Even long before bridges made them easy to reach, Virginia beaches were attracting tourists from Washington D.C. and other communities on the eastern coast. Virginia offers something for everyone – the lively attractions of Virginia Beach, the quiet and protected sands of Assateague Island with its wild horses, the constantly changing sandy spit of the Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve, the playgrounds and live music on Buckroe Beach, or the warm and quiet waters off Cape Charles Beach. There are beaches on the Potomac River, such as Colonial Beach, while others are in the Chesapeake Bay, where the warm, protected waters are perfect for family outings.

1. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
© Courtesy of walt1957 - Fotolia.com

Assateague Island is a barrier island just off the Delmarva coast.

One third of the 37-mile long island is in Virginia and the rest is in Maryland.

The Virginia part includes Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and about 1 mile of beach. The Maryland part includes most of Assateague Island National Seashore and Assateague State Park.

The island is known for its feral horses, the historic Assateague Lighthouse, and spectacular beaches.

The island is a heaven to explore, with its marshes, coves, and bays. There are bridges that connect the island with the mainland but there is no road that runs across the whole island.

South of the Virginia border is the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, a heaven for migratory birds, especially snow geese. (website link)

Browse our Romantic Weekend Getaways in Virginia guide for more ideas.

2. Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve

Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve
© Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com

Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve is located in Mathews County, Virginia, close to Chesapeake Bay.

This 105-acre sandy spit of diverse habitat with salt marshes and low dunes constantly changes as the water and wind move and reshape it and its narrow yet lovely sandy beach.

It is a wonderful hiking and bird watching area, with tidal lagoons, shrubby swamps, a small bay, and deeper channels. The whole area is thriving with life, such as the endangered northeastern beach tiger beetle and thousands of birds.

While the area is open to the public, some sections are occasionally closed to protect its animal inhabitants, especially birds during nesting times.

State Rte 609, Onemo, VA 23130

More ideas: Places to Visit in Virginia

3. Ocean View Beach, Virginia

Ocean View Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of Nikonite - Fotolia.com

Norfolk's Ocean View has 7.5 miles of spectacular public free-access beaches along Chesapeake Bay with calm waters that are perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and playing.

Large commercial piers offer tackle rentals and bait shops and are an excellent location for crabbing and fishing.

Along the beach is Ocean View Park, with a number of shady trees, a gazebo, several picnic tables, and a bathhouse.

It is one of three well-organized and maintained parks on the beach. The quiet bay waters are perfect for kids, paddleboarding, and kayaking, while the flat hard-packed sand is great for jogging or leisurely strolls along the water.

100 W Ocean View Ave, Norfolk, VA 23503

More ideas: Things to Do in Norfolk

4. Beaches Near Me: Cape Charles Beach, Virginia

Beaches Near Me: Cape Charles Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of bonniemarie - Fotolia.com

Located about 10 miles from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, on Virginia's eastern shore, Cape Charles is a charming small coastal town with a lovely public beach stretched along Bay Avenue and with easy access from almost every block.

The beach is very popular with families with kids because the water is clean, shallow, and warm with no waves at all, making swimming a delight for the kids and peace of mind for the parents.

There are two wooden access points with benches and view platforms that offer the perfect spot for watching magnificent sunsets.

There is also a nice fishing pier and a pavilion with benches for public events and celebrations.

Bay Ave, Cape Charles, VA 23310

More ideas: Things to Do in Virginia

5. Chesapeake Beach, Virginia

Chesapeake Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of alwayspp - Fotolia.com

Chesapeake Beach, known among the locals as Chic's Beach, is one of the most popular beaches in Virginia Beach.

This lovely stretch of sand runs for about 2 miles between the Lynnhaven Inlet and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

The area was developed as a beachfront residential community in the early 1900s and was used as a lookout during WWII.

The area was known for Chic's, a popular place selling ice cream and limeade. It is a neighborhood of single-family homes, condominiums, beach cottages, duplexes, and apartments.

Popular Ocean Park is also stretched along the beach, and hiking and biking is great along the sandy edge of the water.

The Little Creek Naval Amphibious Base is located at the west side of the area, connecting long stretches of protected beaches, which harbor marine life.

Popular activities on the beach are boating, jet skiing, paddleboarding, hiking along the beach, and making sand castles.

Chic's Beach, Virginia Beach, VA 23455 , Phone: 800-905-5745, (website link)

More ideas: Things to Do in the Chesapeake Bay

6. Virginia Beaches: Chincoteague

Virginia Beaches: Chincoteague
© Courtesy of Matthew Carroll - Fotolia.com

The beach at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is considered one of the most beautiful beaches on the Atlantic coast.

The windswept sandy barrier island is very popular among beach lovers, who can choose between the wild beach, Toms Cove Hook, and the recreational beach. Swimming and sunbathing attract a large crowd every summer and lifeguards are on duty to make sure everyone is safe.

