Virginia’s Northern Neck Is for Sailors (and Lovers)

Tips for Sailors for Visiting the Northern Neck of Virginia and Rappahannock River

Fifty years ago, the state of Virginia introduced what is considered today one of the best tourism campaigns ever created: “Virginia is for lovers.” After making numerous trips to Virginia’s Northern Neck, both by sailing vessel and land yacht, I can attest to the fact that the slogan has stood the test of time.

tides inn carter creek
The Tides Inn on Carter's Creek off the Rappahannock River, welcomes transient Chesapeake Bay sailors. Photo courtesy of the Tides Inn

Fall in love with the location.

Originally inhabited by eight Virginia Indigenous tribes who established villages along its shores, Virginia’s Northern Neck is one of the most historic regions in Virginia. In 1608, our first tourist, Captain John Smith, referred to it “as a place heaven and earth never agreed better to frame man’s habitation.”

Nestled between the Potomac and the Rappahannock Rivers and spilling into the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia’s Northern Neck enjoys more than 1000 miles of shoreline. With so much territory to cover, this article will concentrate on that portion of the Neck easily accessed from the waters of the Rappahannock. For more information on Potomac River water approaches, go to:

Fall in love with peaceful anchorages and first-class marinas.

More than two dozen creeks feed into the Rapp. Many creeks boast outstanding anchorages with plenty of holding ground and good protection from the wind.

One of my favorite creeks is Carter’s Creek, located one mile above the Rappahannock River Bridge. It flows peacefully nine nautical miles into the town of Irvington. Yopps Cove immediately on your right as you enter the creek welcomes the cruising sailor with the feel of nature all around, yet only a few minutes’ dinghy ride from some truly amazing amenities in the picturesque town of Irvington.

The venerable Tides Inn rises majestically from the banks of Carter’s Creek. Located 11 nautical miles from Windmill Point, the Tide’s floating dock marina accommodates up to 20 vessels ranging from small weekend cruisers to 150-foot yachts. Rates range from $3.75-5 per foot. Adjacent to the main marina, an all-new day-use dock accommodates up to 12 additional vessels. The marina features electricity, water, Wi-Fi, and pump-out services.

A short stroll up the street sits the majestic Hope and Glory Inn, one of the most honored small inns in America. More about the Hope and Glory later! Also located on Carter’s Creek are Rappahannock Yachts and the Rappahannock River Yacht Club.

hope glory inn irvington
The Hope and Glory Inn in Irvington, VA, is popular among sailors arriving by land yacht. Photo by Craig Ligibel

Back on the Rapp, head up the Corrotoman River and make your way to Yankee Point Marina. There you’ll find a 100-slip marina owned since May of 2022 by Kara and Todd Patterson, who have spent the last two years upgrading and improving the marina in many ways. Yankee Point offers transients all the amenities cruisers might want, including dockside dining and a swimming pool with plenty of room to hang out. 

For an insider’s take on all the Rapp has to offer, see the sidebar at the end of this article penned by Chris Johnson, former Regent Point Yacht Club cruising commodore.

Fall in love with local yacht clubs and sailing associations.

Throughout the summer, a number of local yacht clubs and sailing associations offer a season-long menu of regattas and cookouts that can be accessed by visiting sailors.

Not to be missed is the Hospice Turkey Shoot Regatta for classic sailboats, one of the largest regattas on the Chesapeake, held at the end of the season to benefit Riverside Hospices and staged jointly by the City of Irvington, Rappahannock River Yacht Club, Yankee Point Yacht Club, and the Northern Neck Sailing Association. This year’s regatta unfolds October 4.

Fall in love with oysters and local cuisine.

Local oysters and mouth-watering cuisine are hallmarks of Northern Neck exploration. A not-to-be-missed stop on the Deltaville side of the river is the Rappahannock Oyster Company’s trendy Merroir tasting room, located in Topping just down Locklies Creek. The approach to the restaurant is straightforward. A set of floating docks makes sail-up dining an experience well worth the voyage.

Irvington innkeeper Dudley Patterson is the self-proclaimed “father of the Virginia oyster trail,” a carefully curated set of restaurants and seafood establishments where one can revel in all things oyster. “From a marketing standpoint, Maryland owns the blue crab,” says Patterson. “I wanted Virginia to own the oyster. It’s a sexier food with a rich history going back thousands of years. How many poems have been written about the crab? Come on. Oysters are where it’s at.” Several points along the Oyster Trail can be accessed via water.

Patterson’s Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard and Oyster Bar, situated on the grounds of the Hope and Glory Inn, serves a beautiful spread of fresh and baked oysters accompanied by award-winning wines from the adjacent vineyard. A new addition to the menu is a dessert oyster… a buttery bivalve topped with a lime sorbet and a sprig of mint. “It’s a flavor explosion in your mouth,” guarantees Patterson.

rappahannock river oysters
Oyster harvest on the Rappahannock River. Photo courtesy of the Rappahannock Oyster Co.

