Betsy and I like to visit towns we have never been to before and Virginia Beach fit that bill with an added bonus – one of my old high school friends lived there. The beaches here are famous and are a strong lure attracting people when the days get longer and the weather warmer. We quickly discovered the city is a dynamic mix of American history, beach fun, delicious seafood, and natural beauty.
We stayed at the First Landing State Park and quickly realized we made the right decision to stay here and not at a private park. The park was named “First Landing” as this was the site of the landing of the first permanent English Settlers in the U.S. in 1607. Upon first site of the area, they referred to it as a “desert” but we call it a sandy beach of fun.
|Beach boardwalk leading to miles of beach along the Chesapeake Bay.|
|The park's visitor center is a great place to learn about the early settlers.|
The park sits on 1,000+ acres in an appealing mix of beach, dunes, and maritime forest. We scored big with our campsite which backed right into the dunes and offered a spectacular view of the beach and Chesapeake Bay with lots of privacy.
The park turned out to be full of activities in its self – there is a visitor center with interpretive exhibits, over a mile and half of beach access, a boat ramp, and across the street from the campground is the Trail Center which is the launching point for over 20 miles of hiking/biking trails which were uncrowded and beautiful.
Dogs are allowed to be on the beach and trails so Spirits tail was wagging the entire time.
|A warm day hiking in the cypress swamp was followed by cooling off in the Chesapeake Bay.|
The ocean-front boardwalk in downtown Virginia Beach was a short ten minute drive from the park and we soon realized this is a popular spot. This is where visitors go to sit on the beach, rent a pedal-powered surrey, shop for beach souvenirs, grab a bite to eat, and just enjoy being in the warming spring sun. Strolling along the boardwalk, one cannot overlook the monuments and statues that highlight Virginia Beach's past and present.
|King Neptune - the 34-foot bronze statue highlights Virginia Beach's ties to the sea.|
|The Naval Aviation Monument Park recognizes the men and women who play a part in the area's rich|
naval aviation heritage.
Quietly tucked along the boardwalk were two museums that caught our attention. The first was the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum and Historic DeWitt Cottage. The museum is a fabulous collection of waterfowl decoys and carvings housed in the 1895 cottage that claims to be the city’s oldest remaining structure on the oceanfront. The museum is free and well worth a few minutes of your time to read about the rich wildfowl history of the area. On the grounds you will also find Virginia Beach’s first library, historic gardens and an old boathouse.
The second museum we visited was the Old Coast Guard Station. This former U.S. Life-Saving Station (the predecessor to the U.S. Coast Guard) was built in 1903 and serves as a museum re-counting the history of the Coast Guard, rescue methods and shipwrecks off the Virginia coast. Inside is a small gift shop with interesting nautical souvenirs and books. A small admission fee is required but the guided tour is educational and interesting.
Before we left Virginia Beach, we had lunch with my high school friend that I had not seen in 26 years. It’s amazing how so much time went by since we last saw each other but it seemed like yesterday when I last saw her. Cher expressed her love for Virginia Beach and in particular the bountiful sea that surrounds this unique city. After listening to Cher’s fishing stories it was obvious that we need to come back next year and spend more time with a rod in our hand on her boat. How could we pass up a fishing trip with a great friend?