The River is Calling You: 8 Great Small Towns Await
Discover 8 Small Towns Along 465 Miles of Shoreline
Escape the city life and find out what our small towns have to offer. Set along the shores of rivers and bays, our towns might be small, but each one has much to offer and there are eight to choose from. Culinary day dreamers, adventure enthusiasts, and laid back vacationers will all find something to love. Here is a quick look at the River Realm’s eight small towns for your next coastal getaway.
A weekend in Kilmarnock can be three things: romantic, rhythmic and delicious. Start by checking into the Kilmarnock Inn (featured below), a cozy at home base. Kick off your mornings with a walk. Enjoy coffee, pastries and quiche at Carried Away Cuisine. Mosey around and visit the town’s boutiques and antique shops–you’re guaranteed to find gems you’ll love.
Afternoons are made for relaxing wine tasting at Good Luck Cellars or Specials Wine Seller where you can match your tasting with their amazing charcuterie board. Refuel at foodie spots like Chao Phraya Thai and Sushi and Car Wash Cafe before you take on one of Kilmarnock’s regular events like Music on the Half Shell Stage, featuring regular, regional live music. Even during the fall and winter, family friendly events abound. On the way out of town, bring some Kilmarnock home with you. Swing by Northern Neck Popcorn for a bag of small batch gourmet popcorn.
Kick back and relax in Deltaville. Here, we love boating, history, fresh seafood, and classic American pastimes like baseball and camping. Park your camper at Bush Park Camp or pop a tent at Cross Rip Camp, seasonal campgrounds located on the Chesapeake Bay near the Intercoastal Waterway. Or boat in and dock at one of the 15 marinas. Catch a bit of history and music at the Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park (featured above). The museum itself memorializes the boat building skills that made the Deltaville area famous and even hosts an annual family boat building event in July. Outside of the museum, the Holly Point Nature Park is a haven for play with a nature trail walk, kayak launch, picnic tables and a pier walk. Every fourth Saturday during the summer, the Deltaville landmark transforms for the “Groovin’ in the Park” outdoor concert series (featured below).
To refuel after a fun day, return home, clean up and get some fresh local seafood and craft beer at the new Deltaville Tap & Raw Bar (featured below) or The Table at Wilton. With a full belly, head out with the crew to Deltaville Ballpark, which hosts the semi-pro Deltas team. Games are held May through July. Stadium seats are enclosed by crab pot netting for a truly coastal vibe. See the schedule here.
Irvington is all about laid back luxury. We love that there is always something happening including regular Farmer’s Markets (Irvington, Kilmarnock, Deltaville), Taste of Spring, the Thanksgiving Turkey Trot, and Taste by the Bay.
Rest your head at Hope & Glory Inn, a historic boutique hotel, or The Tides Inn (featured above), a waterfront resort. You can enjoy our famous fresh seafood at both dwellings–each has restaurants on site fueled by knowledgeable culinary staff. You can also get your foodie fix at the newly opened Dredge, offering up a Caribbean twist on our coastal seafood, or The Office, a renovated dentist office. As you head out of town, grab a coffee and breakfast at The Local (featured below), our neighborhood coffee spot.
We think wine and shopping go very nicely together here. Bike or walk to Vine, which offers tastings, snacks and even live music on its magical little patio. Keep meandering to boutiques like the Dandelion for fashion and Objects-Art and More for art. For more wine, head down the road to Dog & Oyster Vineyard, which also offers up seafood pairings with it’s award winning wine list. Down the road, indulge in a bit of history at the Steamboat Era Museum. The museum brings landscapes to life from an era when revival camps, shucking houses and country stores dotted the river’s shores.
There’s no better way to close out the day than with a sunset cruise at the Tides Inn along Carter’s Creek. You may even see a little bit of wildlife.
This small town packs big flavor and loads of fun. For starters, it’s home to the Urbanna Oyster Festival–the Official Oyster Festival of the Commonwealth. More than 50,000 people come to celebrate the oyster every November. Expect fun parades, art vendors, oyster shucking contests, children’s activities, an antique car show, music, wine and beer tastings and try the exclusive VIP ticket. The Wine and Oyster Stroll in October is also a great way to experience all that Virginia Street and beyond have to offer. Boutiques, barbeque, live music and coffee shops make this main drag of Urbanna full of life.
