Photo by Megan Marconyak
Escape Richmond with a weekend of riverside relaxation that's only 90 minutes away in Colonial Beach, Va. Located along the Potomac River, this sleepy little town has sweeping waterside views and the second largest public beach in Virginia. Plan to leave your car parked and wander to a variety of destinations. The town is quaint — in fact, you'll most likely see area residents driving around on golf carts instead of using their cars. You can make a complete loop by hopping on the Colonial Beach Trolley, which runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. It picks up right at the Tides Inn Market and makes more than 15 stops around the area at restaurants, bed-and-breakfasts, and shopping areas. Look for the "Trolley Stop" signs as you're wandering around.
Book a room at The Breakers (804-214-9352 or idesinncolonialbeach.com), a newly renovated 1893 Queen Anne Victorian home owned by Megan Davis, who also owns the Tides Inn bed-and-breakfast across the street. (Not to be confused with the resort in Irvington.) The Breakers is walking distance to the water, and it features pristine rooms with spacious marble bathrooms and views of the Potomac River. The mansion was originally built by Colonial Beach's first mayor, and accomodations include three master suites and two queen rooms. Your stay comes with breakfasts featuring selections like homemade bread and jams and freshly baked quiches, as well as wine and hors d'oeuvres in the evening. Enjoy either course on the spacious wrap-around porch that surrounds the house and is fitted with plenty of furniture for lounging. Don't hesitate to ask for anything you might have forgotten, including beach chairs, which Davis will lend out for your stay.
Enjoy a romantic patio dinner at Seaside Thai & French Cuisine (804-224-2410 or seaside-va.com), where expertly prepared drunken noodles and spicy pad eggplant are served alongside filet mignon and sautéed escargot, as well as affordably priced wines by the bottle. Service is friendly and welcoming, and you'll even be allowed back for lunch after sunning yourself by the water if you don't mind sitting outside. Make sure to try one of the indulgent desserts, such as mango sweet sticky rice, crème brûlée or fried banana with vanilla ice cream.
For more casual beachside eats, head to High Tidez (804-224-8433 or hightidez.com) to enjoy tropical drinks and simple bar fare on a spacious patio with a river view. Right next door, the restaurant also owns The Black Pearl Tiki Bar, which features live music many evenings.
If you happen to plan your trip for the second Friday of the month, you can catch the Colonial Beach Artists' Guild's monthly art walk (colonialbeachartistsguild.org). Various galleries and businesses open their doors to showcase works by artisans and crafters from 6 to 9 p.m., and many offer appetizers while you wander. Maps are available at participating venues; you can also find a list of venues on the Artists' Guild's website.
A 20-minute drive from the town itself is the George Washington Birthplace (804-224-1732 or nps.gov/gewa). Washington was born and lived on this plantation until age 3, and he returned as a teenager. You can explore the area yourself, or catch one of the ranger talks, which take place every hour on the hour between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Also in Colonial Beach is the James Monroe Birthplace (monroefoundation.org/monroe-birthplace.html), which is open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Just about 20 minutes down the road in Oak Grove is Ingleside Vineyards (804-224-8687 or inglesidevineyards.com), one of the largest wineries in Virginia. Tours and tastings are offered daily, and you are welcome to purchase glasses or bottles to enjoy in the spacious courtyard.
Be sure to stop by the Tides Inn Market (804-214-9352 or tidesinncolonialbeach.com) for freshly baked brownies to enjoy beachside, as well as gourmet goodies like plum-lemon jam to take home. Owner Caitlin Davis (daughter of Tides Inn owner Megan Davis) graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and sells all sorts of freshly made sandwiches, baked goods, breads, spreads, salads, gelato and more, along with specialty beers and wines. Arrive early for the best selection, as popular goodies can sell out by midday. The shop also has a schedule of cooking classes; you can even schedule a private session if you bring a group.