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Beyond the Beltway blur, the sweetness of rural Virginia settles around you like a fresh breath of salt-spiked air as you drive south along Interstate 95 to the state's Northern Neck Heritage Area. Settled by the English in the 17th century, the sleepy peninsula was long inhabited by Native American tribes who made the most of the rich fishing and hunting grounds that sit sandwiched between the Potomac and Rappahannock rivers and dead-end at the Chesapeake Bay. For today's travelers, there is much to explore in its inviting small towns. This itinerary suggests spending a night or two in Reedville, then on to Irvington for a night and Onancock for another two. But you're likely to want to linger longer in this beautiful coastal area.
The unpredictability of the coronavirus means travel restrictions are constantly evolving. Be sure to check the Virginia Department of Health website for updates before visiting from out of state, and follow CDC guidelines for safe travel.
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Days 1 and 2: Washington, D.C., to Reedville and Tangier Island, Virginia (121 miles)
Roughly halfway to Reedville from D.C., break for lunch at Colonial Beach, a pleasant small town with a 2 1/2-mile-long sandy beach on the Potomac (it's somewhere between 90 minutes and two hours south of the city, depending on traffic). Stop for a swim and then make your way to Denson's Grocery, run by the same family for three generations, for curbside takeout of Chesapeake Bay specialties the locals can't get enough of — try the fried oyster platter or flaky rockfish bites. Walk just a block and a half west for shaded picnic tables at Torrey Smith Recreation Park.
Continue about another 90 minutes southeast along VA-3 (then 202 E) to tiny Reedville, a fishing village home to many watermen and an idyllic Main Street that takes you back to the 1800s. Immaculately restored Victorian homes in a modified Queen Anne style — towers, turrets and gracious wraparound porches — line the street, dubbed “Millionaires Row,” a nod to the town's mid-1800s heyday as a major player in the Chesapeake's seafood industry.
Reedville sits at the Northern Neck's tip, where the Potomac meets the Chesapeake, and fishermen head out daily from its small fishing marina on Cockrell's Creek into open waters to fish for menhaden. Don't miss delving into the area's rich maritime history at the Reedville Fishermen's Museum. Even if the museum is closed, you can see outdoor exhibits of skipjack and deadrise boats, typical watercraft of the area.