Virginia’s less-crowded beaches offer the same sun and sand as the state’s destination beaches, like Virginia Beach, without busy boardwalks and hordes of sun-worshippers. You won’t have arcade games to play or big buckets of fries to consume, but you will have the quiet to hear the waves lap on the shore and the space to dig your toes into the sand. Bring your bike, pack your hiking boots, and strap your kayak to the top of the car.
Hike in -- False Cape State Park
During the off-season, visitors to False Cape State Park must hike or bike through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or arrive by boat to reach the 5.9 miles of beach. From April through October, a friends of the park organization operates a tram to the beach from Virginia Beach. Considered one of the most remote parks in Virginia, False Cape encompasses a barrier spit between the Chesapeake and Back bays. Hiking trails meander through the park, and boaters are welcome to launch at nearby ramps -- there are no launch points within the park. Reservations are required for camping.
Run With the Ponies -- Assateague
The largely undeveloped Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island spanning the Maryland-Virginia border, might be known best as the home of wild ponies. Cowboys round up about 150 of the Assateague ponies in July for the annual pony swim to adjacent Chincoteague, where they’re auctioned to benefit the local fire company. Pick up a permit for your over sand vehicle at the visitor center, education center or the OSV booth. About six miles of paved bike paths connect with the trails in Maryland, and beachfront horseback riding is permitted in certain areas. Camping is only permitted in the Maryland district of Assateague Island National Seashore.
Virginia’s Eastern Shore -- Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State Park, across the Chesapeake Bay on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is on a major migratory bird flyway. The park’s two swimming beaches, open seasonally, have bathhouses, and a little more than 5 miles of hiking and biking trails wind through the 562-acre park. Boardwalks cross marshy areas and connect trails to the northern and southern beaches. Bike rentals are available. Barges sunk off the waterfront harbor numerous fish, but you’ll need a saltwater fishing license. Launch your motorboat from the park’s ramp, or put your kayak or canoe in at the south beach. Kiptopeke has a campground, cabins and a bunkhouse.
Family-Friendly -- Jamestown Beach
Jamestown Beach is a quiet park on a broad section of the James River, close to Colonial Williamsburg and historic Jamestown. The three beaches in the park are dog-friendly, and if you’re traveling with kids, the park has plenty of shady spots to take a break from the sun. Busch Gardens and Water Country USA are a short drive away. You can launch your canoe or kayak on the river, and you’ll need a freshwater license to fish. A free ferry operates between Jamestown Beach and Surry County, across the James River. Campsites are available at Chickahominy Riverfront Park, seven miles northwest.