When most people visit Williamsburg, VA, they don’t go outside of Virginia’s historic triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. I mean, why would you? There is plenty to do.
But what you are missing is all of the historic and nature sites in Surry, Virginia, just across the James River, when you expand your trip outside of the area you already have on your trip itinerary.
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Why Visit Surry County?
Drive around and you are sure to be surprised by all of the things to do in Surry. Farmland is prevalent, but so is small town charm, history and nature.
Surry, found in Surry County Virginia, is just a short, free ferry ride away from Historic Jamestowne, and an easy day trip from Richmond, VA or Virginia Beach, VA.
You can spend the morning, or an entire day exploring Hog Island Wildlife Management Area looking for bald eagles, learning about the history of farming at Chippokes State Park, taste a bit of that famous Virginia ham, sip some local wine, load up on produce at the farmer’s market and tour historic plantation homes.
Things to do in Surry Virginia
At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be much to do in Surry, Virginia, but look a little deeper and you will find a day trip to Jamestown expanded into a weekend of fun for the entire family.
The free ferry from Jamestown to Surry County is easy to pull your car onto throughout the day, making the trip back and forth a breeze. Simply get in line at the ferry stop near the Jamestown Settlement and get off on the other side; no reservations required.
Directions back are just as simple– get in the ferry lane line in Surry to make the trip back across the James River to Jamestown.
Ferries take about 15-20 minutes to cross the river, and the cost is always free. They run 24 hours, 7 days a week. Rush hour may see more cars in the line up, but throughout the day you should have no problem hopping on the next ferry that arrives to port.
The Powhatan (ferry boat) can carry 70 vehicles and 499 passengers, a vast improvement to the original ferry built in 1938 that could only carry 28 cars.
Surrey County Visitors Center
If this is your first visit to Surry, VA, a stop into the Surry County Visitors Center is a good place to start your trip.
Inside this 1825 “Old Clerk’s Office” you will find information about attractions in the area, as well as a little walk through the history of the county via a visual timeline.
Check the visitors center website for opening dates and times.
Surry County Historical Society & Museum
Located right downtown, the Surry County Historical Society and Museum digs into the history, heirlooms and artifacts of past residents.
Visitors are welcome to check out the restored “Capt. John Smith” Deckhouse taken off the first motorized ferry to go across the James River from Surry to Jamestown.
Chippokes Plantation State Park
Probably the biggest reason to visit Surry is a stop at Chippokes Plantation State Park. Established in 1619 by Captain William Powell, an English Lieutenant Governor of Jamestown, this 1400-acre farm located opposite Jamestown Island, is still an active farm.
It is also one of the oldest continuously operated plantations in the nation.
Although the old mansion isn’t always open for tours, you can still wander the grounds throughout the year to see the gardens, antebellum mansion, outbuildings and farmlands.
Cottage Rentals in Chippokes Plantation State Park
Best of all, there are four cottages you can rent to stay in the state park, which is particularly good for those who don’t want to go camping in Virginia, although there is a campground in the park too.
Renters and campers have access to the swimming pool, and can enjoy horseback riding, hiking, fishing, biking and canoeing in the park.
Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum
Inside of Chippokes Plantation State Park you will also find the Chippokes Farm and Forestry Museum. This active farm has cows, pigs and donkeys you can say hello to (from the safety of your side of the fence). Programs that are open to the public happen throughout the year that explain farm life in the 1600s to present day.
Hog Island Wildlife Management Area
One of the most beautiful, yet a bit tricky to get to, parts of Surry County is the Hog Island Wildlife Management Area. While more people come here during hunting seasons to keep the deer and bird population to a sustainable number, visitors will want to pop over to see all of the birds who call this part of Virginia home.
We saw several bald eagles, vultures, hawks, osprey, herons and other shorebirds during our short time on the “island,” which is actually a peninsula. Pull over at any of the viewing platforms or beach locations and sit for a bit. You will definitely see birds fly over head, do a little fishing and even play together.
Getting to Hog Island Wildlife Management Area
To get to Hog Island, you do have to pass through the Dominion Energy entrance. Order your Restore the Wild Membership head of time to access this wildlife area. We had no idea this was required, but the Dominion Energy checkpoint agent allowed us through anyway, seeing as we were the only people visiting that day.
Be prepared to stop at the entrance for a vehicle inspection and driver’s license registration. This is a nuclear power site, so they need to be extra careful to track anyone who comes and goes, for the safety of all.
Kids can usually stay in the car, but adults will have to step out to register.
Bacon’s Castle, only open seasonally, is the oldest brick home in North America, constructed for Arthur Allen in 1665. The castle is one of the few examples of High Jacobean architecture in the United States, with formal English gardens.
While it used to be known as the Allen’s Brick House, it was renamed “Bacon’s Castle” in 1676 when Nathaniel Bacon’s men took over the home during Bacon’s Rebellion.
The property, now owned by Preservation Virginia, offers an exterior self-guided tour that you can download onto your cell phone. Private interior tours are offered by reservation only. You can book tickets online for the 45-minute tour of the interior.
