If a long weekend for Memorial Day has already got you dreaming of summer, then we have the perfect place to start planning. Virginia is known for a lot of things, and while amazing beaches may not be the first thing that other people think of when they call to mind the Old Dominion, Virginians know that when it comes to sun, sand and surf, Virginia can hold her own. These 10 beautiful beaches are just a few of the places you can go when you know that a little sand between your toes will make everything better…
1. Assateauge Island National Seashore, Eastern Shore
Famous for its wild ponies, Assateague Island Seashore offers a pristine beach setting that has been unchanged for centuries. While the majority of the national park resides in Maryland, it can be accessed from the Virginia side, just .25 miles from Chincoteague. These beautiful white sand beaches are perfect for camping, nature walks, bird watching or simply resting on the beach and watching the waves. Be sure to visit the iconic Assateague Lighthouse built in 1867.
2. First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach
Located at the site where the first colonists landed in 1607, this stunning beachside park offers 1.5 miles of sandy beaches in a gorgeous natural setting. Complete with freshwater cypress swamps and 20 miles of walking and hiking trails, there is plenty to explore -- including the Narrows, where legend has it, Blackbeard and his band of pirates used to hide.
3. Colonial Beach, Westmoreland County
Located in the quaint small town of Colonial Beach, this beach is the perfect escape from urban life. Set along the shores of the Potomac River, Colonial Beach offers sandy beaches, boating, biking and fishing, as well as shops, galleries and restaurants. The only problem is that once you visit, you may not want to leave.
4. Chincoteague, Eastern Shore
Designated as Virginia’s only resort island, it is also one of the most beautiful. While it is perhaps best known for the annual Pony Swim and Auction, Chincoteague has also garnered a name for itself for oysters, fishing and laid-back tourism. Home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, the island is a haven for visitors and locals alike.
5. Virginia Beach Resort Area, Virginia Beach
Definitely the most popular of the Virginia beaches, Virginia Beach is free, watched by lifeguards and surrounded by shops, restaurants and attractions like the Ocean Breeze Waterpark and Virginia Aquarium. Most visitors choose to stay near the 3-mile boardwalk area which is also host to dozens of shows, festivals and events.
6. Sandbridge, Virginia Beach
While it is considered part of the Virginia Beach coastline, Sandbridge is a far cry from the business of the boardwalk. Filled with family and vacation homes, Sandbridge offers a beautiful and relaxing beach getaway.
7. Ocean View Beach, Norfolk
Just 15 miles or so from the main Virginia Beach attractions is Ocean View Beach. Resting along the 8-mile stretch of Chesapeake Bay beachfront, Ocean View Beach is quieter and more family-oriented than Virginia Beach, providing free parking and a less commercial experience. The 6.5 acre Ocean View Beach Park is a designated festival park and holds events throughout the year.
8. Buckroe Beach, Hampton
More than just a beach, Buckroe Beach is a little part of history. As one of the oldest recreational areas in the state, this beach was first designated for public use in 1619 by colonists of the Virginia Company of London. In 1883, a public bathhouse was opened and later, in 1897, a hotel, dancing pavilion and amusement park joined the mix. The amusement park remained popular through the first half of the 20th century, and although it closed in 1985 and was torn down in 1991, the carousel and Bruder band organ were preserved and moved to the downtown Hampton waterfront. Today, visitors can still enjoy the beautiful beaches, performances at the pavilion and a children’s playground.
9. Chesapeake Beach (a.k.a., Chic’s Beach and Chick’s Beach), Virginia Beach
This beach-of-many-names is especially loved by the locals. Offering stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, this quiet, non-touristy beach offers vacation rentals and private homes in a beautiful beachfront setting that stretches 2 miles from the Lynnhaven inlet to the bridge. Although it is officially called Chesapeake Beach, the name Chic’s, or Chick’s as it is known by non-locals, came from a beachfront shop where visitors could get lime-ade and ice cream. While the shop is long gone, the name stuck.
10. Cape Charles Beach, Cape Charles
Cape Charles is a beautiful, historic town located on the Eastern Shore. The beachfront provides a perfect place for recreational activities – and as a bonus, it’s the only Eastern Shore beach that offers free parking. Offering park-like amenities such as picnic pavilions, benches and public restrooms, this beach is the perfect place to spend a peaceful day in the sun.
Of course, there are many other hidden coves and sandy getaways in Virginia, but there are a few of our favorites. Tell us about your favorite beach — maybe its at a lake or along the banks of a river.