Virginia Beach is one of the top vacation destinations in the commonwealth, but if you’re looking to venture beyond the beach, there are a number of major cities and attractions to explore within just a few hours’ drive.
The list of possible day trips from Virginia Beach includes some of the most important historic sites in the country, plus incredible National Parks, charming coastal towns, amusement parks, museums, and much more.
16 Best Day Trips from Virginia Beach
Map of the Best Day Trips from Virginia Beach, VA
16 Best Day Trips From Virginia Beach
If you’re looking for inspiration for a memorable day trip from Virginia Beach, check out some top recommendations below!
1. Williamsburg, Virginia
By Melissa from Parenthood and Passports
Distance from Virginia Beach: 60 miles (1-hour drive)
Williamsburg, Virginia is a delightful day trip from Virginia Beach. Located just an hour away by car, you can easily explore Williamsburg in a day, although you may want to stay a full weekend to experience everything Williamsburg and the Historic Triangle of Virginia has to offer.
Whether you want to wander the historic streets of Colonial Williamsburg, get your adrenaline pumping at Busch Gardens, or make a splash at Water Country USA, there are so many fun things to do in Williamsburg, VA.
To experience the long history of Williamsburg, start your day by exploring Colonial Williamsburg, the largest open-air, living history museum in the world.
Although you could spend several days just in Colonial Williamsburg exploring its 301 acres and dozens of preserved historic buildings, if you only have one day, make sure you tour the Governor’s Palace, the Randolph House, and the Capitol Building, where so many pivotal moments in American history unfolded.
You’ll feel transported back to the 1700s as you wander through the original colonial streets, interact with costumed historic interpreters, and witness historical reenactments.
For those looking for adventure rather than history, Williamsburg is also home to Busch Gardens, one of the most beautiful theme parks in the world.
With exhilarating roller coasters, water rides, live performances, and animal experiences, Busch Gardens is another place where you could spend a full day in Williamsburg. The European-themed park lets you wander from country to country as you navigate through its different themed areas.
🛏️ Interested in staying overnight in Williamsburg? Book a stay at The Colonial Houses – they have a pool and lots of charm! 🛏️
2. Jamestown, Virginia
By Victoria of Southern Trippers
Distance from Virginia Beach: 65 miles (1-hour drive)
Easily one of the most interesting historical sites in Virginia, Jamestown is an island where Europeans first settled in North America back in 1607. Therefore, this is one of the oldest colonial-era sites on the continent.
Jamestown also makes for a great day trip from Virginia Beach since it is only 65 miles, or an hour’s drive, away from this iconic oasis of sand.
So, be sure to get up early and do an archeological-themed walking tour that departs from Tercentennial Monument.
Afterward, walk across the local footbridge and traverse Pitch and Tar Swamp so that you can look for amazing local wildlife like turtles and birds.
You can even visit the Pocahontas Statue before learning about the life of the first enslaved woman of African descent at the Angela site.
Next, wander around the New Towne. In fact, it’s much more than a fort since it is filled with a variety of historic structures that shed light on the complex economy of the Colonial settlers.
Finally, head to the 17th-Century Church Tower since it dates back to 1680 and is considered to be the last surviving above-ground edifice from the Jamestown settlement. It is also a unique building that was used throughout the Civil War and played an important part in history even after Jamestown.”
3. Yorktown, Virginia
By Dr. Rachel Catalano from TheRxForTravel.com
Distance from Virginia Beach: 50 miles (1-hour drive)
No trip to Virginia is complete unless you visit Virginia’s Historic Triangle. One of the three points of that triangle is the city of Yorktown (the other cities are Williamsburg and Jamestown).
At about 50 miles from Virginia Beach and just a little over an hour’s drive, you can visit this riverside town, which is chocked full of history.
One of the coolest things to do in Yorktown is to listen to the fife and drums play. This Revolutionary War musical parade is just a part of the U.S. history you’ll find here in Yorktown.
The Yorktown Battlefield and American Revolution Museum at Yorktown are both nearby. You can visit, learn, and explore more about the pivotal history of the town.
