For residents of northern Virginia, one popular option for spending some time seaside is to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at Norfolk or Annapolis and find some surf and sand on the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia Peninsula. This sandy stretch of land offers visitors some secluded places to swim, walk, surf or jog despite being so close to several major population centers. Other Atlantic beaches can be found south of the Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach metropolitan area.
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Ocean City, Maryland, is a large, seaside resort with nightclubs, a popular boardwalk and long stretches of sandy beaches for swimming and sunbathing. Surfing and sea kayaking are possible at Ocean City, but it is best to go early in the morning before the beach becomes crowded. Those looking for a quieter beach experience might enjoy nearby Rehoboth Beach in Delaware. Rehoboth's boardwalk and scaled-down amusement park is a good place for those visiting with small kids. Besides the water sports, you can take a leisurely bike ride through the stately, resort town.
Assateague Island National Seashore is a long sandy island on the shores of the Atlantic that begins just south of Ocean City and extends all the way into Virginia. Operating under the auspices of the National Park Service, this park offers two oceanside campgrounds and one on the bayside. Assateague offers swimming, sea kayaking, surfing, surf fishing, bird watching and beach strolling. Motor vehicle access to Assateague is only available from the north.
Virginia's most visited state park is called First Landing and it is actually located in Virginia Beach on the Chesapeake Bay. The site commemorates the first boat visit by the founders of the Jamestown settlement in the early 17th century. Kayaking, canoeing, birdwatching and camping are outdoor activities that entice visitors to this park. Campers can either rent a lodge or a stay in a designated campsite. Swimming is permitted at one beach, but without the presence of any lifeguards.
Virginia State Parks
Virginia has two more state parks that are on or near the Atlantic shoreline: False Cape State Park and Kiptopeke State Park. Even though the coastal urban area of Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News is nearby, these open places can provide a welcome relief from this large urban area. Both places offer swimming, beachcombing, sea kayaking and places to jog. You can find Kiptopeke across the Bay Bridge near Cape Charles on the Chesapeake, while False Cape is an Atlantic Beach adjacent to the North Carolina border. Kiptopeke has campsites and hookups, while False Cape only provides primitive camping.
Watch Wild Ponies
Easily accessible from the mainland, Chincoteague Island is the name of a town and fishing village located on Virginia's Eastern Shore. A bicycle can be used to see the town and cross the bridge to the refuge. No camping is allowed in the wildlife refuge, but day visitors will enjoy the wide sand beaches where they can swim, fish, jog, and go birding or crabbing. In late July, the Pony Swim and Round-up attracts an unusually large crowd, but the best way to view the wild horses is to avoid the round-up and take a guided boat tour.