The Garden and Sea Inn

Escape to the Eastern Shore

by Lauren Hagan
Photos by Thomas Renn

Thomas and Dorothee Renn know all about the stresses of the fast-paced corporate world. Which is why things at the Garden & Sea Inn in New Church, Va., adopt a much slower and more relaxing pace, thereby making the bed-and-breakfast the perfect vacation spot for guests and their pets. Thomas and Dorothee are relatively new innkeepers, as they took control of the business in March, 2008, and set it in operation again one month later.

The inn’s history stretches way back to 1802. Its motto has always been about maintaining comfort and luxury for its guests.

The Garden and Sea Inn was originally known as the Bloxom Tavern in 1802. Before and after the Civil War, two families owned the property in turn, maintaining it as a private residence, and adding rooms and amenities to the house. In 1896, the Nelson family decided the inn was too close to the road, so they cut off the front half and added the Victorian facade. The other half of the building was used as the farm manager’s house and is still visible today near the intersection of Highway 13.

“It began as a fine dining restaurant in the late 1980s and was known for its exceptional cook,” Thomas says. “Guests came all the way from New York City to come to eat here.” It only makes sense that with guests coming from far and wide, they would have a room to stay in upon their arrival. So in 1994, it became a bed-and-breakfast. Today, Thomas and Dorothee’s goal is to “restore it to its original beauty.”

The inn is unique in the New Church area. The inn is not located directly on Chincoteague Island, but it makes amends by boasting of having larger rooms than many other inns on the island. The facility has five landscaped acres that include rose gardens and forests, a rich history dating to before the Civil War, a heated swimming pool, a central location near surrounding cities, nearby points of interest, and plenty of privacy. The inn is a three-building estate, located within forty minutes of Chincoteague Island, Cape Charles, Salisbury, and Tangier Island.

One aspect that makes the Garden & Sea Inn so accommodating is the pet-friendly policy, implemented so your pet does not feel left out from vacation. About 50 percent of the guests at the inn have dogs. On weekends, up to 10 dogs have romped throughout the property, chasing the plentiful rabbits through the fields. Dog treats, towels, and complimentary bags are offered at the inn.

One room has a fenced-in yard perfect for dogs, and others have screened in porches. When guests make reservations, they should ask about Doggie Specials. Although the inn’s original special is no longer listed online, Thomas assures guests that another special package for pet owners is in the works. In the future, the inn intends to host dog-grooming services and “perhaps a dog agility test,” Thomas says. Chloe, the resident dog and “innkeeper,” is an 11-year-old boxer who will greet guests upon arrival, and who will occupy dogs as a playmate during their stay.

Call in advance to let Thomas and Dorothee know that your furry friend will accompany you, and they will make the necessary arrangements. They are more than happy to direct you to nearby dog-friendly beaches, hiking trails on Assateague Island, the pet-friendly, nearby national park for bird-watching, and other scenic rivers and areas.


Garden & Sea Inn
Thomas & Dorothee Renn, Innkeepers
4188 Nelson Road, New Church, VA
(800) 824-0672
www.gardenandseainn.com