If you want to relax and take it easy, then hop on board the Yorktown trolley. The trolley will take you past all of these locations and many more.
With stops at historical landmarks, shops, restaurants, and the Yorktown waterfront, the Yorktown trolley is just another unique day trip that you can take easily from Virginia Beach.
4. Norfolk, Virginia
By Dr. Rachel Catalano from TheRxForTravel.com
Distance from Virginia Beach: 20 miles (20 minutes drive)
If you are looking for things to do in Virginia not far from Virginia Beach, then look no further than Norfolk. At just under 20 miles and about 20 minutes away, this waterfront town is one of the best short road trips from Virginia Beach and has so many things to do.
Norfolk is home to the Virginia Zoo as well as the Battleship Wisconsin, which can be toured via Nauticus, a local maritime museum.
You can also visit The MacArthur Memorial Museum, the Norfolk Botanical Garden, the Chrysler Museum of Art, or the hole-in-the-wall crafting store called The Mermaid Factory to make and take home your own keepsake.
As Norfolk is home to an extremely large U.S. naval base, there are all different types of river and bay cruises that you can take from the Norfolk port.
And at night, be sure to catch one of the many offerings by the Virginia Symphony Orchestra. Norfolk has a plethora of things to do for those young or young at heart.
With beautiful views of the river and the Chesapeake Bay, be sure to make Norfolk one of your day trips from Virginia Beach.
Learn about some of the best restaurants in downtown Norfolk!
5. Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Distance from Virginia Beach: 52 miles (1.25 hours drive)
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is another top day trip destination from Virginia Beach.
The vast refuge encompasses 113,000 acres and is located in both Virginia and North Carolina. It marks the site of what was once a swamp that covered over a million acres!
The refuge is home to a wide range of animal species, including black bears, the beautiful yellow prothonotary warbler, bald eagles, snow geese, swans, red-cockaded woodpeckers, turtles, otters, and more.
Depending on what time of year you visit, you’ll see different animals. You can look online to find out what animals will be most common before you plan your visit.
The refuge includes 40 miles of trails and boardwalks for runners, hikers, and cyclists. Two trails include the 9-mile (out-and-back) Washington Ditch Trail and the 6-mile Pine-Pocosin-Loop at Jericho Lane trailhead.
Fishing and boating are also popular activities. There are two lake-front piers and a boat ramp.
When visiting, make sure to bring insect repellent to avoid bug bites!
6. Cape Charles, Virginia
By Ossama Alnuwaiser from Awesome Traveler
Distance from Virginia Beach: 44 miles (1-hour drive)
Many people know how to plan a road trip and want to travel around Virginia Beach. Cape Charles is another great day trip that you can take.
Located on the south of Virginia’s eastern shore, Cape Charles has a lot to offer for first-time visitors.
One of the reasons why Cape Charles is worth a visit is that it provides visitors with a chill and relaxing experience compared to the busier areas around Virginia Beach.
The town is located on the Chesapeake Bay, where you can relax and enjoy a number of water sports activities, including jet skiing, kayaking, surfing, boogie boarding, and water cycling.
Kiptopeke State Park is another place to relax and enjoy nature. Hiking and bird watching are both popular in the park. The best time to visit Kiptopeke is during winter when the park is most vibrant with wildlife.
Another top attraction is the Cape Charles Lighthouse on Smith Island, which has the distinction of being the tallest lighthouse in Virginia.
If you have time, be sure to check out the Cape Charles Museum. Established in 1996, the museum showcases the history of the eastern shore town.
Every structure and exhibit has a story to tell at the museum, so make sure to visit this place to learn about the history that dates back to the 1800s.
Last but not least, you can hike the Savage Neck Dunes Natural Preserve. It is 298 acres in size and contains 3 hiking trails. While hiking, be on the lookout for tiger beetles and migratory birds that call the reserve home.
Learn about even more of the best things to do in Cape Charles!
7. Kilmarnock, Virginia
Distance from Virginia Beach: 113 miles (2 hours drive)
Kilmarnock, VA is a gem of a town located on the Northern Neck.
