RICHMOND, Va. - Virginia is for Lovers is about love - pure and simple. For people who love great seafood in a beautiful setting, Virginia is gaining ground as a hot destination for oyster lovers. The commonwealth - already known around the world as a top wine travel destination, is now becoming the oyster capital of the East Coast - with seven different oyster regions and status as the largest producer of fresh, farm-raised oysters in the country. The diverse flavors of Virginia oysters - from the saltiest of the waters of Chincoteague on Virginia's Eastern Shore to the sweet taste of Rappahannock River oysters and the rebirth of Lynnhaven oysters in Virginia Beach - give visitors a lot to love about oyster travel in Virginia.
Here are some of the highlights, with more to discover on www.Virginia.org/oysters
Seven Oyster Regions to Explore
Virginia's seven different oyster regions stretch from the length of Virginia's Eastern Shore, into the Chesapeake Bay, coastal rivers and down to the Lynnhaven Inlet of Virginia Beach. Waterman hauling the day's harvest from the waters are a regular site in each of these destinations, as are local restaurants serving the freshest oysters around. Visitors will discover local seafood purveyors.
Tastes from Salty to Sweet
Much like wine, oysters take on the flavor of the area in which they are grown. The tastes of Virginia oysters are so distinctive that the Virginia Marine Products Board has created a Tasting Guide for Virginia Oysters - available free at www.VirginiaOysters.org. This guide outlines the variety of flavors from salty to buttery to sweet and where visitors can find each flavor.
Oysters are celebrated all along Virginia's Coastal Region including two major annual oyster festivals. Each October the northern end of Virginia's Eastern Shore celebrates the saltiest of oysters at the Chincoteague Oyster Festival. Oysters and seafood abound as do family games, live entertainment and small town charm.
Each November, the lovely town of Urbanna, found on the Rappahannock River, throws the country's largest and longest-running oyster festival called the Urbanna Oyster Festival. The town's streets are closed to vehicle traffic and become filled with oyster booths, festival food, music and crafts. The festival highlight is the oyster shucking contest which draws spectators from around the world.
Oyster Shucking Champion
It's at the Urbanna Oyster Festival where visitors can find Deborah Pratt - the fastest woman oyster shucker in the world. Pratt holds multiple world titles in oyster-shucking and continues to compete against men and women alike at contests throughout the world. Come watch her skills in Urbanna as she takes on the competition and shares oyster shucking tips with anyone who asks.
Tour the Merroir
At Rappahannock River Oyster Company in Topping, the staff will take visitors on a tour of the aquaculture program that is putting this family-owned company on the oyster map. These farm-raised oysters are part of the company's mission to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay through oysters, which are a natural filter. Merroir, the restaurant and oyster tasting room, is literally feet from the water where the oysters are harvested, making for the freshest lunch or dinner one could ever imagine.
Wine and Oysters
At the nearby Dog and Oyster Winery in Irvington, culinary travelers are in for a delight, with regular oyster and wine pairings at this beautiful vineyard which is home to rescue dogs who live on the property.
Visit www.Virginia.org/oysters to learn more about oyster travel in Virginia or call 1-800-VISITVA to request a free, Virginia is for Lovers travel guide and start planning a trip to Virginia. Love is at the heart of every Virginia vacation.