Great Escape to the Virginia Coast - The Inn at Tabbs Creek
May 25, 2020 | By: Elizabeth Larson Photography
Two summers ago, Terry & I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Mathews County in Virginia, where I'd lived in the early to mid 80's. First we stopped in Williamsburg for a couple of days to visit my dad and stepmother, before heading about an hour north of there for a long weekend. Mathews County is located in the eastern part of the state and is known as the Middle Peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay. There are 214 miles of waterfront with the Piankatank River to the north, Mobjack Bay to the south, and of course the Chesapeake to the east. As you can imagine, its a really beautiful place.
For the six years that I lived there as a teenager, I never really appreciated it. Although I do have to say that the summers sure were fun spent boating out on the water, at the beach, or spending time at the pool with friends. At eighteen I couldn't wait to get away, eventually making it to Charlottesville. I lived there for almost 20 years, before moving to North Carolina where I've lived for 15 years now. My attitude has certainly changed over the years and I could totally see myself living there again, or a place like it.
Since moving away, I've had to come back to photograph three different weddings in the area over the years. Two of those times, I'd stayed at a beautiful inn called the Inn at Tabbs Creek. Sadly in 2007, my sisters, nieces, and I returned to Mathews for our mother's memorial service and we needed a place to stay. We all agreed it would be nice for us to stay in one place together. I told my sisters I knew just the place. When I looked into staying at the inn again, I found out it was on the market and not opened at the time. So we stayed elsewhere but I never forgot about the place.
Fast forward to 2018. Since I'd booked two upcoming photo assignments photographing high school seniors that summer in Mathews, Terry & I were looking for a place to stay while there for a few days. I did a search for inns, B&B's, and airbnb's on google and the Inn at Tabbs Creek popped up again. Then I found their page on Instagram and started to follow them. Finally I reached out to innkeeper, Lori Dusenberry, for more information and to see if they had some weekends opened in August. She and her husband, Greg, own and operate the inn and moved there to be closer to her parents. It turns out the two of them are both originally from North Carolina and before moving to Mathews, they'd lived only 45 minutes away from where my place is now!
After corresponding a few times, Lori asked if I would be interested in helping them get some photos of their inn while we were there, so a plan came together. The inn is located in Port Haywood just south of downtown Mathews Courthouse. The main house on the property, The Captain Billups House, was built in the 1800's and has three private guest rooms upstairs. Downstairs is a library where you can borrow a book or a DVD to watch a movie, the check-in parlor, the big kitchen, and breakfast area which is on the sunporch. Also there's a great screened-in porch overlooking the creek. There are also two separate single story cottages onsite, which are all guest suites with private entrances.
The day we arrived was an early Friday morning, before any of the other guests had checked in for the weekend. With Terry's help as an assistant setting up lights and moving gear around for me, as a team we were able to get photos of the guest rooms & suites and we were done by late morning. And of course I included photos around the property throughout the weekend, including the gorgeous flower garden. Lori has quite the green thumb and as fellow gardeners, we both felt right at home there. Also having cats Chai and Pekoe around made us feel that way too! Chai followed us around the garden and I even caught him napping on the roof outside our window one morning! Their other kitty, Pekoe shyly peeked out from the shrubs to take a look at us. Terry, who is THE cat whisperer, was able to give her a chin scratch before she retreated back into the shrubs.
Greg and Lori have really done a fabulous and tasteful job remodeling the guest rooms and the inn itself. I loved all of the nautical and seaside details both indoors and out. The yard and garden art was fantastic too. A table that caught my eye outside between two adirondack chairs had a tabletop made of bottle caps. What a great way to recycle! And what southern garden doesn't have a bottle tree? We sure have one in ours!
We also got to enjoy the pool and in the evenings we spent time down on the pier watching the incredible sunsets over the water. We took the bicycles out for a spin one morning and then we paddled the tandem kayak together out to the East River along the banks one afternoon. It's nice that they have bikes, kayaks, canoes, and SUP's for the guests to use. We have our own kayaks and bikes but hauling them 5 hours away felt like it would've been such a daunting task. Especially with my car full of camera and studio gear as it was! Saturday morning I missed breakfast, as I had another early morning photo assignment I had to slip away for. When I returned, Terry and a few of the guests told me I'd really missed out! I made sure not to miss out on Sunday morning, before we departed for home. The breakfast was incredible and the coffee piping hot!
Terry and I also enjoyed spending time at Bethel Beach Natural Area, about 15 minutes away from the inn. We picnicked there for lunch one day and then the next day we had lunch at Richardson's Cafe in downtown Mathews Courthouse, which was the Rexall Drugstore when I lived there. We ate seafood both nights at The Hole in the Wall, on the water at Gwynn's Island. Terry and I had to have our oysters on the half shell fix too. Missed out on blue crabs while there, unfortunately! We wanted to try the White Dog Bistro, as we'd heard incredible things but never made it there. We stopped into a few shops, one of them being Sibley's General Store, which we really enjoyed. The visitors center is also located within Sibley's.
Of course we had to do a drive-by in my old neighborhood, Sail Cove, which is on the northern side of the county in Hallieford. Crazy how big the trees were in the yard and we couldn't really see the house from the road anymore. But it was still fun stepping back in time and showing Terry where I once lived. My highlight of the weekend - when Terry didn't believe me in that when you move from somewhere else to Mathews (even if its from one county over from across the river) you are called a "come here". So a lady was walking by when we were downtown and he stopped to ask her if it was true. She said that indeed it is true and that she was a "come here" too!
Although we didn't actually get to meet Greg and Lori when we were there, her brother David took great care of us and all of the other guests who stayed there that weekend too. Greg and Lori keep so busy running an inn full time, they needed time to get away too. I totally get it! They were at their favorite beach in North Carolina for a long weekend, so I guess you could say we "traded" states! Since we didn't get to meet them it will give us another excuse to stay there again sometime, as they seem like such great folks and have many of the same interests as we do - organic gardening, historic preservation, kayaking, the love of animals, and preserving the natural environment.
Like everywhere else, due to the virus outbreak, the inn has been closed since mid-March. Greg and Lori are planning to open back up on June 1st, which of course is a week from today. If you are looking for peace and quiet, we sure did find it at the inn. We rarely saw the other guests and we found the rooms to be impeccably clean. Its also great in that they have just a handful of guest rooms and suites to oversee and take care of. Things are spaced out really well there and I'm sure they'll be taking special precautions to keep everyone safe. And if you're not quite ready to get away, they are offering a special savings on gift cards for a future stay.
The inn sure would be such a great place to have a small, intimate wedding or an elopement & they offer special options for just that. Be sure to check that out on their website HERE. With the way things are now, I'm definitely seeing a trend here in North Carolina for smaller, intimate weddings and elopements. Personally, it would be the place I'd consider in the event the two of us decided to get hitched ourselves :) We do hope to get back there sometime, either way!
Thank you Lori, Greg, and to David too for a wonderful experience! We wish you the very best - happy 11 year anniversary as innkeepers and owners of the inn too :)
Below are some great websites to help plan your trip :)
The "Visit Mathews" link below has all kinds of information & definitely worth checking out!