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Spotlight on:
Virginia Shoreline

Sandy beaches, great fishing and a boardwalk for family fun make coastal Virginia a popular destination



Virginia is a beach destination—from the Virginia Beach oceanfront to the warm, welcoming sands of the Eastern Shore. RVing families will find the beach that's perfect for them in Virginia.

Home to several wildlife preserves, the beaches of Virginia's Eastern Shore are some of the most serene and natural in the state. Visit the sister islands of Chincoteague and Assateague, at the northern tip of the peninsula, to experience natural gems for wildlife and pure beach bliss. The National Wildlife Refuge in Chincoteague includes more than 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, birds and wildlife. The unspoiled scenery of Assateague is the perfect backdrop for gazing upon the island's wildlife. In addition to an expansive, pristine beach, Assateague operates two visitor centers and miles of hiking trails. One of the best hikes is up to the top of the Assateague lighthouse. Visit in July for the annual Pony Swim and Auction, where saltwater cowboys round up the ponies on Assateague and swim them across to Chincoteague.

Camping, crabbing, fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and bicycling add to family bonding. Broaden the Chincoteague experience by enjoying delightful restaurants, shops, craft galleries and museums.

At the southern tip of the Eastern Shore is Kiptopeke State Park, a perfect place for families who love beaches, nature and camping. Kiptopeke's beachfront hugs nearly half a mile of Chesapeake Bay, offering the opportunity to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway. Seasonal interpretive and educational programs focus on natural history, birding and bay ecology. The park has 4.2 miles of hiking and biking trails.

Cape Charles Beach is known for shallow waters and no waves, ideal for families with small children. Cape Charles is the Eastern Shore's southernmost town on the Chesapeake Bay. It is a quintessential Virginia small town, with restaurants and shops lining the main street. It's also just minutes away from the 1,200-acre Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge, one of Virginia's premier birding and wildlife sites.

Hampton is the birthplace of America's space program and home to NASA Langley and Langley Air Force Base. The Virginia Air and Space Center in Hampton is the visitor center for both sites, so families can mix fun and learning. Visitors can take a virtual voyage to Mars, fly a full-size DC-9 aircraft, and launch a rocket. They can see a moon rock, a Mars meteorite and the Apollo 12 Command Module, plus enjoy 3D IMAX films on a five-story screen.

What about the water? Hampton has 12 deep-water marinas as well as Buckroe Beach, which offers eight acres of beach, a playground, picnic shelters, walking and bike paths, a pet-friendly bark park and a concert bandstand. In the summer months, visitors can swing to the sounds of Sunday Night Groovin' by the Bay concerts, or view an outdoor movie at the Tuesday night POMOCO Family Movie Series. Beach chair, umbrella, kayak and paddlecraft rentals are available and parking is plentiful, making a visit to Buckroe Beach convenient and enjoyable.

Norfolk's four city beaches are wide with gentle surf, lifeguards in the summer, picnic pavilions and free parking. Visitors can rent sailboats, jet skis, paddleboats and kayaks. Just 15 miles west of Virginia Beach is Norfolk's Ocean View Beach, which stretches continuously along eight miles of the Chesapeake Bay. Norfolk's Town Point Park overlooks the harbor and is the site for many events, such as Harborfest every June, featuring a fine array of tall ships.

Norfolk is also a destination for families who love maritime history. One of Norfolk's museums, Nauticus, the National Maritime Center, is an interactive science center with a maritime theme that features more than 150 exhibits, giant-screen films, exotic aquaria and touch pools. The USS Wisconsin, one of the last and largest battleships built by the U.S. Navy, is adjacent to Nauticus and open for main deck tours.

Virginia Beach's famed three-mile boardwalk is the longest in the country and a place where families can take in the ocean views while biking, rollerblading or just strolling along for some great people watching. Many free, family-oriented events take place throughout spring and summer along the boardwalk, such as concerts, festivals and sporting events. At any point, families can stray from the boardwalk onto Virginia Beach's nicely manicured sand to build sandcastles, collect seashells or simply lounge under an umbrella. Or, stroll over to Atlantic Avenue to enjoy the free entertainment from Beach Street USA jugglers, mimes and jazz musicians.

A trip to Virginia Beach just wouldn't be complete without a fun and educational visit to the state's largest aquarium, the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. With more than 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats focusing on Virginia's diverse and unique marine environment, the aquarium features more than 300 hands-on exhibits, a nature trail, an aviary, two animal touch pools and a 3-D IMAX theater. The aquarium's newest exhibit gallery, Restless Planet, adds an international touch with habitats that showcase exotic animals such as tomistomas, Egyptian cobras, spotted eagle rays and Komodo dragons.

Families who want to get away from the hustle and bustle to connect with nature can head to the 8,000-acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or First Landing State Park to gaze at beach wildlife and enjoy several miles of outstanding hiking and biking trails.

For More Information:
Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism
757-787-8268
www.esvatourism.org

Virginia Tourism
800-932-5827
www.virginia.org