Virginia beaches Virginia beaches

Coastal Bliss: Dive into Summer with the 15 Best Virginia Beaches for Fun

In the mid-Atlantic lies the coastal state of Virginia, with various beaches and warm, swimmable waters. There is a barrier island in the Atlantic, Assateague Island, and mainland Virginia is separated from this territory by the Chesapeake Bay.

From the ever-bustling Virginia Beach ocean to the calm, pristine waters of the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake Bay. Beaches in Virginia offer exciting things to do, like surfing, kayaking, boating, fishing, and more.

We are providing you with a list of the best beaches in Virginia, lined across the Atlantic side, from the Chesapeake Bay and a few other hidden gems of the state.

Best Beaches in Virginia for You to Explore

1. Virginia Beach

It is the most popular beach, with more than 19 million visitors each year. Though Virginia Beach is a city with many beaches on its coastline, this is the main beach you can access easily through the boardwalk.

You can relax on the sand while you watch a surfing competition or listen to live music. You can also learn snorkeling, play beach volleyball, or ride a bike along the Back Bay National Refuge.

This family-friendly beach is filled with people, and a stroll along the boardwalk will take you on a shopping spree and a journey of delicious food with the many shops and restaurants.

2. Sandbridge Beach

If you do not like the crowd in Virginia Beach, a visit to Sandbridge is a must. Often referred to as the “Outer Banks of Virginia” due to its location, this beach does not have any hotels in the area but offers rentals and condos. More popular with the locals, this beach has a smaller crowd of out-of-town visitors.

Located on the Currituck’s Banks Peninsula, this beach views the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the peninsula and the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park on the other side.

Little Island Park, located at the southern tip of this 4.5-mile beach, is the place to visit with family. The blue waters are good for swimming with lifeguards on a careful watch.

3. Assateague Island National Seashore

Virginia shares a barrier island just off the Delmarva coast, the Assateague Island, along with Maryland. Of the 37-mile-long beach, one-third of it lies in Virginia, known for the wild Chincoteague Ponies of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

Most of the Assateague Island National Seashore is located in Maryland, but the natural coastline in Virginia is famous for its feral horses, beautiful ocean waters, and the Assateague Lighthouse.

The Island offers many things to explore, including marshes, bays, and coves. You can also climb the 1867 Assateague lighthouse, which gives panoramic views of the ocean and preserved nature of the place.

4. Bethel Beach

Located close to the Chesapeake Bay, Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve is a 105-acre diverse habitat. With salt marshes, constantly changing low dunes, and thriving wildlife, Bethel Beach offers an adventure.

Rather than a full- day at the beach, this place is better for a short day visit due to the lack of restrooms, changing facilities, or trash bins. This pristine beach is a preserved area with protected habitats.

It is a wonderful place for hiking, bird watching, and exploring lagoons, swamps, bays, and water channels. While this beach is open to the public, some sections may be closed during certain seasons to protect wildlife.

A beach view with two recliners on the seashore with sunlight falling on them.
Source: Depositphotos

5. Cape Charles Beach

Located on the Eastern Shore of Chesapeake Bay is Cape Charles Beach. This beach is lesser-known among the other beaches mentioned here. The less populace among all Virginia beaches makes it one of the best beaches to visit.

The Cape Charles beach offers easy accessibility to various water sports. The calm, shallow waters with almost no waves make it one of the best spots for families with kids to enjoy the water safely.

There are two sunset viewpoint platforms with benches to relax while watching the beautiful view. The old beach town of Cape Charles also offers a historical tour and several shops and restaurants to visit. You can also spend some time fishing.

Cape Charles Beach offers a worthy visit, but the lodging situation is limited to small bed-and-breakfasts. Just 10 miles north of Cape Charles Beach, you can find the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which offers a pet-friendly visit. The Kiptopeke State Park is also nearby and houses a public beach and a bathhouse.

6. First Landing State Park

The most visited state park in Virginia is the 2,888-acre First Landing State Park. This is said to be the first place English settlers stepped on American land.

This coastal place offers an overnight camping site and other activities like swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking. This quarter-mile stretch beach is located on the Chesapeake Bay with swimming restricted to certain areas and provides picnic areas. The beach is usually uncrowded and offers warm and calm waters for children to enjoy.

