Museums, Historic Places & Parks
The influence of steamboats was as important to the Northern Neck and towns along the entire Chesapeake Bay as rail was to any other small town across the country. The steamboats provided an economic lifeline. The cities of Norfolk and, more predominately, Baltimore acted as gateways to the world beyond. The cities provided the markets, the towns provided the goods and the steamboats provided a means to both.
The Steamboat Era Museum was established to preserve their legacy. From its grassroots inception in 1999 to its opening day in 2004, the museum has evolved to become a unique treasure for our local community and our visitors. Though numerous maritime museums exist nationwide, few reflect the steamboat era and none of them is dedicated to the steamboats of the Chesapeake Bay.
The Steamboat Era Museum tells the story that has not been told: the times of the steamboats, and how they altered the lives of everyone along the Chesapeake Bay.
156 King Carter Drive
Irvington, VA 22480
Historic Christ Church
For more than 300 years, a church has stood at the present site of Historic Christ Church. The first church constructed here, most likely a wood-framed structure, was built under the direction of John Carter and finished in 1670. In 1730, John’s son Robert “King” Carter, colonial Virginia’s most powerful planter, proposed to build a brick church here at his own expense, which the vestry of Christ Church Parish accepted.
Finished in 1735, Christ Church was the most finely crafted Anglican parish church in all of colonial Virginia. The church’s detailed brickwork, particularly the molded-brick doorways, had few rivals in Virginia and perhaps colonial America. The classical, full entablature was among the most sophisticated produced in the colony. With towering brick walls, vaulted ceilings, and large compass-headed windows, Christ Church cut an imposing figure in a Virginia landscape dotted by small, frame, earthfast buildings. On the interior, the superb high-backed pews, triple-decker pulpit, walnut altarpiece, and stone pavers gave the church a character unique among colonial houses of worship. No doubt it was one of the most astonishing buildings many colonial Virginians would see throughout their entire lives.
To members of Christ Church Parish, however, the church was more than just an architectural wonder or place of worship. The Anglican church was the official, established church of the colony, and parish residents were taxed to support it. Like the county courthouse, the colonial church was an important center of Virginian’s social and political world.
420 Christ Church Road
Weems, VA 22576
Mary Ball Washington Museum
The Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library complex is located in the heart of Lancaster County on Virginia’s Northern Neck. The Museum/Library was established in 1958 and took the name Mary Ball Washington to honor the mother of the nation’s first president. Mary Ball was born in Lancaster County, just eight miles from the Museum. The Museum seeks to recapture the stories and the rich history of the people of Virginia’s Northern Neck.
The Museum’s collections include several historically significant buildings in the village of Lancaster Court House. Every item, every aspect, has a story and a connection proving that history is neither static nor carved in stone. New stories surface, like arrowheads long buried, providing constant shifting of information that gives vitality to history.
Our activities include educational programs, exhibits, living history presentations, tours, research and writing.
8346 Mary Ball Road (Route 3)
Lancaster, Virginia 22503
(804) 462-6107 (Fax)
St Mary's White Chapel Episcopal Church
Located in historic Lancaster County, Virginia on Virginia’s Northern Neck, St. Mary’s Whitechapel was constructed in 1669 as a place of worship and a colonial center. We invite you to join us for worship in a space that has welcomed parishioners for over 300 years. The natural beauty of our grounds compliment, the reverence of our historic cemetery and charm of our colonial sanctuary combine to form a truly special place of worship.
5940 White Chapel Road (Office)
Lancaster, VA 22503
The Northern Neck Farm Museum began with a collector, an individual who refused to discard what was once considered useful and later became obsolete. In his 50-plus years of farming, Luther Welch, a native of Northumberland County, grew his collection of farm equipment and wanted to share it. Other farmers and community members shared his dream and a five county regional museum was formed in 2006 to tell the story of agriculture on the Northern Neck of Virginia.
The Northern Neck of Virginia has a rich agricultural tradition. From the early American Indians who grew maize, squash and beans to the present-day farmer managing hundreds of acres of corn, soybeans, and small grains, the accumulated knowledge of the land from generations of participants in this life-sustaining activity is worthy of a permanent display of appreciation. The goal of the museum is to develop exhibits that span the years from early American Indian agriculture through the present.
The museum is a recognized 501c3 non-profit corporation dedicated to creating a center devoted to preserving and sharing the history of farming and forestry and its cultural impacts on society. Education is primary to the museum with field trip programs for the school systems and general public visitation being the top priorities.
