There's a toll to pay, but it's well worth it for the pleasure of driving along 'The East Coast's Scenic Shortcut' - US Highway 13 across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT) from Virginia's Eastern Shore at Cape Charles to the mainland at Virginia Beach near Norfolk (or vice versa!). The CBBT was opened in 1964 and forms part of the East Coast's Ocean Highway from Florida to New York.
It is a dramatic 37 km (23-mi) crossing of Chesapeake Bay utilizing bridges and tunnels, the latter requiring artificial islands as portals, that is both a travel convenience and major tourist attraction. The actual water crossing over this ocean strait is some 28 km (17 mi) long and has been described as "one of the seven engineering wonders of the modern world".
This four-lane highway crossing has replaced a passenger and vehicle ferry service that ran from the 1930s and was by the 1960s offering around a hundred daily crossings with large ferries. The CBBT consists of low-level trestle bridges connected by two tunnels beneath shipping lanes, then two high-level bridges over two other navigation channels. The motorist and passengers mainly have a view of the Atlantic seascape during the crossing, but the bridges do curve to give views of other sections of the CBBT and there are usually plenty of ships to be seen, often including US Navy warships. One novel option is making the crossing by night (perhaps a return journey after a daylight trip?), which offers a fascinating light show. And as a bonus, if you do decide to return within 24 hours, the toll is more than halved!
WHEN TO GO
Any time of year.
TIME IT TAKES
Half an hour one-way (without stops).
Fisherman Island at the entrance to the Bay - a barrier island traversed by US-13 that is part of a National Wildlife Refuge, the habitat of varied waterfowl, shorebirds and waterbirds.
The Scenic Overlook on the tip of Virginia's Eastern Shore, for the perfect spot to admire (and photograph) this engineering marvel.
A quick tour of the Atlantic marshes and the unspoiled countryside of Northampton County on the Eastern Shore.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
The reason it's CBBT rather than plain CBB is that the us Navy feared that accident or hostile action would collapse a bridge-only crossing, thus trapping its Atlantic fleet in Norfolk Navy Base.