Fall in love with local history.

If you are exploring the area by sailboat or land yacht, be sure to check out the Irvington Steamboat Museum, Morattico Waterfront Museum, and Deltaville Maritime Museum. Be sure to see the replica of John Smith’s shallop Explorer at the Deltaville Maritime Museum as well as take a peek into the fully restored 63-foot-long oyster buyboat, the F.D. Crockett.

Fall in love with nature.

The Rapp’s northern reaches are characterized by sweeping pastoral views bookended by two sets of 100- to 150-foot-tall sandstone cliffs that serve as habitat for the river’s bald eagle population. It is a fisherman’s and paddler’s paradise. In fact, portions of the river are designated a National Wildlife Refuge.

The 50-foot clearance fixed bridge at Route 360 in Tappahannock limits large sailboats cruising above that point. That’s a pity because even though facilities are limited, this part of the river offers gunkholing opportunities galore. Many boaters eager to explore this stretch of the river explore the Rappahannock River Water Trail by kayak, canoe, or small boat.

Fall in love with luxury.

Dudley and Peggy Patterson’s nationally recognized Hope and Glory Inn and the recently refurbished Tides Inn offer the cruising yachtsman a pampered break from a night on the hook. Both establishments offer haute cuisine, amazing amenities, and welcoming hosts. Splurge on a night or two. Life on the Rapp will never be the same!

craig and colleen on carter creek
The author and his wife Colleen on Carter Creek off the Rapp celebrating her birthday. Photo courtesy of Craig Ligibel

Fall in love with your significant other.

I have had the privilege of celebrating significant wedding anniversaries and birthdays in the confines of the Northern Neck. Last year, my wife and I stayed at the Hope and Glory Inn, cruised Carter’s Creek with Dudley, enjoyed a delicious al fresco breakfast on the patio, and drove to the Little Wicamico Oyster Company for a dockside tour of this fourth-generation oyster farm. After sampling a dozen or so Peach Tree oysters right out of the river, my wife turned to me and said, “Dear, nothing says Happy Birthday like the smell of an oyster processing plant.”

Who knew that the way to a woman’s heart is with a plateful of buttery oysters? The dozen red roses I sent ahead to greet her at the inn didn’t hurt things either! ~ By Craig Ligibel

More To Love About the Rapp

Insider tips from Chris Johnson, former cruising commodore of the Regent Point Yacht Club:

  • On the south side of the Rappahannock River, east of Whitestone Bridge, is Regent Point Marina, an accommodating “destination” marina. It has a park-like setting, is very well kept, and the slip holders have a very nice, active community of well-travelled sailors. If you’re looking for a nice quiet place to rest for a few days, this is the place. There is no anchorage in Locklies Creek, but across from Regent Point Marina there’s Merroir Tasting Room with a dock for customers. 
  • As for Deltaville, Broad Creek: is a very busy area with many marinas and docks close to the town of Deltaville. Note: it’s very easy to run aground and there is no anchorage.
  • On the south side of Deltaville is Jackson Creek, where there are anchorages and the City Dock. There’s also Fishing Bay for good anchorages. Fishing Bay Marina has temporary dockage and a nice swimming pool. There’s also Fishing Bay Yacht Club which I believe has some temporary slips for guests. I’ve docked there for regattas in the past. Mind the shoal that juts out from Fishing Bay. There is a red marker there; watch for it!
  • At the mouth of the Rappahannock River, on the north side of Windmill Point you will find Fleet’s Bay. You can get way up in there for a hurricane hole. If you’re heading down the Bay and you run out of daylight and want to pull over for the night, there’s a flashing red that you can go to, and anchor behind it, outside of the channel.
  • North of Windmill Point and Fleets Bay is Indian Creek Yacht and Country Club. It’s upscale with a good restaurant and golf course. (The marina staff will plug into your shore power connection and test for any polarity faults before they allow you to plug into shore power, as they have a newly rewired dock and are sensitive about what they allow to plug into their system.) 
  • Farther up Indian Creek, the Chesapeake Boat Basin is very accommodating for cruisers. In the past they have made a vehicle available to drive into Whitestone to dine, shop, and visit the town, which is tourist centered.

Note: Chris tells SpinSheet that he’s had a boat in the waters in and around the Chesapeake most of his 64 years. He is partial to the folks at Regent Point Marina. He cautions boaters to watch the markers like a roadmap when entering and navigating the creeks. “It’s a great river with lots of friendly folks who will welcome you.”

Find more great Chespeake sailing destinations here.