15 Best Things to Do in Lancaster County, VA

Lancaster County, VA
a_Taiga / iStock.com

Lancaster County was chartered in 1651 and was the 12th county established in the Virginia colony.

It's flanked by two major bodies of water: the Chesapeake Bay to the east and the Rappahannock River to the west and south.

As Lancaster is a coastal county, its soil is rich with nutrients and is capable of supporting various plantations and woodlands.

As a result, Lancaster County is one of the greenest in America, and its residents are among the most environmentally aware people you'll ever meet.

Here are the best things to do in Lancaster County, Virginia:

Learn about Lancaster County at Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library

Exterior of Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library
Ser Amantio di Nicolao at en.wikipedia, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library is the safe keeper of Lancaster County's history.

The library was named in honor of Mary Ball, Lancaster native and mother of former president George Washington.

Its resident nonprofit, Lancaster Virginia Historical Society, abstracted and compiled Lancaster County's estate records from 1835 to 1865, culminating a three-year project to help African-American genealogy researchers bridge the research gap between freedom and slavery.

It's also home to thousands of books and periodicals related to Virginia and the Northern Neck, along with other genealogy and history research materials.

If you're much of a reader, check out their exhibits instead, where you can see artifacts and antiques related to local history.

Stop by the gift shop on the way out, and bring home a book or two.

Mary Ball Washington Museum and Library can be found on Mary Ball Road in Lancaster.

Explore the Great Outdoors at Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve

For a great outdoor experience, head to Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve.

This fascinating 254-acre preserve is composed of woodland, swamp, and ravines.

Because of the land's ecological diversity, it's an important habitat for a wide array of local flora and fauna.

The woodlands, for example, are home to various types of cedar and oak.

On the other hand, the swamps support all manner of plants that grow on wetlands.

It's estimated that at least 500 different plant species can be seen in the area, including rare species such as lady slipper orchids.

Aside from plants, you will also be able to spot several birds that call Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve their home.

You can also go birdwatching and see which of the 74 species of avian life are currently with you.

Bring comfortable walking shoes, a camera, and a pair of binoculars to this gorgeous preserve, and don't forget to bring your trash with you when you leave!

Hickory Hollow Natural Area Preserve can be reached via Regina Road, just east of Lancaster.

Buy Jewelry at Rocks to Gems and Crystals

Rocks to Gems and Crystals is a family business run by Angie McNeal, whose ancestors have been mining gems and designing jewelry for decades.

This fascinating little shop in Mary Ball Road is easy to spot; it's the white house across Lancaster High School, with a dreamcatcher hanging on its front window.

Once you walk inside the shop, you'll see one of Virginia's most eclectic shops.

Hanging on the walls and sitting on boxes are several different jewelry pieces made out of gems prospected all across Virginia.

Each piece is meticulously designed and crafted by Angie and her family.

They also sell uncut gems and unprocessed geodes, all of which you can also buy by bag.

Aside from these beauties, they also sell a bunch of other surprisingly random things, such as shirts, kitchenware, terraria, jam, salsa, and incense, to name a few.

It's worth stopping by Rocks to Gems and Crystals when you're in the area, and you might even find yourself walking away with multiple bags full of rocks.

Wine and Dine at The Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard and Oyster Bar

The Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard and Oyster Bar started big.

The operators, Dudley and Peggy Patteson, have been running a bigger vineyard for over a decade.

Eventually, the two decided to expand and plant a smaller vineyard in front of another property they own, Hope and Glory Inn.

Now, it has grown into a "creative wine and oyster bar" that serves only the finest pairing of these delicacies of land and sea.

The oysters are sourced from local farmers within Irvington, where 80% of Virginia's oysters are grown.

Two award-winning Virginian winemakers make sure that every visitor will only receive the most excellent wine-tasting experience.

Ask for their 2015 Shelter Dog Red, a smooth and intense flavored red wine with hints of chocolate and spice.

That drink, by the way, is not the namesake of The Dog and Oyster Micro-Vineyard and Oyster Bar; it's all the rescue dogs who live in the vineyard and guard the grapes and oysters!

To get there, you need to simply follow Irvington Road until you get to Hope and Glory Inn.

Kilmarnock Antique Gallery is the home of over 100 antique dealers all over the region, and it's nothing short of spectacular.

At first glance, you'd think that the 22,000-square-foot single-floor building is modest and unassuming, if not clean and chic.

But upon walking into its doors, you'd be surprised to see all of the bells and whistles of an antique store dialed up to 11.

Virtually all manner of vintage curios are there for you to find: furniture, toys, paintings, carpets, lamps, decor—you name it, and one of the 100 dealers would undoubtedly have it.

Its most prominent vendor is "The Oyster Plate Lady," who deals in—you guessed it—oyster plates.

Oyster plates were first manufactured in the Victorian Era and gradually became a thing of the past after the first World War.

