Pack your bike or kayak and head out for adventure in Virginia’s river-bound Northern Neck, only 90 minutes from Washington. America’s first presidents, revolutionaries and constitution builders were born here and their estates welcome visitors to tour their grounds. Winemakers, river runners and cyclists make it easy to explore the beauty of local farms and towns.
This is Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay region, where you can picnic on the grounds of George Washington’s Birthplace National Monument or Stratford Hall, walk the sandy shores of Colonial Beach and Westmoreland State Park and kayak waters that flow to the storied bay. Captain John Smith mapped this place 168 years before two Lee brothers from Stratford Hall signed the Declaration of Independence. Generations have farmed and fished the land and waters here that produce award-winning wines and delectable crabmeat and oysters. Two mighty rivers with Native American names — the Potomac and Rappahannock — form the boundaries of this region.
Wineries have created a map of the area to help visitors find them along the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail. Some vineyards operate on ancestral family estates; other winemakers moved here to cultivate grapes. Some are serving customers outside and others are adhering to social distancing guidelines indoors. Several have restricted operating hours and are open only on weekends. Call ahead to confirm the latest options.
While the wine trail stretches east toward the Chesapeake Bay, travelers may want to start at one of Virginia’s founding vineyards. Ingleside Vineyards has been making wine since 1980 and has contributed much to the growth of Virginia’s wine industry. A perennial award-winner, Ingleside earned “Best White Wine in Show” at the 2015 New York World Wine and Spirits Competition and continues to earn first place accolades each year in many others. Chris Flemer, Ingleside’s marketing director, encourages people to bring their own picnic and enjoy a bottle of wine in the covered open space outside. Outdoor fire pits will warm spirits on cooler days.
Ingleside is close to Colonial Beach, a quaint river beach town on the Potomac River with a marina and lots of restaurants serving local seafood. Some offer takeout meals with the same delicious fare you would find indoors. Alexander Graham Bell lived here in summers. While his Victorian home is not open for tours, it is operated as a bed and breakfast.
Several more wineries cluster near Colonial Beach and Kinsale, a town attacked in the War of 1812 and again during the Civil War. Kinsale, on the National Register of Historic Places with its 19th- and 20th-century structures, affords an interesting architectural experience along the county’s bicycle trail. A local history museum and road signs tell the tales of this community.
Further east, in Hague, is General’s Ridge Vineyard, operated by retired U.S. Marine Corps General Rick Phillips and his wife, Linda Phillips, who rescued a 19th-century farmhouse and now offer lodging as well as wines. The large Vines Room here serves six wines that can also be enjoyed outside. General’s Ridge hosts early dinners with wine Fridays with advanced reservations. Musicians often perform here under socially distanced guidelines.
For More Information:
Northern Neck Tourism northernneck.org
Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail chesapeakebaywinetrail.com
- King George County celebrates its 300th anniversary Sept. 19, Back Porch Vineyard, music, history, arts, crafts, food, wine tasting, more. backporchvineyard.com
- Estates at historic sites are open for self-guided tours. Buildings are closed.