16 Best Things to Do in Colonial Beach, VA

Colonial Beach is located in the Northern Neck along the Potomac River. It is also near the birthplaces of not one but three Presidents: George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe! 

Among the many things to do in Colonial Beach, VA, you can find a wide range of attractions, including historic landmarks, wineries, state parks, and of course, many activities at the beach!

Colonial Beach was once referred to as the “Playground on the Potomac” as travelers from Washington, D.C. would travel by boat and vacation along the mile-long beach. 

Colonial Beach is actually the second-longest beach in Virginia. Only Virginia Beach is longer!

It’s located about 73 miles from Northern Virginia and 70 miles from Richmond. This makes it a convenient beach getaway from many regions in Virginia!

16 Best Things to Do in Colonial Beach, VA

Whether you’re interested in history, outdoor activities, or simply relaxing on the beach, Colonial Beach has something for everyone.

From strolling along the boardwalk to exploring the town’s museums and historical landmarks, there’s never a shortage of things to do in Colonial Beach.

Below are my top recommendations for the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA. 

1. Visit the George Washington Birthplace National Monument

When visiting Colonial Beach, you’ll definitely want to stop at the birthplace of founding father George Washington

George Washington Birthplace National Monument - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA

Though he later lived at Mount Vernon, he was actually born near Colonial Beach and spent part of his childhood in the region.

Today, visitors can explore the 551-acre park, which includes a Colonial Revival farm, a burial ground, a visitor center, historic structures, and a garden.

The grounds are beautiful and well worth exploring. There are many wide paths under towering trees and with gorgeous water views of nearby Popes Creek and even some islands.

I highly recommend taking time to also explore the 1-mile Nature Trail in the park. It leads through forests, marshlands, and the water’s edge.

There are also picnic tables throughout the park and even a public beach.

The park is also one of many note-worthy National Parks in Virginia

Please note that the park is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, but the visitor center and buildings are only open Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday).

2. Explore Nature at Westmoreland State Park

Westmoreland State Park is another top destination to check out when you’re visiting Colonial Beach. 

Beach and water at Westmoreland Park, near Colonial Beach, VA

The park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and features over 1,300 acres to explore in the Northern Neck. The park skirts the Potomac River and offers lovely water views. 

Birding is popular in the park. You might spot American bald eagles, ospreys, kingfishers, great blue herons, common terns, green herons, gulls, and waterfowl.

Hikers have 6 miles of trails to explore along 7 different trails. There is also a playground, a fishing pier, and boat rentals. 

I recommend taking the Big Meadow Trail, which is a leisurely trail that leads through the woods and ends at Fossil Beach.

Also, try to make time to go on Beach Trail. It is a more challenging trail and features 152 steps on the way down to the beach, but when you get down to the water, it’s well worth the hike!

There are many beach areas along the Potomac, beautiful water views, and a large picnic area.

Rock Spring Pond Trail is an easy paved trail that leads to the peaceful and lovely Rock Spring Pond.

Westmoreland is also a great place to go camping. There are campsites and cabins available in the park. 

3. Stroll Down the Colonial Beach Boardwalk

Like many great water spots, Colonial Beach has its own boardwalk, where you can stroll along the water and experience many of the highlights that the town has to offer. 

High Tides on the Potomac Restaurant at Colonial Beach, VA

Along the boardwalk, you’ll find restaurants and bars like the Black Pearl Tiki Bar, which features a large seated area on the sand right by the water, a fire pit, and a stage with frequent live performances. 

You can also stop by the High Tides on the Potomac restaurant, which specializes in steak and seafood.

There are picnic areas along the boardwalk too, which are perfect for grabbing lunch and chilling by the water. 

Other attractions along the boardwalk include Ferry Landing Pier, where you can rent bicycles and paddle boards. 

You can also book a fishing charter or dinner cruise from the pier. 

4. Relax at the Beaches at Colonial Beach

Colonial Beach has five distinct beach areas, each with its own vibe. Spend some time exploring them all!

Palm trees, beach, and water along the Colonial Beach Boardwalk.

North Beach: Perfect for a quieter beach vacation

Downtown Boardwalk Beach: Where to go for water sports rentals, restaurants, food trucks, and shopping.

Irving Avenue Beach: A residential area with Bed & Breakfasts and Vacation Rentals.

Castlewood Beach: Home to a Dog Park and Castlewood Park with a playground, picnic tables, and benches.

The Pointe: Where you can find the Dockside Restaurant & Tiki Bar.

5. Grab a Drink and Bite to Eat at Ice House Marina Brewery and Kitchen

Ice House Marina Brewery and Kitchen is a fun beach spot that has a little bit of everything for your vacation!

Ice House Brewery and Restaurant - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA

Source: Ice House Marina Brewery & Kitchen

They have a brewery and restaurant on-site, but also a marina where you can dock your boat. They are even in the process of creating “tiny houseboats” that you can rent and stay at! 

The restaurant serves lots of seafood favorites, like salmon sliders, crabcake sliders, lobster rolls, and bayside salmon. 

