A Day Off in Irvington

Editors’ picks for 24 hours in the Northern Neck.

Surrounded on three sides by fingers of the Rappahannock River, life in Irvington is all about the water. Start your day here on the Bay at the Tides Inn Oyster Academy where you can taste fresh-caught oysters, then return to terra firma in search of more seafood at some of our favorite spots.

9:00 a.m. Jump right in

What better way to start your day in the river town than with a comprehensive oyster experience? The three-part Oyster Academy at the Tides Inn begins with a lecture on the oyster’s role in the ecosystem and a history of the industry in Virginia. Students then hit the water for an excursion with Captain William Saunders on his Chesapeake Bay deadrise boat to learn wild-caught harvesting techniques before returning to the inn for a wine and oyster pairing session and shucking lesson with executive chef TV Flynn. TidesInn.com

1:00 p.m. Take another bite

Still hungry? Head to Byrd’s Seafood Co. on Main Street in neighboring town Kilmarnock. Bryan Byrd serves local oysters harvested fresh each morning by W. E. Kellum Seafood, fried in tacos with sriracha key lime slaw, and by Windmill Point Oyster Company, roasted with one of his signature homemade sauces—the chili garlic evokes a bowl of hot pho—as well as soft-shell crabs and sugar toads when they’re in season. You can also find Byrd at the Irvington and Kilmarnock farmers’ markets. 

2:30 p.m Cleanse your palate

Sit back and relax in the fresh air with a glass of wine at the Dog and Oyster Vineyard. The vineyard’s four varietals—Chardonel, Vidal Blanc, Chambourcin and Merlot—and rose are crafted to pair perfectly with local oysters. The grapes are grown on land that borders the water from which the oysters are harvested, resulting in complementary terroir and merroir. DogAndOyster.com

4:00 p.m. A look back in time

Take a stroll downtown to learn more about the small town’s past. The Steamboat Era Museum provides a glimpse into the history of life on the Chesapeake Bay through artifacts, models, photos and interactive videos documenting the story of steamboats. A visit to the Kilmarnock Antique Gallery offers turn of the century oyster plates, oyster tins and more vintage items. SteamboatEraMuseum.org, Virginia-Antiques.com

7:00 p.m. Finishing taste

If there was ever a place to overdose on oysters, this is it. Take a quick trip across the bridge to Topping for dinner at Merroir to complete your day. The tasting room is owned by cousins Travis and Ryan Croxton of Rappahannock Oyster Co. who are largely credited with helping to revive Virginia’s oyster industry and the bivalve’s populations in the Chesapeake Bay. Savor briny Olde Salts on the half shell or a signature stuffin muffin—oyster stuffing with peppercorn cream sauce—overlooking the water and the oyster farm on the dock. RROysters.com

For more on the Oyster Academy experience and upcoming dates, pick up a copy of our April 2018 issue.

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