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17 of the Best Beaches in Virginia

By | Last Updated: 16th December 2022

Virginia may not boast long miles of coastlines like Alaska or Florida. However, with only 112 miles of coastline, the state is crowded with sandy beaches that offer splendid views of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. While Virginia Beach is famous, several other sandy stretches like Bethel Beach and Buckroe Beach are ideal for a peaceful getaway. You’ll also find some freshwater beaches like Kerr Lake and Smith Mountain Lake Beach that provide a change of scenery. Also, as most Virginia beaches are pet-friendly, you won’t have a problem bringing your four-legged companions. 

Beaches in Virginia

1. Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach

No beachgoer would miss checking out Virginia Beach on their visit to Virginia. In fact, it attracts about 19 million visitors annually. From serving as a family-friendly attraction to being a hub of fun nightlife events, Virginia Beach never ceases to entertain. With so much to do here, its 38 miles of shoreline holds the Guinness World Records title of being the longest stretch of pleasure beach on earth. The 3-mile boardwalk is another highlight where you could enjoy cycling, rollerblading, or skating. You’ll also find many restaurants and theme parks along the walkway.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, cycling, rollerblading, or skating

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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2. Sandbridge Beach

Sandbridge Beach in Virginia

Sandbridge Beach is a part of Virginia Beach, featuring 4.5 miles of shoreline from where the Outer Banks begin. It is pretty spacious and well-maintained with clear waters to enjoy various water sports. You could head to the beach’s southern part, where Little Island Park sits, to enjoy family-friendly activities. It is home to a little beach, a playground, a boat launch, and a fishing pier. Do remember that though accessing Sandbridge Beach is free of cost, you will have to pay an admission fee of $ 5 per person for day use at the park.

Visitors often spot several wildlife species like black bears, deer, turtles, and gray foxes. If lucky, you might even spot Atlantic bottlenose dolphins appearing in the water during sunrise or sunset. To spend your holiday here, you can consider staying in one of the several beach vacation rentals and condos near the beach premises.

Activities: Swimming, boating, fishing, surfing, kayaking, canoeing, snorkeling, scuba diving, jet-skiing, sailing, parasailing, wildlife watching

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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3. Colonial Beach

Colonial Beach in Virginia

This small yet charming beach town lies in the state’s Northern Neck region. It is home to the second-longest public beach in the state, stretching between Potomac River and Monroe Bay. Visitors from Richmond and the neighboring state of Washington DC often flock to the beach for a quick getaway due to its close proximity. Pier fishing is a sought-after activity here. You can cast your fishing line from Colonial Beach Municipal Pier to catch striped bass, bluefish, and redfish. Once you have had your fill at the beach, be sure to check out George Washington Birthplace National Monument, which is just a 15-minute drive away. James Monroe’s birthplace is another nearby historical attraction that is worth a visit.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, picnicking

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Dogs are permissible only from 1st October to 31st March

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4. Cape Charles Beach

Cape Charles Beach in Virginia

You will find the quaint Cape Charles Beach at the southern tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Accessing the beach and parking your vehicle requires no fee. It’s a favorite among families with kids as the calm and shallow waters of Chesapeake Bay are pretty safe for swimming and splashing. You could also tread on the long boardwalk to admire the picturesque landscape or sit on one of the benches to soak in the stunning ocean and sunset views. The beautiful pavilion at the beachfront provides an ideal spot for visitors to enjoy picnicking or celebrating special occasions and events. Plenty of migrating birds frequents the area. You could head to the nearby Kiptopeke State Park or Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge to spot birds like warblers, herons, hawks, peregrine falcons, and many shorebirds.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, birdwatching, picnicking

Best Time to Visit: April to early June; September to early November

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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5. Bethel Beach

Bethel Beach in Virginia

The untouched shoreline of Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve provides visitors with a scenic and serene setting. If you’re looking for a Virginia beach full of activities, you will have to seek elsewhere, or you will be disappointed discovering the limited amenities and activities here. Swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking are not permitted to protect the endangered species residing here, like the nesting shorebirds and northeastern beach tiger beetle. Also, over 200 species of birds frequent the area making it a bird lover’s paradise.

Besides the sandy beach, the preserve also boasts expansive stretches of coastal salt marshes and low dunes, providing visitors with endless opportunities for exploration. Do keep in mind that you will not find any restroom or drinking water facilities here, and remember to pack your trash with you as there are no trash cans available.

