Packed Suitcase | DC Day Trip to Occoquan, Virginia
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DC Day Trip to Occoquan, Virginia

DC Day Trip to Occoquan, Virginia

Day Trip to Occoquan- cute street view 2


Trip Overview: The quaint, riverside town of Occoquan, Virginia in Prince William County is a quintessential day trip that has it all– rich colonial history dating back to the 1700s, some serious small town charm, boutique shops, great dining and a relaxed, waterfront vibe. And the best part? It’s all a mere 35 minutes drive from downtown Washington DC.

I recently day-tripped to Occoquan for my first-ever visit and was blown away by this gem. I couldn’t believe it was so close by yet was so under my radar. I truly loved visiting Occoquan and look forward to returning many times in the future!

Time needed: 3-6 hours

Distance from DC: Around 50 miles, roundtrip

Best time to visit: Year round

Best suited for: Solo Day-Trippers, Friends, Families, Couples, People with Pets… this trip is for everyone



1.) Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (13950 Dawson Beach Road, Woodbridge, VA 22191– $2.00 fee per car)
Kick off your day trip just outside of historic Occoquan at a spot that’s filled with nature and serenity. The Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge has miles of flat walking trails through grasslands, marshland and along a picturesque waterside trail. It feels like a real escape out of the city, and don’t forget your camera! Visitors can expect to see an array of wildlife– from turtles, butterflies and snakes, to eagles, ospreys, herons, songbirds and other waterfowl.

TIP: Don’t miss the photo blind on Marumsco Creek or the observation platform overlooking the Potomac River.

Day Trip to Occoquan- Occoquan Wildlife Refuge- creek

A pretty scene at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge


Day Trip to Occoquan- Wildlife Refuge- water view

A view of the Occoquan Bay on the trail along Deephole Point Road


Day Trip to Occoquan- Wildlife Refuge shell

The waterside trail had thousands of these empty shells– it seemed that when the tide from the bay rises, it sometimes covers the trail, leaving these shells behind.


2.) Lunch at Bottle Stop in Historic Occoquan (311 Mill St, Occoquan, VA 22125)
Occoquan’s historic district is a quick 10 minute drive from the wildlife refuge. Parking is free (yes, FREE!) and plentiful throughout the town. Occoquan is fairly small– just about 3 blocks by 4 blocks– but there is a LOT of things to do packed into this small area.

First, head to Bottle Stop Wine Bar for lunch and a complimentary wine tasting inside at their wine shop. Don’t miss the flat bread pizzas and the extensive offering of “nibbles”– small bites meant to pair perfectly with their impressive list of wines and craft beers. There’s also a whimsically-themed wine flight that changes weekly.

Day Trip to Occoquan- Bottle Shop nibbles

The Smorgas-Board features an assortment of wine-friendly “nibbles” at Bottle Stop — $15


3.) Window shopping throughout Occoquan
Now that you’re well fed, it’s time to shop! Take some time to wander the streets in Occoquan and enjoy discovering the character of the old buildings, stopping in the shops, listening to street performers, trying more wines at the many wine tasting spots or sitting in the waterfront gazebo in Mamie Davis Park.

Day Trip to Occoquan- street view

The streets in Occoquan are picture perfect


Day Trip to Occoquan- Brambles

Brambles home decor shop and art studio


Day Trip to Occoquan- Tastefully Yours

Tastefully Yours features a selection of handmade chocolate truffles as well as gelato and gourmet foods. Upstairs offers wine and beer tastings bottles for sale.


Day Trip to Occoquan- Golden Goose

The Golden Goose is the largest year-round Christmas shop in Northern Virginia


Day Trip to Occoquan- Mom's Apple Pie- pies!

Every kind of pie you can possibly imagine is for sale at Mom’s Apple Pie. (Available by the pie or the slice.)


Occoquan- Fetch Pet Bakery

There’s even treats for your pets at Fetch Bakery


4.) Hit the water with a cruise on a pontoon boat
At this point, you could feel like you’ve seen pretty much all that Occoquan has to offer. But if you want to keep on day-tripping, Occoquan has some fun activities that can to take you well into dinnertime.

On nice days, there’s really nothing better than hitting the water on a boat. Rivershore Charters offers hour-long guided river tours along the Occoquan River on their 46-person pontoon boats. As you pass by multi-million dollar homes, the captain shares lots of tidbits about regional history and local stories.

(Tours are offered every Saturday and Sunday from 12 noon till 1 hr before dark. Tickets are $12/ adult, $6/ children 4-12)

Day Trip to Occoquan- Rivershore Charters boat

The Rivershore Charters pontoon boat


Day Trip to Occoquan- Rivershore Charters ride

A scenic view from the boat


Day Trip to Occoquan- Rivershore Charters- I'm on a boat!

I’m on a boat!



