By Brian Jewell
The first trip I took as editor of The Group Travel Leader in 1991 was to Williamsburg and the Yorktown/Jamestown area of Virginia. While spending two nights in Williamsburg, I made the easy 45-minute drive to Norfolk to visit my son, who was stationed at Naval Station Norfolk.
One night he took me on a driving tour of the mammoth base, the largest naval installation in the world.
This past fall, I again toured the base while on a press trip in conjunction with the 24th annual Town Point Virginia Wine Festival. The most obvious change in the 21 years since my first visit was security in the post-September 11 era. Everyone on my tour bus had to go through airport-type screening at the visitors center before entering the base.
However, a tour of the base is worth that inconvenience. More than 70 ships are based at the station’s 13 piers, among them five aircraft carriers.
Led by naval personnel, the tour takes you past the carriers, destroyers, frigates and amphibious assault ships and through much of the support area of the 4,300-acre facility. The tour also passes historic houses, built by various states for the 1907 Jamestown Exposition, which now house admirals and generals.
Group tours can be arranged by calling the Naval Tour and Information Center at 757-444-0948.
Another way to see the base is aboard the Navy-themed Victory Rover, which makes two-hour narrated cruises past the station from its dock on the downtown waterfront.