- Located at the southern end of Virginia’s Northern Neck
- Much of the area was part of the land grant deeded by King Charles II in the 1600s
- The Northern Neck peninsula is bounded by the Potomac to the north and Rappahannock to the south.
WHAT MAKES IT UNIQUE
Instead of highlighting a single town, what we’re recommending is more like an area. In between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and the Bay is lovely, rolling, largely uncommercialized country with farms, woods, water and not all that many people. Yet within this quiet amalgam of land and water, you’ll find one of the region’s best-known resorts, one of the nation’s oldest and bestpreserved churches, a delightful steamboat museum, wonderful restaurants and lovely natural areas. A good part of it you can get to by boat, but some of it will require land transportation: a bicycle or, better yet, a loaner car from the marina.
Chesapeake Boat Basin on Indian Creek is the best choice for visiting Kilmarnock. Frankly, it’s a good choice even if you are just transiting the Bay and looking for a stopover. It’s 1.5 miles upstream, but accessible via a deep-water channel. You’ll find floating, fixed and covered docks; amenities like a saltwater pool, ship store and loaner bicycles; and very nice folks.
For Irvington, the Tides Inn is the most convenient and most elegant choice. The Inn has everything: restaurants, a spa, golf course, watersports, and a long history. Dockage at their 24 slips includes access to all Tides facilities.
Carters Cove Marina, located 8 miles up the Rappahannock in Weems, has shore power, bathrooms and laundry, and off ers excellent protection from wind and weather. Located at the mouth of the Rappahannock in White Stone, scenic Windmill Point Marina has floating docks and the usual amenities, along with pool, tiki bar and endless views from the beach.
Kilmarnock sits at the top of our destination area, its downtown nearly two miles from the nearest marina, the excellent Chesapeake Boat Basin. About five miles south of Kilmarnock, you’ll find Irvington, which lies astride Carter Creek off the Rappahannock. A couple of miles to the east of Irvington is tiny White Stone, and, beyond that, Windmill Point, which has one of the best views anywhere.
The best way to visit this area is to do it in two or three stops. First, visit Kilmarnock by heading up Indian Creek. If you are coming from the south, you’ll find Indian Creek about six miles north of Windmill Point at the mouth of the Rappahannock. Windmill Point itself is about 50 miles north of the Norfolk/Portsmouth area. If you are coming down from the north, Indian Creek is about 15 miles south of Smith Point at the mouth of the Potomac, which in turn is about 80 miles south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. In either case, the cruise up Indian Creek to Chesapeake Boat Basin is a little less than three miles. From there you can arrange for transportation into town, or you can walk or bicycle. Irvington lies up Carters Creek, 10 miles up the Rappahannock from Windmill Point. Inside, the creek immediately splits into three branches. To the left, you’ll find Carters Cove Marina, small and friendly, and to the right, Custom Yacht Service, an excellent place to have any needed work done. Straight ahead lies the main branch, and about a mile inside you’ll find the docks of the Tides Inn. If you prefer to anchor out and dinghy in, both Carter Creek and Indian Creek have very nice anchorages.
Kilmarnock and Irvington are about 150 miles, or 3 1/2 hours, south of the Bay Bridge. Follow U.S. 301 south across the Potomac to S.R. 3, then south down to Kilmarnock. If you continue on 3, you’ll also reach White Stone. If you leave Kilmarnock on 200, you’ll get to Irvington.
Getting there from the Norfolk/Portsmouth area is shorter and easier; about 75 miles. Take I-64 to U.S. 17 north to S.R. 14 at Gloucester, then 14 to S.R. 3 near James Store. Take 3 across the Rappahannock to White Stone. If you go left on S.R. 200, you’ll get to Irvington. If you stay on 200, you’ll get to Kilmarnock.
STAYING ON LAND
With multiple restaurants, an acclaimed golf course, spa, riverfront pool, oyster bar and lots more, Irvington’s the Tides Inn is a destination all on its own. The inn opened in 1947 and has been a favorite ever since. Just down the road, the fabulous Hope and Glory Inn began life in 1889 as the Chesapeake Male and Female Academy. Choose from seven guest rooms in the historic schoolhouse, or six private cottages with private patios.
The President-themed Kilmarnock Inn has three rooms in the main house (built in 1884) and seven cottages tucked in its beautiful grounds. The Back Inn Time Bed & Breakfast occupies a lovely 1908 manor house, set back from the road and surrounded by beautifully landscaped grounds.