Kilmarnock is home to several nature reserves, including the Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve. This preserve is located along the Chesapeake Bay and is home to the northeastern beach tiger beetle, as well as the nesting area for ospreys, bald eagles, and northern harriers.
Belle Isle State Park is another great outdoor destination located just 7 miles outside of Kilmarnock. It features hiking and biking trails amidst 7 miles of shoreline, wetlands, farmlands, and coastal forests. The park also features a campground.
The Kilmarnock Town Center Park is a great spot for families, children, and pets. There is a Splashpad Waterworks area with water fountains and a Riverplay water feature for kids. There is also a dog park for your furry friends.
The park is also the home of the Kilmarnock Farmers Market, which take place on the 4th Saturday of each month from May to October.
You can learn about even more of the best things to do in Kilmarnock, VA!
8. Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Distance from Virginia Beach: 105 miles (2 hours drive)
Chincoteague Island is the famous home of the Chincoteague Wild Ponies, and it’s just about 100 miles from Virginia Beach! This makes it one of the best day trip destinations to check out.
One of the best activities on the island is to take a boat tour to not only get a unique glimpse of the wild ponies in their native habitat but also to see the other wildlife around the island.
You may get a chance to see bald eagles and even dolphins!
🛏️ Looking to stay overnight in Chincoteague? Book a stay at the Comfort Suites Chincoteague Island Bayfront Resort 🛏️
9. Richmond, Virginia
By Francesca from Home Room Travel
Distance from Virginia Beach: 107 miles (2 hours drive)
Richmond, Virginia makes for a fun and exciting day trip from Virginia Beach. This capital city of Virginia was once the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and therefore has many historical sites to visit.
The trip from Richmond to Virginia Beach will take about 2 hours when you take I-64 W. If you only have one day in Richmond, you will want to focus on the historical sites if you are a history buff or check out the art and gardens if you are not.
Richmond National Battlefield is one of the main sites to visit. This park commemorates 13 different sites across Richmond from the Civil War.
Another can’t-miss historical site is St. John’s Church where Patrick Henry gave his “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” speech.
Other historical sites include the White House of the Confederacy, the Virginia State Capitol Building, the Virginia Executive Mansion, the Maddie L. Walker National Historic Site, and the John Marshall House.
For those more interested in art and gardens, you will not want to miss the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This museum is free and has a mixture of exhibits such as Tiffany Lamps, Faberge Eggs, and an Egyptian section. Then check out the Robinson House, Maymont, and Agecroft Hall and Gardens.
The Mending Walls is another cool thing you may see while wandering Richmond. These murals are scattered across Richmond and are commissioned by the city.
Some delicious places to eat include the Tobacco Club, Urban Farmhouse Market, and Tarrant’s Cafe. No matter what, there are a ton of fun-filled places to visit during a day trip to Richmond.
10. Fredericksburg, Virginia
By Amanda from Hey! East Coast USA
Distance from Virginia Beach: 158 miles (2.5 hours drive)
If you’re a history buff, one of the best day trips from Virginia Beach that you shouldn’t skip is historic Fredericksburg.
Located about 158 miles from Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg is typically about a 2.5-hour drive up I-64W and I-95N. Because of its central location, this is also one of the best day trips from Washington DC for those visiting the nation’s capital.
Once you’re there, park the car and enjoy walking around Downtown Fredericksburg. This 40-block area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places for its hundreds of 18th- and 19th-Century buildings.
You can stroll the downtown streets to enjoy shopping in antique or boutique shops, get a bite to eat at a variety of locally-owned restaurants, check out various art galleries, or just take in the atmosphere.
For Civil War history enthusiasts, walk up to Marye’s Heights where you’ll find what remains of the Fredericksburg Battlefield. While much of the terrain has been built over, the Sunken Road and Marye’s Heights are two iconic locations that help tell the tale of one of the worst Union defeats during the war.
Be sure to stop by the statue of the Angel of Marye’s Heights to pay tribute to a man who helped a great many wounded and dying soldiers that day.
