by Candyce Stapen
The Tides Inn, a 106-room resort situated on a peninsula surrounded by water, offers Southern comfort, Northern Neck style. That means casual graciousness mixed with a highly developed appreciation for boating. After all, creeks, streams, ponds, rivers and the bay define Virginia’s Northern Neck. The area, bordered by the Potomac River on the north, the Rappahannock River on the south, and the Chesapeake Bay on the east offers more than 1,200 miles of tidal coastline as well as 6,500 acres of natural areas, including marshes, state parks and preserves.
Originally opened in 1947, the Tides Inn, a Northern Neck icon, operated as a family-run hotel for more than 50 years. In May 2001 Sedona Resorts acquired the property, and after several million dollars in renovations, the Tides Inn reopened in April 2002.
In places, the resort still seems in transition. From the outside, the long, white, wood-sided main building looks more homespun than four-diamond chic. Although the spa offers good massages, the facility could use an update and brightening. Part of the lobby, despite the floor to ceiling windows with a water view, has a tired feel.
That said, the Tides Inn features comfortable rooms, good food, an imaginative children’s program and a waterfront location from which to enjoy the Northern Neck’s creeks and rivers. Families have fun here, especially those who relish boating as well as being on or near the water.
In summer the green lawn edging the Tides Inn’s driveway supports a complimentary, par-3, nine-hole golf course where teens can practice putts and swings and free bicycles to borrow fill the rack by the front entry.
Virginia’s Northern Neck, especially Irvington, has been “discovered” by weekenders from New York City to Norfolk who, until the economic downturn, were fueling the development of second and retirement homes. When compared with the urban east coast, however, Irvington is still country comfortable and as alluring as a bay breeze.
The Tides Inn generally closes after New Year’s and reopens in early March.
Our Editor Loves
- Explore creeks and bays by boat
- Onsite sailing school
- Sixty-slip marina
- Water Sports
- Children Programs
- Connecting Rooms
- Onsite Dining
Find the Best Price for Your Stay
A rubber boat with the Tides Inn logo, good for bath time, welcomes a child to his or her room. Even some adults, we're told, request the cute, little toy. At turn-down, guests receive a bottle of Dominion Ginger Ale, made locally by the Old Dominion Brewing Company -- a nice touch.
For families with two children, the best accommodations are the Lancaster Suites because these feature a separate bedroom, two bathrooms, and a sitting area with a sleeper sofa as well as a large patio. The smaller Vista Suites feature a separate bedroom plus a sitting area with a sofa bed. The rooms in the main inn tend to be the smallest. Cribs are free, rollaways are at a per night cost and night lights as well as outlet protectors are available by request for no fee.
As part of the initial renovation, the resort upgraded to Egyptian linens, plush mattresses, and marble and mahogany vanities in the bathrooms. Many of the rooms also feature patios or balconies with water views.
The resort labels the decor British Colonial. It's a soothing blend of beige accented with cushioned rattan lounge chairs, Colonial style headboard and wooden floor to ceiling plantation shutters.
After planning to stay for years, we finally made it tot he Tides Inn, and we regret not going earlier. Almost perfect; location, Southern service, charm, modern amenities, great restaurant and bars service. No faults. Highly Recommended
My husband and I had the best time at the Tides Inn on our minimoon. The food, the activities, the spa...all of it was phenomenal. The town of Irvington is in walking distance and super cute with the perfect amount of shops and quaint restaurants. The Dog & Oyster winery is a really nice bike ride away as well! A must if you're looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life!
The Tides Inn utilizes its location on Carters Creek, a tributary of the Rappahannock River, well. Kids can pedal or paddle the creek by using the complimentary paddleboats, canoes and kayaks and also learn to sail.
It's not easy to find a resort with a dedicated sailing program, but the Tides Inn has the onsite Premier Sailing School. The facility offers a variety of sailing programs for children, age 6 and older, and for teens as well as for adults and families. In the children's school, which operates from Easter to September, young kids learn to maneuver small boats. Sessions run from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday to Friday with breaks for lunch and swimming. Some courses take two, three or four days. Premier also offers a two-day or four-day course for ages 13 to 19 who learn in a J24. Check www.premiersailing.com for dates and prices.
