With its tiny historic jails and lack of stoplights, Mathews takes the notion of small town living to a new level. But this Chesapeake haven isn’t just quaint; it’s unmistakably cool. Consider the miles of pristine shoreline, water activity, and authentic coastal life that can only come from a town that’s been established in Virginia since 1700. After learning more about Mathews, it won’t be any mystery why this town was voted a Must-Visit Town In America by
Budget Travel. And moreover, it might just be the most unique town in the world.
Mathews is the second-smallest county in all of Virginia. Just 84 square miles in area, this corner of the state seems to house the true spirit of the Chesapeake Bay. This wonderfully underrated and highly-livable spot is home to attractions and histories that you’d expect only from major cities.
There’s something that all Chesapeake Bay towns have in common, and it’s one of the most celebrated aspects of Mathews: water life. The waterfront is visually breathtaking, but it’s more than just something to look at. Residents and visitors alike are drawn to the shores where pristine beaches and wildlife trails await.
Standing as a figurative and functional beacon, the New Point Comfort House is a 55-foot tall structure commissioned by Thomas Jefferson himself. The sandstone lighthouse sits on its own island, a phenomenon caused by the 1933 hurricane. Constructed in 1804, it’s the third-oldest of its kind on the Bay and can be admired from two public viewing areas.
The Observation Walkway (photographed above) also provides a unique tour of the lighthouse and surrounding shores. From this site, you can enjoy kayaking tours, breathtaking sunsets, and a great vantage point of the natural wildlife and birds unique to the area.
Much of Mathews’ appeal lies on dry land, too. A quick walk around town will reveal gems such as Sibley’s General Store on Main Street. Sibley’s is the location of the town’s visitors center and a great place to stop by and learn more about local history. It’s here that you can rent a kayak, learn about the biking trails, and admire some amazing local artwork.
The Old Mathews County Jail is another must-see. Built in 1795, these tiny accommodations are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The architecture is fascinating and allows you to imagine what life must have been like here hundreds of years ago.
And don’t forget the food! For seafood lovers, any of the local restaurants are sure to deliver. Fresh catches, fried crabs, and even some tasty pizza. Two of the most popular spots among locals are Southwind Cafe and the White Dog Bistro.
As the sun begins to set, you might consider hopping on a boat and embarking on a scenic cruise along the East River. The Helen Elizabeth, shown above, offers memorable tours of the historic homes and unforgettable sunset views. In a town where boats outnumber stoplights, it’s the perfect way to end your visit.
Have you visited Mathews recently, or do you happen to be a resident of this incredible town? Be sure to share your story with us! For more small towns, be sure to check out these
11 Towns In Virginia That Are Downright Delightful.