Beyond the battlefield, you can continue your walking tour of the city by heading over to the pretty campus of the University of Mary Washington to admire its many Jeffersonian-style buildings of red brick with white columns.
While on campus, you should also seek out the bust of James Farmer, a former professor at UMW and one of the Big Six Civil Rights leaders alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
After all this walking, you have to stop at Carl’s for ice cream before you head back to Virginia Beach — it’s a Fredericksburg institution!
11. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
By Melissa from New York Discovered
Distance from Virginia Beach: 200 miles (3.5 hours drive)
Shenandoah National Park is one of the best day trips from Virginia Beach that offers stunning natural scenery, many hiking opportunities, the chance for wildlife sightings, waterfall viewing, and a relaxing escape.
Shenandoah National Park extends across 197,411 acres in the state of Virginia through the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The trip from Virginia Beach to Shenandoah’s Rockfish Gap entrance is just over a three-hour drive and just under 200 miles, making it easily reachable for a day trip.
While you could spend days exploring the park, easy access to the park’s main features and stunning views makes it a fantastic option for a day trip.
Once you reach Shenandoah, there are tons of options for outdoor adventure and scenic drives. A drive along Skyline Drive is one of the best things to do in Shenandoah.
The 105-mile Skyline Drive through the park takes a minimum of three hours to complete, so if planning a day visit you will need to add an additional three hours on your way back to Virginia Beach.
A better option may be to drive from the Rockfish Gap Station to the Thornton Gap Station, which has a driving time of an hour and a half.
There are tons of overlooks that you can stop at with stunning views, so even if you are not a hiker you can still enjoy the stunning natural beauty of the area.
If you are a hiker, you will find many hikes for any skill level. The Frazier Discovery Trail and Blackrock Summit Trails are easy hikes that can be done on a day trip.
From the Thornton Gap entrance, you can also take the short drive outside of Shenandoah National Park to Luray Caverns to enjoy a self-guided tour through columns of stalactites and stalagmites.
So, whether you are an avid hiker or not, Shenandoah National Park will not disappoint!
🛏️ Staying Overnight in Shenandoah National Park? The Residence Inn Marriott Waynesboro in Waynesboro, VA is a great spot! It has a pool, fitness center, and full kitchen! 🛏️
Learn even more about Shenandoah National Park, and the other best National Parks in Virginia!
12. Harpers Ferry, West Virginia
By Alyssa from An Apple a Plane
Distance from Virginia Beach: 252 miles (4 hours drive)
Tucked 4 hours away from Virginia Beach sits a gem of many sorts: Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. But it’s only KIND of in West Virginia!
The Point at Harper’s Ferry is known as a triangle to view three states: Virginia, West Virginia, AND Maryland! It’s not every day you can hit a unique landmark like that on a day trip.
Aside from the fun facts, Harpers Ferry is surprisingly beautiful. Historical architecture is pleasant to admire on a stroll, or for longer stops at museums such as the John Brown Wax Museum. This is one of the most highly-rated museums in Harpers Ferry.
Surrounding all of this history is the Blue Ridge Mountains. Visitors can enjoy active hikes, especially the famous view from Maryland Heights Overlook. It’s crazy to know you are in such a historical town surrounded by a dramatic mountainous landscape.
Conveniently, the C&O Trail runs through Harpers Ferry to downtown D.C., so if you are looking to extend your day trip longer, this may be a unique option for you!
Parking lots fill quickly in Downtown Harpers Ferry so visitors may benefit from the shuttle service, included with the entrance fee per vehicle. The National Parks pass can alternatively be used (and I recommend it!! Bang for the buck.) Shuttles do not run 24 hours, so check the website in advance when planning your trip. Weekends at Harper’s Ferry draw high crowds.
Harpers Ferry is 252 miles from Virginia Beach and approximately 4 hours by car. Though it’s a little further away, it is one of the best weekend trips from Virginia Beach.