The recreational beach is also popular with birders, beachcombers, photographers, anglers, and nature lovers. Crabbing, clamming, kayaking, and surfing are also popular.

Wild Beach is an 11-mile-long paradise for hikers since no cars are allowed. Toms Cove Hook offers fantastic 10-mile walks along the ocean to Fishing Point.

The fragile dunes along the hook are considered closed conservation areas.

More ideas: Beaches Near DC

7. VA Beaches: First Landing State Park

VA Beaches: First Landing State Park
© Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com

First Landing State Park is a 2,888-acre park located on Cape Henry in North Virginia Beach.

This coastal haven offers a range of activities, such as swimming, boating, hiking, biking, fishing, or having a picnic.

For overnight stays, there is a campsite or the park's cabins.

The beach is one and a quarter-mile long, located on the Chesapeake Bay.

There are no lifeguards on the First Landing's beach and no swimming is allowed at the boat launch area or in the Narrows.

The beach is mostly uncrowded and the water is warmer and calmer than in the Atlantic Ocean, perfect for small children.

There are marked entrances to the beach with boardwalks across the dunes to protect the fragile dunes’ plant life. The sand is white and very fine.

2500 Shore Dr, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, (website link)

More ideas: Lakes in Virginia

8. Colonial Beach, Virginia

Colonial Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of Nikonite - Fotolia.com

Colonial Beach is a charming small resort town on the Potomac River, famous for its 2.5-mile long beachfront.

The town developed as a resort destination for the people from Washington D.C. in the early to mid-20th century, and is the only town with a coastline on the Atlantic Ocean as well as Chesapeake Bay.

The town has rich history and some very notable former residents, but the biggest attraction is the beach. It is hard to believe that the beach is actually on the Potomac River, which is 6 miles wide at Colonial Beach.

Parallel to the beach is the famous boardwalk, where most of the tourist life happens.

Besides swimming and sunbathing on the beach, you can rent a kayak and paddle the river’s calm waters, watch the ospreys in their nests, fish from the long pier, or watch the boats passing by from one of many riverfront restaurants.

More ideas: Weekend Getaways from DC

9. Closest beach to me: Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia

Closest beach to me: Kiptopeke State Park, Virginia
© Courtesy of jayyuan - Fotolia.com

Kiptopeke State Park is located on Virginia’s eastern shore. Until 1964 the area was used by the Virginia Ferry Corporation as the terminus for the Little Creek-Cape Charles Ferry.

The park has access to Chesapeake Bay, offering a range of recreational opportunities such as hiking, biking, and observing migratory birds that are nesting along the flyway.

The park has a boat ramp, a fishing pier, several picnic areas a, kids’ playground, and over 5 miles of biking and hiking trails.

For those who want to extend their stay, there are comfortable cabins, a campground, six-bedroom lodges, a yurt, and a bunkhouse.

It is a quiet and peaceful place, perfect for those who want to unwind and relax surrounded by nature.

3540 Kiptopeke Dr, Cape Charles, VA 23310

More ideas: Day Trips from DC

10. Resort Area Beach, Virginia

Resort Area Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of ScottymanPhoto - Fotolia.com

Virginia Beach is a charming small coastal town a few hours from Washington D.C. known for being the longest pleasure beach in the world.

The popular tourist destination of Virginia Beach is a combination of history, entertainment, and beautiful nature. Along the Atlantic Ocean, from Croatan all the way to the north end of the city beach, is the Resort Area, the most popular and most lively part of town.

Here, you can find all kinds of live music, street performers, food vendors, outdoor cafes, and a 3-mile long boardwalk that parallels the beach. It is the place for jogging and rollerblading, for coming off the beach for a cold drink, to have a bite to eat, and people-watch.

The beach is very popular with surfers, swimmers, and sun-worshipers and lifeguards make it safe for the kids as well.

1st thru 40th Streets, Virginia Beach, VA 23451

11. Beach Near Me: Sandbridge Beach, Virginia

Beach Near Me: Sandbridge Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of sherryvsmith - Fotolia.com

Only 15 minutes south of Virginia Beach’s bustling, lively Resort Area is Sandbridge Beach, known as the “Outer Banks of Virginia," 5 miles of magnificent golden sands stretching along the Atlantic Ocean.

This quiet, peaceful beach is surrounded by 5 miles of massive sand dunes and lush, blooming sea oats, a perfect secluded oasis for family outings.

If you are looking for more than splashing in the quiet, clear waters or simply strolling along the beach, you can explore the surrounding marshes and vast open waters of the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge as well as False Cape State Park, both known for great hiking, kayaking, and fishing.