A walk down to the Urbanna Town Marina is also worthwhile. You can watch boats and kayaks drift in and out of the inlet. Cruise the Rappahannock River with Golden Age Charters (featured below), an authentic buy boat that departs at the marina. If you are headed out on a boat, you have to make a stop at Urbanna Seafood Market and Raw Bar. Here, you can taste local oysters fresh from the Bay, catch a glimpse of the soft shell crab shedding tanks, and enjoy specialties like crab bites. Portside Grill is Urbanna’s newest waterfront dining spot offering teasers like Sea Sprouts, Crab Tots, clams by the dozen and shrimp by the pound.
Snuggle up after a long day of eating and exploring at a boutique hotel, The Chesapeake Inn or camp out with your family at Bethpage Camp-Resort, complete with a water park, a boat ramp, and rentals like kayaks and paddle boards.
Cruising around White Stone may seem a bit like you’re on the edge of civilization. In fact, you are. We like it that way. This small town is full of gems, though. Most of them are culinary experiences. You’ll want to turn off your phone and tune in to your senses here.
To find the freshest local catch, Miss Mary Seafood brings you quality seafood that’s fabulously unbelievable. You will even find many specials at local restaurants. Adrift (featured above), an eclectic restaurant with a heavy seafood menu features creative, yet distinctly southern items like fresh White Stone oysters, Thai mussels and buttermilk battered chicken wings.
Nearby, Sandpiper Restaurant is a go-to for locals looking for classics like shrimp cocktail and filet mignon. Look out for daily specials like seared scallops served with jalapeno pico de gallo. If you’re looking for a private beach dining experience, you’ll find our version at Willaby’s Cafe, which is shaped like a boat and has its own private beach. You’ll find blues, folk, Americana and reggae music on regular rotation at Willaby’s, too. To prepare your own experience, visit the Dug In Farms (featured above) market just off Route 3 where you can take home a bit of the River Realm, grown with love.
History is what makes Saluda a small town worth the day trip. It is home to Middlesex Museum and the Lt. General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller Park. The tandem history hot spot is located, you guessed it, right off General Puller Highway. It’s named after Lt. Colonel Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, the most decorated Marine in Corps history.
Look out for the LOVE sign at Puller Park to know you’re in the right place. Before you pull into the Middlesex Museum, pose with your crew in front of the sign! It captures everything we love in our region: history, oysters, agriculture and boating. In the Middlesex County Museum, dig into genealogy records (maybe you have some family from here!). Feel free to get hands on with exhibits and artifacts like prehistoric whale bones, Native American arrow points, a model of a General Store, old maps, and Civil Rights pioneer Irene Morgan’s freedom medal. A variety of educational programming positions Middlesex County as a key character in the story of America’s beginnings. History making you hungry? Head into G’s Country Store for breakfast or lunch or grab some locally picked veggies and fruits at Norman’s Produce to take home.
If eating gourmet, freshly sourced oysters and other seafood on a peninsula as the sun sets sounds like a good time to you, you should add Topping to your bucket list. Topping is home to Merroir, the first restaurant concept of Rappahannock Oyster Company, now serving oysters all over the world. It’s easy to spend an entire afternoon here before you realize it. Enjoy raw or cooked oysters raised in the waters right in front of you. Other menu items are savory, ever changing, and always inspired by the local seafood. Up the road, you can dine indoors at the German-inspired Eckhard’s Restaurant. Enjoy massive steaks, German sausages or overflowing pastas. Ask your server for wine pairings from the extensive wine list.
When you’re all stuffed, you can rest your head next to the Rappahannock River at Grey’s Point Camp. Bring along your fishing pole and boat to enjoy prime fishing on the Rappahannock or in the Chesapeake Bay. The Campground is also bike friendly and kid friendly with a water park and playgrounds.
For one stop light, you might think Lively is a humorous name for a town. We think it’s just right. There’s a lot of life here, trust us! Lively is home to the coldest beer in the world and “Doctor Drinks.” We love The Oaks, decorated with vintage decor. It’s proof that you don’t need a waterfront restaurant to get fresh seafood. Wash down restaurant specials with a stiff drink made by “Doctor Drinks,” aka server Mary, who sometimes throws on a white lab coat on Friday evenings. At The World Famous Corner Bar & Grill, order a cold beer and The Corner crab cake sandwich, which is 1/3 lb. of fresh local crab meat without filler. The building opened as a restaurant in 1977, but was a general store for many years before that. Owner Conner Lord says that about 70% of his customers are locals and come to the restaurant for the burgers and crab cakes. Join them for dinner!
Show Us Your Small Town Love
We like to keep our phones away during dinner, but we won’t blame you for snapping pics during your getaway. We’d love to see how you escape in our charming small towns. Tag us using @virginiasriverrealm and we’ll share your photos of your picturesque memories in the River Realm.