THE BEACHES OF VIRGINIA

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THE BEACHES OF VIRGINIA

Virginia beaches include several that are world famous for various reasons.  You can pick the action packed shores at Virginia Beach or watch the four-legged residents of Assateague Island.  Over 3300 miles of shoreline are available to visitors of the Commonwealth of Virginia.  There are so many wonderful beaches and places to visit in the Commonwealth, not only in the summer time, but all year round.   Each area has things to do that are unique to that area that would appeal to anyone, but no matter what the location there are similarities, such as parasailing, fishing, sand volleyball, kite-flying, swimming, surfing and so much more.   Even away from the beaches, there is plenty to choose from (such as golf, shopping outlets, etc.). Just as where to stay (ranging from unique hotels, town homes, apartments to rent, and the usual chain hotels) to even RV parks, camp grounds. It all depends on what you are looking for and something that appeals to every budget and everyone. The same could be said about places to eat.   You have the usual “chain” restaurants to the homey local dives or restaurants. The best way I have found to find a really good local place to eat (be it lunch, brunch, dinner) would ask the locals. It’s the local folks who know the best places to go that a visitor would not even think about or consider. The same would hold true at times if you are looking for something out-of-the ordinary or off-beat to do while on your trip.

Virginia Beach – This is the largest and most populous of the Virginia beaches.  People come to enjoy the three mile Boardwalk with its games, concessions, arcades and food.  Numerous hotels overlook the beach and shoreline where there is swimming, surfing, sailing as well as sand activities such as volleyball, sand soccer and kite-flying.  Miles of walking and hiking trails are available, not only on the beach and Boardwalk, but the First Landing State Park which winds through the wetlands along Broad Bay.  A short distance away by tram is the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park.

Back in Virginia Beach, many of the entertainment programs are free and aimed at families.  The beaches at Virginia Beach are also free.  If the beach activities are too tame for you, the Virginia Beach Oceanfront Waterpark and the go-karts at Motor World will liven things up a bit.  Fascinating educational exhibits are available for viewing at the Virginia Beach Aquarium & Marine Science Center.

A small side trip to Mount Trashmore, to the Cape Henry Lighthouses or to the Old Coast Guard Station adds local color to your visit.  You may also enjoy a more secluded beach experience at North End Beach and Sandbridge just to the south of Virginia Beach.  Some of the ocean-front houses there can be rented by the week.

Eastern Shore- Virginia’s Eastern Shore is home to three well-known beaches.  The peninsula is reached via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel where the Kiptopeke State Park is known for its annual birding festival.  Because Chesapeake Bay has calm waters and there is a short nature trail, this is the ideal beach for families with young children to use one of the many camping sites.

Sister islands, Chincoteague and Assateague are famous for the herd of wild ponies which reside on Assateague except during the annual two day drive.  Chincoteague has no beachfront, but Assateague, reached by a short causeway between the two islands has wide beaches, virtually untouched and miles of trails.

Chincoteague – Chincoteague is home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, listed as one of the top five U.S. shorebird migratory staging areas. Chincoteague is Virginia’s only resort island, and is world famous for oyster beds and clam shoals. It’s also the gateway to Assateague, and the wild ponies there are herded to swim across the channel to Chincoteague Island each July for auction, a popular public event. In addition to the usual swimming, sun bathing and water sports, the Park Service and Wildlife Refuge both offer guided wildlife tours and exhibits throughout the year.    Chincoteague Island gained national fame in 1961 when Twentieth Century Fox premiered the movie Misty of Chincoteague. The movie was based on author Marguerite Henry’s award-winning children’s book Misty of Chincoteague, which she wrote in 1947 while staying at Miss Molly’s Inn on Chincoteague Island. The book and movie helped to forever transition Chincoteague Island from a small fishing village into a world-class tourist destination

Assateague Island is a barrier island just off the coast of Maryland and extends to Virginia. It is an undeveloped island and is a National Park and recreational area. Activities such as fishing, crabbing, canoeing, birding watching, ecotourism, are abundant it this rich natural area.
The best way to see Assateague is not cooped up in a hotel but rather to get in touch with nature by camping at once of the many camping areas Assateague has to offer. Whether you rent an RV or a camper, or just go truly native with a tent, you’ll be closer to the wildlife than you would have ever imagined. Various parks, depending on their location, have a lot of different animals to see. Parks closer to the woods will offer small forest creatures, as well as a wild deer or two. To see wild horses and other scruffy animals, go to a park near the barren landscape of Assateague. If you want to camp close enough to smell the salty ocean, choose a park there, where if you are lucky, you’ll awake to the sound of dolphins splashing and great herons cawing. One of the most awe inspiring sights in the world is the great ocean, and even though it makes up 70% of our world, few people really get to see it and appreciate it. The ocean has that iconic salty smell to the air, and the animals you will get to see will make you truly appreciate the “great outdoors”. Sea gulls swoop down upon the fish, and sometimes the people! Dolphins jump up out of the water in the distance, and on the beach, it’s like an entire new world! Blue crabs, the most well-known crab in Assateague, scurry across the shallow water. Kids can collect sea shells and fish scales in the sand, or even build a castle or two. The sunny atmosphere will allow adults to sit back and enjoy getting a tan.

Assateague is well known for its wondrous animal life. On the rough barren landscape, you can see a variety of birds and small creatures, as well as wild horses roaming the land. Towards the ocean, you can see reptiles and lizards, basking in the sun, and marine animals swimming under waves of sea water. Each year these creatures migrate and make their home at Assateague, to be admired by both locals and tourists as well. Due to the large amount of animal life, many naturalists come to visit, snapping photos and doing research on the many animals Assateague has to offer.

Norfolk – Ocean View Beach at Norfolk stretches for eight miles along Chesapeake Bay.  The four wide city beaches feature gentle surf, lifeguards, and picnicking facilities.  Visitors can rent kayaks, paddleboats, jet skis and sailboats.  In addition to the beach activities, visitors to Norfolk can visit museums such as Hampton Roads Naval Museum, the National Maritime Center and the USS Wisconsin, and Nauticus.

Hampton – In addition to 12 deep water marinas, Hampton is home to Buckroe Beach, a favorite for windsurfing visitors.   Partially bordered by the Hampton Roads harbor and Chesapeake Bay, Hampton is located in the center of the Hampton Roads metropolitan area. Hampton is the site of America’s first continuous English-speaking settlement and is home to a variety of historical, cultural and recreational activities and attractions. Such visitor attractions include the Virginia Air & Space Center and Riverside IMAX Theater, Hampton History Museum, harbor tours and cruises, Fort Monroe, among others. The Casemate Museum at Fort Monroe National Monument chronicles the imprisonment of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and the Fort’s role during the Civil War. Sea lovers will enjoy taking a stroll on the Downtown Hampton Public Piers and stopping by the Center Maritime. Take advantage of an array of water-related activities, such as the harbor tours aboard the 65-foot Miss Hampton II,”Buckroe Beach and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay.

Ocean View Beach – At the northern end of Norfolk on the Chesapeake Bay lies Ocean View Beach, with 7.5 miles of beaches, commercial piers, bait shops, rental paddle boats, Jet Skis and sailboats, and a park with a bathhouse and picnic tables. The Ocean View Beach Festival is held every summer with live music, dancing and family activities right on the beach. The boardwalk is a good spot for a stroll and occasional sightings of submarines from nearby Norfolk Naval Air Station.

River Beaches – Virginia also has several river beaches where the tributaries flow into Chesapeake Bay or into the Atlantic Ocean.  Fishermen particularly appreciate these beaches, because they can catch both freshwater and saltwater fish in the same area.  An outstanding river beach is Chippokes Plantation State Park with two miles of beach along the James River.

Colonial Beach – Colonial Beach is at the tip of the Northern Neck region, one of the few remaining small seaport towns on the Potomac River. It has sandy beaches and marinas on Monroe Bay ideal for swimming, boating and sailing. The area is also quite historic, containing George Washington’s birthplace; Stratford Hall, the boyhood home of Robert E. Lee; and neighboring Westmoreland County, the birthplace of James Monroe. Colonial Beach has been designated as one of the few “Golf Cart Towns”, where golf carts may be operated by licensed drivers on city streets, but the Town Trolley also makes sightseeing stops.

 Kathy Kiefer

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