Picnics are encouraged on the grounds at six picnic tables for guest use.
Smith’s Fort Plantation
Wander back in time to learn more about the lives and impact of Captain John Smith, John Rolfe, Pocahontas and Chief Wahunsenacawh in Surry and across the region. Smith had proposed that a new fort be built here, with the earthworks still marking out the spot where the fort was started, but never completed.
The current house stands on land that Chief Wahunsenacawh (Powhatan) gave to John Rolfe as a dowry for his daughter Pocahontas’ marriage in 1614, although the actual house wasn’t built until the mid-1700s. In the late 1800s, the fort was bought by a group of Black families, and later aquired by Preservation Virginia in the 1930s.
Self-guided cell phone tours of the exterior are available, but you will have to pay an entrance fee for each car that drives onto the property. Guided tours are offered on the weekends of the exterior and interior of the property.
Rogers Store Historic Site
Pop into Rogers’ Store, a 1897 structure that now highlights the history of rural life in Surry County. The property is only viewable by appointment, so plan ahead and get in touch with the Surry Historical Society for access.
Lightwood-Historic 18th Century Plantation House
If you have ever wanted to sleep in history, Lightwood House is your chance. The home is nestled on 110 acres of beech forest, streams and meadows, and is part of the land given to Pocohontas and John Rolfe as a wedding present from her father.
The home is pet and kid friendly, and only a few miles from the Jamestown-Scotland ferry so you can still explore Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown.
Find more rental information here
Surry Nuclear Information Center
CLOSED until further notice.
Those interested in electricity, nuclear power and sources of energy can stop by the Surry Nuclear Information Center. There are interactive exhibits and films inside the center, to explore on your own, although staff is on hand if you have any questions.
Edwards Virginia Ham Shoppe of Surry
When you are feeling peckish, pop into Edwards Virginia Ham Shoppe of Surry for sandwiches, and smoked, cured and cooked hams for your picnic basket or charcuterie board. You can also pick up sausages and bacon, as well as specialty items like smoked poultry, peanuts and BBQ (ribs, brisket and pulled pork).
Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery
Just south of Surry in Elberon, Virginia, inside of the White Oak Farm that originally raised horses for the New York City carriage trade in 1898, you will find the Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery. Guests are welcome to grab a tasting and take a walking of the farm as they sip.
The winery makes a nice mix of whites and reds, including their White Oak White that goes with just about everything.
You can pick up snacks to munch outside too. Their reds go great with Edwards Virginia Ham and sausages. You can also pick up some of the farm’s own Red Angus cattle meat, and take a peek at the World’s Tallest Goat Tower.
The Surry Farmers Market
We love a good farmers market, not only for the fresh produce and breads, but for the people we can meet too.
The Surry Farmers Market takes place every Friday, May through October from 5pm-8pm. It’s the perfect place to stop by after a long day of exploring, or load up on prepared foods, produce and baked goods for your weekend in town.
Take the time to stop and chat with the vendors. Many are local farmers and producers, who know the history of the area and are happy to share their stories.
The Surry Seafood Co.
Opened in 2018, the Surry Seafood Co. is feeding locals and visitors fresh seafood and their famous hush puppies. Dine in, hang out on the back deck or pull your boat up at the dock to take advantage of a great meal with beautiful views on Gray’s Creek.
If you aren’t into seafood, have no fear, the cooks are always whipping up steak, burgers and chicken options. And yes, there are salads if you just want a bit of roughage in your diet. But seriously, get the hush puppies.
Boating is what it is all about when you want to get on the James River. While there are hiking trails in Chippokes State Park, and you can hang out on the beach and look for shells in the park, rent a canoe or bring your kayak to paddle around Cobham Bay, Grey’s Creek and the James River.
Day Trips to Virginia’s Historic Triangle
Jamestown Historic Sites
It’s easy to take a day trip to the Jamestown Settlement, Historic Jamestowne and drive down the Colonial Parkway for a bit of hiking and beach time.
You really can’t come to this part of Virginia and not check out Colonial Williamsburg. Whether you buy a ticket to enter the buildings or just stroll down the Duke of Gloucester Street, you will soak up the history that was built all around you and still stands today.
Best of all, the food scene in Williamsburg has really grown, so you can grab a bite to eat, cup of coffee, local Williamsburg beers or a cocktail at a number of our favorite Williamsburg restaurants.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg
If you have kids or you just love roller coasters, block out a day of your trip to enjoy Busch Gardens Williamsburg. You will have plenty of roller coasters to ride, food to eat and shows to see during your visit. Heck, you may want to come back for a second day of even more fun once you know your way around the park.
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Surry VA Hotels and Vacation Rentals
- Lightwood-Historic 18th Century Plantation House: A unique kid and pet friendly historic home that sleeps 10!
- Private Beach! Cottage on the High Banks of the James River: Watch bald eagles fly by from your porch 70 feet above the river (Sleeps 6)
- Beachfront Cottage on James River. Private beach: Perfect for families with little ones who want a calm beach, and no neighbors (sleeps 6).
- The Surry Seafood Co.: Hotel-style rooms overlooking Gray’s Creek.
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