Sun, fun and outdoor adventure await visitors to southeastern Virginia’s coastal region
If you’re looking for a place to visit with relaxing and scenic beaches, a little bit of history and some unique attractions, head to the resort city of Virginia Beach, Virginia. Located on the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia Beach is home to three main beaches – Resort Beach, Chesapeake Bay Beach and Sandbridge Beach.
Resort Beach is known for its 3-mile boardwalk that goes all the way from First to 40th streets. Tourists and locals alike walk the concrete stretch not far from the water, morning, noon and night. It offers breathtaking ocean views and takes you past seafood restaurants, food vendors and stages often featuring evening entertainment. Boardwalk attractions include the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum, the Old Coast Guard Station and a 34-foot-tall cast bronze statue of King Neptune. There is also a bike path for those with bikes, skates and skateboards. It’s a great spot for a morning walk to start the day or a relaxing stroll to cap off the night.
Chesapeake Bay Beach, also known as Chick’s Beach, is a quieter 2-mile stretch of oceanfront along the Chesapeake Bay ideal for splashing and swimming in the surf. Spend the day here building sand castles, collecting seashells or simply lounging under an umbrella. The water is calm, the atmosphere more relaxed, and you’ll find locals mixing with tourists on the beach and in local businesses and restaurants. Due to the beach’s unique location, visitors can catch both the sunset and sunrise from the same shore. Chesapeake Bay Beach is also home to the Cape Henry Lighthouse and First Landing State Park.
Sandbridge Beach, the southernmost beach, stretches all the way to the North Carolina border and offers a much more secluded, island-type experience. For RVers, there’s the scenic Outdoor Resorts RV park facing Virginia’s Back Bay, just minutes from the Atlantic Ocean. If you enjoy nature, explore the trails and marshes in nearby Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Biking and kayaking excursions are also available.
When you want a break from the water, you’ll find a number of sights and attractions to suit a variety of interests.
Virginia Beach has a special place in America’s history. The first English settlers sailed into the Chesapeake Bay and landed at Cape Henry on April 26, 1607. They stayed a few days, interacted with the Native Americans and then headed up the James River, where they established Jamestown, the first permanent English colony. The Cape Henry Memorial Cross marks the site of that first landing.
Not far from the first landing, you can see America’s first government-constructed lighthouse. Built in 1792, the Cape Henry Lighthouse guarded the shores of the Chesapeake Bay for many years. If you’re up for it, a trip up 165 steps to the top offers an amazing 360-degree view. The newer lighthouse, built in 1881, sits approximately 350 feet from the first lighthouse.
If you plan to visit the memorial marking the first landing or to see the lighthouses, it’s important to note they are all located at the Little Creek/Fort Story Joint Expeditionary Base. This is an active U.S. military base, so all visitors over the age of 16 have to show identification to get on the property, and vehicles may be subject to search.
Virginia Beach is home to a number of different military facilities, including Naval Air Station Oceana. You will see and hear that early on in your visit with the frequent flyovers of military aircraft – sometimes so loud you’ll have to pause in midconversation. You get used to it, though, and may likely come to appreciate seeing them overhead. There is a deep respect for the military here. Along the boardwalk, you’ll notice the Naval Aviation Monument honoring the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.
There are several historic homes in the Virginia Beach area, including the Adam Thoroughgood House. It’s believed to be the oldest surviving Colonial home in Virginia Beach and features a collection of 17th- and 18th-century furniture, as well as spectacular gardens and a picturesque landscape. It might surprise you to find the house sits right in the middle of a standard residential section.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center – the state’s largest aquarium – ranks as one of the nation’s finest, with more than 800,000 gallons of aquariums, nearly 300 hands-on exhibits, an outdoor aviary and a nature trail. It also connects to The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium that offers a range of aboveground obstacle courses to test your skill and flexibility. The courses are open to ages 5 and up, ranked from beginning to advanced, and as the park’s Eric Bratke explained, offer a little something for everybody.
“We have zip lines, ladders, bridge elements, hanging elements, nets, tunnels and more.” The obstacles are set up at different heights in the trees, allowing members of the same group tackling different-level courses to keep each other in their line of sight.
Mount Trashmore Park remains one of Virginia Beach’s most unique sights. You won’t be able to miss it – it’s marked by a big green mountain. This world-renowned city park, built on the site of a former landfill, is an environmental feat, comprised of layers of compacted waste and clean soil. It covers 165 acres and is open to people who want to skate, play volleyball, run or take a walk.
Are you familiar with Edgar Cayce? Cayce, who died in 1945, lived in Virginia Beach and remains the most documented psychic of the 20th century. He’s known as the father of holistic medicine and was called the “sleeping prophet” because his readings or “predictions” came to him during a trancelike state. Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.) is open to the public and has one of the most extensive metaphysical libraries in the world, as well as 14,000 transcripts of his readings. There is also a visitors center, health center and spa, and a gift and book store.
One of the things you’ll enjoy most at Virginia Beach will likely be the fresh seafood and the number of restaurants that prepare it. As always, when you’re this close to the water, you can’t go wrong with the many seafood entrees. If you’re in the Sandbridge Beach area you might want to try Baja Restaurant; Lynnhaven Fish House is a popular stop in the Chick’s Beach area; and Waterman’s Surfside Grille, Mahi Mahs and Big Sam’s Raw Bar promise great seafood dishes in the Virginia Beach resort area.
When it comes to deciding where to stay, you’ll find a number of campground options, including Holiday Trav-L-Park (the closest campground to the resort area). It offers 340 full-hookup sites and 364 sites with partial hookups all within a wooded, 100-acre setting. The campground features four playgrounds, a miniature-golf course, basketball and volleyball courts, and horseshoe pits.
Farther north is First Landing State Park, which has 107 partial-hookup sites and 75 dry-camping sites with picnic tables and a fire ring/grill. All sites are located just steps from the Chesapeake Bay, offering RVers close water access. The 2,888-acre state park features 1.25 miles of beachfront and more than 19 miles of interpretive trails through protected salt-marsh habitat, freshwater ponds, beach, dunes, forest, tidal marsh and cypress swamp. A registered National Natural Landmark, First Landing is the most-visited state park in Virginia and contains one of the most endangered habitat types in the world, the maritime forest community.
With so many water sports, outdoor activities, attractions and places to see, you won’t run out of things to do in Virginia Beach. In fact, it’s quite likely that even before you leave, you’ll be making plans to come back again soon.
For More Information
The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium
757-385-4947 | www.virginiabeachadventurepark.com
Edgar Cayce A.R.E.
757-428-3588 | www.edgarcayce.org
First Landing State Park
757-412-2300 | www.virginiastateparks.gov
866-849-8860 | www.campingvb.com
Outer Resorts Virginia Beach
800-333-7515 | www.sandbridgebeachcottages-outdoorresorts.com
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
757-385-3474 | www.virginiaaquarium.com
Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau