Longstreet Highroad Guide to the Chesapeake Bay
By Deane Winegar
[Fig. 6] Early colonists were slow to realize the value of the abundant resources, fertile soil, and deep rivers that were perfect for shipping lanes in the Virginia Beach area. One of the earliest residents was Adam Thoroughgood, a member of the House of Burgesses. In 1635, the popular Englishman built what is believed to be the oldest surviving brick home in America. Today, visitors may stroll the herb and flower gardens and examine the cottage-style architecture of the Adam Thoroughgood House at 1636 Parrish Road (757-431-4002) in Virginia Beach.
With over 400,000 people, the City of Virginia Beach has the largest population of any Virginia city and it covers 310 square miles of land. The city extends some 27 miles from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay south to the North Carolina line. The city boundary reaches inland about 12 miles to the easternmost portion of I-64. In addition to the 27 miles of oceanfront beaches, there are also beaches that border the Chesapeake Bay from Cape Henry 12 miles west to Norfolk.That’s big, as Virginia cities go. Some of what lies within those boundaries is just what you’d expect in a coastal resort city—wide, sandy beaches, high-rise hotels, nightclubs, restaurants, shopping malls, t-shirt and surf shops, mini-golf, a water park, museums, convention centers, concert halls, and historical sites. These attractions account for many of the city’s 2.7 million visitors annually. Surprisingly, however, the city also contains two state parks, two major fishing centers, three saltwater fishing piers, a national wildlife refuge, a state wildlife management area, a natural area preserve, and a wildlife preserve. Much of the area where these sites are located was part of the former Princess Anne County, which merged with the city of Virginia Beach in 1963.The northern portion of Virginia Beach, which borders Norfolk on its western side, fronts the Chesapeake Bay to the north, and meets the Atlantic Ocean to the east, is highly developed. Between I-64 and the oceanfront are busy VA 44 (Virginia Beach-Norfolk Expressway) and parallel US 58 (Virginia Beach Boulevard), carrying conventioneers, sight seers, and beach-goers with surfboards strapped to car tops. Located in this part of Virginia Beach are First Landing State Park and the two fishing centers at Lynnhaven Inlet and Rudee Inlet—places humming with activity from spring through fall.
Look for the Virginia Beach Information Center (800-VA-BEACH) at 2100 Parks Avenue at the first traffic light as you come into the resort area on VA 44/264. The center, which sits in the middle of the divided highway, is open from 9 to 8 daily from June 15 to the day after Labor Day and 9 to 5 daily the rest of the year.
The resort area of Virginia Beach is located along Atlantic and Pacific avenues, parallel streets one block apart extending from Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay 6 miles south along the oceanfront to Rudee Inlet. For most of its length, Pacific Avenue and US 60 are one and the same.
The 3-mile walk along the famous Virginia Beach Boardwalk with its parallel bike trail is beautiful any time of year. The ocean scenery is enhanced by the boardwalk’s teak benches, old-fashioned lampposts, and colorful flags. Bikes may be rented at several locations along the boardwalk.
The Virginia Beach Boardwalk Art Show (757-425-0000), founded in 1955, takes place each June between 17th Street and 31st Street on a 14-block section of the boardwalk. The show is free and open to the public from 10 to 6 daily. The event—one of the premier art shows in the United States—draws some 300,000 visitors annually to view the carefully selected work of world-class sculptors, painters, photographers, and craftsmen.In August, the East Coast Surfing Championship (800-861-SURF or Web site www.ecsc1.com) also draws thousands to Virginia Beach to cheer on more than 100 of the world’s top professionals and 400 amateurs who compete for some $70,000 in prize money. The festivities also include a golf tournament, volleyball tournament, 5K run along the oceanfront boardwalk, swimsuit competition, multi-hull regatta, outrigger canoe race, and outdoor concerts on the 4th Street stage.
