An island originally connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus, Historic Jamestowne was the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America (1607) and the capital of Virginia until 1699. The first settlers' bitter struggle for survival here, on the now uninhabited land, makes for a visit that stirs the imagination. Redbrick foundation walls roughly outline the settlement, and artists' conceptions of the original buildings can be seen at several locations. The only standing structure is the ruin of a church tower from the 1690s, now part of the Memorial Church built in 1907; the markers within indicate the original church's foundations. Other monuments around the site also date from the tercentenary celebration in 1907. Statues portray the founder of Jamestown, Captain John Smith, and his advocate, the Native American princess Pocahontas, whom Smith credited with saving him from being beheaded.
Near the entrance to the park, you can stop at the reconstructed
Glasshouse to observe a demonstration of glassblowing, an unsuccessful business venture of the early colonists. The products of today are for sale in a gift shop. Archaeological discoveries from the site are showcased at the Archaearium. You can also observe digs on-site where archaeologists from Preservation Virginia continue to dig up evidence of colonists' and Native Americans' ways of life, including the remains of the original 1607 fort.
A visitor center near the main parking lot tells the history of Jamestown and the Virginia Indians, Europeans, and African peoples who lived here. Ranger-guided tours, held daily, explore many different events in Jamestown's history. Living-history programs are presented daily in summer and on weekends in spring and autumn.
A 5- to 8-mile nature drive (some cut out a loop within the loop and skip certain sections) that rings the island is posted with informative signs and paintings.