April 04, 2007 News & Features » Cover Story


Getting There 

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The Scenic Route

You need to get to the Jamestown Ferry. But forego I-64 and wind your way east through Shockoe Bottom, crossing into Henrico County via Route 5. Pass the new Rocketts Landing development, where the new condos are replacing the old factories on the site.

Drive through once-rural Varina, which for almost 400 years has maintained a decidedly agrarian vibe. Like us, you may notice ramped-up residential development. But Route 5 seems to narrow once you enter Charles City County.

Dense forest presses in on both sides of the road. This beautiful stretch leads to some of Virginia's most storied places. Veer across the Benjamin Harrison Memorial Bridge and turn left on Route 10, which follows the south side of the river. Taking this route will lead you to the ferry in Surry County. That way, you can approach Jamestown from the water, surveying the shoreline as the first settlers did.


Merchant's Hope Church

Check out Merchant's Hope Church, a few miles off Route 10. It's a beautiful 17th- or 18th-century structure. Historians can't agree on a date, but the structure's simple lines and Flemish bond brickwork are perfection.


A six-mile ride off Route 10 in Prince George County, pass broad, well-tended fields and pine woods on your way to Brandon. The development of the estate began within 10 years of Jamestown's settlement. Find a Palladian-inspired house, partially obscured by a tree-lined drive. Grounds and extensive formal gardens are open daily.

Eat Here

Before your ferry trip, get a full stomach at the Surrey House Restaurant. It's busy at midmorning, when ham and eggs, pancakes and coffee are flowing from the kitchen. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesdays through Sundays.

Jennifer and Sam Oakley, center, recently purchased the Surrey House Restaurant, which they operate with their sons.

What to Expect This is a 53-year-tradition, and it feels that way. A portrait of a neatly combed Owen Gwaltney, the first owner, hangs proudly on the wall. But Jennifer and Sam Oakley recently purchased the one-story restaurant. Inside you'll find knotty-pine walls and a diverse, neighborly clientele.

Recommendation It's all about the ham. Start with the trio of ham biscuits, then consider the ham croquettes or golden-fried Edwards ham and peanut soup. Or fill up with an open-faced banana sandwich with peanut butter or a slice of the world-famous peanut-raisin pie.

Surry House Restaurant
11865 Rolf Highway
(757) 294-3389

Crossing the James

The Jamestown-Scotland Ferry

Approach Jamestown by water, just like the settlers. The Virginia Department of Transportation operates the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry, carrying 936,000 vehicles each year. The ride is free and takes 15 minutes.

Trivia The first ferry rider was Albert Jester, according to VDOT. He and his auto crossed the James on the Captain John Smith Feb. 26, 1925. The ferry was 60 feet long and could carry 16 Model-T Fords.


Sure, up a flight of steps on the ferry there's an enclosed passenger lounge painted in white enamel. Don't sit there. Go outside to the bow for a better view. We spot a flock of seagulls vying for something in the water. Then, in the hazy distance across the river's smooth surface, we spot Jamestown's three ships, docked. That's what we came for.

The Surry dock is located at 16289 Ross Highway in Surry. The online schedule is found at www.virginiadot.org/travel/ferry-jamestown-history.asp. Boats run frequently in each direction.

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