The Old Coast Guard Station (757-422-1587) is on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk at 24th Street and Atlantic Avenue. Formerly called the Life-Saving Museum of Virginia, the museum honors the brave people who have risked their lives to save victims of shipwrecks. The wooden structure, built in 1903, was the former U.S. Life-Saving/Coast Guard Station.
The huge variety of birds that inhabit the shores and marshes of the Virginia Beach/Back Bay area are the focus of the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum (757-437-8432) at 113 Atlantic Avenue. Operated by the Back Bay Wildfowl Guild, the museum has five galleries of wildfowl artwork and carved decoys. The museum is on the oceanfront, housed in the Dewitt Cottage, which was built in 1895 by the first mayor of Virginia Beach, B. P. Holland.
The Norwegian Lady Statue at 25th Street and Atlantic Avenue, was a gift from Norwegians commemorating the wreck of the Dictator. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (757-428-3588) at 67th Street and Atlantic Avenue houses the library and conference center of the famous psychic, Edgar Cayce.
Entertainment is available from April through October at the $18 million, 20,000-seat GTE Virginia Beach Amphitheater (757-368-3000), which attracts the biggest names in rock, country, rhythm and blues, classical, and other forms of music. Past entertainers include Jimmy Buffet, James Taylor, and Bruce Hornsby. The Virginia Beach Pavilion Convention Center (757-437-7600) at 1000 19th Street hosts theatrical and musical performances, as well as annual waterfowl festivals, gun shows, and other events. The center, with its white arched roofs, is located at the eastern end of VA 44, about 1 mile west of the oceanfront. Another source of hit musicals and drama is the Little Theater of Virginia Beach at 24th Street and Barberton Drive (757-428-9233). Performers at Harrison Opera House (757-623-1223) produce classics and original works.
Nightclubs offer a wide variety of music, including everything from reggae and Top 40 to jazz, country, and alternative. The Thoroughgood Inn Comedy Club (757-460-8398), located in Bayside Shopping Center, is a full-service restaurant featuring nationally known comedians. Maxi’s Rendezvous at 313 Laskin Road (757-437-8828) is a swing and big-band club offering live music. Other popular spots for night life include Chicho’s at 2112 Atlantic Avenue (757-422-6011), an old favorite; Croc’s Mighty Nice Grill at 19th Street and Cypress Avenue (757-428-5444), a restaurant and gathering room with a Caribbean theme that was voted Best at the Beach; and Peabody’s at 21st Street and Pacific Avenue (757-422-6212), a large dance club with pool tables, foosball, and a stage that attracts national recording artists.
At Ocean Breeze Amusement Park at 848 General Booth Boulevard (757-422-4444), youngsters and adults alike can cool off in a water park or enjoy the 36-hole mini-golf, batting cage, and Go Kart rides. Dive centers provide equipment and guided trips to exploring shipwrecks off Virginia Beach (see Outfitters, Guides, and Suppliers Appendix). Local surf shops also provide gear and surfboards for enjoying the waves.
In addition to limousine services, buses, and taxis, oceanfront visitors will find local trolleys (757-428-3388) a convenient way to get around the resort area in late spring and summer. The service runs from 19th Street south to General Booth Boulevard on Pacific Avenue, from 2nd Street to 42nd Street on Atlantic Avenue, and from the oceanfront to Lynnhaven Mall via the VA 44 Expressway.
The new Entertainment Express also runs a trolley circuit of the major night spots and hotels until 2:30 a.m. The North Seashore Park Trolley operates between 19th Street and 68th Street year-round. Trolleys are also available for rent.
The southern part of Virginia Beach, on the other hand, contains horse farms, fields of soybeans and strawberries, and residential areas, as well as marshes, bays, inlets, creeks, coves, islands, sand dunes, and part of the Intracoastal Waterway. In and around the waters of Back Bay in this part of the city are quiet places to walk, bike, canoe, or kayak—places such as Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, False Cape State Park, Princess Anne Wildlife Management Refuge, and North River Landing Preserve.
