On the Shore at New Point Comfort
The road to New Point Comfort Lighthouse seems to go on forever. But inevitably, it will only take you so far. Here, in the middle peninsula region of Virginia, so far is not quite far enough. Like many of the other One Hundred Shores destinations, Point Comfort has an “ends of the Earth” kind of feeling about it. A lighthouse likely will, I’d presume. Here though, the end of the road is the beginning of the adventure. The journey to the New Point Comfort Lighthouse is a reminder that, despite being nestled dead center in the heavily populated mid-Atlantic, this bay country still maintains unspoiled gems along its shores.
Point Comfort Lighthouse sits offshore, and is a literal island unto itself. It wasn’t always that way. Begun in 1804 under the direction of Thomas Jefferson, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses on the Chesapeake, as well as one of the oldest still standing. In 1933, 130 years after construction, a particularly devastating hurricane blew its way up the Chesapeake, and forever altered the sandy, shifting shorelines of Mathews County, Va. What was once a fully manned light station between the York and Rappahannock became an island light.
A kayak is now a necessity at New Point Comfort Natural Area Preserve. Mathews County tourism hints at a marsh walk which will take you out over the area, and provide views of the lighthouse. In reality, the marsh walk is more like a somewhat longer than average pier. There’s very little in terms of accessible land here at all in fact. You can indeed see the lighthouse from the pier (I can’t bring myself to call it a marsh walk), but if you show up on location expecting to take a nice afternoon walk along the water, you will be disappointed. I can’t stress enough how much you’ll miss if you leave it at that.
Even from shore though, it’s easy to take a moment to appreciate the pristine beauty of Mobjack Bay. A bay within a bay? Mobjack Bay is like a perfect little nesting doll; the most precious babe cradled within the larger Chesapeake Bay here in the middle peninsula of Virginia. Set out on a kayak from the launch, and it all comes into clear view.
After launching, you can head east towards the light. While you’ll never be too far from shore, check the local forecast, as there is a bit of open water paddling. Hugging the shoreline is easy on the right wind, which is a tact that will also put you in good fishing territory if that’s your target. There’s plenty of submerged eel grass and widgeon grass still present here in late summer, though the grasses eventually transition to a more sandy shore.
The lighthouse itself is a beautiful design, and is a highly recommended trip just for the site itself. It’s unlike any other lighthouse I visited throughout the Chesapeake. It feels lost. Adrift out to sea on a small island. But unlike many of the other more modern steel caisson lights which are offshore throughout the Chesapeake, the structure of the New Point Comfort lighthouse is entirely stone. The traditional form standing tall on its small island makes it feel not just lost at sea, but lost in time too.
The lighthouse is pristine. The sandy beaches which once connected to the island are equally immaculate. A small beachside development can be barely seen to the north, but sitting on the shoreline here, looking out across one of the widest stretches of the open Chesapeake, I feel completely alone. And I’m in awe.
My recommendation: Bring a kayak, bring a lunch, and bring a towel (and a rod, if you’re into that). You won’t regret spending a few hours beachcombing, fishing and absorbing the quintessential example of Chesapeake beauty and our attempt to make a place within it.