Summer and military packages bring visitors to a world away in the Northern Neck

Martha Steger

In eastern Virginia, going to the Tides Inn is synonymous with going to “the rivah” — the Rappahannock River on the Northern Neck, that is.

Our family isn’t unlike many others whose children took their first small golf swings with fathers and grandfathers on lush grass just outside of our Tides Inn rooms. Nor is it unusual three decades later for children like ours, with their own children, to meet up with a new grandparent generation at the quiet resort.

tides crabbingThe Tides Inn is perched on a bluff overlooking the gentle waters of Carters Creek — a setting that celebrates history as well as fun. Apropos its 69-year resort history, the Tides salutes active and veteran military families with a 10 to 30 percent discount on weekday and weekend rates depending on time of year and availability. Check out the details at

The resort also offers Chesapeake Bay and other special packages to maximize your waterside getaway. In addition to enjoying the inn’s amenities — an outdoor pool and spa; four tennis courts; croquet; volleyball; a par-3, nine-hole golf and Frisbee course; and the 18-hole Golden Eagle golf course — you can bike to a tasting room on the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail and also sample the Virginia Oyster Trail. Bicycle use is complimentary for overnight guests — and water bicycles, kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and dinghies are available also. Crabbing gear is available at the marina for family fun, too, and a staff member happily shares the basics with beginners.

Another family instruction to take advantage of is the on-site sailing school with lessons tailored to all levels of family experience, including no experience at all. You can even book accommodations with a boat slip just outside your room. Small sailboats — “Sunfish” — are perfect for children as part of the resort’s “Mastering the Waterfront” program.

Genuine hospitality

Susan Williamson, the director of rooms who began working at the Tides as a “bread-and-butter girl” in the dining room in 1985, said, “People use ‘southern hospitality’ pretty loosely, but here it’s authentic — we really care.”

S’mores on the beach are a long-standing tradition for guests, as is the nightly offering of cookies and milk in the View Room. After a workout on the water — or just enjoying the swings under the big oak trees — watch the sun set over the creek from the Chesapeake Club restaurant. Or, enjoy the more casual setting of Commodore’s by the pool. A larger family can reserve the three tables on the deck under the Family Tree for a prix fixe four-course dinner of executive chef TV Flynn’s signature dishes.

Insider tip: Don’t miss the she-crab soup if it’s on the menu when you’re visiting.

Friday and Saturday evenings, you can enjoy cocktails and small plates to the accompaniment of live music on the terrace.

It’s no wonder that families have created lasting memories at the Tides for generations. Beyond the resort in the Northern Neck are the historic homes of patriots and Founding Fathers, with Williamsburg and Busch Gardens a short drive away. Located just a two- to three-hour drive from Baltimore and Washington, D.C., it’s the perfect hideaway for romantic getaways as well as multi-generational vacations. The website provides a sample itinerary, as well as ideas for specific activities.

Advance notice

Each guest who spends Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at the Tides finds an individual present wrapped under the tree. The staff calls families in advance to learn about children’s special interests. “We have to keep records on what we give every year because many families have returned for years, and we don’t want to repeat ourselves,” said Williamson.

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Tides Inn

Crabbing requires patience.

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