Seven miles south of the resort strip at the junction of Princess Anne Road and Indian River Road is Pungo, site of a popular Strawberry Festival on Memorial Day weekend. Festivities include nearly 100 artists and craftsmen, food and alcohol-free refreshments, 4-H exhibits, a petting zoo, pony rides, pig races, and a simulated medieval encampment. Visitors may pick their own strawberries in nearby fields or buy fresh ones already picked. Since the event began in 1983, it has grown to attract an estimated 150,000 strawberry lovers.
Hidden away along the waterfront east of Pungo is Sandbridge. Here, rental cottages line the oceanfront along Sandbridge Beach, where the high-rise hotels of the resort area of Virginia Beach shimmer in the haze several miles to the north like a half-forgotten dream. While sunbathers pour onto Virginia Beach early on a June morning, the 5-mile stretch of Sandbridge Beach might have little more than a couple of beachcombers, a man throwing a stick in the ocean for his dog, and a surf fisherman or two.
The rental homes along Sandbridge are protected from the ever-encroaching ocean only by man-made dunes, bulwarks, and replenished beaches, which give way sooner or later when assaulted by northeasters or hurricanes. The unceasing wave action spawned by Hurricane Dennis dealt a particularly devastating blow. The storm arrived off North Carolina’s Outer Banks in late August of 1999 and stayed like an unwelcome guest for a couple of interminable weeks. A drive down Sandfiddler Road will reveal the telltale foundations of the latest collapsed structures along the beach, where the ocean now laps at empty pilings and swirls around concrete blocks sprouting broken steel reinforcement—the supports that once held expensive homes. Even beachcombers who wish to walk any distance must come at low tide, because the once-wide beach is so narrow at some places that the ocean slaps against the seawalls.
Charter boats, cruise boats, headboats, well-equipped marinas, and several boat ramps are available at two major inlets in Virginia Beach. Rudee Inlet is just south of the oceanfront resort strip. Call the Virginia Beach Fishing Center (800-725-0509) at 200 Winston Salem Avenue or Fisherman’s Wharf Charters (757-428-2111) at 524 Winston Salem Avenue for information. Lynnhaven Inlet is north of the resort strip and just inside the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. Two of several full-service marinas here are Lynnhaven Seafood Marina (757-481-4545) at 3311 Shore Drive and Bubba’s Marina (757-481-3513) at 3323 Shore Drive.
Excursions include fishing for sea bass and tautog over sunken wrecks in the Atlantic Ocean or casting to the rock islands of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel to bottom fish for flounder, spot, croaker, and gray trout. Swarming seagulls in the bay and ocean indicate where baitfish are jumping at the surface to escape slashing schools of rockfish and bluefish—popular seasonal targets of fishermen armed with shad lures and bucktails. Charter boats also make the 40-mile-trip offshore to the clear blue waters of the Gulf Stream. In addition to tasty bluefin and yellowfin tuna and dolphin (mahi mahi), these waters contain giant blue and white marlin, known among sport fishermen for their exciting leaps and rod-bending tests of endurance and patience. There are also whale-watching and dolphin-watching trips.
Saltwater fishing piers offer anglers an excellent means to get closer to the spot, trout, croaker, flounder, blue crabs, and even occasional runs of such exciting fish as cobia and red drum that seasonally swim the waters just offshore. Lynnhaven Fishing Pier (757-481-7071) is just east of Lynnhaven Inlet on the bayside. Oceanfront piers include the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier (757-428-2333) in the resort area at 15th Street and Atlantic Avenue and Little Island Park Fishing Pier (757-426-7200) on the southern end of Sandbridge. In August 1999, a Virginia Beach 12-year-old proved how good pier fishing can be when a monster fish attacked the menhaden bait he had cast from the Sandbridge pier. On the other end of his line was a 52-pound, 2-ounce king mackerel that turned out to be a new state record.
