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Virginia beaches range in size from large to small, from ocean to freshwater, and some include the excitement of nearby small-town eateries or a pet-friendly day on the sand.
The proximity of Virginia's beaches to densely populated areas drew vacationers to the state long before air travel became so common.
On weekends, during spring break, and during the summer months, crowds frequently gather at the more popular beaches. You can find tranquility if you seek it, as the smell of the sea adds to the enjoyment of feeling the sand between your toes.
Now, if you're looking for ideas on where to go to relax on the beach, check out this list of the 19 best beaches in Virginia.
19 Best Beaches in Virginia
Our list of the best beaches in Virginia will help you find the best places to visit for a day in the sun.
Colonial Beach, Westmoreland County
Colonial Beach is a small seaport town in Virginia's Northern Neck region. Despite its proximity to Washington, D.C., and Virginia's second-largest coast, this family-friendly getaway is frequently overshadowed by the more popular beaches along the Atlantic Ocean.
But don't worry: Colonial Beach has many fun activities for everyone, whether you're swimming, sailing, or watching the sunrise. Cast a line from the Potomac River Beach or the Colonial Beach Municipal Pier.
This peaceful beach is accessible from the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and is ideal for leisurely reading and picnic lunches.
Read also: The 10 Private Beaches in Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach, named the longest pleasure beach in the world by Guinness World Records, is renowned for its exciting nightlife, affordable attractions, and family-friendly activities.
When you consider these highlights, along with the breathtaking Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean coastlines, it's easy to see why Virginia Beach is a favorite among visitors.
There are many activities to enjoy in Virginia Beach, such as rollerblading down the city's famed 3-mile-long boardwalk, stopping at the King Neptune Statue for a photo op, or surfing the fierce waves at the Oceanfront.
Sandbridge Beach, Virginia Beach
Sandbridge Beach might be a wise choice for you if you like the idea of Virginia Beach but not so much the crowds that are often associated with it. It has a 4.5-mile stretch of its own coastline, but it is still regarded as being a part of Virginia Beach. Infact, it is one of the best beaches in Virginia beach.
Sandbridge Beach offers a quieter experience that is great for families and beachgoers who simply prefer fewer people, despite being less well-known and less crowded than Virginia Beach.
The sand dunes, spectacular sunsets, and impressive Atlantic Ocean waves still make Sandbridge Beach a popular destination for tourists, despite the fact that there are fewer hotels, restaurants, and shops there.
If you're looking for other outdoor activities near Sandbridge Beach, try kayaking, fishing, or hiking at nearby False Cape State Park.
Visit historic Hampton for unparalleled views of the Chesapeake Bay. Buckroe Beach and Park have many convenient amenities, such as free parking and shuttle service, a beach wheelchair, a playground, and restrooms.
There are lots of things to do in Hampton, like Outlook Beach, a quiet option ideal for swimming and sunbathing, and Grandview Nature Preserve, offers excellent saltwater fishing as well as two plus miles of shoreline for lounging.
While Grandview is open all year, keep in mind that Factory Point (a sandy spit at the preserve's tip) closes for nesting shorebirds every summer.
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Buckroe Beach, Hampton
Buckroe Beach in Hampton, Coastal Virginia, is a nice alternative to Virginia Beach. Buckroe Beach has a nearly mile-long coastline with stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay. The public beach is not as crowded as Virginia Beach, and the surf is not as rough.
During the summer, lifeguards are on duty. This beach is ideal for watching sunsets, ocean wildlife, and ships approaching port. Buckroe Beach is a convenient beach with easy parking and an on-site retail shop where you can buy sunscreen, water, and snacks.
If you want to spend the day on the water, Hampton Watersports offers jet ski tours as well as kayak and paddleboard rentals. There are numerous hotels in Hampton, many of which include breakfast, such as the Hampton Inn Hampton-Newport News.
Cape Charles Beach, Chesapeake Bay
Cape Charles Beach is one of Virginia's lesser-known beaches, which is why it is one of the best to visit. It is located on the Chesapeake Bay's Eastern Shore. The public beach has calm, shallow waters, making it ideal for families and visitors who do not want to swim in the ocean waves.
If you're looking for a beach with easy access to water sports, Cape Charles Beach has several local outfitters who can book excursions for you. If you prefer to plan your own paddle outing in the bay, the outfitters also rent kayaks.
The beach is conveniently located just 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. It is pet-friendly and has different hours depending on the time of year, so check before you go.
