On the eastern tip of the Middle Peninsula facing the Eastern Shore, you will find a charming county that fits the epitome of ‘small town.’ This particular town, however, hogs the most amount of shoreline of any in Virginia. Here in Mathews County we feel like we live in a simpler time with little to no noise or light pollution, plus un-crowded streets, waterways and beaches. The tides may come and go here, but with them brings a whole list of experiences that are best enjoyed in the summer time. This time of year Mathews’ opens itself to a number of visitors young and old and in-between who want to take a bite of our daily lifestyle. Let us share with you the top 10 reasons to visit Mathews this summer.
1. Beautiful Beaches in Mathews
Mathews is the proud home to several beautiful public beaches. When meandering down the back roads whether via bike or car, a glimpse of the venerable marshlands will make you fall in love with Mathews. Each beach is tucked away for you to enjoy seclusion and some peace and quiet away from the busyness of life. Some of our beaches such as New Point Comfort or Rigby Island are only accessible by water craft, while others are just a short drive away to enjoy swimming, fishing, picnics, sunsets, or some alone time with your loved ones. We guarantee that you will see some beautiful swimmers (blue crabs), frisky fiddlers, glimmers of silversides, and maybe an Osprey perched on the near horizon, or a blue heron calling hoarsely to the Bay. Mathews’ beaches are unique, and among the many reasons visitors are drawn in each season.
…Wildlife is among the many perks of visiting these beaches. We share this land with many fragile, yet amazing critters that provide more purpose to the Chesapeake Bay than us humans. The noble quality of our beaches is that they retain so much responsibility to nurturing the wildlife of the bay region. With that comes great responsibility from us to be careful not to unbalance the zones designated to preservation or nesting areas.
2. Breathtaking Sunsets
Our sunsets are vibrant, and eclectic of all the colors in the crayon box. Maybe even, the sun sets just for us here in Mathews? Plan your dinner, cocktail hour, boat cruise, or wedding among the bright burning sky. What makes it so much better in Mathews? We are a peninsula lined with beaches, harbors, and public access points along the coastal edges, making your view of the empty sky panoramic. Once you see the colorful ripples of the sunset’s reflection in the bay, you may just want to stay a while longer.
3. Get around by Boat!
Come and learn about a town defined by the bay. Of all shapes and sizes, you can own, rent, or book a watercraft to get out and enjoy the endless expanse of waterfront that hugs Mathews County. Whether you have your own water vessel, or rent one while you’re in town, Mathews just got a whole lot bigger. In fact, this town was strategically designed to get it’s inhabitants off the land! You can book a sunset/oyster or lighthouse cruise with Mathews Deadrise Charters, or learn about life on the bay from a working waterman through Waterman’s Heritage Tours.
We have 4 public boat ramps for you to get your boat in the water, all conveniently placed to support most sized personal vessels. Not to mention, over 20 public access points for kayaks, canoes, jet skis, and paddle boards galore. Come explore Mathews the right way, and get out on the water!
4. Plenty of Watersports
When people envision a small town, they think nothing to do or too quiet. Well one thing is right. We happen to be the second smallest County in Virginia, but nothing to do? Ha! Maybe if you live in the city! Here are just a few activities that you can encounter within one weekend: kayaking, boating, sailing, fishing, stand up paddle boarding, kite-surfing, wind surfing, wake boarding, water skiing, knee boarding, surfing, tubing, clamming, crabbing… Need to rent some equipment? Check out Chesapeake Bay Paddling Company. For serious kayakers who want to get out and explore the local waterways, check out Mathews Blueways Water Trail System for recommended trails. Mathews offers a host of outdoor activities for family and friends in the summertime that doesn’t hurt your wallet.
5. Fresh Local Seafood
Buy or catch it fresh, but keeping it local is what Mathews is all about! There is plenty of seafood to enjoy from our fresh food markets and private vendors in town. We also have some terrific restaurants that believe in local sourcing and feeding you bay-to-table. You can find crabs: steamed, soft shell (seasonal), or disguised as a cake and tucked in a sandwich. Chapel Creek, Rappahannock River Oysters and local watermen provide top-quality oysters served raw on the half shell, fried, or roasted. You can also find fresh clams, scallops, mussels, fish, shrimp, tuna and flounder from up the creek a ways at some of our local fresh seafood markets. Want to catch your own? Plenty of our local markets sell bait and equipment for fishing and crabbing. Whatever you crave, come have a taste of the Chesapeake and your pallet will feel at home.