The annual Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament, run by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, awards citations for fish that meet or exceed a designated weight or length. Sharks, black and red drum, and billfish should be measured from nose to tail and released. Species that qualify for release citations may change from year to year. Other eligible species should be brought to an official weigh station located at certain tackle shops and marinas, where registration forms are available. Anglers are recognized annually for catching the largest fish of each species in the ongoing saltwater tournament. Also, Virginia Beach hosts the annual World Striped Bass Championship (800-446-8036) that runs from early October to the end of the year, with large cash prizes for the biggest striped bass. A saltwater fishing license, available from tackle shops and marinas, is required for the Chesapeake Bay and tributary rivers. Temporary freshwater licenses are available at city halls and at some sporting stores.
[Fig. 6(1)] First Landing State Park—called Seashore State Park until 1999—was one of the state’s six original parks constructed in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The park’s name was changed in 1999 to honor the first landing of settlers near the park on April 26, 1607.
With its location at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and just north of the extremely popular Virginia Beach oceanfront, First Landing State Park receives 1 million visitors annually—more than any other state park in Virginia. Adding to its appeal are its shady campground and the 1.25 miles of beachfront park property.
A total of 19 miles of hiking trails lace the park’s natural area, which consists of cypress swamps, maritime forests, pine/beech forests, sand dunes, salt marsh, beach, and bay. The natural area has earned a spot on the National Register of Natural Landmarks because it contains the northernmost mix of subtropical and temperate habitats on the East Coast.
The 6-mile Cape Henry Trail, the only trail designated for biking, passes through baldcypress swamps, over an old dune area, and across a wooden bridge and salt marsh. Osprey nests can be seen from the benches on the bridge.
First Landing’s Chesapeake Bay Center features a wet lab, educational displays and an eco-tourism center. Park cabins are rented on a weekly basis. Pets are allowed in cabins for an additional charge.
The self-guided nature trail leads over boardwalks and sandy paths through a dimly lit baldcypress swamp draped with Spanish moss. The moss is a southern species, near the northern extent of its range here. The dark water of the swamp is stained with tannin from the breakdown of woody plants and leaves. Tannin helps water stay fresh, a quality that made it valuable to early explorers as drinking water on ships.
[Fig. 6(2)] Two lighthouses stand close enough together on the grounds of Fort Story to be photographed in the same picture. The old Cape Henry Lighthouse, funded by the first U.S. Congress and built in 1791, is the oldest government-built lighthouse in America. It was also the first of 61 lighthouses built to protect sailors from the Chesapeake Bay’s treacherous shoals and points. The beautiful red brick structure is octagonal, its tower rising 75 feet into the air from a sand dune at the mouth of the Chesapeake in northern Virginia Beach. Lovingly maintained by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, the old Cape Henry Lighthouse is now a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public.When cracks appeared in the walls in 1872, a new cast iron tower with masonry walls was built 347 feet southeast of the old one. The new tower stands 165 feet high and has a pattern of black and white rectangles. Equipped with a first-order Fresnel lens, the new light became operational in 1881 and has since been electrified. Despite the state-of-the-art LORAN, satellites, and radar operated by the U.S. Army on the same site, the flashing red and white beacon of the Cape Henry lighthouse is still the mariner’s best friend on a foggy night.
Also at Fort Story is a 0.25-acre site with the granite First Landing Cross, a granite Battle Off the Capes Monument, and a statue of Admiral Comte deGrasse, commander of a French Navy fleet in the Revolutionary War. The cross is a replica of the wooden cross erected by English colonists when they first came ashore near this spot in 1607. The monument commemorates the cannon battle off Cape Henry and Cape Charles as the French Navy successfully kept the British Navy from relieving General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, helping to bring about Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown. This site is an extension of the Colonial National Historical Park at Jamestown and Yorktown. A walkway leads to an overlook on the dunes, where there is a view of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. There are no other Facilities.
A public beach, which is open to the public from Friday through Monday, fronts the Atlantic Ocean. Have your driver’s license and car registration handy in case you’re asked for it when you receive your pass at the entrance. Otherwise, there are no restrictions to people who would like to enter this small fort.Fort Story is a training facility for the U.S. Army’s 11th Transportation Battalion and a testing site for new transportation equipment. The miles of sandy beaches at Cape Henry provide perfect condtions for what is called logistics-over-the-shore (LOTS) training.
