There is no shortage of incredible beaches in Virginia, thanks to its prime location along the Atlantic Ocean, Chesapeake Bay, and Potomac River!
You’ve probably heard of Virginia Beach, the biggest and most famous beach in the state, but there are plenty more fantastic beaches worth exploring, including hidden gems like Mason Neck State Park, historic locations like Colonial Beach, and the home of wild horses at Assateague Beach!
I’ve visited many of Virginia’s best beaches, and I’m here to give you all the info you need to help you plan your next Virginia beach vacation!
|My Favorite Beaches in Virginia
|Sandbridge Beach – For a quieter alternative to busy Virginia Beach
Colonial Beach – For a central location, historic sites, and great wineries
Assateague Beach – For nature, wildlife, and the famous Chincoteague wild ponies
The Best Beaches in Virginia
Map of the Best Beaches in Virginia
To help you plan your next beach vacation in Virginia, below is a map of some of my favorite beaches in Virginia.
13 Best Beaches in Virginia
Virginia Beach is of course the most famous and popular beach in Virginia. There’s plenty to do to keep you busy on vacation, including a 3-mile boardwalk lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants.
On the beach, you’ll find opportunities to go on dolphin boat rides, surfing, jet skiing, parasailing, body boarding, or just wading in the water or lounging on the sand with a good book!
In the summer, the Virginia Beach boardwalk has no shortage of family-friendly activities, including live music every night, plus magicians, jugglers, musicians, and costumed characters.
There are also special festivals all year long, such as LatinFest and the American Music Festival.
But the biggest festival is the annual Virginia Beach Neptune Festival. The multi-day event features live music on multiple stages, arts and crafts, sand sculptures, plus an 8k Race, Grand Parade, Volleyball Tournament, Atlantic Regatta, Youth Art Show, and much more!
Virginia Beach also has plenty to do beyond the beach including exploring the beauty of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is home to migratory birds, including Canadian geese, tundra swans, sandpipers, ospreys, gulls, and terns.
Check out some of the amazing coffee shops in Virginia Beach!
The negatives, of course, are that Virginia Beach also tends to be very crowded and expensive, particularly during the peak summer months. Driving there is also a pain, with traffic getting really congested along I-64.
Virginia Beach also has the distinction of being the longest beach in Virginia.
Pro-tip: If you want to beat the crowds and prices, check out Virginia Beach in the winter! There’s still plenty to do, particularly whale watching!
🛏️ Where to stay near Virginia Beach: Hyatt Place Virginia Beach Town Center 🛏️
Sandbridge Beach is a much quieter alternative to bustling Virginia Beach. It’s located 15 miles south of Virginia Beach and features 5 miles of beautiful shoreline for you to soak in the sun and enjoy the waves!
Even though it’s quieter than Virginia Beach, there’s still no shortage of water activities to do, including surfing, fishing, kayaking, standup paddleboarding, or just swimming and sunbathing!
For nature lovers, you’ll want to visit nearby False Cape State Park. The park is home to over 300 species of songbirds, including a snow geese population of over 10,000, shorebirds and ducks, otters, deer, red foxes, loggerhead turtles, bald eagles, feral pigs, wild horses, and reptiles.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is another great nature destination nearby. The immense 8,000-acre freshwater refuge has sand dunes, beaches, maritime forests, freshwater marshes, and ponds. You can explore all of the wildlife that the park has to offer by bike or by foot along the many miles of trails.
Buckroe Beach and Park
Buckroe Beach and Park is located along Chesapeake Bay in Hampton, VA. This means you can generally reach it quicker and easier without dealing with all of the Virginia Beach traffic!
The beach is three-quarters of a mile long, which means there’s a good amount of space to spread out.
Buckroe Beach has picnic shelters with grills available to rent, a playground, and an observation pier. You’ll also find restrooms and outdoor showers nearby, plus food trucks during the busy summer months.
Another bonus is that the beach has free parking!
Note that dogs are not allowed on the beach during the summer months from May 15 to September 15.
Hampton itself is a fun destination with an exciting brewery scene! I recommend checking out Saint George Brewing Company, Sly Clyde Ciderworks, and more of the best breweries in and around Hampton!
Croatan Beach is just three-quarters of a mile long, but it’s another quieter residential beach destination near Virginia Beach. The beach is a popular surfing destination, though it’s also great for sunbathing and swimming.
The beach is located along the Atlantic Ocean, which makes it a good spot for bigger waves and one of the more popular local spots for surfing. In fact, there are two surfing areas along the beach: one at Rudee Inlet to the north and one at Camp Pendleton to the south.