For over 60 years, The Oyster Plate Lady has been buying and selling these historical curiosities and displaying them in the gallery for visitors to see.

If you want to start your own oyster plate collection, Kilmarnock Antique Gallery is a great place to start.

The gallery can be found near the corner of Brent Street and School Street.

Have a Glass of Wine at Good Luck Cellars

"Pouring good fortune in every glass."

That is the motto that Paul and Katie Krop's Good Luck Cellars lives by, and they're more than welcome to grant you more than just a lucky streak in your immediate future.

They grow 12 grape varieties in their 25-acre vineyard and produce delicious wine from their own winery.

While Katie oversees the vineyard operations to this day, Paul dutifully made the magic happen in their cellars when he was still alive.

Despite Paul's passing, Good Luck Cellars remains one of the best wineries in Virginia, if not the best.

Have a taste of their award-winning wines when you arrive, particularly their Chardonel.

With the exciting fragrance of hibiscus and honeysuckle coupled with the full-bodied flavor of melon and peach, Paul's take on the Chardonel will make you realize why it won the most awards out of all their white wines.

Head east along Mary Ball Road, turn left on Goodluck Road, walk into Good Luck Cellars, and raise a glass for good fortune and for Paul.

Travel Back in Time at Steamboat Era Museum

You must've seen them in classic cartoons: bulky passenger ships emitting steam from their two thin smokestacks, their big paddle wheels propelling them forward along the quiet river as fancily-dressed passengers socialized on their decks.

Those were steamboats, and they used to rule Virginia's waters.

Steamboat Era Museum tells its visitors the story of the steamboats and how the economic lifeline of everyone along the Chesapeake Bay.

In the 1800s, Baltimore and Norfolk were important economic hubs, and steamboats encouraged trade between these cities and the smaller towns.

It was a prosperous time in Virginia's history, and you can experience it through the museum's many exhibits.

Through photos, scale models, and artifacts, you'll be able to see and feel what it's like to live in a time when riding steamboats was the equivalent of driving along the highway.

You'll also get to know a few of the important local figures in steamboat history, one of them being Hansford Bayton, an African-American entrepreneur who successfully ran a fleet of steamboats despite the Jim Crow laws of his time.

Let go of the present and embrace the past—at least for a while—at Steamboat Era Museum.

It's located right near the middle of Irvington, along King Carter Drive.

Go Birdwatching at Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve

Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve is a fascinating wetland filled with purely undeveloped beaches and dunes.

The 204-acre preserve is home to the threatened northeastern beach tiger beetle.

For this species to live their entire two-year lifespan, they require an undisturbed beach habitat where they can lay eggs in the sand.

Although the public can't get close to the tiger beetles' nests, the preserve still offers other activities for its visitors.

One of the main things that you can engage in is birdwatching.

Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve is an important wintering area for migratory birds such as waterfowl and songbirds and a habitat for various birds of prey like bald eagles, ospreys, and harriers.

During the right season, you can easily spot these birds going about their lives and coexisting with their neighbors.

Aside from that, you can also follow the designated nature trails and learn from the informative signs placed along the path.

It's a great place to spend a quiet and peaceful day with nature.

Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve can be reached through Route 605.

Hang Out at Compass Entertainment Complex

Compass Entertainment Complex has everything for those looking to be entertained for hours on end.

It's the Northern Neck's state-of-the-art entertainment complex, complete with 10 different exciting attractions and the area's only luxury movie theater.

For starters, its arcade has over 50 different games to choose from, and boasts a "Fun Pass" that lets you pay to play without waiting in line.

For extreme sports enthusiasts, they have an obstacle course, a ropes course, and a climbing wall.

On the other hand, classic sports fans will enjoy the complex's batting cages and mini-golf course.

The site also has go-karts and bumper cars for those who enjoy driving around tracks—or towards other cars.

If you're bringing smaller kids along, you can leave them at KidZone, a three-level soft indoor playground with enough obstacles and climbing tubes to keep them preoccupied.

They also boast the area's only virtual reality attraction, Hasbro’s Transformers: VR Battle Arena; you and your friends can play as the titular Transformers and fight one another across multiple environments.

Finally, after a long day of gaming, you can sit back and watch a movie in Compass Cinema Six, the region's first six-screen luxury boutique movie theater.

You'll never run out of things to do at Compass Entertainment Complex.

From Lancaster, take the highway and drive south along Irvington Road until you reach Middle Gate Lane.

Tee Off at the Golden Eagle Golf Club

Built in 1976, the Golden Eagle Golf Club was carved out of a picturesque landscape of lush green woodlands around a beautiful lake.

Enjoy 18 holes of championship-standard golf in its 6,511-yard course, or warm up first on its smaller Par 3 nine-hole executive course.

You don't need to bring your own clubs—Srixon golf clubs are readily available for you to rent—but you do need to be in your proper golf attire.