[Fig. 6(3)] The U.S. Navy houses its most sophisticated aircraft at the Oceana Naval Air Station, including the F-18 Hornets and F-14 Tomcat fighter planes. From observation points on the perimeter roads, you can watch jets of the 22 aviation squadrons take off and land every few minutes. You may also drive on the base by showing a driver’s license and car registration. Several Navy airplanes are on display at the Aviation Historical Park just inside the main gate. Tours of the air station are also available during the summer.
[Fig. 6(4)] The U.S. Navy SEALS train at this amphibious base. Like other military bases in the area, Little Creek opened its grounds to the public in 1995. On weekends, one or more ships may be boarded and during the Christmas holiday season, ships are decorated with lights.
[Fig. 6(5)] It would be hard to imagine a more perfect family entertainment spot than the Virginia Marine Science Museum. Both adults and children lean over the touch tanks to stroke the backs of stingrays or examine a starfish or a hermit crab in its shell.Teenagers, their faces reflecting the blue water and gold light of the 300,000-gallon Norfolk Canyon Aquarium, are mesmerized by the sight of sharks, barracuda, and crevalle jack at eye level. Giant loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta), an endangered species, look prehistoric in the 70,000-gallon sea turtle aquarium.What better way to learn the traditional art of oyster tonging than to try it with authentic oyster tongers? Visitors can also get into a simulated diving bell and experience what it’s like to descend to the ocean depths. Some 300 such Activities invite a hands-on approach to learning.Words such as amazing or unbelievable or incredible are insufficient to describe the six-story-high IMAX theater. Special 3D glasses give a realistic third dimension to the two-dimensional images on the screen. Members of the audience reach into the empty air in front of them in an attempt to touch the kelp forests and schools of fishes that appear to be around them.Between the pavilions of the museum, a nature trail winds through a salt marsh where a lesser yellowlegs (Totanus flavipes) preens its feathers and the heads of turtles poke above the briny waters. A 40-foot-high observation tower gives a more expansive view of the marsh and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. The trail connects the first building with another, the Owls Creek Marsh Pavilion. At this pavilion, river otters with boundless energy play in a habitat where the underwater world is a part of the show.Visitors can sign up for boat trips to watch whales and dolphins, too. Whale watching is best during the months of January and February.
[Fig. 6(6), Fig. 6(7)] Bay Back National Wildlife Refuge, tucked away in Virginia’s southeastern corner, is like a friend that grows on you. Each visit turns up some new facet of Back Bay’s personality. The 4,608-acre refuge is located south of Sandbridge on a narrow peninsula that fronts the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Back Bay to the west. False Cape State Park lies on the southern end of the refuge.Even the 1-mile entrance road between the pay booth and the visitor center can be fascinating. In spring, young red foxes play on the dunes in plain sight of bikers and motorists. Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), and yellow-breasted chats (Icteria virens) call from the shrubby thickets of wax myrtle, bayberry, and persimmon. Turtles sun themselves on logs and white-tailed deer stand like statues in the distance.From the parking area at the visitor center, you can take a network of boardwalks and sandy paths along Back Bay and through dense forests. If it’s spring, there are sure to be osprey nests on platforms out in the bay. Also watch for otters surfacing and diving. Wild horses are sometimes grazing the fields around the visitor center. The air may be full of swooping purple martins, which make good use of the many apartment-style birdhouses in front of the center.A pond near the parking lot is full of lily pads where green frogs and painted turtles live. You may see a preening greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca) or a yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) as you round a bend on the boardwalk trail. The prints of raccoons and many smaller critters are evidence of nocturnal goings-on in the muck of Back Bay. The Seaside Dune Trail leads to an entirely different habitat on the oceanfront, where you can watch ghost crabs (Ocypode quadrata), Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), and