Dogs are allowed on the beach before 10am and after 6pm, but not during the peak hours in the middle of the day.
Note that Camp Pendelton is an active military base directly south of Croatan Beach, and it is not permitted to trespass, which includes surfing south of the municipal parking lot!
First Landing State Park Beach
First Landing State Park Beach also known as The Narrows, is a popular kayaking spot near Virginia Beach. The waters are calm, which makes it great for kayakers of all experience levels.
The state park is also a great destination for beautiful sunsets and dolphin-spotting. You can book a guided dolphin kayak tour with GoKayak!
The state park is also a great destination for hiking, with trails leading you through marshes and unique maritime forests throughout the 2,888-acre park. There are ten trails covering over 20 miles, which makes it a great spot for hiking or biking.
The park earned its name because it was actually the site where English colonists first landed in 1607! The area is steeped in rich history, which includes Native American tribes that navigated the land and waters, and even pirates like Blackbeard hiding out in the waterways!
Note that parking is limited, and once capacity is reached for the day, cars will be turned away. Try to start your day early to get a parking spot.
Chic’s Beach (Chesapeake Beach)
Chic’s Beach is a local favorite north of Virginia Beach. It’s just two miles in length and has fewer amenities than busy Virginia Beach, but it’s a good alternative if you want a more residential atmosphere.
There’s no shortage of seafood restaurants around the beach, like Chick’s Oyster Bar, Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant and Crabhouse, and HK on the Bay. Also checkout the excellent brewery Commonwealth Brewing.
Another huge bonus of the beach is that it has views of the Chesapeake Bay and Bay Bridge Tunnel, and it features gorgeous sunset views.
Note that parking is limited and can be difficult to find in the area. It helps to arrive early in the day.
Cape Charles Beach
Cape Charles Beach is one of the top things to do in captivating Cape Charles, Virginia! The town is conveniently located just an hour north of Virginia Beach, and 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. This makes it an easy weekend vacation destination.
Cape Charles Beach is free to the public and is well known for its calm, clean waters along the Chesapeake Bay. This makes it a great destination for families and small children.
Be sure to check out the nearby Cape Charles historic district and its incredible collection of Victorian buildings. Many of the buildings date back to the late 19th century and early 20th century and were constructed from 1885 to 1920.
🛏️ Where to stay near Cape Charles: Baywood Bed & Breakfast 🛏️
Assateague Beach has the distinction of being near one of the best national parks in Virginia: Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. It’s also home to the famous Chincoteague wild ponies!
The destination can be a little harder to reach from many places in Virginia. It’s located on Assateague Island along the Atlantic Ocean on the easternmost coast of Virginia. But it’s well worth the visit.
The beach is beautiful and will really make you feel like you’re surrounded by peaceful nature. There is also plenty of parking, which is a nice bonus for a Virginia beach!
Beyond the famous wild ponies, Chincoteague is also a beautiful place to see many other species of sea birds, eagles, egrets, herons, hawks, ducks, butterflies, crabs, dolphins, whales, and more.
You can see many of these animals in their natural habitat by going on a hike on the many miles of nearby hiking trails, or by going on a boat or kayak tour.
Learn all about the best Chincoteague Boat Tours for the best ways to see the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies!
🛏️ Where to stay near Assateague Beach: Comfort Suites Chincoteague Island Bayfront Resort 🛏️
Colonial Beach is one of the best beaches close to Northern Virginia. It’s also the second-longest beach in Virginia! Only Virginia Beach is longer!
It features five distinct beach areas.
- North Beach: Perfect for a quieter beach vacation.
- Downtown Boardwalk Beach: Where to go for water sports rentals, restaurants, food trucks, and shopping.
- Irving Avenue Beach: A residential area with Bed & Breakfasts and vacation rentals.
- Castlewood Beach: Home to a Dog Park and Castlewood Park with a playground, picnic tables, and benches.
- The Pointe: Where you can find the Dockside Restaurant & Tiki Bar.
There is a main sidewalk that runs along the beaches, and this is where you’ll find most of the hotels and restaurants in town.
For breakfast, make sure to stop by local favorite Lenny’s Restaurant. For dinner, I recommend traveling to the Monroe Creek side of town for a delicious Mexican dinner at Los Hermanos Cantina. The margaritas are fabulous! This side also features the best sunset views on summer nights!
One of the great bonuses of Colonial Beach is that there is a surprisingly large variety of things to do beyond the beach!
