Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters

What comes to mind when you think of Virginia Beach? If you’re like most people you think of the wide, sandy beaches and the gentle waves of the Atlantic; or perhaps the three mile long boardwalk presided over by King Neptune that’s just perfect for a summer stroll or bike ride.Within the past few years, thanks to the hard work of a handful of dedicated watermen, there’s something else you should think of in Virginia Beach.


I recently got the opportunity to head out on the water with Chris Ludford of Pleasure House Oysters to find how the Chesapeake’s favorite bivalve is making a big comeback in Virginia Beach.
Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters

I met Chris at Lynnhaven Marina to start our afternoon’s adventures. Chris, with his laid-back attitude and welcoming nature, is immediately likable. Decked out in a pair of camouflage waders, ball cap and sunglasses it’s evident he’s happiest when he’s out on the water and his enthusiasm for the area and oystering is downright contagious. A sunny early spring afternoon made for a pleasant boat ride out and it was clear why Chris chose the Lynnhaven River as his “office”. The calm, marshy waters flanked by pine laced banks attract a variety of bird life as well, we spotted several pair of osprey and a brace of bufflehead; bald eagles are commonly seen as well.

Chris Ludford with Pleasure House Oysters

Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters www.casualtravelist.comHistorically Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay were a haven for oysters. Journals from George Percy, who sailed with Capt. John Smith (of Pocahontas and Jamestown Settlement fame), mentioned feasting on oysters after landing near Lynnhaven Inlet. “Lynnhaven Fancies”, oysters reportedly as big as a dinner plate, were considered prized delicacies by New York’s elite in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Pollution and a series of viruses blighted the oyster population in the second part of the last century, but thanks to conservation efforts, including Lynnhaven River Now and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation,  and a handful of committed watermen oysters have had a huge resurgence throughout the Chesapeake Bay throughout the past few years. In 2014 The Virginia Oyster Trail was created to highlight Virginia’s oyster culture, last fall I had the chance to experience part of the Trail myself up on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.


Lynnhaven Inlet, home of Pleasure House Oysters in Virginia beach

A quick fifteen minute boat ride delivered us to a small island covered in sawgrass where Chris has bend tending his oysters since 2010; you can find him out here most days in addition to being a full time fireman. Starting from seed(basically tiny baby oysters) it takes about 2 years to get to market size, though left to their own devices these oysters can get downright monstrous. Pleasure House Oysters is more of a boutique operation, harvesting about 1200 bushels per year from this 3 acre farm. Oysters are then hand delivered on the same day to a select number of top area restaurants.

Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters www.casualtravelist.comVirginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters www.casualtravelist.comVirginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters www.casualtravelist.comVirginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters

Of course I was enjoying meeting Chris, learning about his story and taking in the gorgeous spring afternoon; but there was one thing I was really excited about.

Oysters, straight out of the water.

Chris, with his expert shucking skills, made quick work of the oysters ensuring we had another one in hand almost as soon as we finished the last one. The first thing that struck me was how plump and meaty they were. As teroir relates how an area is reflected in wine and coffee, meroir refects the characteristics of the area an oyster is grown in. Pleasure House Oyster’s location in an inlet off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay give these oysters the perfect balance; moderate brininess with a sweet, buttery finish. This is an oyster lover’s oyster.

Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters

Having sated my appetite for oysters and having an all around enjoyable afternoon I really didn’t think my day could get much better. On our way back to the marina, with the sun setting over Lynnhaven Inlet, a member of our group spotted something pop up from the water before disappearing again suddenly. The boat stopped as all eyes scanned the water. Our surprise visitor reemerged again , this time a little closer to the boat- we had a harbor seal! Equally curious about us as we were about him, he circled around us a few times before swimming away.

I’m guessing he’s heard how good the oysters are here too.

A surprise vist from a harbor seal with Pleasure House Oysters

Pleasure House Oysters offers three tours that will leave you entertained, educated and well fed; check out for details. If you can’t make it out on the water with Chris you can get a taste of Pleasure House Oysters at the following local restaurants: Terrapin, Eurasia, Zoe’s, Chow and AW Shucks.


46 Comments on “Virginia Beach on the half shell with Pleasure House Oysters

    • Let me know the next time you’re down for work, we should meet up!

    • The seal was just the icing on the cake and made a good day even better!

    • That’s certainly ok. The world would be awfully boring if we liked all of the same things wouldn’t it?

    • Oysters are much better when someone else does the shucking 😉

  1. What a fun post! Looks like a great way to spend the day and see but I am not sure I could stomach the smell. Haven’t acquired a taste for oysters but maybe someday someone will teach me to each them with drizzled with all the cool fixins. 😉
    Melody Pittman recently posted…Blogging My Way Through BostonMy Profile

    • THe smell was just that of pure salty, sea air. A good oyster with a spicy mignonette would be a great intro for you.

  2. I am drooling!! I LOVE oysters, one of my favourite things in the world, but I rarely get to eat them as quite expensive everywhere I have travelled…these look divine and the tour and learning about the history – which is a bit funny as I studied this history/conservation side of it as part of my marine biology degree – from a different all I can think about is eating these 🙂
    samiya selim recently posted…Sea Kayaking, Fishing and Waterfalls in Paihia – Bay of Islands, New ZealandMy Profile

    • Both the ecology and history of oysters was fascinating and makes them taste that much better when you realize how much goes into it.

  3. Love me some oysters! We get plenty of here in California and I try to only eat West coast varieties when I am on the West coast, but I remember having delicious oysters while living in Virginia. Glad to see the tours taking place to educate people on why we need to protect these little guys!
    Andi recently posted…Indianapolis Restaurant Highlight – Spoke & SteeleMy Profile

    • Looks like I need to head out west so I can do a thorough comparison. Purely in the name of research, I swear.

    • That’s a great idea! Chris is a lot of fun and is really passionate about what he does.

  4. I have never tried oysters. I’ve tried to try a couple of time but they just freak me out ha! I bet one day I’ll actually eat one and regret avoiding them for so long 🙂

    • Be sure to stop by during blue crab season- we’ve got some awesome crab cakes down here!

    • There is nothing like tasting an oyster straight from the water.

    • It was, and while the oysters were good, Chris is really what makes this tour great.

    • Chris runs an amazing tour, its definitely worth joining him if you find yourself in Virginia Beach

  5. Pingback: Local Tips from Bloggers On Exploring Their Hometowns - Part 2 - Traveling Nine to Fiver

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