- Located on the York River, 7 miles upriver from the Bay
- Established in 1691
- Yorktown was the home to the last major battle of the American Revolution
- Yorktown’s Coleman Bridge is the only double-span swing bridge in the U.S.
What Makes It Unique
We all know the battle of Yorktown from history class. What you may not know is that in addition to all that history, Yorktown also has a well-placed marina, a great beach, a mile-long Riverwalk with a summer concert series and lively weekly farmers’ market, myriad restaurants and shops, and a watermen’s museum. In addition, it’s only a few leagues (that’s Colonial-speak) away from Williamsburg and Jamestown. The town itself is roughly two blocks wide by eight short blocks long, which makes it eminently walkable for boaters, and it’s managed to meld the centuries in an entirely graceful way.
Riverwalk Landing Piers, the town marina, is clearly the most convenient. The long docks (1,200 linear feet worth) form a breakwater against most of the chop and current in the river, and the depth ranges from 25 to 50 feet at most slips. As long as the weather doesn’t kick up a storm, this is an ideal spot for visiting—everything is just a few steps away. The docks are secure, with gated entry and restrooms, plus electric, water and pumpout services. Riverwalk Landing hosts Thursday evening concerts in summer and fall; it’s delightful to sit on your boat and listen.
Family-owned Wormley Creek Marina is south of town, tucked inside Wormley Creek, a great place to get out of any weather. They can accommodate boats up to 50′ but with limited transient space, advance reservations are recommended. York River Yacht Haven lies across the York River on Sarah Creek, with 280 slips accommodating boats from 20′ to 120′. They have a full-service boat yard and amenities including a pool, shuttle service to Yorktown and great food at YROC Coastal Bar & Grill.
For boaters, Yorktown is a convenient 25-mile trip from Portsmouth/Norfolk and just around the corner from Hampton. From the northern Bay, it’s 125 miles from the Bay Bridge. For slower or less time-pressed cruisers, this means a couple of stops along the way: Solomons and then Deltaville, perhaps, though there are dozens of variations to be found.
Yorktown is about three hours from Washington D.C., and about an hour from the Norfolk area.
Staying on Land
New ownership is bringing a new name and new updates to former Duke of York Hotel, now called the Yorktown Beach Hotel. What hasn’t changed is the fantastic location and the pool overlooking the river. It’s on the free trolley route, and dogs are welcome. The stately red-brick Hornsby House Inn is located on Main Street and has been accommodating guests for three generations. Enjoy five guest rooms and two suites, with perks like four-poster beds and an outstanding formal breakfast.
Exploring by Water
If you want to launch your trailer boat, you’ll find a nice double ramp across the river at Gloucester Point. Riverwalk Landing has slips for smaller boats. If you’ve brought your own paddle craft, you can launch it easily from the dinghy landing at Yorktown Beach on the east side of town. Or rent a single or tandem kayak or SUP from Patriot Tours and Provisions; they launch from the private beach near the Watermen’s Museum. Patriot also offers bicycle and Segway rentals, along with guided Segway tours through town.
Across the river, Williamsburg Charter Sails does three-hour sails on a 32′ Hunter for up to 6 people, departing from York River Yacht Haven. They offer lessons, too.
Finally, if you’d rather just play in the water from shore, Yorktown has a string of very nice public beaches beginning just east of Riverwalk Landing.
Exploring by Land
In Yorktown, the past is never far away. Most of the town and its immediate area are part of the Yorktown Battlefield section of the Colonial National Historical Park, which also includes Colonial Highway and Jamestown. At Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center, you’ll find exhibits that provide perspective on the events that took place on the adjacent battlefield, along with a replica of a quarter section of a British warship. The American Revolution Museum at Yorktown includes a recreated Continental Army encampment. In town, you can visit half a dozen sites, including Yorktown Custom House and the Moore House, where some of the negotiations took place that led to the surrender of General Cornwallis. To learn more about what you’re seeing, download the Yorktown Tour Guide app. Or check with Mobjack Bay Coffee Roasters, which manages Stroll with a Historian tours (and makes great coffee too).
At the small but fascinating Watermen’s Museum, learn about the life of the Chesapeake waterman from pre-colonial days to now, through engaging exhibits, boat models and a working boatbuilding shed.
Shoppers, stop by Auntie M’s American Cottage for one-of-a-kind crafts, Viccellio Goldsmith for one-of-a-kind jewelry creations, and Yorktown Bookshop for used, rare and hard-to-get books. Peruse the artwork Black Dog Gallery, the Gallery at York Hall and the Yorktown Arts Federation’s On the Hill Gallery. Yorktown offers loads of free entertainment, including Riverwalk concerts and a fun weekend market.
Yorktown Pub is a great place to start, end, or heck, spend your whole evening, with great service, a lively crowd, tasty food and a riverfront setting. Beat the heat with adult-style hard lemonade, or better yet, a frozen lemonade slushie, at Larry’s Yorktown (formerly Larry’s Alehouse and Deli, now under new ownership). They also have craft beers on tap and a pub-style menu.
Water Street Grille is your go-to for fresh seafood, small plates and brick-oven pizza in a lovely setting overlooking the river. Keep an eye out for “tap takeovers” from local breweries and live music on some nights. Hit Carrot Tree Kitchens for fresh baked goods and tasty sandwiches, plus charcuterie plates to enjoy on the patio or take back to your boat.
The other two points in Virginia’s historic triangle, Williamsburg and Jamestown, are only a few miles away. Get there via Colonial Parkway, also part of the Colonial National Historical Park. This 23-mile route was built from the 1930s to the 1950s, and while you obviously won’t feel as if you are back in the 18th century, you will get a feel for what it was like to drive many of America’s highways in the mid-20th century, before commercial development, truck traffic and billboards.