Turn off of George Washington Memorial Highway onto Guinea Road at the most southern end of Gloucester County on the Middle Peninsula.
Wind your way down to the seemingly timeless land where the York, Perrin and Severn Rivers come together to form the iconic Guinea Neck at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.
For more than 300 years, the watermen of the area have provided the region and world over some of the most delicious seafood, deriving a good living by fishing the Chesapeake Bay and her tributary waters for blue crabs, oysters and more.
And for an equally lengthy amount of time, all lovers of water have enjoyed paddling through the same waves.
Today, Virginia Water Trails features at least four spots where paddlers can put in the water and explore. Visit the Virginia Water Trails – Middle Peninsula page here and explore the interactive map for the Maundy Creek, Redd Donation, Crown Pointe Marina and Perrin Wharf locations.
You’ll likely notice that to get to any of these spots, as you map out your itinerary, you’ll have to drive down Guinea Road and turn right onto Maryus Road.
You’ll pass Achilles Elementary School, old farm houses and a big church.
And right at the corner of Guinea and Maryus, before you turn, you’ll see a gas station, an unassuming white building with full windows along the front, officially called Achilles Shopping Center.
Don’t just pass it by. Whether on your way to the water, or on your way home, be sure to stop in.
Achilles Shopping Center – known far better round these parts as Marvin’s – has long been the social hub for the famed Gloucester watermen. Built in the 1950s by Otis Hogge, it got its contemporary name when it sold to Marvin Crane in 1976.
Open 24-hours a day, Marvin’s is filled most mornings with watermen grabbing coffee and breakfast before a day harvesting and farming the local waters.
Most afternoons find the lunch counter packed with orders rolling in for Ms. Lou’s famous sandwiches and weekly specials.
Crab Cakes (this is watermen’s country, after all).
Beans and Dumplins.
All day long, folks driving by stop in to stock up on little things, from candy bars to chips, cold water and cold beer, rubber boots and gloves. Yes, rubber boots and gloves.
If you listen during the busiest times of the day, you’ll hear fish tales, all of them true, talk of politics and gas prices, fishery regulations and local lore. Listen closely. You’ll hear a love in their voice, a dedication in their cadence, to their community and to this place.
So much so that after Hurricane Isabel – the deadliest, costliest and most intense storm of the 2003 season – ravaged the Guinea area, flooding the shop, those locals and the watermen helped rebuild and reopen Marvin’s aka Achilles Shopping Center in 26 days – many of them temporarily putting aside work on their own homes (according to an article published in the Daily Press).
Make a plan to stop in any time after Easter and before the fall weather sets in – during Virginia’s most notoriously hot and humid nights – and treat yourself to some of the best soft-serve ice cream Virginia has to offer. If the soft serve machine has already closed down for the night, take a dip inside the ice cream freezer instead.
No matter when you go, or how long you stay, chances are you’ll want to come back. And the team there will likely remember you and welcome you in like a regular.