Virginia’s Gloucester County’s unique position between the York River, Mobjack Bay and the Chesapeake Bay, has been a fertile and valuable place for settlement for the last 700 years.
English colonists founded the county in 1651, splitting it off from York. Its combination of rural farmland and rich waters has helped it thrive ever since. It included Werowocomoco, the capital of the Algonkian Powhatan Confederacy from about 1400 until 1609.
Today its population of 36,000 affirms that it’s still a great place to live. The population is a diverse mix of skillful watermen, farmers, local business owners, professionals, scientists associated with the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, commuters to nearby Hampton Roads, and retirees
Gloucester’s lower Bay climate makes it particularly lovely in April. Here are three good reasons to visit this month.
Delight in Daffodils
English colonists brought daffodil bulbs with them and the flowers have bloomed here ever since. For most of the 20th century, what began with large private daffodil gardens along Mobjack Bay’s North River became a major industry of farms shipping cut spring flowers to Baltimore and Norfolk by steamboat. The trade flourished, making Gloucester “The Daffodil Capital of America” during the 1930s and ‘40s.
While a globalized floral industry has since reduced the town’s production, an annual festival continues to celebrate the legacy of the bulbs. Visit the Gloucester Daffodil Festival, on April 1 and 2 on Gloucester’s Main Street with hundreds of vendors, delicious food, performances and much more. This is an event for the entire family. While you’re there, be sure to see the Werowocomoco Exhibit at the Gloucester County Visitor Center.
Stroll Through Gardens
Peek into the private gardens of a historic plantation, a lighthouse, and a contemporary home on Ware Neck during Historic Garden Week Tours in Gloucester, Saturday, April 15. Order a box lunch from Nuttall Country Store, which has been in business since 1877 and served the steamboats at nearby Hockley Wharf on the Ware River. Take a tour led by a Master Gardener of Brent and Becky’s Bulbs, whose owners’ family first began raising daffodils in 1900. Tour headquarters are at Ware Episcopal Church, one of Gloucester’s original parishes, which will offer docent-led tours all day and a string quartet concert (1 p.m.).
Travel the Trails of Native Peoples
After you visit the Werowocomoco Exhibit, spend a day at Gloucester’s Machicomoco State Park on the York River, Virginia’s first state park celebrating and honoring the history and legacy of the Commonwealth’s Native Tribes. In the Algonkian language, Machicomoco translates to a meeting place. The park boasts 645 acres of open and wooded land bounded by Timberneck and Cedarbush Creeks and the York River. Learn the stories of the native peoples in an open-air interpretive pavilion shaped like a traditional longhouse. Exhibits provide information on the culture, landscape, and movement of Native Americans in this area. Walk the 0.7-mile interpretative trail through a range of habitats, from open fields to woodlands and marshes where deer, wild turkeys, songbirds, river otters, waterfowl, and birds of prey like ospreys and bald eagles live. The waters are home to many fish species like speckled trout, red drum, and Atlantic croakers, plus blue crabs, which are just beginning to wake up and forage in April’s warming waters. For more walking or bike riding, Machicomico offers an easy 3.1-mile paved loop trail along its main road and a 2.4-mile forestry trail. The park has a campground with sites for vehicle camping and hike-in tent sites, three overnight yurts, and two picnic shelters. For canoes and kayaks, there’s an accessible launch pier on the York, with a set of small floating docks on Timberneck Creek for daytime boat tie-ups and fishing.