While Deltaville might be out of the way, this Middlesex County community where boats outnumber the people is so special. Nestled on the north by the Rappahannock River, the Piankatank River to the south and the Chesapeake Bay to the east, this area is an authentic delta, a triangle-shaped landform at the mouth of a river created by deposits of sediment. Up until the ’70s, its boast was being boating capital of the Chesapeake Bay. The water remains the main draw here, though there’s plenty to do, particularly if you time your visit.
Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Preserve are the heart of the town. Turn right at the Citgo Station and you’re in the parking lot. “It’s still one of the best kept secrets around,” said Bill Powell, a member of the museum’s volunteer board of directors and events director. “Once we get people on the property, we never have a problem getting them back.”
The museum hosts Holly Point Market from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. on the fourth Saturday of every month April-October. Paired with the local produce are artisans and vendors. (Find your holiday gift at the Holiday Gift Market on Nov. 26.) Market days are followed by what’s called “Groovin’ in the Park,” with live music performed on the waterfront stage at 287 Jackson Creek. Concessions available and registering in advance for $10 saves money.
As for the actual museum, this isn’t some yawner small town museum. It’s run by folks who take immense pride in every aspect of this local treasure that focuses on boats from multiple eras. A staffer (everyone is a volunteer) is almost always inside, building a wooden boat. It’s eye-opening to see the actual hands-on process as the skiff takes shape.
“We’re building our fourth one. These are recreations of the classic work boats of the last 100 years,” Powell said.
Annually, the museum offers Family Boatbuilding Week in June. Your group builds a boat from scratch over five days using white cedar or Cyprus wood. The sixth day, you show off your skiff in a race followed by a fish fry. It’s a unique opportunity open to just 10 families and full already for 2023 with a waiting list. If you’re interested, don’t delay in adding your name to the list.
“Sometimes we have four generations from one family working on a boat together,” Powell said.
The grounds of the museum are free and ideal for a picnic lunch. Don’t overlook the children’s garden (fun for adults, too). Kids can pick vegetables when they’re in season and enjoy the greenhouse and azalea trail. A new walking trail makes it possible for folks to meander a half mile through the lovely woods.
During the colder months, the museum offers a lecture series on the second Sunday of every month.
Revel in Deltaville’s history, too. Capt. John Smith survived a serious stingray attack here in an area called Stingray Point. Native Americans allegedly saved him with a remedy from a local creek that’s since been named Antipoison Creek.
While Deltaville doesn’t have a traditional downtown, several local shops house bargains and finds. River Shack Treasures swells with 10,000 square feet of antiques and flea market style shopping thanks to 45 vendors under one roof. Everything relates to the sea at Nauti Nell’s (love the sterling oyster shell earrings).
Reserve your paddleboard or kayak at Jackson Creek Outfitters located at Deltaville Marina. Fishing charters are also available for avid anglers. While there’s no official bike rental shop, Deltaville Boatyard has a fleet of bikes you can borrow for a few hours depending on availability. Deltaville Marina adjacent to the boatyard provides boaters with modern amenities, including a large pool, grill and a renovated bath house.
Hungry? Hard to beat DeltaPie Hearth Fired Pizza with craft brew in bottles and cans. This is Neapolitan-style pizza with fresh ingredients as toppings. Piankatank Porkfella Pie will appeal to BBQ lovers; Go Greek or Go Home looks delish.
The morning sunrise and evening sunrise from Dockside Inn are worth soaking in during your overnight stay. The refurbished Inn is next to a boat launch; pets under 55 pounds welcome.
Before you hit the water for the day, chow down breakfast at Café By the Bay, which also serves lunch and an assortment of coffees. At Deltaville Tap & Raw Bar, the only eating spot on the water in town, it’s hard to decide which seafood to choose with crawfish, oysters, clams, mussels, shrimp, crab and Rappahannock oysters on the menu. More seafood and selections from the smoker at The Galley.
If you’ve got an upscale evening in mind, reserve a table at The Table. The brunch menu is extensive and includes a Salt Ham Biscuit. While Mrs. Payne’s Fried Chicken is a favorite, fish lovers will be pressed to pass up the local fried soft shells or Bouillabaisse of clams, mussels, cod, lobster and shrimp braised in tomato seafood stew.
Hit the ballpark when baseball is in season (May-August). The Deltaville Deltas, a wood bat summer team, play in Virginia’s last remaining all-wooden baseball stadium, Deltaville Ballpark along the banks of Sturgeon Creek. Volunteers work the small-town concession stand where a cheeseburger is $5; snacks and ice cream are $1. Cash is best since the internet can be shaky. Kids who return a foul ball get 50 cents!
Grab some fish to take home once you hit the road from J&W Seafood, which prides itself on the freshest offerings from the Chesapeake Bay. Bonus: A full service tackle shop is also onsite.
If you’re looking for more to do nearby, visit Mathews, Bethel Beach, Gwynn’s Island or Urbanna.