48 Hours

Your guide to an oyster-centric weekend in the Northern Neck.

Illustration by Andrew Colin Beck

On a peninsula sandwiched between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers, the Northern Neck isn’t the kind of place you’d just happen to pass through. You have to make a point to take the wooded and winding back roads that lead you toward the Bay. The reward for your efforts? An unspoiled sliver of land dotted with breathtaking vistas and some outstanding seafood. A weekend offers just enough time to explore the area at its own lazy pace and enjoy a few of its famous oysters.

Belle Grove Plantation, King George County

NNK has quite a few historical sites packed within its borders, including this plantation, the birthplace of President James Madison that now operates as a genteel B&B. There are four master suites offering views of the Rappahannock, and breakfast includes homemade breads, coffee or tea, plus creative fare like banana-stuffed crepes with blueberry compote and rum raisin pears. $175-$245 per night.

Inn at Montross, Montross

This cozy inn features five guestrooms inspired by the Northern Neck—the patriotic-themed General Washington room, for instance, was named for the Westmoreland-born first president. Each room has a private bathroom, and guests can enjoy an upscale meal in the dining room or a nightcap at the on-site pub. $170-$190 per night.

Stratford Hall, Westmoreland County

Home to four generations of the Lee family (including Robert E.), Stratford Hall welcomes visitors to stay at one of two guesthouses on the sprawling 1,900-acre property. Take a guided tour of the Great House, built in 1730, then explore the manicured gardens, scenic nature trails, and the fully operational grist mill, which still produces flour and grits that you can buy in the gift shop. $139 per night.

The Tides Inn, Irvington

Waterfront rooms face Carter’s Creek offering stunning views of the resort’s marina and the Chesapeake Bay in the distance. The inn is the home of the Virginia Oyster Academy, a day-long immersion into oyster cultivation and harvesting that includes a boat tour and on-the-water tastings, as well as a wine and oyster pairing session with the resort’s executive chef TV Flynn. $225-$440 per night.

Bay Quest Charters, Reedville 

Offerings include ecological, historical and other types of boat tours in the area, including the “Cruise to Nowhere,” an ideal option for enjoying a few hours on the water if your destination isn’t important. Groups can charter a private fishing boat to spend the day on the water, while individuals or smaller groups can join open boat fishing days for $100 per person. 

Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail 

For a different type of touring, sip your way through the wineries along the trail—seven of the eight on the route are in the Northern Neck. Each stop offers tastings, from the chateau-style Oak Crest in King George to historic Ingleside in Colonial Beach. 

Virginia Oyster Trail

There are eight distinct coastal habitats spread along the Virginia Oyster Trail, and the Northern Neck is in Region 5. Oysters here are known for their lightly salty, buttery taste with a hint of minerality. The many NNK trail stops include restaurants, art venues, farmers’ markets, oyster growers and more.

Westmoreland Mercantile General Store, Montross

Part museum, part market, Westmoreland Mercantile is modeled after a general store from the 1920s and ’30s. Browse period merchandise while learning about the significant role general stores played in the communities they served. Be sure to stop at the store’s “candy bar,” which stocks vintage treats, including McCraw’s Taffy.

Denson’s Grocery, Colonial Beach

Try your bivalves ice-cold on the half-shell, grilled, or in Northern Neck oyster stew—local oysters in their juices prepared simply with a bit of cream, butter and seasoning. Dine in, or pick up supplies for a waterfront picnic. 

Horn Harbor Restaurant, Burgess

Arrive by boat or by car to this waterside spot, located in a bustling marina on Horn Harbor. Try the fresh local oysters fried or broiled, served with a choice of sides. 

Relish Restaurant and Wine Bar, Warsaw

Located on the Virginia Oyster Trail, Relish serves oysters lightly battered and fried over cheese grits with pickled watermelon rind. Ask your server to suggest the perfect wine to pair with the day’s catch. 

Tommy’s Restaurant, Reedville

A true local’s joint in charming Reedville, Tommy’s invites you to enjoy some oysters Rockefeller while overlooking Cockrell’s Creek, then continue the feast with a steak or local seafood. 

This article originally appeared in our Smoke & Salt 2018 issue.

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