As you cruise around the mid-Atlantic looking for summer fun, drop anchor at Hampton’s bustling port. During its 400-year history, it has attracted adventure seekers from explorers and pirates to astronauts and race car drivers, earning its reputation as a happening destination.
Located near the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay where the James, Elizabeth and Nansemond rivers converge, Hampton’s regional network of waterways has played a key role in its growth. In 1607, English Captain Christopher Newport landed here with a ship full of settlers who would establish Jamestown.
Soon after, a maritime defense structure was erected at Old Point Comfort on the peninsula’s southern tip, which served as a strategic military position from the Colonial Era to the Civil War and beyond. Named Fort Monroe after the fifth U.S. president, it was decommissioned in 2011, leaving a gorgeous stretch of sand up to Buckroe Beach and a six-sided fort for the public to explore. Its Casemate Museum includes the cell where Confederate president Jefferson Davis was imprisoned.
Other attractions for history buffs: The Emancipation Oak where Lincoln’s document to liberate slaves was first read in the South, Virginia Air & Space Science Center with exhibits on training astronauts at nearby NASA Langley Research Center, several historic lighthouses, and churches where parishioners have worshiped for centuries. The Hampton History Museum pulls it all together under one roof.
If being on the Bay stirs up fresh seafood cravings, Hampton will not disappoint. The town is packed with eateries that dish up crab cakes, rockfish and other local delicacies. After a hearty meal, stroll around the Phoebus neighborhood or the vibrant downtown and stretch your legs by visiting shops, galleries, breweries, pubs and antique stores. Arts venues include Hampton Coliseum, American Theatre and Charles Taylor Visual Arts Center. Summer festival themes range from pirates to jazz and bluegrass.
WHERE TO DOCK
Bluewater Yachting Center
Only a mile off the ICW, Bluewater is in a deep protected basin that accommodates boats up to 200 feet long on floating docks with 1,500+ feet of side-to-side docking.
Old Point Comfort Marina
Located at historic Fort Monroe, this full-service marina accommodates 300+ boats up to 50 feet long with amenities ranging from a restaurant and ship store to fuel and pump out.
WHERE TO DINE
Visit this casual waterfront restaurant in historic Fort Monroe at the Old Point Comfort Marina and treat yourself to excellent local seafood and stellar sunsets on the deck.
Brown Chicken Brown Cow
Organically raised chicken, beef and pork dishes are served indoors at this upbeat eatery or outside on the patio that also hosts Bow Wow Happy Hour for friendly pets on Monday evenings.
French, Creole and Neo Soul cuisines are presented with pizazz for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner at this delightful bistro and rooftop.
This classic upscale steakhouse sizzles with seafood, steaks, chicken, chops and pasta amidst white linen and soothing modern décor.
Bull Island Brewing Co.
Tie up at the dock of Hampton’s oldest waterfront brewery to sample craft beers, seafood, sandwiches, pizza and pub fare topped off with a lively atmosphere.