There’s a wide selection of beers on tap as well, including Pale Ale, Belgian Wit, Brown Ale, and Chocolate Stout. They also have a selection of wines for purchase. 

6. Grab a Drink at Colonial Beach Brewing

As the name implies, Colonial Beach Brewing is the place to find small-batch brews in Colonial Beach!

They serve up familiar brews, as well as some creative twists. Some of their beers on tap include Blood Orange Double IPA, Buzz’s Brew (beer with a kick of cold brew), German amber lager, Beach Blonde Ale, and Cherry Apple Seltzer. 

The brewery hosts regular events including live music performances, yoga, and trivia nights. They also host fun special events like Drag Brunch, which features a Mexican Brunch Buffet and drinks.

You can find a full list of upcoming events online. 

7. Visit the Museum at Colonial Beach

A visit to the Museum at Colonial Beach is a great way to explore the area’s rich history. The museum is located in a historic home that was rescued by the Colonial Beach Historical Society. 

The Colonial Beach Museum with a boat in front of it.

The museum features stories and artifacts from the town’s history, including the history of the Potomac River, oyster wars, and even gambling. 

Some of the exhibits include the Watermen’s Room, which is dedicated to the fishermen and oystermen from Colonial Beach. 

The museum is free to the general public. 

8. Explore the History at James Monroe Birthplace Park & Museum

You can learn about the life and times of James Monroe, the fifth President of the United States. He was born and raised near Colonial Beach. 

James Monroe Birthplace Park and Museum - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA

At the James Monroe Birthplace Park & Museum, you can explore a replica of the home where Monroe was born. It includes an entryway with chairs, a sitting room, an office, and two bedrooms upstairs.

Each room contains furniture and designs based on historic information and blueprints.

There is also a visitor center that contains more information about Monroe’s life, including his role at the Battle of Trenton in the American Revolutionary War, and his presidency.

I also highly recommend taking time to explore the trails on the grounds behind the visitor center.

There is a nice wide path leading into the woods with markers highlighting Monroe’s major accomplishments, as well as a short nature walk that leads to beautiful water views along Monroe Creek.  

The home is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day for free tours from 11 am to 4 pm.

9. Experience Local Wines at Monroe Bay Winery

Another great place to visit in Colonial Beach is Monroe Bay Winery, which is a small winery and cidery. 

Monroe Bay Winery - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA
Source: Monroe Bay Winery

They offer wine tastings in a lovely water setting on Monroe Bay. 

Some of the wines that they feature include Chardonnay, Blue Heron White, Traminette, Blue Heron Rosé, and Blue Heron Red. 

They also produce numerous ciders, like Pumpkin Spice Cider, Boardwalk Cider, and Hopped Cider. 

The winery is also a beautiful wedding venue. 

10. Try Out the Wines at Ingleside Vineyards 

Ingleside Vineyards is another local vineyard worth visiting. It’s only 13 miles away from Colonial Beach. 

The courtyard at Ingleside Winery - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA
Source: Ingleside Vineyards

The vineyard is one of the oldest in Virginia, dating back to the 19th century. It has won numerous awards for its wines, including the Virginia Governor’s Cup and San Francisco International Wine Competition. 

They offer self-guided flights of five wines, which you can choose from among their collection of over 20 wines. 

To add an extra flavor to your visit, you can even go on a free tour to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the wine-making process. 

On nice weather days, Ingleside Vineyards has a lovely European-inspired courtyard where you can lounge with a glass of wine and cheese from the gift shop!

11. Visit Historic Stratford Hall

Stratford Hall is another historic landmark near Colonial Beach. It is the ancestral home of the Lee family and the birth home of Robert E. Lee.

Stratford Hall - one of the best things to do near Colonial Beach, VA

It is also the home of brothers Richard Henry Lee and Francis Lightfoot Lee, who were signers of the Declaration of Independence. 

The home dates all the way back to the 1730s. You can visit and take a guided tour of the main house, which includes exploring rooms filled with artifacts dating back to the hall’s rich history. 

Some of the rooms that you can enter include the Kitchen, Servant’s Hall, School Room, Library, Parlor, Great Hall, and Main Chamber. Each room is decorated with 18th-century furniture, books, and artwork that allow you to step through time and relive the hall’s storied past. 

Visitors can also explore the Grist Mill on the property. It dates back to the early 1740s. Since then, the working mill has been restored and it continues to produce grits, cornmeal, and pancake flour. You can even buy some of these products at the gift shop!

Beyond the home, you can also explore the extensive, multi-tiered gardens outside, which have been recently restored based on archaeological records. 

There are also over 3 miles of walking trails on the estate that wind through the woods and hills that surround the property. You can even stroll along the beaches that are part of Stratford Hall. 

Please note that the park is open daily from 9 am to 5 pm, but the main house and other buildings are only open Wednesday to Sunday (closed Monday and Tuesday).

12. Grab a Beer at Montross Brewery & Beer Garden

Montross Brewery is a little further away from Colonial Beach, but it’s in the heart of nearby Montross, which is a lovely town that’s worth a visit!