The area is actually the birthplace of not one but three presidents. I recommend taking the time to visit the George Washington Birthplace National Monument, which is a beautiful sprawling property with a replica of Washington’s birth home, plus gardens, stables, horses, farmland, and excellent walking paths that meander along Popes Creek, through marshlands, and woods.
Then, you can stop by James Monroe’s Birthplace, which features a home that was just recently restored at the location of his birthplace. The home is modest but includes plenty of details from the furniture to the decor that tell the story of the early founding father and his family.
There are also a number of excellent wineries worth checking out near Colonial Beach, including Monroe Bay Winery and Ingleside Vineyards.
Learn about the other best things to do in Colonial Beach!
🛏️ Where to stay near Colonial Beach: Colonial Beach Plaza Bed & Breakfast 🛏️
Westmoreland State Park
Westmoreland State Park is a lovely park destination near Colonial Beach. It features several wide, beautiful beaches along the Potomac River.
The state park is large and has several beach areas. You can take a short, scenic hike through the woods to Fossil Beach, which is a small beach where you can potentially find shark teeth! It is worth a trip just for the nice hike, but the beach itself is very small.
Westmoreland Beach is a much larger beach spot. There is a fishing pier, barbecue grills, and picnic tables nearby, which makes it a great spot for a day trip. You can drive down to the beach and park in the nearby parking lots.
There is also a hiking trail (Beach Trail) that will take you from the visitor’s center down to the beach. It features 152 steps down, plus 152 steps up on the way back! But it’s a good workout with rewarding beach views at the bottom!
Aquia Landing Park
Aquia Landing Park is a popular beach near Stafford, VA. It’s also one of my favorite things to do in Stafford!
The park is located along a wide section of the Potomac River, and it features a group of small beach areas and calm waters that are perfect for wading.
There are also several picnic areas nearby, which makes it a great destination for parties with family and friends.
Note that parking is limited, and fills up quickly on nice summer days, particularly on the weekend.
🛏️ Where to stay near Aquia Landing Park: Holiday Inn Express Quantico – Stafford, an IHG Hotel 🛏️
Leesylvania State Park
Leesylvania State Park is another popular beach destination near northern Virginia. The park is located along the Potomac River and Occoquan Bay.
There are several modest beaches lined with trees, plus lovely hiking trails through the nearby woods. There are also several fascinating historic sites, including an Iron Pulley Wheel and the remnants of the Fairfax House, which dates back to 1908.
The park is also a great destination in the fall. The crowds are smaller, and the leaves on the trees by the water are gorgeous! In fact, the park is one of my favorite spots for fall colors!
Note that Leesylvsnia can get so popular, particularly on summer weekends, that it might reach capacity, at which point no more people will be admitted.
It’s worth checking out the park’s website ahead of time to make sure it is open for the day. You can also try to beat the crowds by heading out early.
Mason Neck State Park
Mason Neck State Park is a bit of a hidden gem beach near Northern Virginia. It tends to not be too crowded, and yet it features lovely secluded beaches along the Potomac River, Occoquan Bay, and Belmont Bay.
The park has a mix of different terrain, ranging from forests to wetlands, to sandy beaches. There are many nice walking trails that you can take to explore the large park.
My favorite trail is the Bayview Trail. It isn’t very long, but it will take you through beautiful wetlands with frogs, turtles, and birds. At one point, the path branches off and leads to one of the quiet secluded beaches in the park.
Mason Neck is also a great place to go kayaking. This will give you an even closer view of the mangroves and marshlands along the water’s edge.
FAQs About Beaches in Virginia
What is the nicest beach in Virginia?
One of the nicest beaches in Virginia is Assateague Beach, which is near the Chincoteague Island Natural Preserve and home to wild ponies. Sandbridge Beach is a quieter alternative to nearby Virginia Beach.
Does Virginia have sandy beaches?
Yes, Virginia has sandy beaches. In fact, most of the beaches in Virginia, including Virginia Beach, Colonial Beach, and Assateague Beach are all sandy beaches.
Is Virginia Beach nice for vacation?
Yes, Virginia Beach is nice for a vacation. It has plenty of family-friendly activities all year round, including water sports, restaurants, live music, and a 3-mile boardwalk with shops and restaurants.
Conclusion: 13 Best Beaches in Virginia
As you can see, you’ll find no shortage of amazing beaches in Virginia! Beyond swimming, surfing, and sunbathing, Virginia’s beaches have historic sites, wineries, breweries, music festivals, wild ponies, and much more!
No matter what beach experience you’re looking for with your next vacation, Virginia has you covered!