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Jamestown was barely 2 years old when Capt. John Smith sent a contingent of men to build a fort on the Hampton River, strategically located on the western shore of Hampton Roads. The colony's first seaport, there's been a town here since 1610, making Hampton the nation's oldest continuously English-speaking settlement. It was here in 1718 that British troops displayed the head of Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, whom they killed during a furious battle on North Carolina's Outer Banks. His captured crew was dispatched to the gallows in Williamsburg.

Unfortunately, there are few remaining structures from those early days other than the U.S. Army's Fort Monroe, for during the Civil War a Confederate general ordered the town burned to the ground rather than permit Union forces holding the fort to quarter troops and former slaves here. You can visit the Fort Monroe room where Confederate president Jefferson Davis was imprisoned after the war, the fine museum at Hampton University, and the very modern Virginia Air and Space Center, a smaller but excellent rendition of the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Named for Christopher Newport, skipper of the Discovery, one of the three ships that brought the Jamestown settlers to Virginia, Newport News also dates back to the early 1600s and has a long maritime tradition. The city is home to the Mariners' Museum, the largest maritime museum in the Western Hemisphere, and home to the remains of the USS Monitor.

Hampton has enough interesting sights to take up most of a day trip from Williamsburg. The Mariners' Museum is on the way to Hampton, so you can spend part of the morning there on the way. You can also visit both cities on day excursions from Norfolk and Virginia Beach.