Board an oyster barge for a private two-hour tour ($35; book two weeks in advance) at Cherrystone Aqua-Farms, where oyster farmers teach visitors about harvesting cage-cultured oysters and the unique characteristics of those grown in Virginia, which have a deeper cup than some other varieties. The tour begins in the hatchery and follows the life stages through maturity, at which point you can try your hand at harvesting a few (40 cents each; no shucking service) and scrubbing them clean before tasting them while they’re still cold from the water.
Paddle over cages of maturing oysters in peaceful Nassawaddox Creek with Southeast Expeditions on a tour ($85 per person, including a bottle of wine for each couple) that takes you to Chatham Vineyards, set on a historic farm that dates back four centuries. After tying up the kayaks, sip glasses of steel-fermented Chardonnay and, on designated winter Sundays (or by request), take a seat next to the outdoor fire pit and enjoy oysters that the staff pulls from the cold waters of Church Creek.
Follow an unofficial oyster trail to taste the different flavor profiles from Virginia’s seven distinct growing regions, including briny, deep-flavored specimens grown in the Atlantic to balanced, slightly sweet oysters grown in the bay. Start at the northern edge of the Eastern Shore at Don’s Seafood Restaurant on Chincoteague Island to sample options from the raw bar, such as Tom’s Cove bayside oysters ($6.29 for a half-dozen). Drive south to the historic wharf town of Onancock, where local Shooting Point Salts are served on the half shell ($7.99 for a half-dozen) at the Blarney Stone Pub. Finish the crawl by going straight to the source of H.M. Terry’s Sewansecott oyster operation in Willis Wharf (50 cents each; no shucking service). Look for the big, green sign, and buy a box of these rich, balanced bivalves for significantly cheaper than restaurant prices.