The number one attraction in Virginia Beach is right there in the name: the beach.
The Beach and Boardwalk
The city has ocean beach from Cape Henry to the North Carolina line. That is more than 25 miles. It starts inside Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, and extends south through luxurious oceanfront residences, the resort area, more military, a state park, and a National Wildlife Refuge. West from Cape Henry, the city has more beach on the Chesapeake Bay. The Bay beach extends west past Lynnhaven Inlet, under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, to Norfolk.
Most visitors start at the resort area. This is the place of high-rise hotels and the boardwalk. The boardwalk runs for about three miles with hotels and restaurants on one side and the beach and ocean on the other. It is a great place for a sunrise walk. If you don’t like to get up early (this is vacation, right?), you could take the same walk in the evening glow. In the evening, you will have multiple choices if you want to stop for a snack, meal, or beverage. You can have fun at the amusement park, fishing pier, or simply people watching. The area is clean and family friendly.
There is history along the boardwalk. The Atlantic Waterfowl Heritage Museum, the Old Coast Guard Station, and the Virginia Beach Surf and Rescue Museum are easily accessible. Plan in advance, because hours of operation vary for each attraction and season. If you want to delve deeper into history, the Adam Thoroughgood House, built in 1719, is open Thursday through Saturday each week. It is one of the oldest surviving houses in the United States. Construction of the home was started by Argall Thoroughgood, but it was his son, John, who added the beautiful trim and detailed features that make the house so unique and beautiful.
If getting outside is on your agenda, you will have multiple opportunities in Virginia Beach. First Landing State Park, at the northeastern corner of the city, is a great spot for outdoor enthusiasts. The Jamestown Colonists stopped here in 1607 on their way to Jamestown. The park has 20 miles of hiking trails and 1.5 miles of beach. The park also boasts campsites, cabins, picnic areas, and a boat ramp. The maritime forests are delightful to walk through.
There are water sports vendors throughout the city. If you want to blast around on a wave runner, or paddle a quiet hidden waterway, you can find someone to guide you. Fishing is popular, as well as whale and dolphin watching in season.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center is a must-see. Not only do they have 800,000 gallons of fish habitat, they have numerous other wildlife exhibits. Children love to watch the playful seals and otters. The adjacent Adventure Park has zip-lining and tree platforms. They have daily and weekly special exhibits and events, so planning ahead is a good idea here as well.
Virginia Beach is home to several military installations. Navy SEALS train in the area, so don’t be surprised if you see trainees jumping out of helicopters and parachuting into the water. The jets from Oceana Naval Air Station are loud. You may occasionally even hear gunfire, though there is absolutely no reason to be afraid.
Naturally, Virginia Beach is a hot spot for deep sea fishing as well as the lower Bay. Below you will find two resources for finding a charter boat. Also keep your eyes on FishTalk Magazine for charter companies:
- The Virginia Beach Fishing Center: Where the main fleet is based: virginiafishing.com
- Virginia Beach Tourism: Click to “things to do” and “charter fishing” to find listings: vabeach.com
Visiting by boat
If you are visiting by boat, you have several options. The Virginia Beach Fishing Center, right off the ocean inside Rudee Inlet, is located in the center of all the action. From here, you can walk to the boardwalk and all the resort area attractions. You can also take your dinghy to the aquarium.
The Fishing Center can handle vessels up to 120 feet. Vessels over 28 feet high can stay at their annex which is outside the Pacific Avenue bridge. Inside Lynnhaven Inlet, the Marina Shores Marina offers slips with floating docks for $2 per-foot per-night not including electricity. There is an onsite restaurant and pool, though many more restaurants are within walking distance.
There is a nearby trail that leads to First Landing State Park. You will have to clear a 35-foot fixed bridge to enter the Lynnhaven River. The Lynnhaven River is popular and can become crowded. And, the current at the inlet, under the bridge, can rip. Make sure your boat handling skills are in tip-top shape, and pay close attention as you enter.
Virginia Beach is the most populous city in Virginia. As such, you won’t run out of things to do. For example, there is the older, more quiet and quaint Sandbridge Beach area, rural Pungo, the Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment headquarters, and the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) television studio. And there are countless fine places to eat. Whatever your interest, you can find it in Virginia Beach. The city has an informative website at vbgov.com. Just click on the visitors link to get started.
By Kendall Osborne