If you need help getting up to par, you can request private or group lessons by Golden Eagle's PGA golf professionals, who will meet you in whatever skill level you need.

After a long day of golf, indulge in a wide selection of American light fare at the Golden Eagle Grill, located inside the clubhouse.

Follow the highway from Mary Ball Road to access Irvington Road, then travel along Old Salem Road to reach Golden Eagle Golf Club.

Have Brunch at Ditchley Cider Works

Fancy some apples?

If so, head over to Ditchley Cider Works.

The wide estate was once part of a plantation owned by Hancock and Mary Lee in 1688.

After passing through multiple generations of Lees, and through other buyers' hands, Ditchley Cider Works is now owned by Cathy Calhoun and Paul Grokslags, a couple of Navy Veterans who bought the estate to convert it into an agricultural farm.

It is Virginia's prime producer of hard apple cider, alongside pork, beef, and poultry products.

Their delicious cider is made from apples grown on the property's 10-acre orchard, and all of it is processed and bottled on site.

In addition to apples, Ditchley raises a small herd of Belted Galloway cattle, alongside Tamworth and Large Black heritage hogs living in the woods near the property.

You'll also see geese, runner ducks, and turkeys serving as the property's organic pest control, and as their source of poultry products.

Ditchley has become the self-sustaining agricultural farm that Cathy and Paul set out to do years ago.

You can have brunch on the manor's front lawn, where they'll serve you cider and a plate of their farm-raised products.

Staying overnight also gives you access to the estate's little beach, where you can paddleboard along the nearby Dividing Creek.

Ditchley Cider Works can be accessed through Ditchley Road, 14 minutes east of Lancaster and northeast of Kilmarnock.

Other Things to Do Nearby

Venturing out of Lancaster County, you will find that Virginia offers much more.

The surrounding water has shaped its land areas into lovely beaches and has also created several great fishing spots for enthusiastic anglers.

And, of course, many Virginians have taken advantage of the fertile land by growing greens on their property and producing delicious local products.

Here are more things to do around the outskirts of Lancaster County.

Fish to Your Heart's Content at Ingram Bay Marina

Ingram Bay Marina has been operating since 1970 and has not shown signs of slowing down.

This famous, award-winning marina is home to the region's best fishing and sailing experiences, complete with a great view of both sunrise and sunset.

Take your boat into their protected harbor and enjoy their top-notch services, such as a fueling station and land storage.

If you don't have a boat but want to be on one, they offer rental services for both boats and kayaks.

In addition, Captain Billy's Charters provides fishing charters, fishing trips, and river cruises for everyone.

You can get to Ingram Bay Marina by driving 17 minutes northeast of Lancaster until you reach Harvey's Neck Road.

Go Camping at Grey's Point Camp

Grey's Point Camp is not just a camping spot; it's an entire getaway experience.

Upon driving through the gate, you'll immediately see the waterpark's big blue slides and its large pool areas.

Once inside, you'll notice the over 400 RV campsites conveniently placed near the beautiful Rappahannock River, the nearby camp store, and all the rest of Grey's Point Camp's amenities.

Aside from camping, the site is a prime location for fishing in the Rappahannock and also gives you easy access to the Chesapeake Bay.

If you instead prefer being primarily on dry land, you can go to the open sun deck and watch the boats sail by.

The sandy beach just below it is also a great place to grab some sun, whether you're sitting on a beach chair or walking along the shoreline.

You can also head inland towards the freshwater lake and rent a paddleboat.

Grey's Point Camp is in Topping, around 20 minutes south of Lancaster and across the Rappahannock River.

Find Your Inner Peace at Wake Beach

Wake Beach is one of the more quiet picturesque places that you can visit in Virginia.

With two small wooden piers facing a wide-ranging vista of the Rappahannock River, the humble beach has more than enough room for you and your thoughts.

Don't let its small size fool you; it's a popular location for families and individuals alike who prefer the serenity of smaller beaches over the hustle and bustle of resorts.

The beach's clear blue water and fine white sand frame the river beautifully in photos, so don't forget to bring a camera.

Wake Beach is located across the Rappahannock River from Lancaster County.

Taste Good Wine at Triple V Farms

The three Vs in Triple V Farms stand for vines, vodka, and vinegar.

Since its first day of business, the farm has been growing grapes and olives to produce wine and vinegar for their customers.

Eventually, they expanded their business by offering wine tastings.

Don't forget to pick something up from their gift shop, with offerings ranging from wood carvings to jewelry.

Triple V Farms can be found in Heathsville, 20 minutes from Lancaster County.

Final Thoughts

Lancaster County offers several options for a sophisticated vacation.

Whether it's high-class wining and dining, an educational tour of the county's heritage, or a stroll among nature's gorgeous views, you can be confident that Lancaster County will never fail to deliver.

Let go of the stresses of your world for a while and enjoy the best things to do in Lancaster County, Virginia.