Wanderlust is defined as a strong desire to travel, but here in Virginia, we call that feeling WanderLove. As we begin to travel again, planning an epic road trip is a safe way to explore Virginia’s endless beauty, from its pristine beaches to the scenic curves of its storied mountains. To help you plan your next vacation on the road, we’ll be sharing a few of the most scenic and adventure-filled routes through the Commonwealth, including the best outdoor adventures, restaurants, and lodging options to add to your itinerary.
Locations Featured in Video: J Brian’s Tap Room, Bowman Brothers Distillery, Strangeways Brewing, Sugar + Spruce, River Rock Outfitters, Courtyard Marriott Fredericksburg, Coastal Sky Taxi, The Tides Inn, Merroir
Our previous WanderLove excursion took us from Norfolk to Chincoteague, following Route 13 along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. For your next road trip adventure, travel through Virginia’s Northern Neck, a 90-mile peninsula that runs between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, ending at the picturesque Chesapeake Bay. Take Route 3 from Fredericksburg to Irvington and discover fresh seafood, charming wineries, and lots of outdoor adventure along the way!
ROUTE 3: FREDERICKSBURG TO MONTROSS
44 miles, approximately 53 minutes
Your adventure begins in Fredericksburg, a city filled with outdoor activities, rich history, and lots of delicious food, craft beer, wine, and spirits. The outdoor enthusiasts can book a fishing expedition with GMCO Potomac River Fishing Guide Service, a charter service based out of nearby Stafford that will take you out on the Rappahannock River, or go out on the river solo with a kayak or stand-up paddleboard rental through Fredericksburg’s River Rock Outfitter.
When it comes to history, you’ll find it around every corner (literally) in Fredericksburg. Historic sites like George Washington’s Ferry Farm, Kenmore, Fredericksburg Battlefield, Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park, Chatham Manor, Hugh Mercer Apothecary Shop, the Mary Washington House, and Rising Sun Tavern Museum are all located within Fredericksburg. In addition to visiting museums, it’s worth a stop at the battlefield and the military park to learn about the area’s Civil War history, and for the lovers of architecture, even walking past the outside of these other historic sites will provide a taste of the city’s distinctive history. Additionally, plan a few stops along the Trail to Freedom, a trail running through Fredericksburg and Stafford County that traces the routes of freedom-seeking men, women, and children.
Fredericksburg is also a great city for those travelers that enjoy a little retail therapy. Explore Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg to browse art galleries, some of the best restaurants in the city, and dozens of boutique shops like Monkees of Fredericksburg, an upscale women’s clothing and accessories store, and Sugar + Spruce, a shop that carries bath and body products in unique shapes, such as their bath bomb donuts or popsicle soaps.
And if you’re searching for adult beverages near Fredericksburg, head to A. Smith Bowman Distillery for a free tour and tasting of their bourbons, vodkas, gins, rums, and specialty liquors. Before leaving, snap a picture in front of their one-of-a-kind LOVEwork, made entirely from items used in the distilling process. Within the city limits, there are also several craft breweries, including Water’s End Brewery, Red Dragon Brewery, and Adventure Brewing Company.
Depart from Fredericksburg and continue on Route 3 towards Montross. Got time for a short detour? Leave Route 3 around King George to pick up Route 205, heading into the coastal town of Colonial Beach. Spend some time soaking up the sun at the town’s namesake beachfront area, or discover even more notable history along the way at the George Washington Birthplace National Monument.
Continue further south and if you need to stretch your legs, visit Westmoreland State Park and set out on their six miles of hiking trails, which provide several scenic viewpoints atop the rugged shoreline cliffs.. Rent wood sifting baskets from the park office to search for shark teeth, a commonly-found trophy, on the park’s riverfront beach. Looking for more coastal trails to hike? Journey to Stratford Hall, where you can trek several miles of trails before taking a tour of the historic 1730’s Great House.
Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries, & More
Hyperion Espresso—Coffee shop with a wide range of lattes, espressos, teas, and other specialty caffeinated drinks.
FoodE—Restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg serving upscale Southern fare made with fresh, organically-grown ingredients sourced from nearby farms.
Pimenta—Jamaican cuisine made with the freshest ingredients; located in downtown Fredericksburg.
Adventure Brewing Company—Craft brewery with four year-round styles and a variety of special and seasonal small batches.
A. Smith Bowman Distillery—Distillery known for their internationally-acclaimed bourbons, as well as a selection of other spirits. Tours and tastings are free to adults 21 & up.
Orofino—Authentic Italian restaurant in downtown Fredericksburg that makes pastas from scratch.
Fairview Beach Restaurant & Crab House—Waterfront restaurant in King George known for their seafood, especially their fresh crabs.
