Sandbridge Beach is more likely to remind you of a stretch of Caribbean shoreline than America’s east coast. It’s just one of Virginia Beach’s three distinct beaches, and one that we return to again and again. We like to visit this pretty town every year because with all the things to do and see—water sports, nature treks, world class dining, boardwalk excursions and indulgent views—we always run out of time to try everything.
George Washington authorized it and today the Cape Henry Lighthouse, completed in 1792, is one of the oldest standing lighthouses in the country. We’re excited to tell you that today you can climb this National Historic Landmark. Rest assured, the trek pays off with awe-inspiring views of the Chesapeake Bay and a second lighthouse, built almost a century later 350 feet away.
We humans aren’t the only ones who come out for the foliage. Stumpy Lake is just one of the many areas where you can catch sight of some of the region’s most stunning wildlife. Lucky visitors have spotted everything from shorebirds to songbirds to the famed snow geese population and from otters to foxes and even the occasional bald eagle and wild horse.
Chesapeake Bay Beach is known as a waterman’s paradise, so you can bet there’s plenty to keep beach and boat enthusiasts busy until sunset. (We love the oyster-farm boat tour.) Those who prefer to stay dry can climb the Cape Henry Lighthouse or wander First Landing State Park’s winding trails. When night approaches, there are lots of options if you want to stick around, like dockside seafood restaurants that offer unbelievable sunset views.
Nothing works up an appetite on the way to dinner like a boat ride. We love the kayak commute through the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge offered by Surf & Adventure Co.’s Sunset Dinner Tour. The incredible meals of local seafood at Blue Pete’s, the dining institution where the ride ends, seal the deal.
The diverse landscape within the 4,321 acres of False Cape State Park includes six miles of beachfront, dunes, woodland, salt marsh, and swamp. We think a quiet, mellow kayak ride is the best way to take it all in.
While we know you know about Virginia Beach’s water adventures and the fun to be had on land, you might not yet know about the airborne activities. Up in the sky at Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium, courageous kids over the age of five can whoosh along ziplines and climb along a network of tree top bridges.
Virginia is well known as the Striped Bass Capital of the World, but there’s more than rockfish (as it’s locally known), to be found in the Chesapeake Bay, the U.S.’s largest and most biologically diverse estuary. From the four fishing piers, lucky anglers can catch flounder, sea bass, trout and more. If lazing about on the dock isn’t your thing, check out one of the charter fishing experiences.
Water sports is the name of the game at Virginia Beach. We love standup paddleboarding (AKA: SUP) and good old fashioned surfing on the Chesapeake Bay’s gentle waves, but also not to be missed: swimming, boogie-boarding, windsurfing, hydro-boarding, jet-skiing, parasailing, kayaking, sailing and more.
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From water sports to strolling the three-mile boardwalk to cycling through miles of trails around Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park, there’s plenty to keep us moving. But when we want to just kick back and chill, we never have to look too far to find a quiet place to just enjoy the view.
Don’t blink or you’ll miss something! In addition to all the bird-watching opportunities, there’s wildlife galore, especially during the fall and winter. (Be on the lookout for feral pigs and wild horses!) But one of our favorite sights is the good old horizon. Pro tip: Virginia Beach is one of the rare spots on Earth where you can see the sun rise and set from the same location in the same day.
We love that we can travel to Virginia Beach with absolutely anybody. There’s plenty of sports for active types, tranquil beaches where kids can have a ball, and a lively boardwalk with a carnival-like atmosphere by day and vibrant nightlife after dark for those weekends with gal pals. And, of course, there are plenty of quiet moments to share with a loved one.
With its mile-plus of beachfront, protected salt marsh habitat, dunes, freshwater ponds, and much more, we have a tough time deciding how to spend our days at First Landing State Park, a National Historic Landmark and National Nature Landmark. We like it all so much, in fact, that we're big fans of renting one of the 20 cabins right on site.
Courtesy of Virginia Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau
Sure, we know it for the fishing, but Virginia Beach is actually minutes from 8,000 acres of farmland, including 16 You-Pick farms. We think the best way to get a taste of the local bounty is a meal at Commune, the area’s first farmer-owned restaurant. The menu is harvest-driven, the sodas are hand-made, and the beer is local. It’s farm-to-table at its most delicious.
Andi Grant/Courtesy of Commune
Before the day's first coffee is brewed or beach towel is laid out on the sand, early risers are treated to a one of nature's most stunning shows. It's just one of the many fringe benefits when you stay in one of the oceanside rental homes or condos.
There’s oysters and then there’s Lynnhaven oysters, the oversized bivalves that have been served to presidents throughout history. We love going straight to the source with a Pleasure House Oysters boat tour on the Lynnhaven River, especially because the ride ends with a Chef’s Table experience right on the water.
Courtesy of Virginia Beach Tourism
Everyone talks about eating local, but the people in Virginia Beach know the importance of drinking local, too. Since 2005, Chesapeake Bay Distillery has been turning out spirits made with locally sourced ingredients. Stop by for a tour (Saturday only) and sample their products (any day), including their intriguing Ghost Pepper Vodka, in the tasting room.
Virginia Beach takes craft beer very seriously, and we think that makes for great fun. Throughout the three beaches, suds lovers will find an embarrassment of riches when it comes to locally made brews and laid-back brewpubs.
Courtesy of Commonwealth Brewing Company
Striped bass, locally known as rockfish, is the star of the region’s seafood scene, but with a wildly diverse estuary and hundreds of inlets throughout the city, Virginia Beach is a dining destination that offers an array of fish and bivalbes, especially during the fall and winter seasons. Locals point us to time-tested institutions, like Margie and Ray’s (pictured) at Sandbridge Beach, which offers an epic seafood menu.
Courtesy of Virginia Beach Tourism
Whether we’re after a quick pick-me-up or a long, lingering afternoon retreat, Virginia Beach’s coffee houses delivery every time. Each one, like Three Ships Coffee (pictured), boasts a relaxed vibe, stylish décor and, of course, exquisitely crafted coffee and espresso drinks, often brewed with locally roasted beans.
Courtesy of Three Ships Coffee Roasters
From the beautiful stretches of warm sand to awesome outdoor adventures and world-class cuisine, Virginia Beach in autumn is perfect for couples seeking a gorgeous getaway.