12. Best Virginia Beaches: Westmoreland State Park

Best Virginia Beaches: Westmoreland State Park
© Courtesy of Zack Frank - Fotolia.com

Westmoreland State Park is a 1,311-acre protected area that stretches for 1.5 miles along the Potomac River on the Northern Neck Peninsula, near Montross in Westmoreland County, Virginia.

The Horsehead Cliffs are the best spot for fantastic views of the river, which is 6 miles wide at this point. The lush secluded park offers seven hiking trails covering 6 miles, excellent fishing with boat ramps for fishermen, camping, lodging in 26 rustic cabins, and swimming both on the river beach and in the park’s pool.

Westmoreland State Park was established in 1936 and is one of the six state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Close to the park is Stratford Hall, the birthplace of Robert E. Lee as well as the birthplace of George Washington. More ideas: things to do in Yorktown

145 Cliff Rd, Montross, VA 22520

13. Buckroe Beach, Virginia

Buckroe Beach, Virginia
© Courtesy of Ritu Jethani - Fotolia.com

Snuggled along Chesapeake Bay, Buckroe Beach is one of Hampton’s most popular beaches, with 8 acres and ¾ of a mile wide sand, a kids’ playground, three picnic shelters with grills and tables, hiking and biking paths, and plenty of parking. Lifeguards are on duty during the summer season.

Every Sunday throughout the summer, there are traditional Groovin' by the Bay concerts. Tuesdays are reserved for outdoor movies, a part of the Family Movie Series.

The beach is excellent for swimming, and paddleboats and kayaks are available for rental. No dogs are allowed during the summer months.

100 First Street South, Hampton, VA

The 12 Best Virginia Beaches near me today according to local experts are:

More Ideas: Fort Monroe National Monument

Fort Monroe, also know as the “Freedom Fortress”, located in Hampton, VA has been part of American history from the Native American presence to the civil war as a safe place for escaped slaves seeking freedom, to the twenty-first century as the base for the US Army Artillery School. Visitors to this park get to experience its rich history as well as see the historic preservation that is on-going.


Several presidents have visited Fort Monroe throughout it’s history beginning with it’s construction in 1819. Andrew Jackson was the first to visit in the summers of 1829, 1831, 1833, and 1834 during his presidency. Abraham Lincoln visited in 1862 where he helped plan the attack on Norfolk, VA. He later visited a second time in 1865 for a peace conference. Harry S Truman was the last to visit. He visited several times from 1960 to 1962 to see his nephew General Louis W. Truman.

Women have always been part of Fort Monroe beginning even before its construction, beginning in 1749. Many of the women who lived here were officer’s wives and daughters but there were also several servants who lived with strict rules about their comings and goings. By the time that World War II came about, women were serving in the Army as nurses, truck drivers and draftsman at Fort Monroe.

The Old Point Comfort Lighthouse was built and in operation by 1775. The lighthouse was captured by the British briefly during the War of 1812 and was used as an observation tower. Over the years at Fort Monroe the lighthouse has gone through several renovations and is now used as beacon for boats in the Chesapeake Bay.

Fort Monroe often was a sought-after haven for escaped slaves.

Things to Do

Fort Monroe Casemate Museum- The museum is located within the stone fort itself. It recounts the Fort Monroe military history, beginning with Fort Algernourne, which was the first fortification built before Fort Monroe in 1609 and chronicling all the way up to the most recent command at Fort Monroe. An interesting exhibit in the museum displays where then prisoner of war Jefferson Davis was held for a short period of time after the Civil War. A decision was made in 1861 to allow those seeking freedom sanctuary which gave Fort Monroe the nickname of “Freedom Fortress." Even those who were enslaved were given refuge during the war, in one instance, a general gave three enslaved men care and shelter, and they called it "Contraband of War."

Chesapeake Bay- The Fort Monroe NM Athletics group offers many opportunities for visitors and staff alike to walk, jog, or ride bikes along the 4 miles of the Chesapeake Bay seawall. The Peninsula YMCA Summer Camp gives lessons in kayaking on the bay. Beaches on the bay offer clean, litter-free places for visitors to swim and sun bathe. Various hiking places are available for hikers in the area.

Fort Wool in Hampton Virginia- This is another historic fort built in 1819, located in Hampton, VA. It fulfilled key roles in the Civil War and both World Wars, seeing the battle of the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia. While not accessible by car, it is a stop on the Miss Hampton II Harbor Tour and private boats can dock seasonally at the fort.

Downtown Hampton- During the 17th and 18th centuries Hampton was a stop for cargo ships on the journey from Virginia to England where goods such as teas, spices, tools, and dressmaking materials were unloaded. Three hundred years later, the renovated beachfront district which includes the original 17th century harbor, is home to several shops, pubs, restaurants, art galleries, marinas, and a beachfront park for visitors to enjoy.