Denson’s Grocery and R&B Oyster Bar—Grocery, oyster bar, and restaurant in Colonial Beach that sources fresh oysters from Virginia as well as other East Coast oyster farms daily.
Red Dragon Brewery—Microbrewery in historic Downtown Fredericksburg with 20+ craft brew taps.
High Tides on the Potomac—Steak and seafood restaurant on the Potomac River in Colonial Beach with Tiki-style outdoor seating. Frequently host live music performances during summer evenings.
Ingleside Vineyards—One of the oldest and largest wineries in Virginia, Ingleside grows over 50 acres of vines and produces about 20 different wines. Open year-round for tastings and tours.
Hotels, Resorts, & Other Lodging
Richard Johnston Inn—Historic bed and breakfast located in the heart of Old Town Fredericksburg.
Kenmore Inn—Boutique inn set in a restored historic residence in downtown Fredericksburg. Restaurant is currently closed due to COVID-19.
Courtyard Marriott Fredericksburg Historic District—Newly renovated Marriott property with a fitness center and indoor pool.
Hyatt Place Fredericksburg at Mary Washington—Hyatt hotel on the Mary Washington campus, just minutes from Old Town Fredericksburg. Located in the middle of Eagle Village, a pedestrian-friendly development with over 20 retail shops, a grocery store, and ten restaurants and cafes.
Belle Grove Plantation Bed & Breakfast—A renovated 16th century estate -turned-bed and breakfast that was the birthplace of President James Madison
Riverview Inn—Newly renovated retro inn in Colonial Beach with a 50s beach theme.
ROUTE 3: MONTROSS TO IRVINGTON
46.6 miles, approximately 56 minutes
Depart Montross for Lancaster and conquer the trail systems within Belle Isle State Park, open for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Belle Isle State Park features seven miles of shoreline along the Rappahannock River, and the diverse ecosystems within the park are home to a variety of wildlife, such as blue heron, bald eagles, White-tailed deer, and turkeys. Overnight lodging options include a guest house and a main park residence, or guests can book the park’s campgrounds for a stay in Virginia’s Great Outdoors.
Photo Credit: Jim Stewart
Historic Christ Church is a beautifully-preserved church that dates to 1735 and a museum that features colonial Virginia exhibits from the period. After touring the church and museum, stroll the grounds surrounding the church to enjoy the beauty of this rural Virginia region.
Arrive in the charming town of Kilmarnock and spend some time browsing the adorable boutique shops, where you’ll find coastal-themed clothing, home goods, accessories, and more.
If staying at the Tides Inn, check in and take the inn’s complimentary bikes for a ride around Irvington.
Photo Credit: The Tides Inn
The Tides Inn also offers boat rentals and guided boat tours. We recommend booking a guided tour, such as their romantic sunset cruise or the scenic river tour, where you’ll learn about the town’s history, the coastal ecosystem, and the wildlife that inhabits the region. For a deeper dive into the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem, sign up for the Chesapeake Gold Oyster Excursion at the Tides Inn. This class begins with a lesson on the history of the oyster in Virginia and the jobs of the watermen, including an overview of the tools used to harvest oysters. Once you’ve learned the history, you’ll go out with an authentic waterman to collect oysters straight from the Chesapeake Bay, then return to the inn to cook fresh oysters on the grill with a chef, who will teach you how to properly shuck oysters, make accompanying sauces, and pair these aquatic delicacies with the right wines.
In addition to the Tides Inn Oyster Excursion, the Northern Neck has several other oyster tours available through Virginia Watermen’s Heritage Tours that will give you a chance to get out on the water and sample fresh oysters straight from the Bay.
Get a taste of local culture and history at the Reedville Fisherman’s Museum, which shares the rich stories of the fishermen and watermen that have called the Northern Neck home for generations.
Wake up early while staying in the Irvington/Kilmarnock area for a sunrise hike at Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve. With trails leading out to the water, you can catch a sunrise directly over the Chesapeake Bay.
Need more to do during your Northern Neck adventure? Continue along Route 3 and take the bridge across the Rappahannock River to the Middle Peninsula. Grab lunch at Merroir, a waterfront restaurant known for their crab cakes and oysters, sourced fresh from the Bay waters by Rappahannock Oyster Company.
Spend some time out on the river and learn how to sail at Norton Sailing School in Deltaville. The school offers classes ranging from beginner level to expert sailing, and also allows visitors to either bring their own boats or rent boats for their lessons. Another option for waterfront outdoor adventure? Rent kayaks or paddleboards through Jackson Creek Outfitters and explore the Rappahannock River and the Chesapeake Bay.
Photo Credit: Mark Atkinson, IG account: @me_atkinson
Get a different perspective of the Northern Neck with an airplane tour from Coastal Sky Taxi, an aerial excursion from the Northern Neck over Tangier Island and Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Peruse some of the shops in downtown Urbanna, such as Low Tide, a clothing boutique carrying styles for men, women, and children.
