Aerial view of the James River and surrounding mountains in Buchanan, Virginia.

8 Most Charming River Towns in Virginia to Visit in 2024

Virginia is endowed with so many waterbodies, many of which are popular all over the country for their scenery and opportunities for adventures. The state is home to the likes of the Rappahannock River, Shenandoah River, and the New River, which are not just beautiful and exciting but also historic. Rappahannock River, for instance, played a very important role in early American history. For many years, indigenous people settled around the river, and by the 1600s, European settlers also began settling along the river. Today, these popular rivers run through some of the most charming towns in Virginia and are home to historic and natural attractions alike. From Deltaville to Urbanna, here are eight charming towns in the Old Dominion state to visit in 2024. 


Street view in Irvington, Virginia
Street view in Irvington, Virginia.

Irvington is a small, picturesque town by the Rappahannock River where life is laid-back and peaceful. Visitors here will be met with many bustling marinas, such as the Tide Inn and Chesapeake Boat Basin, which are great spots from which to relish the beauty of the Rappahannock River. There are also boat charters and cruises like Faded Glory Cruise and Rappahannock River Charters to explore the waters. Afterward, visitors can enjoy delicious meals at the Chesapeake restaurant in Tides Inn, which sits on the shores of the river. The resort features a pool, beach area, boardwalk, and uninhibited riverviews. Color the experience with a bit of history at the Steamboat Era Museum, which offers a glimpse into the times of steamboat dominance in the Chesapeake Bay


Historic District in Buchanan in Botetourt County, Virginia.
Historic District in Buchanan in Botetourt County, Virginia. Image credit OJUP via Shutterstock.

Buchanan, a fascinating gem on the James River, is an ideal location to take a break from the large cities in Virginia. The beautiful river makes this town an exciting tourist destination for kayaking, fishing, canoeing, and boating endeavors. It gets even easier because the Upper James River Trail runs through the town's center, with easy access from its Main Street. In addition, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, and Glenwood Horse Trail are all within four miles of Buchanan, offering endless opportunities for hiking, sightseeing, and scenic rides. Meanwhile, Apple Orchard Falls is also nearby and can be accessed from the route that leads off from the town's main street. Particularly charming in fall, with its boulders and whispering streams around, while a 7.5-mile trail.

White Stone

Willaby's Seafood Restaurant in Virginia via
Willaby's Seafood Restaurant in Virginia via

White Stone is a picture-perfect town by the Rappahannock River, which flows into Chesapeake Bay. This river is the main attraction in this town as it offers opportunities for plenty of water sports like fishing and boating. The town is also home to other smaller water bodies, such as Oyster Creek and the nearby Chesapeake Bay. Oyster Creek even features a laid-back resort with 360-degree views and a pier for accessing the river. Visitors can embark on boating tours from the pier to see nearby fishing towns, bays, and the natural splendor of the Northern Neck region. For art lovers, the Allure Art Center features a main gallery that exhibits artworks in 2D and 3D formats, an outdoor space behind art events, and more 3D exhibitions. 

New Market

Shenandoah River as Seen from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia
Shenandoah River as Seen from the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia.

New Market is a scenic small town in Shenandoah Valley, with the Shenandoah River running through it. The river is the town's highlight natural attraction and a melting pot for both visitors and locals' fishing, boating, swimming, and kayaking adventures. However, Endless Caverns Resorts in Shenandoah Valley offers similar and even more sensational experiences. This 265-acre resort features mountain biking and hiking trails, a swimming pool, cottages, and the most spectacular underground caves, which can be explored on guided tours. If these attractions are not enough, Skydive Shenandoah should satiate any tourist's adventurous desire. Here, adventurers can board an aircraft to enjoy the mind-blowing panorama of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah Valley, and the overall picturesque landscapes of Virginia. 


Lightning Over Pier in Deltaville, Virginia
Lightning Over Pier in Deltaville, Virginia.

Deltaville is the famed Boating Capital of Chesapeake Bay, and the Rappahannock River flanks it to the north and the Piankatank River to the south. As a result, the town has numerous marinas and more boats than humans to ride on and explore the waters. Aside from boating, visitors to Deltaville are welcome to the Cross Rip Campground, which is positioned under a forest canopy and offers beautiful bay views, a cool breeze, and a sandy beach. Alternatively, visitors can head to the 36-acre Holly Point Nature Park to hike its trails, kayak its waters, explore its sculpture gardens, and enjoy picnics while gazing at the picturesque bay. The Deltaville Maritime Museum is also within the area and is a great place to learn about the maritime history of Middlesex. 


Gateway sign for Tappahannock Virginia
Gateway sign for Tappahannock Virginia. Image credit David Broad via Wikimedia Commons.

Tappahannock is a gorgeous town by the Rappahannock River, with an inviting aura. Before delving into its historic allure, it is worth noting that this is the oldest town in Essex County having been established in 1682. Hence, it is a town rich in history, and visitors can head to the Essex County Historical Museum to learn more about the town and the overall region. 

Regarding nature, Tappahannock is home to the June Parker and Garrett's Marinas, which are perfect spots to rent boats and cruise on the river while fishing and spotting birds. Visitors to this town can also swim at the beach in Duke Street or sunbathe and play on the sands. For even more excitement, visitors can head over to the Rappahannock River Valley National Wildlife Site to capture panoramic views of the entire area from three overlooks. For something different, be sure to embark on a historic walking tour of Tappahannock to see 13 ancient buildings erected between the 17th and 19th centuries.


Pulaski Theatre vintage sign, Pulaski, Virginia
Pulaski Theatre vintage sign, Pulaski, Virginia.

Pulaski is a sensational river and mountain town in the county of the same name. The town is positioned along New River and boasts the northern end of the New River Trail State Park, which features a 57.7-mile rail trail that borders the river named after it. Visitors can begin by hiking through this park to see the town’s natural beauty. The town is also home to the 700-acre Gatewood Park and Reservoir, sandwiched between the Blue Ridge Mountains and features a 170-acre lake and many waterfront campsites. Boats, canoes, and paddle boats are available to explore the lake, while its day-use area sets the stage for picnics. For bikers and hikers, Draper Mountain Trail is just outside the town of Pulaski, and it features over eight miles of trails waiting to be explored. 


The historic district of Urbanna, Virginia.
The historic district of Urbanna, Virginia. Image credit: Mojo Hand via Wikimedia Commons.

Urbanna is a quaint river town popular across the US for its Oyster Festival in November, which celebrates everything about the sea creature. Take advantage of this festival if visiting in November. Beyond oysters, Urbanna is a beautiful town along the Rappahannock River, with three marinas: Sunset Point, Urbby, and Urbana Town Marina, all of which are great spots from which to explore the beautiful river. For the ultimate fun and recreation in Urbanna, head to Bethpage Camp Resort to camp and enjoy a water park, explore a lake beach, and kayak on the river. Next, visitors can experience a bygone era by visiting the Museum in the Streets, which is basically a tour of 14 historic sites around Urbanna narrated by a local historian!

Virginia state is not one of the largest in the US by land area; however, what it lacks in landmass is overcompensated in water bodies. The Atlantic Ocean on the east is the state's highlight water body, but there are numerous rivers crisscrossing the landscape of Virginia. Charming towns and villages are located on the banks of these rivers, offering everyone opportunities to enjoy all the incredible offerings these rivers bring. Whether you are seeking relaxation, scenery, or adventures, these river towns in Virginia urge you to look no further. 

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