Pleasure House Oysters Tour (with recipe) – Let the Adventure Begin
I’m not a lover of the oyster, especially those raw on the half shell. I know plenty of people love them, and they wax poetic about the nectar (the juice) and the terroir — oysters are often described the same way fine wines are.
I do like oysters Rockefeller, however! The richness of the broiled meat covered in creamy garlic, cheese and herbs—yummy!
Today’s adventure in Virginia Beach, more specifically the Lynnhaven River and the Chesapeake Bay, was all about the raw Lynnhaven oyster, and since they’ll be served fresh straight out of the water, I thought I would challenge myself to eat one finally. Did I succeed in this challenge? You’ll have to read on to find out!
The introduction to our oyster farm adventure started with two words: “safety and fun.” Favourite words to my ears, I had a feeling I would like this trip as Captain Chris Ludford, and first mate Ty started the boat, and we set sail for our Pleasure House Oyster Tour.
If you are going to do an oyster farm tour and learn all about oysters, then you have to seek out an authority who is passionate about the subject.
Captain Chris is just the person for the job.
To see the glint in his eyes and the smile on his face as he spoke about his beloved oyster farm was intoxicating.
As a third-generation Virginia “waterman,” safety is a top priority for Captain Chris, especially since he is also a volunteer firefighter on a fireboat.
“Oyster reefs are the basis of life,” explained Captain Chris as he showed us the reefs and sustainability of the molluscs are of greatest concern on his farm.
Working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Lynnhaven River NOW, and the Shore Drive Community Coalition, keeping the Lynnhaven River healthy is of utmost importance.
Restaurants save and collect the discarded shells by the bucketful for recycling. The shards are then spread out onto the reef to “grow” and replenish the oyster reefs for the future.
When I asked which type of oysters–wild or farmed–were better to eat, Captain Chris’ reply was simple: “Farm-raised oysters are best to eat as we should try to protect the wild ones. Both tastes are the same, but we’re working to make the river and Bay a better place for future generations.”
The mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and the ocean is the perfect environment for oyster farming. The dead oysters are the white shells on the top of the reefs, and the dark ones on the bottom are alive.
A tour of an oyster farm is not purely about the oyster. There is nature all around us; sightings of egrets, marsh hens, ospreys, herons, bald eagles, seagulls, fiddler crabs, and blue crabs are plentiful.
The Pleasure House Oyster Farm
The boutique farm harvests 12,000 to 15,000 oysters per week — the oysters are grown for quality and taste versus quantity.
An oyster starts out from the hatchery the size of the nail on your pinky finger and 18 months later is the size of a 3-inch oyster.
As Captain Chris explained, their goal is to harvest the oysters within 18 months to two years. Their target is a 3-inch oyster with a deep cup with a thicker shell — so it looks great when presented on a plate.
The oyster on the left is an 18-month farm-raised oyster ready to serve. On the right are 5 to 7-year-old wild oysters.
The staff work daily from 5 am to 2 pm, sorting the oysters by hand and separating them by size into the various cages.
Lynnhaven Oysters – The Taste?
Captain Lee, a retired civil servant and fourth-generation Virginia Beach Waterman, says he is “working the best job ever” at the Lynnhaven Oyster Farm. He says this while he quickly gets to work shucking oysters for us as we surround the temporary table standing in the river.
Let me start by confessing that I didn’t eat any oysters — I know, I know! Calm down, all you oyster lovers! I just couldn’t do it.
But when I consulted with my friends as to what they thought about the Lynnhaven oyster, they said (between oohs, ahhs and slurps) they tasted sweet, grassy and lightly salted with a clean finish.
It was a great morning out on the water, and I learned a lot about the Chesapeake Bay and the history of oyster farmers in Virginia. I never did eat a raw oyster on the half shell while standing knee-deep in the Chesapeake Bay, but I did get a new appreciation for oyster farmers after hearing of their passion and love of the “pearls of the ocean.” It was a great adventure and something that I highly recommend to all foodies and oyster lovers.
The next time you look at a restaurant menu in Virginia Beach and see the words “Lynnhaven oysters,” I hope you give them a try.
Pro Travel Tips for your Oyster Tour:
- Water shoes are available, but you may prefer to bring your own.
- Wear shorts as you’ll be standing in the water.
- Best to go hands-free, the mud is slippery, and it’s easy to lose your balance (You may leave belongings on the boat).
- They also suggest bringing your own beverages if participating in any tours.
- Tours take place year-round and are all custom-built based on the customer’s interest level.
- The best time to tour is in September and October.
- Tours are family-friendly. Captain Chris may even bring his children along to help.
- Tour start time is based on the tide patterns (low/high tide) and changes daily.
Oyster Tours available:
- 2-hour Tasting Tour. Learn more about the goings-on of Lynnhaven River while tasting the Pleasure House Oysters. From 4-14 people.
- 4-hour Waterman Tour. You get the authentic waterman experience by gearing up and getting down and dirty, harvesting and sorting the oysters while also enjoying the benefits of the Tasting Tour. From 4-14 people.
- 3-4 hour Chefs Table Tour. A 4-course tapas menu is served and set up in the Lynnhaven River at the farm as you stand in the water to enjoy your meal. You can explore and learn more about the oysters and farm around you in between courses. From 2-7 people.
Hopefully, this intro into the Pleasure House Oysters didn’t make you too hungry—but if it did, or if you’re looking for new things to try, I have the perfect thing for you. Here is a wonderful Hotel Roanoke recipe for fried oysters, perfect for tiding you over until you can try the real Lynnhaven oysters.
Are you an Oyster Lover? Share your oyster experience with us?
For more Oyster Experiences, check out the Virginia Oyster Trail.
Looking for adventures in the area?
- A Bloody Blue Big Al Breakfast at Bay Local Eatery Virginia Beach
- Guide to Renting a Bike on Vacation in Virginia and DC