The town of Irvington, Virginia, sits on the northern side of the Rappahannock River, about 10 miles from the mouth. A small town with a big spirit, Irvington was once a hub for steamboats in the early 20th century until a fire in 1917 destroyed much of the town. In 1947, however, The Tides Inn and Resort established itself in town and has since garnered national fame and helped bring a variety of other shops, restaurants, and attractions back to the area. Irvington is now a thriving town once again that exemplifies the beauty and culture of coastal Virginia’s “rivah” lifestyle, and certainly deserves to be a stop on your next cruise to the Southern Chesapeake Bay.

Irvington exemplifies the beauty and culture of the "rivah" lifestyle. Photo courtesy of The Tides Inn

The Tides Inn & Other Places To Stay

The jewel of Irvington, The Tides Inn and Resort offers luxury accommodations and dining, a spa, pool, and a wide range of waterfront activities from river tours to paddleboarding. The marina includes 24 deepwater slips and can accommodate vessels up to 150 feet, complete with full access to the resort’s amenities. Even if you choose to stay elsewhere, check out their Chesapeake Restaurant & Terrace or Fish Hawk Oyster Bar for fresh, local food, or their spa for a relaxing massage. 

Carter’s Cove Marina also offers deepwater slips, and the plentiful creeks and coves around Irvington invite you to have a peaceful night at anchor with a front row seat to the ospreys, eagles, herons, and other wildlife that call the Rappahannock River region home.

Things To Do

If you’re looking for history, look no further than the Steamboat Era Museum. The museum has a range of exhibits detailing the history of steamboats on the Chesapeake Bay and their role in the development of Irvington by connecting the town with larger economic hubs on the Bay, specifically Baltimore and Norfolk. The museum’s most prized artifact is the pilothouse from the steamer Potomac, the largest surviving remnant of the Chesapeake Bay steamboat era. The Potomac was built in 1894 and served for 42 years in freight and passenger service. In 1936, after suffering damage from a collision with a freighter, she was sold to Colonna’s Shipyard in Norfolk where she was disassembled. The shipyard owners saved the pilothouse, however, and took it up the Rappahannock River on a barge where they used it as a summer cottage. In 2001, the Steamboat Era Museum purchased the pilothouse and began an extensive restoration project. Now, the Potomac’s pilothouse is open to the public and a great way to get a glimpse of life on a Chesapeake Bay steamboat.

The Steamboat Era Museum's most prized artifact is the pilothouse from the steamer Potomac. Photo courtesy of the Steamboat Era Museum

If you’re looking for artisan beverages and tastings, Irvington is a gateway to Virginia’s wine region, and a great place to find local winery experiences. The Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard is located at the front and center of the Hope and Glory Inn in downtown Irvington. The owners of the Inn planted their micro-vineyard of Petit Manseng vines in 2021, allowing their wine experiences to be enjoyed in the center of town. If you’d like to venture out and explore the larger Dog and Oyster Vineyard, however, you can still make the trek to the edge of town and snap a photo with their iconic 40-foot corkscrew. If you go for a glass, flight, or bottle, make sure you get oysters, too—the owners claim that they are the only winemakers in the nation that specifically craft their wines to pair with locally grown Chesapeake Bay oysters. 

If you’re looking for shopping, there are a multitude of local businesses. Objects, Art and More is a former 1940s-era gas station that has been transformed into a gallery that houses works by over 200 artists from around the country. They feature artwork ranging from paintings to sculptures, jewelry, pottery, and glasswork. The gallery is a great place to admire art that spans genres, as well as pick up unique gifts for prices as low as $20. One-of-a-kind clothing can be found at local businesses including The Dandelion and Jimmy and Sook, while beautiful custom floral arrangements and bouquets can be found at Cathi’s Gardens. 

The Dog and Oyster Micro-vineyard crafts their wines to pair with locally grown Chesapeake Bay oysters. Photo courtesy of The Dog and Oyster

On the first Saturday of every month from May through November, swing by the Irvington Farmer’s Market in the center of historic downtown for fresh local produce, homemade bread and baked goods, artisanal cheeses, local honey, meat, and seafood, handmade soap, furniture, and glassware, and artwork of all kinds. A variety of talented local musicians also perform live throughout the season, so bring a chair and take advantage of the lively atmosphere.

Places To Eat

Aside from the dining options available at The Tides Inn and The Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard at Hope and Glory Inn, there are plenty of other choices for quick bites or family meals. Vine offers a wine bar and selection of small plates, The Office Bistro has a diverse menu of salads, sandwiches, pizzas, signature crafted cocktails, and other creative entrees, The Local is a beachy coffee shop with breakfast, sandwiches, and, of course, artisan coffee, and Dredge is a restaurant and bar that boasts “Boat and Farm to Table” dinners.

The Local is a beachy coffee shop with breakfast, sandwiches, and, of course, artisan coffee. Photo courtesy of The Local

Why Visit in the Off-Season?

While Irvington is undoubtedly busier in the summer, the off-season is a great time to visit, too. You can avoid the crowds and be assured of a grade-A slip or anchorage, enjoy a quiet stroll through town without the oppressive heat and humidity that is so pervasive in the summer, and in the fall, admire the beautiful fall foliage lining the Rappahannock River. If you have the time, you can also stray beyond Irvington and explore other towns in Virginia’s River Realm. Urbanna is only a few miles further up the river, and don’t forget to swing through Deltaville right where the Rappahannock meets the Bay. 

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By Kelsey Bonham