EXPLORING BY WATER
If you are towing your boat, you’ll find a ramp at Chesapeake Boat Basin and another, bigger one at Belle Isle State Park farther north up the Rappahannock. There are a lot of ways you can explore Carter Creek and its several branches, or Indian Creek, when you are visiting Kilmarnock. Launch your own paddle craft or catch a ride on one of several craft available at local inns. At the Tides Inn, for example, you can rent an electric Duffy for a spin check out a kayak or SUP, or you can sign up for a sunset cruise. At Hope and Glory Inn, take an hour-long tour in True Love, the owners’ handsome Down East-style Fortier 26. Rappahannock River Charters in Weems offers fishing, sunset, and exploration cruises aboard its classic deadrise, Miss Nichole, as well as hands-on crabbing and oystering adventures.
EXPLORING BY LAND
If you’ve come by car and you love ferry crossings, you’ll adore Merry Point Ferry, a tiny, old-time ferry operated by the Virginia Department of Transportation, that crosses the Corrotoman River on S.R. 604. At the Steamboat Era Museum, explore the beautifully restored pilothouse of the Chesapeake steamboat Potomac. With 37 staterooms and 36 crewmembers, she plied the Bay from Baltimore to Norfolk for more than 40 years, from 1894 to 1936. It’s an irreplaceable remnant of an important era in the history of the Chesapeake, which has few relics to remember it by. Historic Christ Church in Weems was built in 1735 and is considered the finest colonial church in North America. It includes many of the original features, from the three-foot thick brick walls to the limestone flooring and three-tier-high pulpit. The grounds are nearly as beautiful.
Make a day of vineyard hopping, ending at a one-of-a-kind cidery. The Dog and Oyster Micro Vineyard at Hope and Glory Inn off ers tasting fl ights paired with fresh oysters. Good Luck Cellars is a former sand-and-gravel mine remarkably transformed into a vineyard.
Come by for Sangria Sundays and meet their crew of family rescue dogs, who patrol the vines, chasing off any critters who are tempted to steal the grapes. You can visit Jacey Vineyards either by car or by boat; they have seven docks at their private cove on Mill Creek.
Finally, change up your tastings at Ditchley Cider Works. Beautiful Ditchley Estate was in the Lee family for generations, dating to the 1600s, before passing into the Ball and DuPont families. In 2014, Cathy Calhoun and Paul Grosklags bought the manor house, outbuildings and 162 acres. They revived the farm, raising grass-fed beef and heritage hogs, and planted 50 varieties of apples, which you can taste as cider in the tasting room and shady lawn. If you come by boat, anchor on Prentice Creek off Dividing Creek and dinghy into their dock. Visitors are also invited to launch their own kayak or SUP from their beach to explore the creek. restaurant to the orginal in Gloucester, on the Middle Neck.
In Irvington’s tiny downtown, hit The Local for coffee, scones and sandwiches. Dredge is a must for dinner; it’s fresh, beautifully prepared, and leans in the direction of fresh local seafood and perfectly spiced island favorites. Across the street is The Office Bistro, a farmto-table restaurant with a good wine list and inventive, delicious food. You’ll know it by the giant sculpture of a silverware place-setting and giant toothbrush pillars. (The building started life as a dentist’s office.) Lastly, visit Vine for wine and tapas. It reminds us of those wonderful roadside bistros in the southern French countryside, where you sit out on the terrace and sip a splendid wine and enjoy a plate or six of tapas.
At the Tides Inn, Chesapeake Restaurant & Terrace offers expert American cuisine with a seasonal bent, while the more casual Fish Hawk Oyster Bar serves tacos, bowls and seafood baskets at the poolside patio. Hope and Glory Inn’s The Colonnade offers a four-course prix fixe menu that the chef designs daily to take advantage of the best local seafood and produce, served in their grand lobby or on the brick patio. Reservations are essential.
In Kilmarnock, Car Wash (yes, an operating car wash) serves crabcakes and other lunch-style food, as well as good breakfasts. On South Main St., Lee’s Restaurant has been the established after-church stop for 80 years, and is known for its pies. You’ll find made-to-order fried chicken and other homestyle eats at Donna’s on Main, and tasty sushi and Thai food at Chao Phraya, sister restaurant to the orginal in Gloucester, on the Middle Neck.
In Irvington’s tiny downtown, hit The Local for coffee, scones and sandwiches. Dredge is a must for dinner; it’s fresh, beautifully prepared, and leans in the direction of fresh local seafood and perfectly spiced island favorites. Across the street is The Office Bistro, a farm-to-table restaurant with a good wine list and inventive, delicious food. You’ll know it by the giant sculpture of a silverware place-setting and giant toothbrush pillars. (The building started life as a dentist’s office.) Lastly, visit Vine for wine and tapas. It reminds us of those wonderful roadside bistros in the southern French countryside, where you sit out on the terrace and sip a splendid wine and enjoy a plate or six of tapas.