🛏️ Looking to stay overnight in Harpers Ferry? Check out the Clarion Inn Harpers Ferry – it has an indoor pool, fitness center, and it’s pet-friendly) 🛏️
13. Outer Banks, North Carolina
By Lauren from Where the Wild Kids Wander
Distance from Virginia Beach: 95 miles (2 hours drive)
For a change of pace, the Outer Banks is a perfect day trip from Virginia Beach. It’s loaded with history, unique landscapes, and beautiful beaches. Not to mention wild horses! And it’s less than a two-hour drive, making it easy to visit some notable sites before you return to Virginia Beach.
As you drive down Croatan Highway, you’ll notice the giant sand dunes of Jockey’s Ridge State Park. This area is famous for flying kites, so bring one if you can. You can always climb to the top of the dunes to take in the gorgeous views of the bay and ocean.
History lovers will want to visit the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kill Devil Hills. It’s one of the most popular things to do in the Outer Banks. There, you’ll learn about the many trials and tribulations the brothers faced when creating the first airplane and can see where the first flights took place!
The Outer Banks is well known for its wild horses in Corolla. They are descendants of the Spanish Mustangs brought by the explorers over 500 years ago! Although it’s illegal to be within 50 feet of wild horses, several companies offer tours where you can take pictures of the horses while learning more about their history.
There are plenty of public beach access points with parking areas along Virginia Dare Trail if you’re interested in comparing Outer Banks beaches to Virginia Beach. You can even rent kayaks or stand-up paddleboards or go parasailing.
🛏️ Staying Overnight in the Outer Banks? Book a stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites Outer Banks/Corolla 🛏️
Learn even more about the best North Carolina Beaches Near Virginia!
14. Raleigh, North Carolina
By Julie from More than Main Street
Distance from Virginia Beach: 200 miles (3.25 hours drive)
Looking for a family-friendly destination that combines city energy with southern charm? Then plan a day trip south to North Carolina’s capital city: Raleigh, NC!
Whether you’re into history, culture, sports, or outdoor activities, Raleigh has something for everyone.
Start your day exploring Downtown Raleigh. Check out the State Capital for some local history, the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, or the North Carolina Museum of History.
Next up, spend some time on Fayetteville Street, Moore Square, or The City Market. And don’t forget to check out some of the amazing street art in the area as well.
Bringing the kids? Explore the interactive exhibits at the Marbles Kids Museum, enjoy a fun-filled day at Pullen Park, or explore the trails at William B. Umstead State Park. No doubt, anyone visiting Raleigh will enjoy the short and easy hike to the famous chainsaw-carved tree.
Hungry? Grab a bite to eat at one of the family-friendly restaurants in Raleigh. Our favorites are The Pit Authentic Barbecue and The State Farmers Market Restaurant. If you’re craving something sweet, grab a treat from Fresh Local Ice Cream or Two Roosters Ice Cream.
With its wide range of attractions, Raleigh is a perfect day trip from Virginia Beach for fun and food. In fact, I’d venture to say, you’ll likely want to spend more than just a day here.
🛏️ Staying Overnight in Raleigh, NC? Book a stay at the Residence Inn by Marriott – It has a full kitchen, fitness center, and it’s pet friendly! 🛏️
15. Rocky Mount, North Carolina
By Julie from More than Main Street
Distance from Virginia Beach: 139 miles (2.5 hours drive)
While you have probably driven by Rocky Mount a dozen times while traveling on Interstate 95 in North Carolina, it is well worth checking out. There are a ton of fun things to do in Rocky Mount from outdoor adventures to foodie fun and more!
Start your day with a little outdoor fun at Battle Park. Explore the paved trails along the Tar River, immerse yourself in nature, and be sure to check out the beautiful waterfall located right beside the parking area off of Falls Road.
You can also check out the new 18-hole disc golf course, five miles of mountain biking trails, or venture further down the Rocky Mount Trail system to Sunset Park.
Bringing the kids? Be sure to visit the Imperial Centre for Arts & Sciences, which is home to a fantastic children’s museum. Kids will also love a visit to The Rocky Mount Event Center or Ultimate Backyard Warrior.