semipalmated sandpipers (Ereunetes pusillus) foraging on the beach.Some 20,000 snow geese (Chen caerulescens) and a tremendous variety of migratory ducks hang out in the refuge during the annual fall migration and during winter months. Occasionally, a lucky visitor even gets to see an endangered species using the refuge, such as a loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta), piping plover (Charadrius melodus), peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), or bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).The marshland is ideal for snakes such as brown and northern water snakes, black rat snakes, and Eastern hognose snakes. The southeastern corner of Virginia is the only place where the poisonous cottonmouth moccasin is found in the state. Although it is a common sight, it poses no threat to humans if it is left undisturbed.From the refuge, visitors can hike, bike, or take the tram 3 miles south to False Cape State Park. Those who wish to camp at False Cape can leave their vehicles at Little Island Park at the southern end of Sandbridge, just north of the Back Bay entrance. Camping is primitive. Pets are prohibited in the refuge but may be brought by boat to the park.False Cape got its name from its resemblance to Cape Henry, which is located at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay to the north. In the 1800s, many ships went aground as captains were lured into shallow water. The 4,321-acre park has nearly 6 miles of pristine beachfront. Five hiking and biking trails totaling 7.5 miles lead from beaches and dunes into maritime forests of oak and pine, then through swamps and marshes to Back Bay. The Barbour Hill Nature Trail is a 2.4-mile self-guided path that explores a variety of False Cape habitats, including loblolly pine forest, scrublands, and wetlands. An observation tower provides an expansive view of the area.
[Fig. 6(8)] With an amazing patchwork of public and private lands, the Virginia Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation have arranged for protection of 6,200 acres of wetlands along the North Landing River in the southwestern corner of the state. The North Landing River is home to four rare animal species, 35 rare plant species, and four natural communities rare in Virginia, including white-cedar swamp, canebrakes, freshwater to brackish tidal marshes, and pocosins. The preserve also lies in the path of the Atlantic Flyway, providing an important link of rest stops for migrating waterfowl.In North Landing River and the nearby Great Dismal Swamp are some of the last holdouts in Virginia for bog-like forested or shrubby wetlands called pocosins. Pocosins, when burned on a regular basis, support a natural community of unusual plant species including sphagnum moss (Sphagnum), Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides), fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), and Virginia chain fern (Woodwardia virginica). Ditching has destroyed most pocosins in the state.Although protection of habitat is of prime consideration here, public interests have not been forgotten. A 10-foot-high observation deck has been erected at the mouth of Pocaty Creek, rewarding canoeists with a sweeping view of the marshlands. A 1,000-foot boardwalk in the southern part of the preserve leads through forested swamp and open marsh. Interpretive signs help visitors understand this freshwater wind-tide marsh. Winds from the north push the river out into Currituck Sound, resulting in mud flats, while south winds push the water back into the creeks and guts along the river. A wide variety of plants and animals that are uniquely suited to the complex ecosystem have evolved over time.Flatwater canoeists and kayakers can explore the preserve several ways. The put-in for the Pocaty Creek Canoe Trail is at a bridge on Blackwater Road. The trail consists of a 2-mile paddle (one way) to the creek’s confluence with the North Landing River and back. At the far end is the observation deck.A 0.5-mile carry over a wide footpath and boardwalk through wetland forest is necessary to access the Altons Creek Canoe Trail. The trail follows Altons Creek about 2.5 miles to its mouth on the North Landing River. Canoeists can also put in at Blackwater Creek, a North Landing River tributary that bisects Blackwater Road just south of the juncture with Pungo Ferry Road. Brochures with maps of the Pocaty Creek and Altons Creek canoe trails in the preserve are available from Department of Conservation and Recreation or from The Nature Conservancy.