Museum Telephone: 804.761.5952
Chairperson Bonnie Chandler Telephone: 804.493.8182
Mailing address: PO Box 365;
Heathsville, VA 22473
Physical address: 12705 Northumberland Highway
Heathsville VA 22473
Situated in the heart of the watermen’s village on the north shore of the Rappahannock River with commanding views of the river, Lancaster Creek, and Mulberry Bay. The village takes its name from the Moraughtacund Indians of the Algonquian Nation encountered in the area by Captain John Smith in 1608.
Residents established the all-volunteer, non-profit museum in 2003 to preserve the cultural history of the village and maintain a community center. It is housed in the 1901 Morattico General Store building.
Artifacts, photos, and documents related to activities in a working watermen’s settlement and the function of the general store are being preserved to honor the past and educate new generations.
P.O. Box 80
Morattico, VA 22523
Phone: (804) 462-0532
Reedville Fisherman's Museum
Our Museum, an affiliate member of the Council of American Maritime Museums, is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the maritime history of the lower Chesapeake Bay area and the watermen who have plied their trade here for hundreds of years, and the menhaden industry that has existed in Reedville for over a century.
We accomplish this mission by acquiring, documenting and displaying materials that are historically important to the area’s fisheries and the lives of the watermen, and to further educational programs to interpret this maritime heritage.
Two of our vessels, the skipjack Claud W. Somers and the deck boat Elva C. are in the National Register of Historic Places. This action speaks to the vital role that our local heritage – the heritage we work so hard to preserve – plays in this nation’s history.
504 Main Street
Reedville, VA 22539
Belle Isle State Park
Belle Isle has seven miles of shoreline on the Northern Neck’s Rappahannock River and provides access to Mulberry and Deep creeks. The park lets visitors explore a wide variety of tidal wetlands interspersed with farmland and upland forests. It has a campground, three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, and motor boat and car-top launches. Belle Isle also offers overnight lodging at Bel Air and the Bel Air Guest House. Bicycle, canoe, kayak and motorboat rentals are available. Guests also enjoy the park’s universal access playground, boardwalk and fishing pier, and educational programs. The Bel Air historic area is ideal for weddings.
Wildlife: The diverse habitats found in the park provide homes to many predator birds, such as blue herons, osprey, hawks and bald eagles. White-tailed deer, turkeys, groundhogs, rabbits, squirrels, moles, reptiles and amphibians are also common. There are eight distinct types of wetlands within the park. These diverse ecosystems make Belle Isle an excellent outdoor laboratory for environmental education.
1632 Belle Isle Rd.
Lancaster, VA 22503
Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve
The 316-acre Dameron Marsh Natural Area Preserve is one in a series of protected lands that line the western and eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. This preserve contains one of the most significant wetlands on the Chesapeake Bay for marsh-bird communities, and its pristine beach habitat is highly important for the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis).
Public access facilities at the preserve include a small parking area, walking trails, and a boardwalk and wildlife viewing platform overlooking the marsh and Chesapeake Bay. A designated "hand-carry" boat put-in site is also accessible via a short trail that accommodates kayaks, canoes and other small "car-top" vessels. A drop-off point and vehicle turn-around facilitates launching, with vehicles returning to the parking area.
An online Dameron Marsh NAP self-guided field trip guide (PDF) is available to help you enjoy your visit.
From Kilmarnock, go north on VA 200 towards Burgess. Turn right onto VA 606. Turn left at the Shiloh schoolhouse onto VA 605. Turn right onto VA 606, and then left onto VA 693. Follow VA 693 into the preserve.
Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve
Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve contains several excellent examples of tidal and non-tidal wetlands, as well as exemplary undeveloped beaches, dunes, and upland forests. The preserve supports the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle (Cicindela dorsalis dorsalis) and other rare invertebrates. Hughlett Point is an important wintering area for migrating waterfowl and songbirds, and provides habitat for bald eagles, osprey and northern harriers.
Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve is open to the public. Facilities include parking, trails, a woodland boardwalk, wildlife viewing platforms, and interpretive signs.
A preserve guide factsheet (PDF) and map are available to assist in planning your visit.
Hughlett Point and Dameron Marsh natural area preserves contain some of the most significant Chesapeake Bay wetlands for marsh birds, and also support pristine sandy shorelines that provide habitat for the federally threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle and nesting sites for rare shore birds. To protect these species and their significant habitats, designated sections of preserve shorelines may be closed during specific periods of the year to both land (walking) and water (boat landing) access. Thank you for your help in conserving some of Virginia's rarest wildlife by observing the posted seasonal closings of designated shorelines at these two Northern Neck preserves.
From Kilmarnock, go north on VA 200 towards Burgess. Turn right onto VA 606. Turn right at the Shiloh schoolhouse onto VA 605. Follow VA 605 to the preserve.