Finding the best beaches in Virginia takes just a smidge of persistence and a drop of determination.
You might be looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the greater DC area or simply get a change of scenery from the Appalachian mountains. Whatever you need a break from, the lull of waves lapping on golden sand can usually suffice. So, are you searching for the best beaches in Virginia? Whether you’re looking for one rich in history or overflowing with fun and amenities, there is at least one that will be a great destination. From wild ponies to fantastic boardwalks and beach-side amusement parks, Virginia’s beaches are easily one of the best places to visit in the state. So, toss those flip-flops, sunscreen, and that big beach towel in the car. We’re heading east to the ocean!
1. Buckroe Beach
One of our favorite Virginia beaches is Buckroe Beach due to the great activities for families here. Nestled in Norfolk, this beach has eight acres of sandy shore for you and your kids. You can feel extra safe with the on-duty lifeguards patrolling the beach all summer long. On top of that, it is dog free in the summer for those little ones not too fond of Fido. If your family needs a little adventure, you can rent a kayak to explore the waves. Make sure to pack a picnic along to take advantage of all the picnic tables around as well. You’ll save a few dollars on parking and access here as well, as it is totally free to the public. So, be thankful as there are nice bathrooms available for you to use as well.
There’s some history almost all the best beaches in Virginia. Buckroe beach was actually first designated as public in 1619 when colonists wanted to make it a public park. By 1887, a bathroom, hotel, pavilion, and amusement park were all located here as well. While the amusement park is no longer, there is still a spirit of fun here throughout the summer. There are movie nights for the whole family on Tuesdays. On Sundays, Buckroe Beach hosts Groovin’ by the Bay concerts for you to enjoy. So, for an all-around great time near Norfolk, head to Buckroe Beach. It’s the most low key family beach with amenities on our list of the best beaches in Virginia.
2. Sandbridge Beach
If you want your beach to be quiet, serene, and picturesque, then put Sandbridge on your list of the best beaches in Virginia. It is located just fifteen minutes south of the Virginia Beach Resort Area, making it a sneaky little getaway from the craziness of the boardwalk. This beach is often compared to the Outer Banks, as it has rolling dunes and is surrounded mainly by vacation homes and the occasional restaurant tucked back from the beach. If you’re looking for a quiet place to take your family or friends and walk along the water, this is it.
With five miles of coast to explore, you won’t be short on space to stroll and shop. While there isn’t a ton of shopping, there is plenty to keep you occupied for one day of your vacation. Sandbridge easily is one of the best beaches in Virginia for its laid-back appeal. So, if you want a quiet vacation rental that’s just a wee bit closer than the Outer Banks but gives off the same vibe, book a rental in Sandbridge.
3. First Landing State Park
We told you in the beginning that some of the best beaches in Virginia would also be rich with history. First Landing is no exception. This beach is the spot that colonists first set foot in Virginia, hence the name First Landing. With one and a half miles of sandy beach, there is ample room and space to spread out here. In addition, there are over fifteen miles of hiking trails to explore in the state park, as well as camping to be had. Make sure to stay on the marked paths to the beach, though, as the fragile cypress swamps are protected.
You will enjoy exploring, kayaking, hiking, picnicking, swimming, and fishing here. But, be careful when you make your way to The Narrows. It is a small waterway that connects Linkhorn and Broad Bay. The story goes that Blackbeard and his pirate lads used this fine spot as their lair. So, maybe you’ll even find some long lost treasure here, but we wouldn’t count on it. Also, if you’ve chosen to head to First Landing State Park, make sure to bring four or five dollars along, depending on the day. The state park does charge an entrance fee to keep the beach and facilities clean. But, First Landing is well worth the time to get there. So, let us know if you also think that it is one of the best beaches in Virginia.
4. Cape Charles Town Beach
Virginia is for lovers, and also for families. You’ll notice that so many of the best beaches in Virginia are set up for a marvelous day for your family. Cape Charles Town Beach is no exception. Located a few miles from the Bay Bridge Tunnel, this historic town and beach have plenty to offer. With access points all along Bay Avenue, you can hop between beach and town almost seamlessly. The water itself is incredibly clean and clear, and practically waveless. Families love letting their little play in the water because it is so safe.
There is a nice fishing pier, as well as a few wooden docks and benches perfect for taking a rest. If you like to watch the sunrise, this beach is one of the best for it too. Cape Charles Town Beach is also the only beach on the Eastern Shore that doesn’t have any parking fees. If that doesn’t put it a few points higher on the list, we’re not sure what will. So, if you like exploring historic small towns just as much as watching your kids play in the sand, this is one of the best beaches in Virginia for you. But, don’t worry, there are also kayaks, paddle boards, and crabbing to try if you need a little more adventure while you’re here!
5. Chincoteague Island
If you’re looking for the best beaches in Virginia, you ought to already know about Chincoteague Island. The only resort island in Virginia, this barrier island boasts miles of stunning, windswept golden sand beach. While this island does have beautiful beaches, incredibly oysters, and world-class fishing, there is something even more fun than that. The Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim & Auction is a sight to behold. Usually held in late July, you can watch ponies swim across the bay and be auctioned off to benefit the local fire department. This has happened for over ninety years and becomes quite the draw. From experience, I can tell you that watching the first horse come majestically out of the water is a sight you’ll never forget. This history alone, paired with the well-preserved beauty of the island, made Chincoteague Island a no-brainer for our list of the best beaches in Virginia.
6. Virginia Beach Resort Area
If you want to visit the most popular and bustling of all the best beaches in Virginia then you need to make your way to the Virginia Beach Resort Area. One of the largest pleasure beaches in the world, there is no shortage of things to do or people to watch here. With three miles of boardwalk, music, shops, delicious food, and fun shopping are never more than a few steps away. The beach is always staffed with lifeguards, so you don’t have to worry about watching the kids as much, which is quite nice. When you’re tired of lying in the sun, if that’s possible, try your hand at surfing or go rollerblading on the boardwalk. You might stop for a stellar local beer while you watch the waves as well.
This area is a great spot to spend even a whole week of vacation. On a less than perfect beach weather day, head over to the Ocean Breeze Waterpark or Virginia Aquarium for some good family fun too. Even if you’re looking for a quiet secluded beach, make sure to visit the Virginia Beach Resort Area at least once. It’s truly the most popular beach in Virginia, making the culture, history, and family-friendly fun top our list of the best beaches in Virginia.
The best beaches in Virginia can’t be ranked from one to six, as each has its own unique beauty, culture, activities, and splendor.
While these beaches don’t have the spectacular surfing and endless eighty-degree weather like the beaches of San Diego, they still have plenty going for them. First off, where else in the world could you watch the ponies swim across a bay, and then buy one? That’s what I thought. Virginia is so full of exciting things to do and rich history, you can’t escape it, even when you go to the beach. So, go ahead and embrace the beauty at First Landing or hunt for buried pirate treasure in the Narrows. But, wherever you end up, we’re sure you will find something to love at each of the best beaches in Virginia.
Related Article: Best Beaches in Maryland (Plus Where to Go at Each One)
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