A bit about the town

If you followed that two-lane highway to the Rappahannock River in Caroline County, you’d come upon the town of Port Royal, a colonial shipping port settled in 1652 and chartered in 1744.

Once there, you could immerse yourself in historic sites, like one of the country’s oldest continuously operating post office, the tavern where George Washington spent the night, even the house where John Wilkes Booth tried to take cover nine days after shooting President Abraham Lincoln.

If you are looking for a walking tour around one of the most historic towns in all of America, let alone Virginia, Port Royal is your town. Once considered as a possibility for our Nation’s capital, Port Royal sits on the banks of the Rappahannock River and consists primarily of 18th century structures that remain as they were 200 years ago including a home that was a tavern visited by George Washington on several occasions. 

There is also the remains of Dorothy Roy’s estate, the Roy Chimney’s. Dorothy was the only woman in the colony allowed to operate a tobacco warehouse and who is responsible for the construction of the road which is now Rt. 301.  Also available on Saturdays from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm or by prearranged appointment is the Port Royal Museum of American History and the old Port Royal School as well as several other museums that feature portraits of many historical residents and medicine.

Be sure to include the Port Royal Harbor, which is found at the end of Kings Street. Here ships sailed carrying tobacco and other wares and ferries transported passengers across the river.

Today, the river is a great place to fish from the newly constructed fishing pier or from the pier, you can launch your kayak or canoe and take part in one of the 3 Water Trails.

Nothing says history better than antique shops and Port Royal has some of the best. Make one of these a “must do” on your trip. While in town, be sure to visit one of the restaurants including Blue Bar Bakery, Horne’s, etc. for a great bite to eat.

From Port Royal you can continue your drive in Caroline County in several different directions. You can choose to turn onto North Rt. 17 at the crossroad with Rt. 301. From here you could turn off onto Rt. 615 in approximately 7 miles to the Pettigrew Wildlife Management Area which offers a variety of activities such as hunting, camping, hiking, etc., or continue a few more miles and visit Snead’s Farm where you can pick your own veggies and fruit during the season. 

At the crossroads, with Rt. 2 you can make your way to historic Bowling Green, or from Port Royal you can continue along Rt. 301 South just 12.5 miles to the county seat of Bowling Green. As you leave town, heading south on Rt. 301, 2 miles towards Bowling Green, you will find the marker for the Garrett Farm where John Wilkes Booth was shot and killed just 12 days after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

JOHN WILKES BOOTH

John Wilkes Booth, (born May 10, 1838, near Bel Air, Maryland, U.S.—died April 26, 1865, near Port Royal, Virginia), member of one of the United States’ most-distinguished acting families of the 19th century and the assassin who killed Pres. Abraham Lincoln.

Booth fled through Maryland, stopping to have his leg treated by Samuel A. Mudd, a Maryland doctor who would later be convicted of conspiracy. A massive manhunt ensued, fueled by a $100,000 reward.  On April 26, Federal troops arrived at a farm in Virginia, just south of the Rappahannock River, where Booth was hiding in a tobacco barn.

After being shot, either by a soldier or by himself, Booth was carried to the porch of the farmhouse, where he died. The body was identified by a doctor who had operated on Booth the year before, and it was then secretly buried, though four years later it was reinterred. There is no acceptable evidence to support the rumors, current at the time, doubting that the man who had been killed was actually Booth.