5.) Try not to get spooked on an Occoquan ghost tour
Some believe that Occoquan’s old homes and even older history provides fertile ground for spirits and things that go bump in the night. Haunted Occoquan‘s Kay Pietrewicz leads a nightly tour and shares the stories and the history behind some of the town’s most well-known ghosts, including an apparition of a Dogue Native American man that appears in a local restaurant, a street corner that has been known to have loitering Civil War soldiers and a young woman that died of a broken heart and haunts others in love to this day.

(Tours cost $12/ adult, $6/ 6-12. Tours last 1 1/2 hours and are offered Wednesday through Saturday at 8 pm, and Saturday only at 4 pm. Reserve tours in advance here.)

Day Trip to Occoquan- bunker man

No, this isn’t creepy at all…


7.) Dinner
Before heading back to the city, consider grabbing a bite at one of Occoquan’s other dining standouts.

Madigan’s offers a seafood-focused menu with casual, waterfront seating and lots of ambiance. While Cock and Bowl pours up an impressive selection of over 60 Belgium brews alongside traditional bistro classics like mussels, steak frites and 7 different kinds of Belgian waffles. (YUM!)

Day Trip to Occoquan- Madigan's from the water

Madigan’s Waterfront


Day Trip to Occoquan- Cock and Bowl patio

The outdoor seating at Cock and Bowl



**DISCLAIMER: Many of my meals and activities for this DC Day Trip were provided by the Prince William County/ Manassas Convention & Visitors Bureau. I worked closely with my contacts there to customize an itinerary that best fit my travel perspective and all opinions are my own.**

  • Meredith
    Posted at 11:50h, 17 October

    Awesome!! I have to check this place out!!

  • Charles McCool
    Posted at 07:57h, 18 October

    Occoquan is a very cute town and does pack a punch in a small space. On our last trip there, my wife scoured Yelp and discovered The Secret Garden Cafe. Tucked away off the main street, it was frequented almost exclusively by locals for lunch. Quite a nice find. My wife has since returned (twice I think) with girlfriends and all love it.

    At the western end of Mill Street (the main street), is an excellent (and FREE) historical museum (Mill House Museum). I also love walking across the Occoquan River on the foot bridge.

  • kathy
    Posted at 05:46h, 20 October

    I agree! The Secret Garden Cafe is not to be missed! Every dish is amazing and my husband and I are particularly picky “foodies”! Definitely check out that place as well and they have such a cute twinkling outdoor seating section as well. The restaurant is hidden down an alley and up the stairs right next to Tastefully Yours.

  • Mark Perry
    Posted at 07:50h, 22 October

    Wanted to thank you for such a positive review of the Town of Occoquan and especially for your comments of my business Rivershore Charters. Sorry I wasn’t there to personally greet you but so glad my crew took good care of you.

    Please give us another try sometime. If your into a unique way to celebrate Halloween we will have two costume contests at Tim’s Rivershore with the ride on the boat, Saturday 6:30-11 or Firday 10/31 8-12.

    Capt. Mark

  • Mark Perry
    Posted at 08:49h, 22 October

    Thanks for such a positive review. Please come again

  • Cindy Jones
    Posted at 14:24h, 22 October

    I’m fortunate to live just a few miles away in Belmont Bay. Occoquan is just a 5 minute drive for me and grabbing a bite to eat is easy.

  • Keith Bevins
    Posted at 15:19h, 22 October

    Thanks for the mention on our bakery! We love our little Verona. There is a really great wine shop attached to the bakery that the company also owns! Moms Wine Shop. Free tastings every Saturday! You can find us on Facebook and Twitter. Moms Wine Shop; @MomsWines. Keith, the Certified Sommelier will happily help you pick out a perfect bottle! Cheers all and welcome to our town!

  • Patsy Humphrey
    Posted at 17:06h, 22 October

    Don’t miss the cutest little hair salon and spa , TG Hair FX, in Prince William county located in the heart of Occoquan.

  • Sonia
    Posted at 17:30h, 31 July

    Came across the photo in the images and got attracted to this beautiful town. Going to this place this weekend.

    • Christina Ricchiuti
      Posted at 14:18h, 04 August

      So glad you discovered Occoquan on my blog! I hope you’ll reply and let us all know what you thought of your visit!

  • Johanna
    Posted at 14:33h, 06 August

    I was following your recommendations and I have to say that the Bottle stop was nothing like what you described here. I didn’t like it at all. It’s very overpriced. Cheeses are not made there, it seems like if they are bought at Costco but 5 times more expensive. People are nice but it’s not worth it

    • Christina Ricchiuti
      Posted at 22:20h, 11 August

      Hi Johanna– Thanks for sharing your feedback. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy your experience at the Bottle Stop. Virginia laws for making cheese are a bit strict, so it’s hard to find house-made cheeses unless they’re fresh. I hope you enjoyed the rest of your visit to Occoquan!