Educational Opportunities

Junior Ranger Program- Children who wish to participate in the Junior Ranger program will participate in activities involving the historic features of Fort Monroe which will allow them to earn badges, a certificate and the Junior Ranger rank.

Special Events

NPS Centennial- The NPS celebrated 100 years in August of 2016. As part of the celebration a Find Your Park campaign was started where millions of visitors came out to explore and discover their favorite national parks. The campaign continues through 2017.


Healthy eating is important to the staff at Fort Monroe. There are four main places that offer healthy options: Chamberlin Bistro, Colonies RV and Travel Park, the Marina Café, and the Paradise Ocean Club and Bay Breeze Conference Center. All are located around the Chesapeake Bay area.


There are many antique shops and art galleries for visitors wishing to delve into history and cultural affairs at Fort Monroe. For those who wish to indulge in regular shopping there are several department store chains available for shopping.

41 Bernard Road, Fort Monroe, Virginia

More Ideas: Virginia Air and Space Center

The Virginia Air and Space center resides in Hampton, VA. Visitors to the center get the opportunity to check out current research, which concentrates on world-wide climate change, gaining access and then expanding into deep Space, and the air transportation system as well as learn the history of Hampton’s maritime beginnings and its revolutionary role in Space travel.


The Hampton City Council decided in 1985 to build a new cultural and educational resource center, wanting to increase traffic to their Hampton Roads location. Following this decision in 1986, City of Hampton and the NASA Langley Research Center agreed to move their visitors center to Hampton, VA and incorporate it with the Hampton Roads Visitor’s Center to create the Virginia Air and Space Center. The incorporation was completed in December of 1987. It is construction cost thirty million dollars and was funded by a mixture of funds paid out by the city, grants from the state, and private donors.

The Center adopted the theme “Sea to the Stars” to chronicle Hampton’s maritime beginnings to the influential role it played in exploring Space. The nine-story center, located in Downtown Hampton, was finally opened to public in April of 1992 featuring 110,000 square feet of exhibit space. More than 12,000 new patrons joined the opening events, in which then Governor L. Douglas Wilder and Pete Conrad (a famous astronaut) had spoken about the future success of the Center. The first year, the Center was open, and was a huge success with more than 250,000 visitors.


Adventures in Flight - This exhibit chronicles over 100 years of history in aviation from its origins to its future. It displays the Hampton’s role in commercial, military, and public flight. There are many interactive displays within this exhibit for visitors to take a hands-on approach to learning.

Aircraft - This exhibit features over 100 years of aircraft evolution from a duplicate of the 1903 Wright Flyer to a full-size DC- passenger plane of today.

Be the Astronaut - This exhibit allows patrons to learn what it is like to be an astronaut through a combination of physical displays and video gaming technology.

Engineer It! - This exhibit is geared towards families that visit the center together, and allows them to create and explore STEM (science, technology, engineering, math). The playground features huge blocks for giant scale constructions as well as smaller table top blocks made to fit smaller hands.

HAM Radio - This exhibit is home to a digital completely automatic, Amateur Radio satellite station.

Spacecraft - Visitors to this exhibit can follow the evolution of spaceships beginning in the earliest years with spaceship artifacts, and replicas of the different models throughout history.

Space Quest - Visitors to this exhibit get to learn through interactive simulations of a futuristic spacecraft headed to Mars, a landing on the moon, and train to for a lunar mission. The Magic Planet Global Projector allows visitors to interact with the Earth, sun, moon, and Mars. Visitors can also learn about the various Space stations.

Space Racers - This interactive exhibit is geared towards children three to six and is based on the Space Racers tv program.

Solarium - Visitors to this exhibit will be educated in the Sun’s atmosphere, the way the sun interacts with the Earth, and the spreading of wave fluctuations from the sun. The sounds heard in this exhibit come directly from real sun data obtained by NASA.

Imax - The Imax theater plays a variety of shows at the center throughout the year.

Educational Opportunities

Several programs are available through the Virginia Air and Space center for grades K through 12 that encourage the development of investigation skills to identify, explore, experiment, and solve scientific problems all while learning the basics of this technology.

Special Events

Stem Saturdays- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math are explored through a variety of activities for all ages. Chemistry, robotics, physics, and more are all investigated depending on the theme of the that particular Saturday.


The Virginia Air and Space center offers two different dining choices on the premises.

Cosmic Café- Serves quick options such as sandwiches, fries, soups, salads, and Mexican themed meals and snacks.

IMAX Concessions- Visitors can get regular cinema type concessions here such as popcorn, nachos, hot dogs, ice cream, chips, candy, and fountain drinks.


The Virginia Air and Space center offers a giftshop with NASA based merchandise including t-shirts, coffee cups, models, and mission patches. They also offer a selection of educational toys, books, and science kits.

600 Settlers Landing Rd, Hampton VA 23669, Phone: 757-727-0900