Activities: Hiking, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, nature gazing

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs must be on-leash.

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6. Chincoteague Beach

Chincoteague Beach in Virginia

The gorgeous wild ponies wandering along its 7-mile-long unspoiled shoreline draw visitors to Chincoteague Beach. Located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia within Assateague Island National Seashore, Chincoteague is beautiful to explore with abounding marshes, dunes, and forests. You can either hike along the trails in the Wild Beach or launch your kayaks from the Tom’s Cove Hook area. Swimming, too, is enjoyable here and pretty safe, with lifeguards patrolling designated areas.

While you have a fun time in Chincoteague, be sure to try out some of the seafood, particularly fresh and tasty oysters, from any restaurant on the East Coast. Also, if planning a visit in summer, make sure to see the annual Pony Swim, an event in which the ponies can be seen swimming to the eastern shore of Chincoteague Island.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, crabbing, clamming, boating, kayaking, surfing, hiking, horseback riding

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Dog/Pet Friendly: No

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7. First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park in Virginia

Virginia’s most visited state park, First Landing State Park, has a one and a quarter-mile-long beach on the Chesapeake Bay. While hiking enthusiasts can explore the various adjoining trails or walk on the boardwalks across the dunes, water lovers can enjoy taking a refreshing dip in its calm waters. However, it is advisable not to go to the swimming area without a company for safety as there is no lifeguards present. If willing to extend your stay, you’ll find plenty of camping and cabin rental options within the state park.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, hiking, biking, picnicking, birdwatching

Best Time to Visit: April to October

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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8. Croatan Beach

Croatan Beach in Virginia

This three-quarter of a mile beach in the city of Virginia Beach is a surfer’s paradise. It houses two designated areas for surfing at each end. While one is at the north at Rudee Point, the other is at the south near Pendleton Camp. The beach has also been hosting East Coast Surfing Championships annually for more than 50 years. Apart from this, swimming here is pretty safe and enjoyable, with lifeguards stationed along the entire beachfront during the peak seasons. Parking spaces are ample at the Pendleton Camp throughout the year, where locals have to pay $ 3 per vehicle while others pay $ 7 per vehicle.

Activities: Swimming, surfing, fishing

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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9. Chesapeake Beach

Chesapeake Beach in Virginia

Also known as Chic Beach, Chesapeake Beach has a 2-mile sandy shoreline that stretches between Lynnhaven Inlet and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. Visitors often enjoy strolling on the shores while taking in the view of the 17.6-mile bridge-tunnel that connects the Eastern Shore of the state with Virginia Mainland near Norfolk. Unlike the crowded Virginia activities that bustle with activities throughout the day, the neighboring Chesapeake Beach is quieter and less crowded.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, paddleboarding, jet skiing, hiking

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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10. Kerr Lake

Kerr Lake in Virginia

Kerr Lake on Buggs Island has several public beaches surrounding it, making it a perfect choice for those seeking the best lake beaches in Virginia. With over 800 miles of scenic shoreline, the vast lake provides a plethora of recreational activities for a fun-filled vacation. Many boat ramps dot the area allowing kayakers easy access to the water and enjoy exploring the secluded coves. Besides, campsites and cabins line the shoreline, providing visitors with various options to stay overnight.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, water skiing, sailing, camping, hiking, wildlife viewing

Best Time to Visit: April to September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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11. Smith Mountain Lake Beach

Smith Mountain Lake Beach in Virginia

Smith Mountain Lake in central Virginia boasts 500 miles of shoreline, offering visitors several beach spots for a relaxing getaway. The Blue Ridge Mountains at the backdrop and the forested scenery provide a visual treat. While water enthusiasts can indulge in wakeboarding and waterskiing, those preferring to stay on land can enjoy hiking and exploring the picturesque landscape. You can find several campsites and cabins with wood stoves for accommodation facilities.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, wakeboarding, waterskiing, parasailing, jet skiing, hiking

Best Time to Visit: May to September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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12. Lake Anna State Park

Lake Anna State Park Beach in Virginia

Previously known to be a Goodwin Gold Mine site, Lake Anna State Park now features a beautiful lake with clear water and 200 miles of shoreline. From picnicking by the lake to enjoying several water activities, including swimming, boating, and water skiing, you could find an activity to suit your preference. Hiking or biking enthusiasts can choose one out of the 15-mile trails to take in the scenic beauty.

