The briny smell of the bay, nets full of shellfish and a laid-back, rural atmosphere characterizes the Northern and Middle Necks of the Chesapeake Bay Region. These fingers of land are outlined by the York, Rappahannock and Potomac Rivers which flow into the Chesapeake Bay, the Potomac forming the state border with neighboring Maryland.
The Chesapeake Northern Neck includes the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, on the southern bank of the Potomac, where the first president was born. Westmoreland State Park lies on the peninsula between the Rappahannock and Potomac and offers hiking, swimming, kayaking and wildlife viewing. Stratford Hall Plantation, overlooking the Potomac, is the birthplace of Robert E. Lee; tours are available.
Reedville, once a wealthy area due to abundant fishing, is home to a "Millionaires' Row" of Victorian mansions. The most unique is The Gables, built around the mast of a local sea captain's schooner. Day cruises are available here to Tangier Island, a quaint fishing village located in the middle of the bay that isn't far in terms of nautical miles but otherwise seems worlds apart.
Virginia's only Indian reservations are found in the Middle Neck of the region, each on the banks of a river named for the tribe. The 1200-acre Pamunkey Reservation features a museum and shop; the 150-acre Mattaponi Reservation holds annual pow-wows. Nearby, fishermen's wharves and Victorian homes dot the port town of Urbanna.
A Middle Neck driving tour through Mathews County presents bay views and overlooks New Point Comfort Lighthouse, an 1805 light separated from shore by a hurricane. A stop at Caledon Natural Area in summer may yield views of bald eagles. Both biking and driving tours of birding and nature trails are available here.
Chesapeake Bay Region covers the northern edge of Virginia's Eastern Shore, along US 17 and 360. The Northern Neck is approximately 90 minutes northwest of Richmond; the Middle Neck is about 45 minutes from the state capital.