Joan and Ian on the Back Deck of Island Hopper
Once the dust of the Civil War had settled, Americans discovered the recreational and therapeutic possibilities offered by sojourns at the seashore. America's love affair with the beach began. One of its early trysting partners was a two mile stretch of beach on the Virginia shore of the Potomac River. about 65 miles downstream from Washington. Thanks to the perfection of the steamboat during the war, it was only hours away. To serve this new leisure-time activity, a settlement of summer cottages, hotels and attendant entertainments sprang up on the split of land between the Potomac River and Monroe Bay. The destination had already been popular for 25 years when, in a892, it was incorporated as the Town of Colonial Beach. Fortunes faltered in the 1930s when the steamboats disappeared, but the construction of the Harry W. Bridge reconnected Colonial Beach to its clientele in Washington D.C. and extended its reach to Baltimore, MD. In the 1950s, Colonial Beach saw its popularity rise again when it became the only point in Virginia with access to legalized gambling. Soon after gambling was approved in Charles County, MD, entrepreneurs established casinos on piers extending into Maryland waters from Colonial Beach. The respite ended in 1958 when Charles County lost its license for gambling. Overnight, the casinos lost their customers Colonial Beach has been a destination for tourists along the Mid-Atlantic Coast for over 50 years. Colonial Avenue leads to the popular waterfront area between Washington Avenue and the Potomac River. Colonial Beach is “THE Town on the Potomac.” Turning the corner at Washington Avenue is an acre of land referred to as Town Commons or Town Hill, where fantastic events are held throughout the year. A new and beautiful stage, built entirely from donations in 2007, is used for evening concerts, outdoor family movie nights and weekend events. A restaurant, with its paddle wheel architecture, along with other local attractions is drawing patrons from all over the Mid-Atlantic Coast. Colonial Beach is a Golf Cart Community. The carts are “dressed up” and seen everywhere. Located in the northern part of the area known as the Northern Neck of the Virginia, this historical area brings you the fine distinctions of General Robert E. Lee at Stratford Hall; The birthplace of President George Washington; James Monroe’s Birthplace. Swimmers and sunbathers enjoy the second longest public beach in Virginia. Along the waterfront, people are playing and happily enjoying the beach. The shops are busy and all the benches along the Boardwalk are full of people relaxing and eating ice cream or cotton candy from the ice cream shops. People can walk or ride their golf carts and enjoy the public owned and maintained Boardwalk and well-groomed beaches.
Local Colonial Beach Boat
(Need We Say More?)
At Hawthorn Street stands the rebuilt Municipal Pier marking the south end of the Boardwalk. The pier caters to fishermen as it runs 500 feet into the river. The Boardwalk makes it a place residents and tourists alike enjoy walking or just sitting on the benches and watching the people on the Boardwalk or boaters in the river. Along Irving Avenue, and other streets back to Monroe Bay, the houses are well kept, clean and contribute to the maritime theme. Throughout the town, many homeowners have upgraded their homes to give them the early 1900 Victorian era-look with fanciful colors and beautiful gardens. Approaching “The Point”, you pass one of beautiful parks available for picnics; out-door grilling; large updated playgrounds, for all tourists and residents. (Groups of 20 or more require a permit obtained at Town Hall.) There are many marinas on the shores of Monroe Bay and the Potomac River. The slips are full of boaters who have come for weekend fun. The influence of the local artist community is evident throughout the town. The art galleries and some local businesses (in conjunction with the Colonial Beach Art Guild) participate in a 2nd Friday Art Walk year round. This draws locals and tourists from surrounding areas and the town is becoming known as an Art Mecca. Vacationers staying at the numerous rental cottages, bed & breakfasts, hotels and motels, are the mainstay of the Town’s economy for the summer months. Throughout the year various town events are sponsored by local organizations and 5 big events are sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. Some events have brought as many as 5,000 people to town. Tourism in the winter has increased because the Town is recognized as a place to come and relax away from the congestion and grind of the larger metropolitan areas. The town has experienced an influx of younger families due to the excellence of the school system, as well as the safe and pleasing parks and recreational services available.
The Island Hopper Crew found Colonial Beach to be a depressed and very uninteresting town. Restaurants and shops were not at a tourist level. That said, the crew ate dinner at the Gambling Boat. Good fun was had by all.
Kevin and Tate