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Rappahannock and Potomac River Boating – Exploring the Northern Neck

The northernmost of three peninsulas on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, is known as the Northern Neck. The Potomac River creates the northern boundary of the peninsula, and the Rappahannock River creates the southern. Both tributaries flow into the Chesapeake Bay, feeding one of the best boating grounds on the east coast. With endless beauty, abundant wildlife and sea creatures, and hideaways along the shores to explore, what more could a boater ask for? Well, if you also wanted access to the colorful history of our country and a smorgasbord of cultures at a variety of welcoming seaports, it has that too!

What we’re saying is that whether you’re up for exploring the Northern Neck by sea or by land, or a little of both, what you’ll find are limitless places to visit and a lifetime of fun to be had. Let’s start the adventure with the Potomac River.

Places and sites on the Potomac River

The Potomac River has more to offer than most. If you’re lucky enough to spend some time cruising its waters, here are just a few places you’ll want to tie up: ​

Washington, DC – Visit DC , our Nation’s Capital, and tour the countless famous attractions – many are even more spectacular from the water. While you’re there, enjoy DC’s diverse cuisine, take in an outdoor concert, or even catch a Washington National’s baseball game. It’s also worth mentioning that DC has a full selection of FREE , yes totally free, attractions. From museums and art galleries, to guided DC walking tours, there’s something to entertain and fascinate your entire crew – from the oldest to the youngest.

Colonial Beach, VA – Colonial Beach  is known as the “Playground of the Potomac since 1892.” It’s a quaint beach town with an inviting boardwalk, vibrant restaurants and bars, and some fabulous beaches. It’s also a prime location for bird watching. You can frequently catch a glimpse of the mighty bald eagle soaring overhead, since it’s a known nesting ground. And if you want to step back in time, and into history, you can visit the George Washington Birthplace National Monument. The sprawling park is home to the Colonial Revival farm, burial ground, visitor center and other historic structures. There are also picnic grounds and a public beach, so you can plan to spend the day.

Solomons Island, MD – Solomons Island is a major boating center on the Chesapeake Bay with lots to take in. While you’re there, be sure to stop in to the Calvert Marine Museum and the Annmarie Garden Sculpture Garden & Arts Center. There are also wonderful shops, quaint bed and breakfasts and outstanding restaurants. One restaurant in particular that has tasty food, ambiance and affordable prices is The Lighthouse Restaurant & Dock Bar. The food is fresh, the views are spectacular and the people are terrifically friendly.

Point Lookout, MD – Right where the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac collide, is where you’ll find the much ballyhooed Point Lookout State Park. This picturesque state park has something for every member of your crew; from a civil war museum and lighthouse , to camping, hiking and hunting. It’s easy to see why this is one of the state’s most popular parks.

Places and sites on the Rappahannock River

Exploring any area by boat gifts you with a unique feeling of freedom. And the Rappahannock River, Virginia’s longest free-flowing river, serves up a heaping helping. It has quiet shorelines and a fascinating network of narrow inlets complete with wildlife, charming coastal towns worth exploring, and enough water adventures to keep the most seasoned boater and crew content. Here’s what the Rappahannock River has to offer:

Deltaville, VA – Deltaville is rightfully known as the boating hub of the Chesapeake Bay. The quaint and friendly town is full of authentic seafood restaurants, colorful pubs and artisan shops. It’s also home to the vintage 1948 Deltaville Ballpark where you can see a game the way it was played in bygone days. And if it’s boating heritage you want, just head to the Deltaville Maritime Museum. The town is also filled with topnotch marinas, like Nomad at Norview Marina, making it a perfect stop if you need any repairs or just regular maintenance before you head out on any longer trips.

Urbanna, VA – The coastal town of Urbanna boasts “more boats than folks.” We think that’s a good thing! Urbanna made its way onto the map due to the epic oyster festival they hold every fall. If oysters are your weakness, this is a stop you can’t miss. And even if you’re not an oyster aficionado, the town is filled with enchanting inns, trendy shops, delightful dining and lots of American history.

Belle Isle State Park, VA – With seven miles of shoreline, Belle Isle State Park lets you explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands and upland forests. There are also plenty of well-groomed trails to hike and a boardwalk around the pier area. If you feel like a night under the stars, there’s a well-maintained campground with an immaculate bathhouse. And if you’re needing a bit more pampering, spend a night or two at the Bell Isle House and Guest House. You can also rent a kayak, canoe or bicycle during your stay, and get an up-close look at the beauty around you.

Irvington, VA – Barely 12 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay, where Carter’s Creek flows into the Rappahannock River, sits Irvington , where you can enjoy the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay cooked to perfection. From there, you can stroll to the Irvington Farmer’s Market and stock your gally. If you have time for one more stop, make it The Dog and Oyster Vineyard to feast on fresh oysters and award-winning wine. The vineyard has earned a place on the “best of the best” list, and for good reason.

A marina in the middle of it all

A perfect spot to find a slip to call home when you’re exploring the Northern Neck, is the Deltaville area. It’s geographically smack dab in the middle of it all. So, a leisurely day trip can get you to any of these great destinations. Our pick is the Nomad at Norview Marina , right on Broad Creek. This full-service marina has ample amenities including a captain’s lounge, a pool, a ship’s store, bathhouses, power, and more. They even have their own private sandy beach for some well-deserved R&R. Add to that the fact that they’re close to all that Deltaville has to offer, and you’ve found your marina.

Jo Montgomery