The Premier Sailing School can arrange a sailing program, even a one-day beginning course for your family. Inquire ahead of time. Families can also fish and, in season, go crabbing.
The supervised children's program for ages 4 to 12, is available from Memorial Day to Labor Day and during Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas. A full day runs from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m, the cost includes lunch and snacks and costs. A half-day morning program is from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the cost includes snacks. There is a half-day afternoon from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. as well. An evening program operates on Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., and the cost includes dinner. Make reservations at least 24 hours in advance.
The kids' club features themed weeks with special activities. In Outdoor Adventures, kids build their own kites and in superheroes kids learn magic tricks. All sessions include swimming in the pool, kayaking on Carters Creek, playing croquet and, our personal favorites: the get wet and silly games.
One requires kids to slip and to slide on a rubber raft sprayed with water and drizzled with chocolate syrup. For Cheese Doodlehead, a child gets his head foamed with whip cream while a teammate throws cheese doodles into the mess. The team with the most orange squiggles for a hairdo wins. We find it really nice that a resort, along with educational activities and crafts, understands kids enough to know how much fun it can be to get really messy. Like most programs that group ages 4 to 12 together unless many tweens register, the program works best for ages 4 to 10.
Kids (and adults) can swim in a fresh water or a saltwater pool. Although some guests do splash in the creek, jellyfish are prevalent in summer and the rest of the year, the water is too cold.
In addition to canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating, families can get on the water by renting a duffy, a canvas-roofed boat with an electric motor. The small boats make it easy to explore the inlets of Caters Creek, admiring the homes and the wildlife, especially the birds. If you don't want to maneuver your own craft, book an outing with Vintage Yacht Tours, a company sailing from the resort's marina.
Tennis and Golf
Landlubbers have croquet, tennis and golf. Although the Tides Inn does not offer any special tennis programs, rackets are available for free at the Gazebo next to the tennis courts. The Little Eagle, the front lawn's par-3, nine-hole golf course is a great place for teaching the fundamentals of the game to budding duffers. Play is complimentary and clubs, kid size and regular, are available for free. On the resort's 18-hole Golden Eagle Golf Club, a short drive away, all children under the age of 15 playing with a paying adult, golf for free. Youngsters ages 4 and older can sign-up for junior golf lessons.
Don't forget the complimentary bicycles for pedaling the short distance into Irvington.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are available at a variety of restaurants.
Chesapeake Restaurant and Terrace
Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner the menu is ever changing at these two restaurants. The Terrace is the more casual option and features outdoor seating and fire tables.
This informal cafe by the pool is open seasonally and features things like burgers and smoothies.
Golden Eagle Grill
Located by the golf club, this lunch time restaurant offers sandwiches and light fare.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
You won't have to leave your beloved dog behind if he weighs 75 pounds or less. Just book one of the ground floor, pet-friendly rooms in the Garden Wing for an additional fee. At turn down, your tail wager receives his own night-time treats.
Boat owning families can sail to the resort and rent one of the 60-slips at the resort's own marina and enjoy the facilities of the Tides Inn.
The Art of Smart Timing
Typically, the resort closes in January and February. March, April, November and December are low season. May and October is shoulder season. June through September is high season.
The Tides Inn, located in the town of Irvington, VA, is situated about three hours from D.C. (143 miles from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and 150 miles from Washington Dulles International Airport); 75 minutes from Richmond (63 miles from Richmond International Airport) and 90 minutes from Norfolk (75-miles from Norfolk International Airport).
The resort is walkable.
For Mom and Dad
Even if you don't know your aft from your rudder, you can match your sailing progress with that of your kids by taking adult classes at the onsite Premier Sailing School, and the nearby Golden Eagle Golf Club offers an 18-hole course.