6. Lively Weekends and Holidays
What’s better than a weekend? A Holiday weekend and Mathews County keeps it real! In fact, July 4th and Labor Day are embraced as a serious celebration where families gather outside for various outdoor barbecues, boating, crab-picking, and festivities. The July 4th fireworks celebration in Mathews is considered to be the best in the area, even better than Yorktown, and that’s saying something considering that’s where our country finally secured its independence. Most importantly, don’t forget to bring your boat out to New Point Island on these summer holidays and join the giant beach-side, boat tie-up party where you are guaranteed to enjoy the full bayside experience. It’s a little quieter out there other week-ends, but still a great time. We also host several festivals throughout the summer including the annual Gwynn’s Island Festival, Party at the Wharf, and Mathews Market days with live music, food vendors, crafts, dancing, parades, games and more!
Every September the weekend after Labor Day, thousands of residents and visitors come together along the Historic Courthouse, and Main Street for festival food, seafood, local crafts and artisan goods, live music, parades, and fun games for kids, adults, and families. If you are a lover of farmers markets or craft fairs, look no further for heaven! With small town charm and country quality, get lost in the expanse of hundreds of booths and vendors from the area. The Festival lasts over two days and completely overtakes the town. Whether you are from here or just visiting, you could spend most of the day supporting small businesses, local artisans, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants.
7. Perfect for Biking
Mathews is a great spot for cycling: there are no stop lights, the roads are flat, and you have a great view whether it be of the marshy shore, farmland, beautiful country homes or winding back roads. Cycle to the beach and bring a picnic, or maybe pick one of the many routes based on your skill level from the list designated at the Mathews County Visitor Information Center (McVIC). Each year thousands of cyclists of all skill levels come to pedal and explore the peninsula to leave feeling refreshed by our little town on the bay. So come cycle Mathews where all roads lead to water!
8. Main Street Comes Alive
Mathew’s Main Street is quaint, charming, and everything you would expect from a small town. “Downtown” may not span long, yet our arrangement of eclectic stores, great restaurants, museums, and small businesses could keep you busy for hours. Enjoy the Farmers Market on Saturdays, or a walk through some of our local art galleries featuring paintings, and pieces of bay-inspired art work from local talents. There are plenty of boutique and antique stores for you to get lost in time and come out full-handed with a new interior for your home! You can find specialty sodas, ice cream, seafood, live music, and gourmet food along Church St., or maybe a local waterman selling the day’s catch out of his truck.
9. Fishing for Everyone
Love to fish, sane net, or dig for shellfish? We have it all… well most of it. Novices and professionals alike embark along the shores, secret spots, and fishing holes throughout the bay to catch various fish, sharks, rays, cobia, and more. With a Virginia Saltwater licence you can fish right off the public beaches or shoreline. Bring your own boat or kayak and launch from one of the public access points, or book a fishing charter with Capt. Trey Sowers for light tackle or Capt. Chris Newsome and enjoy some fly fishing with a pro!
10. Visit New Point Comfort Lighthouse and Beach
The most iconic symbol of Mathews County is the two-centuries withstanding New Point Comfort Light House that can be found at the tip of the Middle Peninsula. Erected in 1804, New Point Comfort Lighthouse still stands as the 3rd oldest lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay, and among the tenth oldest in the world! For all of your history aficionados out there, it has been designated under the National Register of Historic Places and more importantly, the pride and glory of small-town Mathews County. The lighthouse can be viewed from the Observation deck, and toured by boat, kayak, or by charter with a historical tour. Often times on the weekend, the long stretch of beach that used to connect the lighthouse to the land until 1933, is busy with big boats, paddlers, fishers and Mathews folk taking it all in on their days off.