Kiptopeke State Park is nearby and has a public beach as well as a bathhouse. Cape Charles is a historic town with boutique shops and small restaurants. In Cape Charles, the majority of lodging options are small bed-and-breakfasts, such as the Alyssa House Bed and Breakfast, which is housed in a renovated century-old home.
One of the most distinctive beach experiences in Virginia is on Chincoteague Island on the Eastern Shore, where the ocean and the local wildlife will make your day on the water even more enjoyable. Chincoteague Island is a National Wildlife Refuge where you can see wild horses swimming and native birds flying above.
The island is one of Virginia's most popular and is close to Assateague Island, which is also famous for its wild horses. Because Chincoteague is a barrier island, its topography is defined by naturally occurring dunes and grasses, making it one of the most scenic in the state.
There are numerous things to do in Chincoteague Island. The National Park Service manages the beach, which is ideal for swimming, sunbathing, beachcombing, and birding. There are always events and programs going on on the island that can spice up your day at the beach. The summer Pony Swim is the most anticipated event on the island. This is when wild horses swim from the Assateague Channel to the island, accompanied by a slew of activities.
Croatan Beach, Virginia
Croatan Beach is less than a mile long and popular with surfers, who have two designated spots to enjoy the waves. There are lifeguards on duty, and restrooms and showers are available.
It is far more peaceful than the nearby Virginia Beach boardwalk. Those interested in learning to surf can do so during the summer. Parking is charged, but the beach is free.
A fascinating piece of trivia – In 1898, it was purchased by a religious group for the development of a training center, but these plans were never realized.
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Kiptopeke State Park, Cape Charles
Kiptopeke State Park has become a popular recreational area after serving as the ferry terminal between Cape Charles and Little Creek. It is an excellent location for bird watching, hiking, and biking.
There is a fishing pier and good facilities for children, making it an ideal destination for families. Camping has grown in popularity, and wooden cabins and other forms of lodging are available for rent.
It is rarely crowded, making it ideal for those looking to unwind during their vacation.
Ocean View Beach, Norfolk
If you want the convenience of parking, restaurants, beach access, lodging, and swimming all in one location, you can easily find a nice public beach. Ocean View Park has a bathhouse and picnic tables if you want to spend the whole day at the beach.
If you want to fish, there are piers and tackle rentals available. If not, the Ocean View piers have some of the best people-watching in Norfolk.
Belle Isle Beach, Lancaster
Belle Isle Beach in Richmond is the best place in Virginia to have a truly unique “beach” experience. It is classified as an urban beach because, instead of sand and ocean waves, it has flat, natural rocks that locals enjoy lying on in the sun.
Swimming is not recommended due to the swift currents, but it is a great option if you just want to be near water and dip your feet in to cool off. The area around Belle Isle Beach is characterized by cliffs and small, calm, shallow pools of water.
Belle Isle Beach is situated in the heart of Richmond's Belle Isle Historic Park. It is a good option if you do not have the time to drive to the beach and spend the day there.
The park is situated on a 54-acre island that was once home to a Native American fishing village. There are hiking trails and historic sites to visit in addition to the spectacular urban beach.
Jamestown Beach, Williamsburg
Jamestown Beach, one of Virginia's best-kept beach secrets, is located close to the historic Jamestown Settlement. It has a beachfront park with conveniences like concessions, a pier, picnic areas, restrooms, and shaded areas. It is a family-friendly beach with lagoons and a nice park to escape the sun.
Jamestown Beach is an excellent addition if you're already at Historic Jamestown or Busch Gardens Williamsburg. The park charges non-residents a small day fee to enter.
Yorktown Beach, York County
Yorktown Beach has a two-acre shoreline and is located in historic Yorktown. This small beach is ideal for families because it is close to amenities such as restrooms and restaurants. In addition to the beachfront, there is a fishing pier and comfortable picnic areas.
Yorktown Beach is easily accessible. You can park in public lots in Yorktown and take a free shuttle to the beach. There are many fun things to do in Yorktown, with swimming being the most popular beach activity, but you can also rent kayaks and paddleboards from a local outfitter.
You can also take a sunset sail or a historical boat trip on the York River as an extra beach excursion.
Read also: Top 20 Dog-Friendly Beaches In Florida
Lake Anna State Park, Spotsylvania County
Lake Anna State Park in northern Virginia is the third-largest lake in the state and has 200 miles of shoreline. It has a public beach with lovely white sands. Except for the lack of waves, you'll think you're on the beach. Lake Anna has clean water, making it a pleasant place to swim and relax on the shore.