To take a break from beach activities, you could check out the visitor center to get an insight into the history of the area’s gold mines. Guided tours, too, are available in the park that takes you to the gold mine site.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, wakeboarding, water skiing, picnicking, camping, hiking, biking, horseriding

Best Time to Visit: All year long

Dog/Pet Friendly: Pets are allowed in the state park but prohibited in the swimming areas.

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13. Ocean View Beach

Ocean View Beach in Virginia

Ocean View Beach in Norfolk is a 7.5 miles stretch of sandy beach along the Chesapeake Bay. Several anglers enjoy fishing from the state’s longest pier, Ocean View Fishing Pier. You could also buy your baits and rent your fishing equipment from the adjoining rental shops. With three beautiful beach parks, you will have plenty of opportunities to indulge in various activities. Ocean View Beach Park is an ideal spot to enjoy a family picnic. The park has many towering trees, picnic tables, and a bathhouse. The parking area is near the beach, and parking your vehicles require no fee.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, paddleboarding, kayaking, picnicking

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Dogs are prohibited on the beach from around Memorial Day to Labor Day.

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14. Buckroe Beach

Buckroe Beach in Virginia

The white sands and sparkling waters of Chesapeake Bay make Buckroe Beach a well-visited tourist spot. Located in Hampton, Buckroe Beach and Park are one of the oldest parks in Virginia. Its short coastline of about a mile provides serenity and an impressive view of the Chesapeake Bay. You can rent a kayak or a jet ski from the nearby Hampton Watersports and hop into the water.

Besides the abundant water activity, the beach is also rich in history. Many English settlers had set foot in the area during the early 17th century. You could take a boat tour to see some of these historic sites. Before you return home, you could head to the nearby Grandview Nature Preserve to see the various birds and wildlife species. Make sure to visit it during low tide to see plenty of aquatic life.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, jet skiing, paddleboarding, kayaking, wildlife viewing, hiking

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: All pets are permissible, except service animals from mid-May to mid-September

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15. Westmoreland State Park

Westmoreland State Park Beach in Virginia

Westmoreland State Park is a scenic area in the state’s Northern Neck Peninsula. You can tread along the short and easy 1.5-mile Big Meadow Trail to reach Fossil Beach and enjoy hunting for some shark teeth. Though fishing and boating are allowed in the state park, swimming is a prohibited activity. After spending time at the beach, you could consider heading to Horsehead Cliffs to treat yourself to some of the breathtaking panoramic views of the Potomac River.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, paddleboarding, camping, birdwatching, picnicking, hiking

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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16. Belle Isle Beach

Belle Isle Beach in Virginia

Located in Richmond, Belle Isle Beach is a centerpiece of Belle Isle State Park. Its seven miles of shoreline runs along the Rappahannock River. With several scenic trails running through the surrounding forests and wetlands, you could hike or rent a bike to explore and soak in the scenery. Also, you will find many opportunities to spot numerous wildlife species, including blue herons, ospreys, hawks, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels. Kayaking and paddleboarding are other preferred activities as boaters enjoy accessing the water routes created by connecting three canals and a lagoon by multiple channels.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, canoeing, paddleboarding, kayaking, hiking, biking, picnicking, camping

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed with a maximum length of their leash being 6 feet.

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17. Jamestown Beach

Jamestown Beach in Virginia

Jamestown Beach lies within Jamestown Beach Event Park in Williamsburg. The picnic spots with charcoal grills draw several families and friends to gather over a barbecue meal by the shores. Other beach amenities include boat rentals, a fishing area, an ADA-accessible walkway, restrooms, and an observation pier. You’ll also find a concession stand nearby from where you could grab a quick snack after having a fun time here. Do bring along your furry friends, too, for them to have an enjoyable time by the water.

Activities: Swimming, fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, picnicking, hiking

Best Time to Visit: late May to early September

Dog/Pet Friendly: Yes

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Best Beaches for Camping: First Landing State Park, Lake Anna State Park, Kerr Lake

Best Beaches for Swimming: Ocean View Beach, Chesapeake Beach, Smith Mountain Lake Beach

Best Family-friendly Beaches: Virginia Beach, Sandbridge Beach, Cape Charles Beach

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