Growing up in Virginia Beach, Pungo was a mainstay during the summer months. Its spattering of farmer’s markets and sprawling Sandbridge Beach served as tranquil getaways from the tourist-ridden beaches at the Oceanfront. In early August, however, a spontaneous day trip revealed to me that Virginia Beach’s countryside serenity doesn’t end in Pungo, but extends 20 miles south into Knotts Island, a sleepy island just west of the Outer Banks.
On the outskirts of Creeds, Princess Anne Road seamlessly transitions into North Carolina’s Marsh Causeway. The slim two-lane road borders a handful of winding channels that feed into the sparkling waters of Back Bay. Its endless curves traverse Knotts Island, passing by some of its most celebrated attractions like Sandy Point and the scenic trails of Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge. Farther down the coast are an array of country homes and a singular dirt road leading to a wine lover’s paradise.
Situated along the banks of Knotts Island Bay is Martin Farm and Winery, an off-the-beaten-path orchard discovered by the Martin family in 1977. For decades, the shoreline farm has harvested some of the freshest produce on the island including strawberries, apples, peaches, grapes, pumpkins and an assortment of vegetables. Visitors can wander the grounds, pick produce and enjoy a bayside picnic or bottle of wine beneath the farm’s covered patio.
The winery’s rustic tasting room sits just a few yards from the bay and is run by Martin’s newest owners, Emily and Will Crodick. Furnishing the metal-sided building is a humble tasting bar and two wall cases filled with an assortment of sweet wines, snacks and winery paraphernalia.
We opted for Martin’s signature wine tasting, which for only $5 grants you a souvenir glass and six tastes from two North Carolina wineries. Sampled first were wines from Hinnant’s Family Vineyards in Pine Level, a winery Martin works with to source grapes. Hinnant’s first pour, a saccharine strawberry wine, makes for an excellent addition to a glass of Prosecco or as a fruity topping to vanilla ice cream. Following the pink libation were tastes of white and red muscadine wines.
Flowing from Martin’s bottles were blends of peach, apple and blackberry. While the fruits are grown on property, Martin partners with Prince Michel Vineyard and Winery in Leon to bottle their signature wines. Both the peach and apple were wildly refreshing for a warm summer day, while the blackberry harnessed a tartness perfect for fall.
Emily, who takes pride in the farm’s vine to bottle philosophy, encouraged us to explore the farm’s orchard. Although the harvest was transitioning into apple season, we spotted a few bountiful trees and left with three pounds of freshly picked peaches.
Previous flooding impeded on our post-winery hiking plans and sent us back to the Commonwealth earlier than expected. Seeking one last adventure, we stopped for lunch at Monk’s Place, a summery shack just across the Virginia state line.
Filling the parking lot of the locals-only bar were dozens of sleek motorcycles and pick-up trucks. Their riders were found inside enjoying one of Monk’s most famous dishes—a hearty cheeseburger served “all the way,” complete with lettuce, onion and tomato. Instead of sampling our burgers inside among the multitude of autographed dollar bills taped to the restaurant’s walls, we soaked up our last bit of sunshine and dined beneath a grass umbrella on the bar’s patio.
With our cravings satisfied, we paid our tab and headed back to the beach to plan our next weekend getaway.