This white sand beach is worth a visit with your family and kids for an adventurous getaway.

A boardwalk beside a waterbody.
Source: Shutterstock

7. Colonial Beach

In Northern Virginia, Colonial Beach is located in Westmoreland County between the Potomac River and Monroe Bay. With the second-largest beachfront in Virginia, Colonial Beach offers a full-day itinerary filled with several exciting activities. You can go swimming, fishing, boating and have fun with various water sports.

The surrounding town gives a unique history experience as one of the few seaport towns left in the Potomac River. It is also the birthplace of George Washington! So, visit Colonial Beach on your visit to Virginia to experience history and the beach.

8. Ocean View Beach

In the area of Norfolk of Chesapeake Bay is the 7.5-mile stretch of Ocean View Beach. There is plenty of coastline space for sand combing, building sandcastles, sunbathing, and swimming. This is one of the best places for crabbing and fishing, with several large commercial piers tackling piers and bait shops.

It is one of the well-organized beaches and parks. It accommodates several shady trees, picnic tables, gazebos, and a bathhouse. It also offers ease of convenience of parking, beach, restaurants, lodging, and swimming nearby.

Ocean View Beach offers a full day of activity with a jog or stroll on the flat sands of the beach, and the relatively calm bay waters provide water activities for kids like paddleboarding and kayaking.

9. Buckroe Beach

Just north of Fort Monroe in Virginia is Buckroe Beach, a Chesapeake Bay beach.

With a coastline of nearly a mile long, this beach offers a lot of excitement. You can find Sheltered picnic areas with grills and tables, hiking trails, biking paths, and warm waters for a good swim.

There is ample amount of parking space and many lifeguards on duty for safety. Buckroe Beach is also a good spot for beautiful sunset views, ocean life watching, and seeing ships preparing for their port arrival.

You can also spend a whole day on the water with many activities like kayaking, paddleboarding, and jet skiing. It is also a host of numerous summer events like Bay concerts, outdoor movies, and more.

A beach with water splashing during the sunset.
Photo by Camille Minouflet on Unsplash

10. Chesapeake Beach

Also known as Chic’s Beach, Chesapeake Beach is one of the most popular Virginia beaches. Stretching over 2 miles from Lynnhaven Inlet to Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, this beach has an immense history.

It was once a lookout spot in World War 2, and later, in the 1900s, it was developed as a beachfront. It has maintained its popularity through the ages. While at Chic’s Beach, you can go kitesurfing, paddleboarding, jet skiing, boating, and hiking. You can also relax on the sand, build sandcastles, or run around playing with your dog.

One of the best things about Chesapeake Beach is the ice cream and limeade. Be sure to try it!

Maho Bay: A Hidden Gem Among the US Virgin Islands Beaches

Viola Sender, the Founder of Away to the City, offers information on one of the most popular and unique beaches in the US Virgin Islands:

“[When] it comes to the stunning beaches of the US Virgin Islands, Maho Bay in Cruz Bay steals the spotlight for me!

While Trunk Bay and Magens Bay draw the crowds, Maho Bay is a less-explored spot appreciated by locals and those who are well-acquainted with the area.

The shallow and calm water makes it ideal for a swim or snorkeling. We’ve encountered everything from giant sea turtles and pelicans to starfish and crabs along the shoreline.

Venture to the other side of the street, and you’ll find small shops, a food truck, and a laid-back Tiki bar. It’s not overcrowded and has ample parking.

The crystal-clear waters, lush mountains, and local wildlife create a stunning backdrop – truly a hidden gem!”

Viola Sender
Viola Sender

11. Kiptopeke State Park

On Virginia’s eastern shore is the Kiptopeke State Park, which has access to the Chesapeake Bay and offers a wide range of recreational activities to enjoy.

Until 1964, Virginia Ferry Corporation used this beach as a terminus for the Little Cape-Creek Charles Ferry. Along with a touch of history, this park has 5-mile-long biking and hiking trails, a fishing pier, a kid’s playground, and several picnic areas.

Kiptopeke State Park has a campground, a bunker house, and comfortable cabins to stay in while you enjoy a view of migratory birds. This serene place is one of the best places to visit if you want to unwind with nature.

12. Belle Isle Beach

In the middle of Belle Isle Historical Park is the unique Belle Isle beach. Unlike the Virginia Beaches on this list, this beach is called an urban beach because instead of sands, the beach is lined with flat rocks.

