Irvington, Virginia, home of the Tides Inn, was an overnight stop on the steamboat itinerary that for a hundred years connected remote towns, villages, and even individual farms on Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to the cities of Baltimore and Norfolk. In its heyday, Irvington had an opera house, but the fortunes of this and scores of other communities that faced Chesapeake Bay turned south when a hurricane in 1937 destroyed most of the steamboat docks and many of the steamboats, bringing to an abrupt end a grand era already crumbling as encroaching roads brought motor transportation to the region.
A local family built the Tides Inn as a refuge from the cities for people who had fond memories of Virginia’s Northern Neck from those steamboat years. Over time, it expanded from being a guesthouse for an extended family to a full-service resort in the vein of those found in the Blue Ridge, but on a more intimate scale.
Among the amenities on offer to guests are two golf courses (a nine-hole par three on the premises and an 18-hole course), tennis courts, Frisbee, golf, and bicycles for exploring Irvington.
The Tides Inn’s marina is in two parts. The main marina (recently rebuilt with new floating docks) is right below the hotel. The other part, which also has the fuel dock, is a couple of hundred yards across the creek and is serviced by a shuttle boat.
The Tides Inn is also home to Premier Sailing, which offers US Sailing certificate courses and has a fleet of dinghies (Sunfish, Optis, Lasers, etc.) on the beach.
Within a short walk, bike ride, or dinghy ride from the Tides are two boatyards, Rappahannock Yachts and Custom Yacht Service, which provide comprehensive services, and the Rappahannock River Yacht Club. A third yard, Ampro (804-438-6050), with a big railway and more oriented to workboats, is a longish drive away in Weems but less than half a mile by water.
From the Tides Inn on Carter Creek, about 10 miles up the Rappahannock River from Windmill Point, it’s a little over 50 miles to Hampton Roads. That puts it one long day or two short days from popular stepping-off points for the passage south, whether outside or inside.