The Northern Neck rocks the great American Road Trip, accompanied by digital enhancements that are coming to the rescue of intrepid single travelers, couples, and families everywhere. Venturing out safely has become a priority as we are eager for new experiences, new information, and a general recharge that enables us to carry on with our responsibilities in the midst of the pandemic.
We suggest a four-day getaway, allowing for a slower pace, and incorporating slow water paddling on rivers and creeks lining the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, and along the Chesapeake Bay. These slow tidal waters offer therapy, and the landscapes surrounding them are often natural, so keep in mind that you are plugging into a different kind of charger.
Get an early start from the DC area, as the road trip that leads you over the Potomac River into the Northern Neck will be about 2 hours to your first unwinding in Colonial Beach. On the banks of the south shore of the Potomac River, Colonial Beach boasts the 2nd longest public beach in Virginia. Stop to stretch your legs, swim, or rent a bike, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Ferry Landing Pier. The river beach is sandy, without ocean surf, so little ones can play with supervision at the water’s edge.
(Photo courtesy of Ferry Landing Pier)
If you are hungry, Denson’s Grocery offers local beef, seafood and specialties such as sugar toads in season. If you continue on to Montross, lunch paninis, baked treats and coffees are available at The Art of Coffee.
On the way to the historic district of Reedville, stop in the village of Heathsville, also an historic district for artisan shopping at Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern. Reedville is named for Elijah Reed, a Maine sea captain who established the menhaden fishery in Reedville that continues today. The history of the menhaden in Reedville is interpreted at the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum, which has historic vessels, a replica of the John Smith shallop, model trains, and a living shoreline, which uses plants to prevent erosion instead of bulkheads or riprap.
Going native in Reedville can be defined as channeling or developing an enthusiasm for fishing. Charter-boat fishing and watermen’s heritage tour opportunities abound with Crabbe’s Charter Fishing or Bay Quest Charters on the Potomac side of the region and On the Water, LLC nearer to the Rappahannock River.
If a non-fishing riparian activity is more enticing, near Reedville, rent a pontoon boat, paddleboard, or kayak at Smith Point Marina and explore the nearby Little Wicomico River. If you have your own cartop craft, launch from Shell Landing off of the Fleeton Road outside of Reedville, and check out Cockrell’s Creek Water Trail, and other water trails for paddling experiences throughout the region.
A lovingly-restored farmhouse, Ma Margaret’s House is a bed-and-breakfast outside Reedville within easy reach of fishing charters and the Tangier Ferry. The breakfasts are phenomenal! Airbnbs abound on the water, including Sloop Creek Lodge, and many have kayaks or canoes available during your stay.
(Photo courtesy of MaMargaret’s House Bed & Breakfast)
Continuing your Northern Neck exploration, the historic district of Irvington is ½ hour south of Reedville. Take U.S. 360 West to Burgess and then left onto VA-200 South across the width of the Northern Neck for a relaxing stay in Irvington.
The Dog and Oyster Vineyard greets you on the left with its outsized corkscrews at the entrance. This vineyard has particularly emphasized the merroir-terroir pairing of oysters and wine from this area, with the long-held maxim that, ‘what grows together, goes together.’
As evening approaches, take an hour-long sunset cruise around Carters Creek, the ‘gold coast’ of Irvington, to where the Carters Creek empties into the Rappahannock River. The Tides Inn’s very quiet electric Duffy boats accommodate six passengers with the captain, who will narrate the tour with regional lore.
(Photo courtesy of Tides Inn)
Stay at the restored 19th-century school, the Hope and Glory Inn, in the middle of Irvington, emanates a sense of fun with a bar called “Detention”, a piano bar, and quirky sayings sprinkled throughout the shrubbery, and romance with outdoor baths, private cottages, and a saltwater pool.
When you return, expect a little nostalgia to have lingered. Don’t worry, you’ll be back.