Not long after Captain John Smith met Virginia’s most famous Native American, the Powhatan princess Pocahontas—or so the legend goes—he headed to the Northern Neck to explore the waterways in that region.
Four centuries later, visitors can follow his path by kayak or sailboat on America’s first national water trail named in his honor. Birders and hikers may want to follow in George Washington’s footsteps by land on the forested Northern Neck Birding Trail and cyclists can check out the loop trails of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail Network.
Washington grew up just across the Rappahannock on Ferry Farm, his residence from age 6 to 19. The myths about chopping down a cherry tree and throwing a coin (actually a rock) across the Rappahannock (later confused with the Potomac) refer to his formative years in the Northern Neck.
History buffs can take a self-guided tour of Ferry Farm to explore the land and gardens where Washington grew up and visit the archaeological site where the Washington home was discovered in 2008. An iPad virtual tour is also available.
Historic Kenmore Plantation, the home of Washington’s sister, is in the heart of Fredericksburg on Washington Street and a combination admission ticket includes both Ferry Farm and the pre-revolutionary war Georgian mansion. Within walking distance of Kenmore, the simple, white frame Mary Washington house was home to Washington’s mother for 17 years and the Rising Sun Tavern on Caroline Street was once the home of Charles Washington, George’s younger brother.
If you don’t want to walk, hop on the trolley tour that departs several times a day from the Fredericksburg Visitor Center.