Virginia Indians knew the Northern Neck by its villages and bodies of water. The current names of many of those waterways and settlements trace their origins to the Virginia Algonquian language. A peninsula between the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, the Northern Neck Proprietary was a gift to Lord Fairfax, and the region’s navigable creeks and rivers presented opportunities for English colonization in the 17th century. Northern Neck is the birthplace of two brothers to sign the Declaration of Independence from the illustrious Lee family, and three of the first five presidents — George Washington, James Monroe and James Madison; their homes are open to the public for tours and events.
A commercially active region with the advent of the steamboat industry that brought thousands to the area for seafood and recreation, the Northern Neck later mourned the decline of the Chesapeake Bay steamboats. Bridges came few and late, and today, there are three bridges that access the region. Scenic byways abound in the area, more plentiful than traffic lights. Roads lead to forgotten steamboat landings on waterways and inlets no longer necessary for the delivery of mail or city-made goods, and now provide launches for canoes or kayaks.
Wildlife and bird-watchers congregate in the area for bird walks, hikes or paddles at the Rappahannock National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the Civilian Conservation Corps-era Westmoreland State Park, Caledon State Park and Belle Isle State Park.
The Northern Neck is dotted with charming small museums that engage visitors in our past, and historic sites in still-scenic natural settings. Historic Districts and walkable downtowns provide restaurants, lodging and specialty retail shopping. Well-established wineries have been joined by more recent vineyards and offer tastings, pairings and events on weekends. With the Virginia Oyster Trail traversing the region, visitors can engage with watermen on a heritage on-water tour, and see oyster cages floating in creeks where the bivalve is grown for the restaurant market. Hike the parks and natural areas. Paddle through our history. Visit the sites and taste the history in our farm-raised produce, locally harvested seafood and regional wines that complement both. For more information or to plan a visit to the Northern Neck, visit northernneck.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.