[Fig. 6(9)] Three tracts of land totaling 1,546 acres on Back Bay in southern Virginia Beach make up the Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area. Two of the tracts—Whitehurst and Trojan—are on the western shore of the bay. The Pocahontas Tract is composed of several marshy islands just north of the North Carolina line.Biologists manipulate water levels of several impoundments on the Whitehurst tract to provide ideal growing conditions for plants that attract waterfowl. Nesting platforms and boxes as well as planted fields further enhance the waterfowl habitat.Several stationary and floating blinds for hunters here and at False Cape State Park on the eastern side of Back Bay are carefully controlled by lottery and seasonal passes, which are available from the area headquarters at the Trojan Tract. A boat ramp is also located at the headquarters. White perch are the primary fish in the brackish water of Back Bay, while largemouth bass and bluegill live in the feeder creeks. There is also good fishing for channel catfish during the spring spawn.
[Fig. 6(11)] Lifeguards are on duty from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from mid-May to mid-September at the Virginia Beach resort strip, which stretches from 1st Street to 38th Street. Rental chairs, rafts, and umbrellas are available at the lifeguard stands at each block. Parking is available under the Rudee Inlet Bridge at 4th Street, as well as at 9th Street and Pacific Avenue, at 18th and 19th streets and Pacific Avenue, and at 25th Street and Pacific Avenue. Public restrooms are at 2nd, 17th, 24th, and 30th streets.
Surfers, who are prohibited from using Virginia Beach from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., are allowed to surf at Croatan Beach [Fig. 6(13)] all day. This beach is located just south of the resort area and Rudee Inlet. Go south on Atlantic Avenue, which becomes General Booth Boulevard. Continue about 0.5 mile and turn left onto Croatan Road to access the beach. Lifeguards are on duty at the northern end of the beach, which is also the area where surfers are allowed.
Sandbridge Beach [Fig. 6(10)] is a 5-mile stretch of lightly used oceanfront at Sandbridge, south of the resort area. (From the southern end of the resort area, take General Booth Boulevard to Princess Anne Road to Sandbridge Road and follow the signs.) Public parking, restrooms, and lifeguarded sections of beach are available at both ends of Sandfiddler Road, including a beach at Little Island Park between the southern end of Sandbridge and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Signs along Sandfiddler Road identify public access points for the beaches, but parking can be hard to come by away from the lifeguarded beach areas. Little Island Park has a fishing pier, snack bar, shaded picnic areas, and a playground. A bait and tackle shop is across the street. The wildlife refuge and False Cape State Park south of the refuge also have beaches.
North Virginia Beach is an unguarded stretch of the Atlantic between 40th Street and 80th Street in Virginia Beach. There are no public Facilities or lifeguards and parking may be hard to find.
The Fort Story Beach, which is open to the public from Friday through Monday, is located at the northern end of the resort area inside Fort Story. The wide, fairly remote beach has free parking and a portable toilet. Lifeguards are on duty during summer months.
The beaches of the Chesapeake Bay, with their gentle waves and smaller crowds, are an excellent place to introduce young children to the ocean or to launch kayaks and sailboats. First Landing State Park has a beach on the bay off Shore Drive (US 60), just west of Fort Story. There is also a ranger station and restroom here. Chesapeake Beach [Fig. 6(12)] is located on the bay side of Shore Drive between the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (US 13) and Fort Story. One of the best places to access it is just west of the Lesner Bridge, where Shore Drive crosses Lynnhaven Inlet. Park on the side streets and walk across the dune. Chick’s Beach Sailing Center (757-460-2238) at 3716 Shore Drive is on the northwest side of the Lesner Bridge.
Fresh oysters, crabs, shrimp, striped bass, flounder, spot, and trout are highlights at Virginia Beach restaurants. Here are a few suggestions of popular places to eat:
Alexander’s on the Bay. 4536 Ocean View Avenue, Virginia Beach. The menu at this upscale restaurant features Cape Henry rockfish, seafood Madagascar, blackened tuna, and Cajun scallops Provencal. Views are of the Chesapeake Bay and bridge-tunnel. Moderate to expensive. Phone (757) 464-4999.
Croc’s Mighty Nice Grill. 19th Street and Cypress Avenue, Virginia Beach. On the menu are seafood, pastas, sandwiches, and other items in keeping with the Caribbean theme such as red baby back ribs, bayou pasta, and catfish cutter. Kids’ meals. Moderate to expensive. Phone (757) 428-5444.
