Drop your bags at the historic Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast on the banks of the Rappahannock River. Birthplace of President James Madison, this plantation offers world class lodging and a central point for exploring the area. Visit the Dahlgren Heritage Museum for local history, heritage and culture. Take a picnic lunch and hike the trails at the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage Trail or Caledon State Park and Natural Area, a National Natural Landmark known for its old growth forest and home to one of the largest concentrations of American bald eagles on the East Coast. Rent a canoe, kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Machodoc Creek Marina. Browse through the Unique Antiques Mall on Rt. 301 for a wide variety of antiques and collectibles.
A Potomac River town, Colonial Beach is home to the second largest beach in Virginia. Major modes of transportation are boats and golf carts, with outdoor recreation and striking sunrises and sunsets.
For nature lovers, escape to Westmoreland State Park, where hiking trails offer breathtaking views along the Potomac River bluffs and ancient beaches. Camping, fishing, and kayak rental opportunities are also available. Lodging, hiking, and audio tours can all be found at the Stratford Hall, home of the Lees of Virginia & Birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Take a tour of the Great House and grounds, hike the trails or visit the beach and historic mill pond. Just a short distance is George Washington’s Birthplace where one can explore the spectacular scenery that is Popes Creek.
Head into the village of Montross for lunch at The Art of Coffee, a bistro and art gallery. Stock up on local information and tourism maps at the Westmoreland County Museum and Visitors Center then take a stroll to see the town’s beautiful murals painted by world renowned artists. Hospitality is waiting for you at the Inn at Stratford Hall, or in Colonial Beach at the renovated Riverview Inn or River Edge Inn. Four of the area’s 8 premier wineries are available in this area. So grab a brochure at the visitors center and start at Ingleside Winery, enjoy local art at The Arts Center of Montross and The Art of Coffee, before getting over to The Hague Winery, General’s Ridge Vineyards and Rivah Vineyards to continue your wine-tasting experience. A side tip – take a short drive down to the historic port village of Kinsale and visit the Kinsale Museum.
Start your visit in the town of Warsaw with the Richmond County Museum for the story of the area from ancient times to present.
Pack a lunch from one of the local eateries (Unitea and The Daily are in Warsaw) and enjoy a relaxing day at Naylor’s Beach on the Rappahannock River or visit the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Refuge which offers spectacular birding and nature trails.
These areas offer wonderful kayaking and canoeing along the waterways once traveled by famed explorer John Smith in 1608.Don’t miss the opportunity to visit Menokin, the 1769 home of Francis Lightfoot and witness one of the most unique, interesting, and engaging preservation projects in the nation today. Have dinner at Relish Restaurant & Wine Bar, which specializes in locally sources seafood and vegetables.
For a maritime experience, at the tip of the Northern Neck at the end of Route 360 is Reedville, a turn-of-the-century fishing village historic district. Relaxed Bed and Breakfast accommodations are available at MaMargaret’s House. To explore Tangier Island, take Tangier Island Cruises which returns the same day.Visit the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum and its exhibits detailing the traditions of the working watermen and fishermen of the Chesapeake Bay. Also, tour several boat restorations are available to explore, including the replica of John Smith’s barge, “The Spirit of 1608”, a third-generation working boatyard, and the Walker House, a modest 1875 fisherman’s home.
Going west from Reedville to Heathsville on Route 360, the Northern Neck Farm Museum interprets the agricultural heritage of the area and hosts farm-to-fork dinners, along with a seasonal corn maze. Genealogical enthusiasts and local history buffs should not miss the Northumberland County Historical Society and the restored Rice’s Hotel/Hughlett’s Tavern behind the Old Courthouse in Heathsville. The Tavern supports heritage craftsmanship and has active blacksmithing, woodworking, weaving and spinning guilds. If you would like to get out on the water, several charterboat fishing options are available such as Midnight Sun, Crabbe’s Charter Fishing, or Bay Quest Charters, which also do eco-tours and watermen’s heritage tours to visit by water the fishing villages and oyster grounds that dot this historic peninsula.
The Tides Inn has been known for generations as the Northern Neck’s flagship resort in Irvington. Relax with a spa treatment and then enjoy local culinary offerings, probably involving oysters! Or, stay at the Hope & Glory Inn and sip wine in its micro-vineyard, The Dog & Oyster.
For nearby history, visit The Steamboat Era Museum and Historic Christ Church, which dates from 1735. A beautifully-restored colonial-era building, the church is accompanied by an interactive visitors center that interprets the story of Historic Christ Church and shares the ongoing archaeology and research currently underway. A short drive west of Kilmarnock on Route 3 at Lancaster Court House is the Lancaster Virginia Historical Society/Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library. A genealogical treasure trove nestled in a designated Virginia Historic District, the complex of buildings and grounds, including the Old Jail c. 1819, is open to the public for tours.The next night, stay at the Kilmarnock Inn, Back INN Time or Flowering Fields, and walk the small town, whose streets are lined with specialty shops. Return to Irvington to Dredge for dinner. For oyster lovers, enjoy Virginia oysters with a view of the Rappahannock River at Willaby’s Cafe at the foot of the Norris Bridge in White Stone!