we were returning we met three kayakers closer inland.
I think we encountered one fishing boat from this beach end and saw one private plane fly out and another land on the airstrip.
Methodism seems to be the island religion. I think they have services on Wednesday night and Sunday. Everything on the island closes early. There is a History Museum and Interpretive Cultural Center. This is a very intersting. It offers insight to the Tangier people and the history of the island. Apparently, the island is shrinking at the rate of about nine acres a year. There used to be a populated section that I think was called the Uppards. They removed many of those homes and stores and replaced them on the mainland and lifted and reinforced the bases of the buildings.
This is a closer view of the lovely stained glass windows.
Their school consists of one large building called Tangiers Combined School which caters K-12. The school has about one hundred students enrolled, and the teacher -student ratio is 1/6. This is the school behind the water tower.
These are the adorable trashcans that are located at practically every corner. The island is practically litter-free, with the exception of anything that might have washed ashore.
This is Rufus, the island dog. He is owned by Ruby and her husband, the people that own the bike rentals. I saw a couple of other dogs and some cats. Our B&B had a cat named Tuna who mingled with the guests.
Tangier is a fishing island with the staple being crab. Their economy depends on tourism. With the exception of the restaurants, the businesses,three gift shops and museum shut down around four or four thirty. I’m not sure what time the grocery store closes. It resembles the little country grocery store in the small town I grew up in. The island buzzes alive about six as the locals gather in the streets for social time. They whip around on their golf carts and stop in the street to chat. Some of the locals are on bikes. Tourists can rent golf carts as well as bicycles. There is also a small library I believe is called Muddy Toes that you can go in a check out a book on the honor system.
This is a view of the island from the boat as we were leaving.
I don’t think we missed any of the island restaurants. On our first day, we had lunch at Lorraine’s. I have to tell you that we had planned on getting something light like a wrap until we caught a glimpse of what appeared to be sweet potato fries and crab salad. So, that is what we ordered. Hands down, the. absolute. best. crab. salad. EVER! In fact, I mentioned it to Linda (our waitress at Bay View Inn), and she has promised to email the recipe to me. She told me that their secret is that they remove everything but the white meat before steaming the crab. We had ice cream at a joint called Spankys. It was a nice little place that both locals and tourists congregate.
Our first night’s dinner was at Fisherman’s Corner. They were reviewed in the May ’05 issue of Soutern Living Magazine. They make a fabulous hot crab dip. Everything on the island has to be planned as their groceries are ordered and delivered by ferry. They were out of a few of the sides as groceries were due in the next day. I tried fried soft shell crab which I’d never had before except in sushi. It was incredible. I decided to try their crabcakes, already adamant that they could not be as good as my favorite crabcakes in my own town. Let’s say they were a very close second. They might be just as good, but they were different that the ones I am used to eating. However, I had ones at Hilda Crockett’s Chesapeake House that are absolutely as good and larger than the ones I love.
Now, let me tell you about the Chesapeake House. It is like having a Southern home cooked meal with the bonus of seafood. They serve you family style in a huge dining area. The serve from 11:30 am – 5:00 pm. The all you can eat menu consists of Chespeake Bay Crab Cakes (I swear they were almost as huge as baseballs!), Fried Clam Fritters (very rich), Virginia Baked Ham (a weakness of mine), Corn Pudding (absolutely melts in your mouth!), Green Beans (seasoned perfectly), Potato Salad (good and chunky), Coleslaw (the best I have EVER had, and I am really funny about my coleslaw, not many I really like!), Pickled Beets (surprised those were so yummy!), Applesauce (didn’t even try it…sorry), Homemade Rolls (heavenly, triangle pull-apart pieces baked in a round tin), Homemade Pound Cake (As good as my Aunts, but don’t tell her I said that!), Iced Tea and or Coffee. My only regret was that I was not hungry enough to actually pig out!!!! They had just finished serving a bus tour when we got there, and we were the only ones left in the entire dining hall. Those were some hard working ladies who cook, serve, and clean up. That has to be an all day full time operation. I think that is the most popular place to eat, and I can see why. The B&B part of the business is directly across the street from the restaurant.
That night we watched the sunset as the ocean opened up and swallowed it. As we were leaving, the island was in a buzz preparing for ESPN3’s arrival that day to shoot a show about sports fans. And the B&B’s were preparing for the arrival of a ham radio convention and a kayak group. It has been a busy season for them which is good because they depend on eight months of the year to carry them through the four months that they are closed. Some of the locals relocate for the winter and some buckle down the hatches.
We loved our Tangier Island visit and plan to return in the Fall or Spring. Next week I’ll post about our kayak tour and trip to Chincoteague and Assateague.