Story and Photos by Kaitlin Hill
Just an hour and a half from Middleburg, you’ll find Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Flanked by gorgeous state parks and home to Roman-style mineral baths, this small town is adored for its deeply rooted history and current quirky charm.
Still known as “America’s First Spa,” Berkeley Springs’ popularity began with the Native Americans, who sought out the warm mineral baths long before the area was discovered by European immigrants and later loved by notable Virginians. The community was first mapped by Thomas Jefferson’s father in 1747, who appropriately christened the town “Medicinal Springs” for the troves of travelers that stopped by hoping to experience the improved health and lowered stress enjoyed by the natives that came before them.
A year later, George Washington visited at the age of 16 and would frequent the place for the next 20-plus years. In 1776, he decided to incorporate and officially rename his favorite getaway “The Town of Bath,” inspired by the already famous and similarly naturally endowed English town. In 1802, the community would undergo a final name change to “Berkeley Springs,” beckoning day-trippers and globetrotters alike to experience the town’s wealth of old, new, natural and eccentric.
If Berkeley Springs calls your name for a day trip, the town has something for everyone – nature lovers, history buffs, families, couples and even cat fanatics. Here are the highlights to help you plan your next getaway.
Cacapon Resort State Park
Fifteen minutes from the center of town is the sprawling Cacapon Resort State Park and its limitless list of activities. Here you’ll find 23 miles of hiking, guided horseback riding tours, a nationally-rated golf course, and an expansive lake for swimming in the summer. Stop by the Nature Center to meet Park Activities Coordinator and Naturalist, Valery Chaney. She offers hands-on educational classes for kids and can recommend the best hiking trail for your party. The park also hosts a variety of wilderness skills seminars, including a two-hour edible plant walk. With so many gorgeous overlooks and activities for all ages, this park is not to be missed.
818 Cacapon Lodge Drive, Berkeley Springs, WV, 25411
Fairfax Coffee House
“Food is love made edible” is the slogan at Fairfax Coffee House, an adorable coffee shop and bakery, just steps from the mineral springs. Mama Trey’s biscuits are enormous but lighter than air, making them the ideal bread-ends for a bacon, egg and cheese sandwich. The Empire State of Mind bagelwich is piled high with lox, cream cheese, red onion, tomato and capers for an unbeatable breakfast. Pair it with one of their signature drinks and a massive yet moist blueberry muffin to fuel your Berkeley Springs day trip. Or, cozy up in this coffee shop all day. They are open until 5:30 PM on the weekend and serve tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches, too.
23 Fairfax Street, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Berkeley Springs Antique Mall
Get lost in aisles and aisles of knick-knacks and trinkets at the Antique Mall. You can spend an entire day here browsing vintage housewares, old records, and an eclectic collection of odds and ends. It’s the type of place where you never know what treasures you’ll find because they have a little bit of everything, all arranged in a
7 Fairfax Street, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Berkeley Springs Castle
Considered one of the town’s most beloved “oddities,” Berkeley Springs Castle was built in the mid-1880s for Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit, a prominent politician from Maryland and frequent visitor of the warm springs.
Described by an 1888 edition of the Martinsburg Independent as “strikingly handsome,” the castle is also reportedly haunted. For over a century, the castle has attracted both locals and out-of-towners, lured by its long history and unique architecture.
276 Cacapon Road, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Berkeley Springs State Park
Though small in size, this miniscule state park in the center of town has plenty to do. Here you’ll find the historic Roman Bathhouses, built in 1815, which contain 750-gallon natural mineral water tubs for leisurely soaks or spa treatments, such as massages and saunas. Outside, you can swim in one of two stone baths filled with 74.3-degree water or check out George Washington’s Bathtub, an outdoor monument honoring his many visits.
If you prefer to stay dry, you can still experience the medicinal benefits of the spring water. The park offers two public taps where you can drink freely or bottle some for later. And, stop by the free museum on the second floor of the bathhouse for a little local history.
2 S. Washington Street, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
Give Purrs A Chance Cat Café
Located in a huge salmon-colored Victorian, Give Purrs a Chance Cat Café is hard to miss. And you won’t want to. This two-story house is home to over 50 adoptable cats and kittens waiting for you to come and play. Spend the afternoon entertaining these lovely felines and, who knows, you may leave with a new furry friend. Since opening in 2017, Give Purrs A Chance has placed over 400 cats into their forever homes. They also have a cat-themed boutique featuring ceramics, jewelry, soaps and more made by local artisans.
2 S. Washington Street, Berkeley Springs, WV 25411
With spring approaching and warmer weather around the bend, it’s the perfect time to visit the natural wonders and distinctive attractions of Berkeley Springs.
This article first appeared in the April 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.