If you have ever vacationed at the beach, there is a magical moment where you can just imagine staying in that one spot forever. It may be the slight breeze that carries the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves along the shoreline, or the feel of the fine grains of sand trickling through your fingers as you lie back and soak in the summer sun, but that exact moment is why we absolutely LOVE Virginia’s beautiful beaches. Plan your trip to one of these beaches to discover your own magic moment this summer.
Take a dip in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean at these surfside beaches.
Straddling the eastern coast where the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay meet, Virginia Beach is the most popular of Virginia’s beaches, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The city is a sea-foodie dream, with the day’s catch often making it to the plates of local restaurants in just a few hours, and you can wash it all down with refreshments from one of the many coastal craft breweries. While on vacation, wake up early to catch the stunning sunrise over the ocean (and quite possibly see some dolphins frolicking in the waves!). If sunbathing is a bit too sedentary for you, take a walk or rent bikes to ride along the expansive Boardwalk.
ASSATEAGUE ISLAND NATIONAL SEASHORE
Wild ponies, pristine beaches, and miles of undeveloped shoreline…what’s not to love about Assateague Island National Seashore? The white sand beaches stretch along the northeastern coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, just a few miles from the charming town of Chincoteague. Climb the stairs of the Assateague Lighthouse, built in 1867, for awe-inspiring scenery as far as the eye can see in every direction. Keep an eye out for the wild ponies trotting through the sandy dunes, which were made famous by the best-selling children’s book Misty of Chincoteague.
Although technically part of the city of Virginia Beach, Sandbridge is very different from the oceanfront found at the heart of the city. This quiet, residential beach area attracts families looking for a peaceful oceanfront getaway away from the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk. Instead of towering hotels, a bevy of rental homes border the beach sands, inviting families of every size to enjoy their own personal retreat just steps from the surf. The countless businesses and restaurants that draw the summer crowds to Virginia Beach are missing from Sandbridge, creating a more serene surfside alternative.
A Few More Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean:
—Beaches on the Chesapeake Bay—
Virginia’s Bay beaches are strewn along the coastline, from the Eastern Shore to the Northern Neck region.
CAPE CHARLES BEACH
On the southwestern side of Virginia’s Eastern Shore along the Bay, Cape Charles is one of the Commonwealth’s best-kept beach secrets. Visitors driving from northern areas travel through Maryland to reach the shore town, but for those coming through Virginia, Cape Charles is reached by crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, an architectural marvel that spans the 23 miles of the bay waters. The town is quaint but appealing, with small boutique shops and hotels lining the idyllic streets. The public beach, located in the town’s historic district, has shallow bay waters that are safe for families with small children, but if you are looking for coastal adventure, local outfitters are available for kayaking and other watersports.
Located in Hampton, Buckroe Beach offers ¾ of a mile of public coastline for visitors to lie out on the sandy shores. Rent kayaks or paddleboats to explore the Bay waters around Buckroe Beach, or take the kids to the adjacent playground after they finish splashing through the waves. Buckroe Beach is a much more low-key alternative to nearby Virginia Beach, attracting those beach purists that wish to enjoy the summer sand and sun without any distractions.
More Beaches along the Chesapeake Bay:
- Ocean View Beach—Norfolk
- First Landing State Park—Virginia Beach
- Bethel Beach—Mathews
- Kiptopeke State Park—Cape Charles
—Other Beaches around Virginia—
Although not directly along the coast, Virginia has plenty of beaches at state parks and public recreational areas as well as along the rivers and lakes.
An urban beach with large flat rocks instead of sand, Belle Isle is a popular spot for locals looking to cool off during the summer. The historic waterfront park is in the heart of the capital city, and is reached by crossing a pedestrian footbridge that runs from Tredegar Street on the north shore. The large rocks, worn smooth by the James River, make for perfect sunbathing. While the water is rough along the river, the rocks form small placid pools that you can dip your feet in and cool off. After you’ve gotten your fill of the urban beach, follow the trails that encircle Belle Isle through the pleasantly shaded woods.
As the third largest lake in Virginia, Lake Anna has over 200 miles of shoreline, which includes a popular swimming beach on the lake accessible to the public for a small fee. These white sand beaches will make you forget you are lying on a landlocked lake rather than the Atlantic. This lakeside beach welcomes visitors to stretch out on a towel and relax, head out into the water to cool off, or even cast a line and fish from the shore.
HUNGRY MOTHER STATE PARK—MARION
In the heart of Virginia’s mountains, Hungry Mother State Park attracts outdoor lovers of all types with its scenic trails and abundant wildlife, but one of the park’s gems is the sandy beach, complete with a bathhouse, fishing pier, and public boat launch. Rent kayaks, paddleboats, paddleboards, or an electric-powered jon boat to get out on the 108-acre lake during the summer, or splash around in the shallow waters off the shore with the kids. Consider booking one of the park’s cabins to extend your southwest Virginia beach getaway, or if you’re feeling a little more outdoorsy, pitch your tent in the park’s campgrounds.
COLONIAL BEACH—COLONIAL BEACH
On the northern tip of Virginia’s Northern Neck peninsula, Colonial Beach borders the Potomac River on the east and Monroe Bay on the west. The beaches are well known for fishing, sailing, boating, swimming, and other water sports, as well as a hot spot for crabbing. The beach was recently named the “Best Beach in Virginia” by a USA Today Reader’s Choice contest.
More Inland Beaches to Discover:
- Philpott Lake—Bassett
- Buggs Island—Clarkesville
- Bear Creek Lake State Park—Cumberland
- Twin Lakes State Park—Green Bay
- Claytor Lake State Park—Dublin
- Holliday Lake State Park—Appomattox
- Gloucester Point Beach—Gloucester
- Fairy Stone State Park—Stuart
- Yorktown Beach—Yorktown
- Chippokes Plantation State Park—Surry
- Huntington Park Beach—Newport News
- Westmoreland State Park—Montross
Have you planned a beach vacation in Virginia yet? Share your favorite waterfront destinations with us and let us know what makes your beach the best!