There’s no better time to get up close and personal to the oyster than during the fall. This is the “traditional” season for wild oysters. They’re fat, plump and ready for indulgence. Thanks to oyster farming, it’s oyster season all year round. The industry has come a long way. Our local watermen can show you just how far back the history of the oyster goes.
During an Oyster Academy at the Tides Inn, you and your travel buddies will get schooled, get full and maybe even a little sauced. Here’s our guide to making the most of this one-of-a-kind oyster experience:
What time should I get there?
Arrive at the Tides Inn (480 King Carter Drive) by 9 a.m. Head in through the main lobby doors and turn left to find the front desk. Usually, you’ll be meeting in the conference room to the right, but sometimes this location changes. The front desk will know for certain and lead you and your crew to the right place. We’ll have hot coffee waiting you. We need it just as much as you!
What should I bring and wear?
The Oyster Academies are held during the fall (September- December). There is usually a chill in the air, but we know a suddenly hot day is never out of the question. Wear layers just in case. Throw a scarf in our bag for windy boat rides, definitely bring a raincoat or parka, and wear shoes that can get wet. If you want to bring along a camera, make sure you have something to protect it from water damage.
What happens after I arrive?
Get ready for a history lesson! Your first 45 minutes will take you on a journey from the first American settlers to the innovative aquaculture farms that are popular today. You’ll learn about how oysters clean our region’s water and tools of the trade. Bring your curiosity. We’re ready to answer all of your questions!
Here’s the part where you need your layers. Follow us to the dock for an adventure. Climb aboard a traditional deadrise boat and meet one of our local watermen, Captain William Saunders. He’ll show you all the oyster reefs in the nearby area and share his family’s long-time history harvesting this mollusk. As the boat slows, prepare for excitement. Captain Saunders will show you how to use the tools of the trade. After he catches them, he’ll break open oysters fresh from the water and show you how to slurp them down just as we’ve been doing for centuries. You might even feel transported in time.
When do I get to eat?
If you haven’t gotten a taste of an oyster on the boat, don’t fret. Tides Inn Chef TV Flynn is waiting for you back on the Tides Inn lawn. The grill is going, traditional and untraditional sauces are laid out, and an educational feast awaits. TV will show you how to roast oysters on a grill, walk you through recipes for mignonettes, and more. Throw back a few Rappahannock River oysters in the afternoon sunlight to know all is right in the world.
Someone said wine?
You have to have something to wash down those oysters. Wine is the woman for the job. TV will walk you through the Tides’ favorite wines to pair with local oysters. He’s got a black belt in wine, so be sure to ask a lot of questions. Get a head start in class by reading this article about wine and oyster pairings.
By now it should be 1 p.m. Your adventure with the oyster has come to a close. Congrats! You are now a historian, environmentalist and a food guru rolled into one. Kick up your knowledgeable feet on the porch of the Tides Inn with a Lancaster Lemonade or head into Irvington for more food and drinks. Get a list of our Irvington travel favorites here.
How do I Sign Up?
The tours are held Fridays and Saturdays. It costs $155 per person. A minimum of six people must be on board for the Oyster Academy. So, share this article on Facebook and tag your five favorite travel buddies. Make it official and call 804-438-4489.
Where Can I Stay?
The Tides Inn was recently named #5 in the Reader’s Choice-Top Resorts in The South by Conde Naste readers. It’s the ideal place to post up for the night with a blend of luxury and laid back relaxation. Enjoy dinner at the Chesapeake Restaurant and s’mores outside over a fire for dessert.