48 Hours on Virginia’s Pork and Peanut Trail

Your guide to southeast Virginia’s Salty Southern Route. 

Illustration by Ed Fotheringham

You shouldn’t be surprised if you get a whiff of peanuts or country ham as you pass through a cluster of towns in southeastern Virginia. The region comprising Sussex, Surry, Southampton, Isle of Wight, and Suffolk counties has been the heart of America’s pork and peanut industries since it was settled in the 17th century. For a savory getaway, take a ride on Virginia’s newly dubbed Salty Southern Route to dive deep into some of the state’s saltiest culinary traditions. SaltySouthernRoute.com

Stay
Smithfield Station

Located in historic Smithfield with views of the Pagan River, Smithfield Station offers waterfront guest rooms and private cottages along the marina or boardwalk. 

Smithfield Inn Bed & Breakfast

This historic inn has been accommodating pork and peanut lovers since 1752—even George Washington slept here! Modern-day guests will find five suites with sitting rooms and private bathrooms, and an onsite tavern and restaurant. 

Hilton Garden Inn Suffolk Riverfront

Situated alongside the banks of the Nansemond River, this waterside hotel has 150 standard rooms, an onsite restaurant, a fitness center, and a heated indoor pool. 

Darden’s Country Store and Smokehouse

Photo by Todd Cairns

Do
Planters Peanut Center, Suffolk

Head to the heart of the “Peanut Capital of the World” to shop for a wide array of Planters peanut products, from nuts freshly roasted in the 1936-era roaster to chocolate peanut brittle. While you’re in town, take a selfie with the Mr. Peanut statue at the visitor’s center.

Darden’s Country Store and Smokehouse, Smithfield

Family-run since the 1950s, this no-frills country store and smokehouse is where you’ll find hams smoked and salt-cured using traditions passed down for generations. 

Bacon’s Castle, Surry

Not to be confused with the pork products that rule this region, this historic site is named for the role it played in Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676. Today it’s known as the oldest existing brick dwelling in North America and the only surviving example of Jacobean architecture on the continent. 

Captain Chuck-A-Mucks Sandbar and Grill

Photo courtesy of Captain Chuck-A-Mucks Sandbar and Grill

Eat
Bennett’s Creek Farm Market & Deli, Suffolk

You’ll find everything from award-winning ribs and fried chicken to homemade chocolates at this market, which is locally beloved for its prepared foods. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Virginia Diner, Wakefield

This 90-year-old diner still serves Southern delicacies from its original 1929 menu. For breakfast, plates are built around fresh bacon, sausage, and country ham. For lunch or dinner, try The Virginian, a burger loaded up with Virginia country ham, pimento cheese, and fried green tomatoes. 

Captain Chuck-a-Mucks Sandbar and Grill, Isle of Wight

Just outside of Smithfield on scenic Jones Creek, this friendly little spot specializes in classic seafood like crab cakes, fish tacos, and a crab soup featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives


This article originally appeared in our Smoke + Salt 2019 issue.

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