If you want to slurp down some of the freshest oysters from the Chesapeake region, look no further than Virginia’s oyster trail, located mostly on the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula regions of the Chesapeake Bay.
Virginia claims bragging rights to being the largest producer of farm-raised oysters on the East Coast. You’ll only be able to experience the flavor profiles and oyster variations if you visit some of the oyster farms, restaurants, and festivals that are especially busy during the fall harvest season.
At first glance, the oyster trail map is overwhelming. It pinpoints more than a hundred participating Virginia businesses serving or supporting the oyster industry. To get you started, here are a few can’t miss destinations.
- Rappahannock Oyster Company’s Merroir Tasting Room: Just like wine, oysters can vary depending upon the growing region. In Virginia, there are eight distinct growing regions, each with its own flavor profile. Merroir, which is a word used to describe the region in which oysters are grown, is also the name of Rappahannock Oyster Company’s waterfront tasting room. It’s here that you can sample a range of oysters, including Old Salts, Stingrays and Rappahannock River Oysters. The restaurant is also known for other grilled seafood dishes served by executive chef Dylan Fultineer, as well as stunning views of the surrounding Rappahannock River.
- Urbanna Oyster Festival: Mark your calendar now. One of Virginia’s largest oyster shucking festivals takes place in the tiny town of Urbanna, November 3-4. This year is the 60th anniversary, and it includes a professional shucking competition, where pros compete to pry open the most oysters. Other attractions include a craft beer tasting, oyster festival parade, and a festival village filled with oyster and seafood vendors.
- KC's Crabs & Cues: From the looks of it KC’s Crab & Cues might not seem like much. But, this roadside billiards bar is actually one of the best places to chow down on oysters, including fried oyster sandwiches. And for those who can stomach a lot of seafood, try the KC Combo, which comes with a crab cake, four shrimp, three oysters, and two filets of fish.
- Sandpiper Restaurant: Since 1982, the Sandpiper Restaurant has been a standby for some of the freshest Chesapeake Bay seafood. Its location, in the heart of White Stone, Virginia, is adjacent to several oyster farms. You can order them raw, on the half-shell, or spice them up a bit with the restaurant's famed oyster tacos, served fried and topped with house-made slaw.
- The Hope and Glory Inn: For a relaxing stay by the Chesapeake Bay, book a room at the Hope and Glory Inn. Originally, this hotel was a private academy until the late-1800s. Today, it’s a charming hotel that offers boutique rooms and suites with plenty of old-world style. The hotel also has several amenities, including complimentary bike service, so you can ride into town, as well as access to The Faded Glory, a 42-foot Chesapeake Bay dead-rise workboat, which gives personalized creek tours of the surrounding Rappahannock River region.