Water sports like wakeboarding, water skiing, and boating are also very popular on the lake. Around the lake, there are a number of marinas and outfitters where you can rent equipment for the day or schedule lessons to learn a brand-new water sport like wakeboarding.
Smith Mountain Lake Beach, Virginia
Smith Mountain Lake Beach has one of Virginia's most popular inshore beaches. It is the state's second-largest lake and is surrounded by a cottage community. The lake's freshwater beaches are ideal for families and water sports enthusiasts.
There are numerous swimming areas, and the lake is ideal for water sports such as jet skiing, boating, and fishing. There is a public fishing pier as well as numerous picnic areas. Smith Mountain Lake has camping facilities as well as plenty of trees where you can relax in the shade after a day on the water.
Westmoreland State Park, Westmoreland County
In Westmoreland County, the Westmoreland State Park stretches for 1.5 miles alongside the Potomac River. The park is preserved, creating a lovely space that people can appreciate and respect.
While there are plenty of other activities available, including camping, hiking trails, fishing, and wooden cabins for rent, you can choose to relax on the beach if you'd like.
Horsehead Cliffs offers picturesque views of the river, an impressive flow of water that is six miles wide at some points. This paradise spans more than 1,300 acres.
You are not far from the birthplaces of George Washington and Robert E. Lee if you enjoy history.
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First Landing State Park, Cape Henry
First Landing State Park offers one of the few public access points to the beach on the Chesapeake Bay. Families or anyone looking for a day at the beach without the Atlantic Ocean's surf should consider this beach. Additionally, compared to other beaches in Virginia, this one is less crowded.
Compared to the Virginia Atlantic Ocean beaches' hotel-dotted coastlines, First Landing State Park's beach is more picturesque in its natural state. Sand dunes, maritime forest, and native plants like shrubs line the coastline here.
You should bring insect repellant with you to the beach because this beach is more susceptible to insects due to its more natural surroundings.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Berlin
The Assateague Island National Seashore has a beach that is almost as famous for its wild ponies and natural landscape as it is for its beautiful ocean waters. The 37 miles of sandy shoreline stretch from Virginia to Maryland, with a distinct landscape and ecosystem.
The Chincoteague Ponies, made famous by the book Misty of Chincoteague, roam the area. This beach has plenty of space for catching some zzz's in the sun as well as other activities for when you need to take a break.
Bring binoculars and keep an eye out for rare migratory birds flying through the area, or simply close your eyes and listen for the sound of the ponies. Climb to the top of the 1867 Assateague Lighthouse for a panoramic view of the ocean and some of the state's best preserved natural scenery.
Bethel Beach, Mathews County
If you want to smell the salty air and feel the sea breeze, Bethel Beach has it all. It's in the Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve, which is surrounded by sand dunes and a narrow stretch of coastline.
This coastline is unique in that it changes all the time due to the winds that blow through it. Because the pristine beach is a preservation area, you will not find restrooms, trash cans, or changing areas.
A few hours at Bethel Beach are preferable to a full day at the shore. Due to the 185 species of native and migrating birds that call the lagoons, bay waters, and small channels home, you may be able to see some rare wildlife while you are here. The public is welcome at Bethel Beach, and gravel parking lots are close by.
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FAQs: Best Beaches In Virginia
Where is the clearest water in Virginia?
Lake Moomaw is Virginia's clearest lake. Located near the border of West Virginia, Loom Moomaw is a stunning mountain lake with nearly limitless adventure opportunities.
What is the most popular beach in Virginia?
Virginia Beach is the most popular beach in Virginia. Vacationers appreciate the easy access to the Atlantic Ocean.
What is the least crowded beach in Virginia?
- Sandbridge Beaach
- Chic's Beach
- First Landing State Park
Is Buckroe Beach a private beach?
It is a Public and Private Beach. Buckroe Beach has made major strides. It's a great beach for walking, sunbathing, and swimming (at your own risk). Despite the fact that it is a public beach, it is quiet and private enough to hear your own thoughts and listen to the waves.
Are the Hampton beaches private?
No, they are not.
Does Virginia have white sand beaches?
White sand beaches stretch along Virginia's Eastern Shore's northeastern coast, just a few miles from the charming town of Chincoteague.
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