The Happy Crab Restaurant and Oyster Shucking Bar. 550 Laskin Road, Virginia Beach. Seafood items include crabs, scallops, oysters, clams, and shrimp. Located on Little Neck Creek. Reservations are recommended. Casual. Moderate to expensive. Phone (757) 437-9200.
Hot Tuna. 2817 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach. This restaurant specializes in fresh yellowfin tuna, black Angus beef, and pasta dishes. Local entertainment. Recommended by Southern Living Magazine and voted first place by the local Choice Awards. Moderate. Phone (757) 481-2888.
II Giardino Ristorante. 910 Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Upscale, beautifully decorated Italian restaurant in the resort area, known for its variety, service, and sumptuous dessert cart. Open-air cafe. Piano bar. Moderate. Phone (757) 422-6464.
Rudee’s Restaurant & Raw Bar. 227 Mediterranean Avenue, Virginia Beach. Housed in a replica of a Coast Guard station, this casual restaurant overlooks busy Rudee Inlet on the southern end of the resort area. Open year-round. Moderate. Phone (757) 425-1777.
There’s no easier place to find lodging than Virginia Beach, with its 11,000 hotel rooms, as well as rental cottages, bed and breakfast inns, and campgrounds. On Sandbridge Beach, Siebert Realty (800-231-3037) and Sandbridge Realty (800-933-4800) manage most of the rental cottages. Two services handle reservations for Virginia Beach motels and hotels: City of Virginia Beach Reservations (800-VA BEACH), and Virginia Beach Central Reservations (800-ROOMS VB).
Blue Marlin Motel. 2211 Pacific Avenue, Virginia Beach. Located in the resort area. Outdoor pool, bicycles. Children free. Inexpensive to moderate. Phone (800) 643-3230.
Captains Quarters Resort Hotel. 304 28th Street, Virginia Beach. Located in the resort area. Outdoor pool, hot tub/Jacuzzi, bicycles. Expensive. Phone (800) 333-6020.
Colonial Inn. 29th Street and Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Located in the resort area. Pool, hot tub/Jacuzzi/kiddie pool, oceanfront rooms with balconies available. Children free. Moderate. Phone (800) 344-3342.
Days Inn Oceanfront. 32nd Street and Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Located in the resort area. Indoor pool, hot tub/Jacuzzi, game room. Oceanfront rooms with balconies are available. Children free. Expensive. Phone (800) 292-3297.
Econo Lodge at Bay Beach. 2968 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach. Located on the Chesapeake Bay. Outdoor pool, tennis. Children free. Moderate. Phone (800) 553-2666.
Ocean Holiday Hotel. 25th Street and Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Located in resort area. In-room Jacuzzi. Expensive. Phone (800) 345-7263.
Ramada Plaza Resort. 57th Street and Atlantic Avenue, Virginia Beach. Oceanfront. Outdoor and indoor pool, hot tub/Jacuzzi, bicycles, exercise room, pub. Expensive. Phone (800) 365-3032.
In addition to campgrounds at First Landing State Park and False Cape State Park, several private campgrounds are located in Virginia Beach.
Holiday TRAV-L-PARK. 1075 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach. 700 sites, hookups, 14 cabins, pool, restrooms/showers, camp store, playground. Phone (800) 548-0223.
North Bay Shore Campground. 3257 Colchester Road, Virginia Beach. 165 sites, 4 cabins, hookups, pool, restrooms/showers, camp store, boat ramp, playground. Phone (757) 426-7911.
Outdoor Resorts Virginia Beach RV Resort. 3655 South Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach. 250 sites, hookups, pool, restrooms/showers, boat ramp, tennis court. Phone (800) 333-7515.
Virginia Beach KOA Campground. 1240 General Booth Boulevard, Virginia Beach. 497 sites, hookups, 13 cabins, pool, restrooms/showers, camp store, playground. Phone (800) 562-4150.
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