The rapid waters make it difficult to swim, but you can sunbathe while lying on the rocks and soak your feet in the water to relax. When you are looking for a change from the sands and calm waters of the beach, drop a visit to Belle Isle Beach.

This 54-acre park was once a Native American fishing village. With a few historical structures and many hiking trails, this park and urban beach are a must-visit.

13. North End Beach

North End Beach is a quiet place to relax on the sand and play in the water while avoiding a crowd. This is a great dog-friendly and family beach.

This beach has two lighthouses, the Cape-Henry Lighthouses. One of the Cape Henry Lighthouses was first commissioned in 1792, while the other is still being used today and was commissioned in 1881. You can climb up the stairway in the Lighthouses to find beautiful views of the ocean and the other lighthouse nearby.

This beach may lack a few facilities found on other Virginia beaches, as locals mostly use it. It may also be difficult to find parking for your car due to resident’s parking. The Lighthouses are located in Fort Story Military base and hence may require certain identification for entry.

silhouettes of palm trees beside a beach.
Source: Shutterstock

14. Smith Mountain Lake Beach

Smith Mountain Lake is the second-largest lake in Virginia, and it is popular with families and water sports enthusiasts.

The freshwater beaches have plenty of activities like on-site boat rentals, a fishing pier, hiking and biking trails, and picnic shelters. You can also go jet skiing and camping. There is also a nature center and an amphitheater to enjoy live music and explore.

Visit Smith Mountain Lake beach for a day pleasant day in or near water. Soak up the sun while you lay on the soft sand beach and enjoy a cool breeze from the lake.

15. Kerr Lake

Kerr Lake offers a stay with nature. The largest lake in Virginia, with 50,000 acres of freshwater, Kerr Lake is located on Buggs Island in Klark’s Ville. It has more than 800 miles of shoreline around the lake, offering a stay away from the rush of the ocean beaches.

This lake beach offers several recreational activities like a picnic in the wilderness, a scenic boat ride, freshwater fishing, and golf. Take your kids to the Tanner Center on the reservoir to see butterflies and live snakes.

You can also take a hike in the Occoneechee State Park to get plenty of fresh air and exercise. Escape the crowds of the oceans to enjoy the lake shoreline. Spend some languid days before you return to the hustle and bustle.

Adventure Awaits: Exploring Water Sports at Magen’s Bay, US Virgin Islands

Steve Laurel from Blackbeard Marine.net, provides recommendations for activities like snorkeling, kayaking, or paddleboarding at Magen’s Bay:

“As an experienced water sports instructor who has worked extensively in the US Virgin Islands, including Magen’s Bay, I have a deep understanding of the exhilarating water activities in the area.

Paddleboarding and kayaking are popular activities at Magen’s Bay due to the calm and clear waters. It’s tranquil and offers an excellent way for [both] beginners and experienced adventurers to connect with nature.

Snorkeling is also a unique experience here. The rich marine biodiversity [harbored] in these Caribbean waters provides snorkelers with an unforgettable underwater spectacle. For thrill-seekers, [windsurfing and jet skiing are also offered by local vendors], subject to the beach’s conditions [on the day].

Furthermore, as a sailing enthusiast, I can assure you that sailing to nearby islands like Hans Lollik Island makes for a delightful day trip. Whichever activity you choose, keep safety and conservation [front of] mind.

Adhere to [guidance from professionals], respect marine life, and leave no trace to preserve the richness of the bay for future visitors.”

Steve Laurel
Steve Laurel

Closing Thoughts

Virginia Beach offers an amazing beach vacation on many of its beautiful beaches along the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay. These beaches offer exciting activities to fill your itinerary for the day or a week.

Besides the many ocean beaches in Virginia, Kerr Lake and Smith Mountain Lake also make a worthy visit.

Explore nature and see the wild feral of Assateague Island National Seashore. The unique flat rock beach of Belle Isle Beach is also an intriguing visit.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar


6 Epic Places You Must Visit In Virginia

USA Tales

Last Updated on January 13, 2024 by Saket Kumar

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  1. I didn’t know about this. First of all i didn’t knew that there are two types of sand. So its kind of a new info and an another wish I include in my Bucket list. I will visit these beaches when i will go to America.

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