Five Reasons to Visit Historic Jamestown Island

Historic Jamestown (you will also see it spelled as Jamestowne) was the first permanent English settlement in North America. It started as Fort James in 1607. The first few years were quite tumultuous as the settlers arrived during a drought, had a lack of knowledge of how to create a viable settlement, and had poor relations with the native Powhatan Indians. Only a fifth of the settlers survived the “starving time” winter of 1909-1910 and the town was briefly abandoned. The town found a better footing when Pocahantas, daughter of Chief Powhatan, married John Rolfe in 1914. Jamestown served as the colonial capital from 1616 until 1699. Today, the Jamestown Settlement is a living history interpretive site where visitors can learn more about the birth of what we now call the United States of America.

  1. The events calendar is full of tours and presentations.

Want to learn more about Jamestown from the experts? There are many opportunities and most are included with your admission price.Upcoming tours and presentations include:

  • Archeology Tour: Get behind-the-scenes information about ongoing excavations from an archeologist. There is still so much to learn about Jamestown so each visit may have new information.
  • Inside the Vault Tour: Tour the lab and learn how artifacts are cataloged, analyzed, researched, and stored. Attendees will also see conservation efforts in process. This special tour is not included with admission price and requires an extra fee.
  • Meet Anas Todkill: “A Tractable Trade”: Learn what life was like for the first English settlers from a reenactment actor.
  • Forensic Fridays Tours: Archaeologists are still investigating some cold cases from Jamestown history. This tour includes a lecture and behind-the-scenes tour of current excavations as they relate to forensic studies and what we can learn about the people who lived in Jamestown. This special tour is not included with admission price and requires an extra fee.
  • The Powhatan and the English Walking Tour: Join a public historian as he shares archeological evidence that speaks to the interactions and conflict between the English settlers and the native Powhatan Paramount Chiefdom.
  • Foraged in Iron: Learn about one of the earliest trades from the region and watch a blacksmith demonstration.
  1. The Jamestown Island site is full of archeological ruins for exploration and learning.
  • As more settlers arrived, the town expanded to form “New Towne” which is to the east of the original Fort James. It became a bustling port city. Visitors can walk by the preserved walls and ruins that showcase the city homes of wealthy plantation owners, inns and taverns, and a confederate earthen fort.
  • The Angela Site uses archeological clues to shed light on the life of the first Africans brought to the colony. It is named for a woman named “Angelo” who was listed on the colony-wide census in 1625.
  • The 17-Century Church Tower is the last remaining above-ground structure from the years when Jamestown was the capital of Virginia. The church was home to a congregation until 1750 but slowly fell into disrepair. Studies of the tower have revealed two different generations of construction and remains of a fire. Preservation efforts are installing a hidden roof to protect what remains of the structure.
  • The Memorial Church is a recreation to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Jamestown in 1907. Recent excavations and work inside the church have included glass panels in the floor which allow visitors to see the foundation of the original church. Guests may enter the church to read more information about its importance in Jamestown history.
  • The Archaearium is an archeology museum with artifacts that focus on Jamestown from 1607 to 1624. A highlight of the collection is a 400-year-old writing slate with words and pictures. Access to the Archaearium is included in the price of a ticket to Jamestown.
  1. You can exercise while enjoying the scenery.
  2. Island Drive has three-and five-mile loops through marshes and dense woods. This is the best way to see what Jamestown Island looked like 400 years ago because Preservation Virginia and the National Park Service have worked to let it return to its wild roots. While cars are allowed on the loops (except during the spring in order to help protect turtles), many people choose to walk, run, or bike the loops. When you traverse the area on foot or on bicycle it is easier to stop and relax at a scenic view. There are many historical markers along the way where you can learn more about the area. Birdwatchers like to come to the area to look for bald eagles, great blue herons, and osprey, and hawks. If you are lucky, you may spot a red fox or white-tailed deer bounding through a marsh. Otters and turtles like to play in the waterways.
  1. There are three options for accomplishing your shopping needs.

Historic Jamestown has three separate gift shops:

  • The Visitor Center Gift Shop features reproductions of artifacts, books, gifts, and souvenirs. It is located inside the Jamestown Visitor Center.
  • The Archaearium Museum Store has items related to archeology and the exhibits. The store also sells numerous books written by the Jamestown Rediscovery You can visit the Museum Store inside the Nathalie P. & Alan M. Voorhees Archaearium.
  • The Glasshouse Gift Shop is a great place to watch artisans create the famous Jamestown green glass wine bottles and then purchase reproduction items. The Gift Shop is approximately one mile from the Jamestown Visitor Center on your way off of the island.
  1. It is open every day of the year (except three).

The Historic Jamestown Visitor Center is open from 9 am until 5 pm every day except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. While you may choose to plan your visit around a special event, you do not have to. Schedule your exploration of Jamestown around your vacation schedule. Also, tickets are good for seven consecutive days (with your receipt) so you can go back for more time once you realize just how much Historic Jamestown has to offer.