At Deltaville Maritime Museum, you can still stop by the museum grounds to take a photo at their huge LOVEwork to commemorate your Northern Neck vacation!
Restaurants, Breweries, Wineries, & More
Montross Brewery—Northern Neck’s first brewery, Montross Brewery focuses on small-batch brewing and homemade ginger ale.
Rivah Vineyards at the Grove—Historic estate-turned-winery on 125 scenic acres of riverfront land.
Tim’s at Cole’s Point—Waterfront seafood restaurant and crabhouse on the Potomac River.
The Hague Winery—Winery on a historic property that dates to 1835. Tasting room inside a renovated barn that overlooks the idyllic manor house.
Car Wash Cafe—All-American breakfast diner in a converted car wash. Popular spot with the locals.
General’s Ridge Vineyard—Winery in Hague open Friday-Sunday during select hours for tastings.
NN Burger—Gourmet burger & craft beer restaurant, with locations in Kilmarnock and Tappahannock. Milkshakes are a must.
Northern Neck Popcorn Bag—Freshly-made popcorn in over 50 unique flavors like salted dark chocolate caramel, ginger ale Northern Neck style, and crabby corn, made with Old Bay seasoning.
Carried Away Cuisine—Gourmet shop offering freshly prepared foods and baked goods like homemade soups, pasta salads, quiche, sandwich wraps, and salads.
The Local—Coffee shop that also serves lunch, with a variety of sandwiches, salads, and sides that make for a perfect meal-on-the-go.
Good Luck Cellars—Dog-friendly estate winery in Kilmarnock; both indoor and outdoor seating available.
Merroir—Riverfront upscale oyster tasting house that also serves an array of seafood sourced from the Chesapeake Bay. Currently open for to-go orders only, but can be eaten at the outdoor picnic table area.
Photo Credit:Todd Wright, IG account: @toddwrightphoto
Something Different in Urbanna—Local favorite restaurant serving barbecue, fresh seafood, and deli sandwiches. Known for their homemade desserts and ice cream.
Urbanna Seafood & Raw Bar—Waterfront seafood restaurant located on the very docks where the seafood comes in. Menu features crabs, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, and other seafood sourced from the Rappahannock River and Chesapeake Bay.
Hotels, Resorts, & Other Lodging
The Tides Inn—Luxury waterfront inn with countless amenities, including a disc-golf course, marina with boat rentals, oyster excursion, outdoor pool, on-site restaurant, several guided tours offered regularly, and much more. Pet-friendly accommodation available.
Photo Credit: The Tides Inn
Hope & Glory Inn—Small upscale inn located in a refurbished historic schoolhouse with private cottages centered around a secluded garden oasis. The inn is pet-friendly and has an on-site restaurant, spa, and small pool.
Kilmarnock Inn—Pet-friendly 16-room inn originally built in 1884 with seven unique cottages built and named after Virginia’s presidential homes.
Belle Isle State Park—The state park has several lodging options, ranging from primitive and full-service outdoor campsites to pet-friendly cabins and the Bel Air House and Guesthouse, which can be rented together or individually.
Beth-Page Camp Resort—Camp and RV sites and cottage rentals within the resort, which features dozens of amenities, such as mini-golf, an ice cream stand, a freshwater lake and private beach, a water park, several playgrounds, and kayak and paddleboard rentals.
Looking for more outdoor activities, historic sites, and other things to do along your route? Use our three-day guides to Fredericksburg and Virginia’s Northern Neck to add even more fun to your road trip, or plan another waterfront road trip by following our Wanderlove: From Norfolk to Virginia’s Eastern Shore Road Trip Guide!
Beautiful, but incomplete. How about Montross to Reedville via Rt. 202 and 360? You haven’t really experienced the Northern Neck until you’ve visited Reedville, “Virginia’s Working Fishing Village” and the Fishermen’s Museum, Fleeton Point, Heathsville Tavern and other lovely and historic sites on this route! Then there are the marinas (*Smith Point) with terrific boating and fishing charters, the ferry to Tangier Island (Buzzards Point) and the charming restaurants. Please don’t leave us out!
I know Warsaw doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of history or culture, but what it does have is by far the best upscale restaurant in a 50 mile radius on the Northern Neck (by the way, the Merroir, while an excellent restaurant, is not in the Northern Neck. It is located in the “Middle Peninsula” . I would dine at the ”Relish” before driving to Mechanicsville (S), Reedville (E), Kilmarnock (SE), or Fredericksburg (W). And anyone living within that radius ought to check out the reviews on line. Unfortunately, the pandemic has affected their service and openings, but keep it in mind when the pandemic is over.
Thanks for sharing, Michael!