Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Discovering Virginia's Northern Neck


Prentice Creek in Ditchley, VA
(c) Thrifty Gypsy
The Northern Neck -- a decidedly unromantic name for a place so rich in natural beauty and small-town charm -- is the northernmost of three peninsulas jutting into the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia, with the Potomac River as the northern border and the Rappahannock to the south.  It's a playground for the affluent and the working man alike; large sailboats sit side-by-side with little john boats, and fish don't discriminate against worms purchased from Bass Pro Shop or those dug up in the front yard.

(c) Thrifty Gypsy
The primary attraction in the Northern Neck is, of course, nature itself, particularly in the low-country, tidal part of the peninsula.  Here all things water reigns supreme: boating, beaching, fishing, crabbing, and all kinds of water sports.  If you don't own a boat, you can still enjoy nature at several public access locations such as Belle Isle State Park, Dameron Marsh, or Hughlett Point.  Bring a bathing suit and a good camera; you never know what wildlife you might spot!  Osprey, herons, and bald eagles are regulars, and sometimes one might catch a glimpse of an otter, deer, or fox.  For boaters, keep your eyes peeled for porpoises and stingrays swimming close to the surface!

Us on Prentice Creek
(c) Heidi Dalton
Life on the Northern Neck is savored, not rushed.  Residents seek to keep the rat-race lifestyle at arm's length in the big city where it belongs.  Although in recent years a WalMart has sprung up in the Kilmarnock area, thankfully it hasn't brought too much development with it.  In fact the town of Kilmarnock is the perfect representation of Northern Neck life.  Small boutiques, little bait shops, and family-owned restaurants line the town center and still outnumber "chain name" businesses.  Here, Southern gentility meets salt-life casualness; one is just as likely to encounter someone in Country Club Prep as someone in flip-flops and swimming trunks. 

What Kilmarnock and the Northern Neck lack in big name attractions (like Williamsburg, Virginia Beach or Richmond), it more than makes up for in relaxation and the beauty of the landscape.  Sometimes the best trips aren't chasing monuments or viewing historical sites, but taking a moment to kick back and enjoy a sweet iced tea while a brackish creek flows lazily beside you.

Have you ever been to Kilmarnock or the Northern Neck?

Dixie enjoys the "salt pup" life in Kilmarnock.
(c) Thrifty Gypsy



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12 comments:

  1. I don't know anything about Virginia except for this horrible (European?) country song where they sing about West Virginia....It definitely seems to be an awesome place! Do you live there? One thing: southern gentility? Does Virginia already count as a southern state?

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    1. Do some of the lyrics go "West Virginia, mountain mama, take me home, country roads..."? If so, it's not a European song, and as I'm partial to country music, it definitely gets played on some of our road trips. ;)

      Oh, yes, Virginia is definitely a Southern state! I live in Richmond, which is the capitol of the state. Although we Richmonders tend to not claim northern Virginia (near DC) as being Southern. Richmond was also the capitol of the Confederacy during the American Civil War and is the gateway to the South. It's certainly a different kind of south than, say, the Deep South states like Alabama or Mississippi, but we're definitely Southern!

      I'm very biased, but I think it's one of the most beautiful states in the US. Lots of history and culture. One of my most read posts is about Richmond (link is on the right side of the site), which was named by Frommers as a top destination for 2014!

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    2. Yes, that's exactly the song! But I'm pretty sure the version I know is European as it's more like a party hit that is played in every small town disco....I hate it but maybe the original is better? I certainly didn't know that Virginia is the gateway to the South! Thanks for educating me in American geography ;) And even though Americans always complain that their country is so young and there's no real history in comparison to Europe, I find the Civil War quite fascinating! More than anything medieval ;)

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    3. I can't believe there's a remix of it! I'll have to check it out to see how it compares, haha! And yes, Virginia really is the gateway. Everything north is definitely not the South. I'm definitely more fascinated by European history because of just how far back it goes, but the Civil War is my "favorite" (hard to call it a favorite when it was such a divisive and devastating event) part of American history. Virginia has many major and minor battleground sites, and we have visited a lot of them. The war definitely had a major impact on how Virginia has evolved and been shaped through to modern history.

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  2. Sounds lovely and a lot like my small home town where there is no rat race. Totally agree with your last sentence about being able to kick back and enjoy - those are often the best travel moments.

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    1. They really are! Most of our vacations are jam-packed full of things to do and see (like our upcoming Europe trip, or my 48 hours in London in February). Going to Kilmarnock is where we have no to-do list at all. It's like an unspoken rule. :)

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  3. It is nice to get away and have a quieter weekend, every once in a while. I'm certainly a girl attracted to the city but I like to get away every once in a while too.

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    1. Almost all our actual vacations are to big-city destinations. Our schedules are so jam-packed then that it really isn't but so relaxing! Our weekends at Kilmarnock, however, have no agenda but relaxation. :)

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  4. I just love Virginia! I went once and I still remember how wonderfully peaceful it all was!

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    1. Glad you had a good experience and good impression of us! :D

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  5. Haha you're right...Northern Neck is not the most attractive name for such an attractive place! :)

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    1. I'd say what sort of vision "northern neck" conveys, but it's not a very pretty one! ;P

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