I first heard about the town of Occoquan when I started researching about charming small towns in Virginia and the place has intrigued me since. It wasn’t until recently though that I finally made my way there.
My first opportunity to check out Occoquan, Virginia was during my drive back to Arlington from visiting Staunton, another one of Virginia’s charming small town. Apart from its name, which is quirky to say the least, what finally convinced me to visit was Mom’s Apple Pie, a local favorite for freshly baked pies and sweets. There are also locally owned one-of-a-kind shops, delicious eateries, and plenty of nature related activities for those looking for something more active to do. Here are some suggestions on things to do in Occoquan, Virginia.
Things to Do in Occoquan, Virginia
Enjoy a Tour of the Occoquan River
Fans of water-related sports will find plenty of things to do in Occoquan, Virginia. The small town whose name means “at the end of the river” offers visitors with kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, and boating opportunities on the Occoquan River just to name a few. Check out Penguin Paddling, which offers a two-hour kayak and paddleboard rental during the summer season and has a location in town just behind Madigan’s Waterfront Restaurant.
Occoquan is also known to be the boating center of the Washington, D.C., area because of its numerous marinas. Over 100 slips are available for rent between the seven docks that sit within a two-mile radius of Occoquan. Take your boat for a spin and follow the same route that historical individuals such as John Smith and Civil War troops took some 300 years ago.
Mill House Museum
Way back in the 18th century, the Merchant Mill, the country’s first automated grist mill, was the main economic lifeline for the small town of Occoquan. Unfortunately, a fire destroyed the majority of it. The only original structure left is the building that now houses the Mill House Museum and a must-see attraction when exploring Occoquan, Virginia. It provides a good history of the riverside town and has a number of interesting memorabilia pertaining to the Merchant Mill itself. Some of the examples include written documentation that showed George Washington sent one of his trusted advisors to inspect the Merchant Mill to get an idea for a grist mill he was about to build near his home in Mount Vernon. There are also Civil war photographs and medical instruments from the 18th century.
A Shopper’s Delight
Exploring Occoquan, Virginia means visiting some of its unique and locally owned shops beginning with The Golden Goose where it’s Christmas everyday of the year. This store located on Mill Street contains thousands of holiday décor. Every conceivable ornament you want to find, they’ll likely have. Browsing its half a dozen showrooms is worth the time.
There’s also the Puzzle Palooza Etc., also located on Mill Street. This specialty store sells puzzles of all sorts (2-D, 3-D, 4-D) and a variety of designs fit for kids and adults alike. Designs range from whimsical images of cities to adorable pictures of cats. Spend sometime looking around the collections and you’ll find completed puzzles as framed photos or used as welcoming doormats.
A Perfect Day Out
A couple of miles east of the main town stand the 350-acre Occoquan Regional Park which provides plenty of opportunities for hiking and biking. The park has a connection to the Fairfax Cross-County Trail and Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, two of the state’s most diverse, scenic, and historical trails. Lovely riverside views, original brick kilns, and a memorial to women suffragist are just a few of its highlights. There are also picnic tables, kayak launching sites, and batting cages available.
Where to Eat
Exploring Occoquan, Virginia also means a tour of the taste buds beginning with weekend brunch at the Bistro L’Hermitage. This delightful eatery specializes in traditional French dishes such as onion soup, escargots (snails), and roast chicken. The brunch menu offers a classic selection of egg dishes and light sandwiches and salads. Save room to sample at least one of its specialty desserts particularly the traditional crème brulee or the banana crepe.
Beer aficionados can relax and cool down at the Cock and Bowl where you can sample one of the 60+ Belgian beers including hard-to-find trappists beers, abbey and golden ales. Slurp on a bowl full of fresh mussels and snack on those famous frites while enjoying live music on the patio.
Finally, no visit to Occoquan is complete without taking home sweets from Mom’s Apple Pie. Choose from over a dozen flavors ranging from seasonal fruits (peach and berries for summer) as well as savory quiches and monster cookies that will leave you always wanting more.
Exploring Occoquan, Virginia is easy for those staying in Washington, D.C. A 30-minute rental car drive from the White House will take you into this charming and historical town with plenty of good places to eat.