Originally inhabited by eight separate Native American tribes who established villages along its shores, the Northern Neck is one of the most historic regions in Virginia. In 1608 Captain John Smith, the first tourist, 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, the Northern Neck peninsula was part of the enormous 1649 land grant by Charles II known as the Fairfax Grant. The bountiful waters of the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay, supported and induced English settlement. The English built stately homes and farmed tobacco for export to England, which became the basis of the Northern Neck’s economy during the Colonial era. The Northern Neck’s most famous son, George Washington, was born on Pope’s Creek off of the Potomac River and called the region “the Garden of Virginia.” America’s fifth president, James Monroe, was born in Westmoreland County in 1758.
The Lee family of Virginia called the Northern Neck home and built Stratford Hall in the 1730s, of bricks fired from the clay soil on the premises. Richard Henry Lee co-wrote the Westmoreland Resolves, which proposed American independence in 1766 in protest against the Stamp Act. He and his brother, Francis Lightfoot Lee, were the only two brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence. The last Lee born at Stratford Hall who survived to maturity was Robert E. Lee, born in 1807.
During the Steamboat Era, from 1813 to 1927, the Northern Neck utilized a network of about 600 steamboats to move people and products throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. In addition to facilitating trade of local produce, seafood and tobacco for manufactured goods, spices, and fruits, steamboats made the Northern Neck more accessible to Baltimore…and provided local residents with activities and entertainment from floating theaters that circulated to ports of call throughout the Chesapeake Bay region.
In more recent times, the waters of the Potomac River, Rappahannock River, Chesapeake Bay and their tributaries provide a haven for boaters and water enthusiasts, and have supported a fishing industry for generations in the Northern Neck. Presently small-town charm, Colonial architecture, bed & breakfast inns, the Tides Inn, eight wineries, seventeen museums, historic sites, marinas and retail shops are among the historic activities and things to do in the Northern Neck region.
For more information on family activities and things to do in the Northern Neck of Virginia, call the Tides Inn Activities Team at 804.438.4489.