The brewery is also close to Stratford Hall, which makes it a great place to go when you’re visiting the historic home.

Montross Brewery - one of the best things to do in Colonial Beach, VA
Source: Montross Brewery

They have the distinction of being the first brewery in the Northern Neck! They make both beers and ginger ales. 

Some of their beers include Vanilla Stout, New England IPA, Wild Berry Seltzer, and Brown Ale. 

They also have flavorful unique brews like Hibiscus Ginger Honey Ale and Blackberry Oatmeal Stout. 

Montross Brewing makes their ginger ale using an 1800s recipe with natural ingredients, like cane sugar, lemons, and fresh ginger.

And as a great bonus, you can sit in the beer garden outside while enjoying your beverage of choice!

13. Eat at Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar  

Grab some drinks and food by the water at the Dockside Restaurant and Tiki Bar

This fun, atmospheric spot has a bourbon bar, screened-in porch, and outside picnic tables in the sand with a tiki bar. It’s like a tropical getaway in the heart of Colonial Beach. 

They frequently have live music performances year-round on both inside and outside stages.  

As you would expect, the menu has many great seafood options to choose from, including Fried Shrimp, Fried Oysters, plus sandwiches and salads. 

14. Go Fishing at the Colonial Beach Municipal Pier

The pier is a popular fishing spot at Colonial Beach. It extends 500 feet into the Potomac River.

The area is a prime location for Rock Fish (Striped Bass), Blue Fish, Spot, Croaker and Flounder, and even crabbing. 

There is also a nice gazebo on the pier, and it’s a popular spot for sitting and lounging as well as fishing.

15. Go Shopping at Peddler’s Market

Peddler’s Market is a perfect shopping destination at Colonial Beach! You can find over 80 vendors to visit. 

Home decor at Peddler's Market in Colonial Beach, VA

The market is located in a large building. You’ll find just about anything you could imagine inside, including furniture, home decor, artwork, pottery, crafts, collectibles, antiques, sports memorabilia, gifts, books, toys, and much more. 

It’s a great place to find a unique souvenir or a gift for friends and family back home.

16. Explore the Art at Jarrett Thor Fine Arts

For a dose of art at the beach, stop by Jarrett Thor Fine Arts to see an eclectic array of artwork. 

Jarrett Thor Fine Arts in Colonial Beach, VA

The gallery displays art from just about every genre, including impressionist, abstract, collages, and photos, as well as all types of subject matter (landscapes, still life, portraits, and even political satire).

They also host several workshops throughout the year. 

Free Things to Do in Colonial Beach, VA

Not only are the beaches at Colonial Beach free, but there are many great free things to do in the region too. Below are some of the best activities to check out!

Swim and sunbathe at the Five Beaches at Colonial Beach: North Beach, Downtown Boardwalk Beach, Irving Avenue Beach, Castlewood Beach, and The Pointe. 

Stroll Down Colonial Beach Boardwalk – You can take a stroll down the boardwalk and visit shops, and restaurants, including the High Tides on the Potomac Restaurant and Black Pearl Tiki Bar. 

Visit James Monroe Birthplace Park & MuseumYou can visit the birthplace of the President and learn more about his life and legacy. There are also lovely paths to explore around the property. 

Visit the Museum at Colonial BeachLearn about the history of Colonial Beach at this quaint museum.

Explore the Art at Jarrett Thor Fine ArtsExplore the many fine arts displays at Jarrett Thor Fine Arts. 

Hotels in Colonial Beach, VA

To help you plan your next vacation in Colonial Beach, VA, here are some of my top picks for places to stay. They’re also located right on the beach!

Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast

Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast

Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast is an adorable hotel that is filled with charm and historic decor. It has a prime location right next to the beach. It also has a pool. Guests are also treated to a full breakfast every morning. 

🛏️ Book your stay at the Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast by clicking here! 🛏️

River Edge Inn

River Edge Inn has a prime location right along the water. It also features an outdoor swimming pool and BBQ facilities, which makes it an excellent vacation spot. 

🛏️ Book your stay at the River Edge Inn by clicking here! 🛏️

Colonial Beach FAQs

What is Colonial Beach VA known for?

Colonial Beach is known for being near the birthplaces of three Presidents: George Washington, James Madison, and James Monroe. 

Historically, it was known as The Playground on the Potomac. It served as a popular vacation destination for people from Washington, D.C. and Richmond, VA. 

Does Colonial Beach have a boardwalk?

Yes, Colonial Beach has a boardwalk. It is a wide sidewalk by the beach with shops, restaurants, and hotels alongside. 

Can you swim in Colonial Beach, VA? 

Yes, you can swim in Colonial Beach, VA.

Is Colonial Beach, VA free? 

Yes, Colonial Beach, VA is free. 

Conclusion: 16 Best Things to Do in Colonial Beach, VA

Colonial Beach is a great vacation destination that is filled with history and small-town charm.

Whether you’re in the mood for chilling on the beach, seafood, wineries, breweries, or learning more about the founding fathers, you’ll find the perfect way to spend your holiday!

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