Finish your day at the Rocky Mount Mills. Choose from one of the three amazing local restaurants and don’t miss stopping at one of the four on-site small-batch breweries.
Insider Tip: If you’re able to stay overnight, check out River & Twine, a collection of 21 different boutique tiny houses, for a completely unique experience!
Rocky Mount is a true North Carolina hidden gem and a perfect day trip from Virginia Beach.
🛏️ Staying Overnight in Rocky Mount, NC? Book a stay at the Homewood Suites by Hilton Rocky Mount – it has a kitchenette, pool, fitness center, and it’s pet-friendly. 🛏️
16. Beaufort, North Carolina
By Ashton from It’s AAAllgood
Distance from Virginia Beach: 215 miles (3.75 hours drive)
Beaufort, NC is a destination worth the short drive from Virginia Beach! Although it’s only 3 hours and 45 minutes south (215 miles), a visit to Beaufort is a charming coastal town that will make you feel like you’ve truly escaped!
As the third oldest town in North Carolina, Beaufort has a rich history including early settlers, pirates, and time as a fishing town. The town has a well-preserved historic district with quaint streets that are perfect for an afternoon stroll.
There are many beautifully restored homes and buildings that you can tour with the Beaufort Historic Society. A visit to the NC Maritime Museum is another great option that explores some of the unique shipbuilding and pirate history of the town’s maritime heritage, and best of all, it’s free!
Beaufort also has stunning natural coastal beauty. The town is situated on the waters of Taylors Creek, which feeds directly into the Atlantic Ocean. From downtown, there are breathtaking views of the barrier islands that help to protect the waterfront.
If you’re lucky, you can even spot wild horses on the neighboring Carrot Island! Beaufort also has easy access to the nearby beaches of the Crystal Coast, and many state and national wildlife refuges.
Beaufort, NC also has superb dining options! There are numerous waterfront restaurants, lunch spots, and craft breweries, many with excellent seafood options! One of my favorite places to watch the sunset is on the rooftop deck of Moonrakers in the heart of downtown Beaufort, NC.
When you’re visiting Beaufort be sure to check out this post with all of the hidden gems of Beaufort, NC that you won’t want to miss! Whether you’re looking for a quick escape, a long weekend retreat or an adventure on the water, Beaufort, NC is the perfect trip!
🛏️ Looking to stay overnight in Beaufort, NC? Check out the Beaufort Hotel NC – it has beautiful water views, a pool, a fitness center, and it’s pet-friendly. 🛏️
Where to Stay in Virginia Beach
If you’re looking for a place to stay on your next vacation in Virginia Beach, VA, then check out some of my top recommendations below!
Hyatt Place has a great location near the boardwalk and beach, and it has great amenities like a pool and fitness center. Breakfast is also included.
|🛏️ Book your stay at the Hyatt Place Virginia Beach Town Center by clicking here! 🛏️|
Coastal Hotel & Suites is right next to the boardwalk and ocean. Some of the top amenities include a swimming pool, hot tub, and a great breakfast.
|🛏️ Book your stay at the Coastal Hotel & Suites by clicking here! 🛏️|
FAQs About Virginia Beach
What towns are an hour away from Virginia Beach?
Some of the towns that are an hour or less away from Virginia Beach include Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, and Suffolk.
What towns are 30 minutes away from Virginia Beach?
Some of the towns that are 30 minutes away from Virginia Beach include Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Chesapeake, VA.
How many days do you need in Virginia Beach?
4 to 7 days is a good amount of time to spend in Virginia Beach. There are many restaurants, shops, and water activities around town.
Conclusion: 16 Best Day Trips From Virginia Beach
As you can see, there is a wide variety of places to visit just a few hours away from Virginia Beach!
Whether you’re interested in exploring the Historic Triangle of Williamsburg, Jamestown, and Yorktown; relaxing in Cape Charles, or venturing to North Carolina, there are plenty of great places to explore!
If you’re staying in Virginia Beach, check out these other top things to do!