With close to ten thousand miles of coastline, there’s a lot of sand to sort through to find the best beaches in Virginia. This list covers the can’t-miss beaches. From resorts to quaint historic seaside villages, these Virginia beaches are favorites among locals and visitors alike.
Each beach offers something different to explore. There’s a perfect beach for surfers looking for exclusivity and big surf. Birdwatchers and hikers can explore nature in the numerous wildlife refuges found on beaches in Virginia. Those looking for a spot to work on their tan are guaranteed sand and surf, just pick from quiet beaches or bustling resorts.
Some places listed aren’t even on the coast. Many of the state’s freshwater lakes are surrounded by the best beaches in Virginia. Whether you’re planning a day trip, a weekend getaway or a full vacation, pack a hammock and head for any of these Virginia beaches.
Here Are Our Picks For The Best Beaches in Virginia
Buckroe Beach, Hampton
Check out this beach to avoid crowds. In addition to safe swimming with on-duty lifeguards, visitors can view Chesapeake Bay vistas from rented kayaks and picnic tables. The beach stretches three-quarters of a mile. Stop by the sports & concessions stands to rent jet skis and paddleboards for the day.
Buckroe Beach is one of the best Virginia Beaches for on-the-go visitors who want action before hammock time. After hitting the waves, check out the boardwalk for fishing piers, food trucks and a nautical-themed playground for kids.
On Saturday mornings, from spring to fall, the Buckroe Beach Farmers Market takes place. Vendors set up stalls offering local produce, baked goods, seafood, and more.
Sunday evenings, live music takes place in the Buckroe Beach pavilion. Genre changes every week from pop and oldies to Motown and swing. Dancing is encouraged!
this coastal city offers more than just sand and sun. Just inland of three miles of boardwalk along the Atlantic ocean is the resort city of Virginia Beach. Over forty hotels are available for guests, most right along the boardwalk.
Nearby, Beach Street USA offers nightly shows (often free) from both local and visiting talent. Boardwalk entertainment includes music, magic, psychics and palm readers. Off-season visitors might get to see Holiday Lights at the Beach when the boardwalk hosts different light displays.
Those who like their beach time in short doses will find an array of diversions. Virginia Beach is home to museums, restaurants, and boutique shopping. Getting around is easy with the trolley system. There are convenient trolley stops by all of the city’s features––camping, the city park, and the aquarium.
This spot appears on many lists of the best beaches in Virginia, including those by the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and Southern Living.
Croatan Beach, Virginia Beach
This is a great beach for those who don’t mind going a little bit off the beaten path. It’s tricky to find, just three-quarters of a mile located between Rudee Inlet and Camp Pendleton.
The two surfing areas are separate from swimmers. On-duty lifeguards during the summer regularly patrol the shore. A surf camp offers lessons during the season. They advertise for all experience levels. Beach bums without any prior experience can book a private lesson to get up on the waves in no time. There are no lessons needed for boogie boarding the smaller waves.
Weekends find neighborhood locals hanging out in hammocks, watching the surfers and avoiding the crowds. Visiting families will enjoy the fact it’s well patrolled. Don’t worry about finding a parking spot on the street, a lot is available for a small fee.
Wild Beach, Chincoteague Island
This is one of the best beaches in Virginia for nature lovers. The island is famous for the wild horses, but there’s also deer and a variety of seabirds. The beaches are part of a National Wildlife Refuge maintained by the National Park Service.
It boasts eleven miles of white sand beaches under constant change from storms and tide. Motorized vehicles aren’t permitted, so it’s considered a hiker’s paradise. In the wintertime, any visitor will likely have the entirety of the beach to themselves.
There are other beaches on the island, all offering different beach activities. The National Park Service is happy to help park guests find a beach for crabbing, clamming or saltwater fishing.
Year-round photographers and birders will enjoy hiking Toms Cove Hook, which closes for the summer. The island offers an array of overnight accommodations, without the resort-vibe found in Virginia Beach. Instead, stay at a quaint bed & breakfasts or book a rental home.
Kiptopeke State Park, Chesapeake Bay
This state park offers affordable overnight accommodations right on Chesapeake Bay. It’s one of the best beaches in Virginia for a weekend getaway. Cabins, lodges, RV parks, and yurts are all located within the park.
Family pets are welcome in both cabins and lodges with an additional fee.
Visitors can visit two beaches within Kiptopeke, and explore the miles of hiking trails connecting them. The northern beach within the park prohibits dogs, jet skis, canoes, fishing, and large boats. It also isn’t guarded, so swimmers do so at their own risk. It’s a great spot for birdwatching, walking by the water and viewing sunrises and sunsets. Birders should make this their top Virginia beach to visit––it’s got one of the top 15 hawk observatories in the country.
Those interested in water sports, fishing and hanging with their dog can head to the southern beach. For license-free fishing, head to the pier where saltwater fishing is allowed without a permit.
Lake Anna, Louisa County
Head inland for this great beach. It has close proximity to Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Charlottesville. Just a short day’s drive from Washington D.C, Lake Anna is an accessible alternative to the shore culture prevalent at many of the best beaches in Virginia.
One of the largest freshwater lakes in Virginia, there are nearly 250 miles of beach to enjoy. It’s a fisherman’s paradise, over 30 species of fish live in the lake, including largemouth bass, striped bass, and catfish.
The lake is also convenient for those who like additional attractions close to the beach. Visit vineyards, go golfing or antiquing, and utilize miles of hiking trails.
False Cape State Park, Back Bay Wildlife Refuge:
This is one of the last remaining undeveloped sections of Atlantic coastline in the country. The small strip of land separates Back Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. Primitive nature surrounds six miles of pristine beach, filled with hiking trails and wildlife.
Those who want to visit should be up for an adventure. This beach isn’t accessible by private vehicle. This Virginia beach can only be reached by foot or bicycle. Boats are allowed access to the entire shoreline.
Late spring to early fall visitors can catch a tram or beach transport from public parking lots to the shore. This beach is located at the southern border of Virginia. Hikers might spot a marker with Va etched on one side and N Ca on the other. The rock also bears a date, 1728, when the border between the states was first surveyed.
Ocean View Beach, Norfolk
Virginians call this the bigger better beach. Ocean View is unanimously considered one of the best beaches in Virginia. It earns the title with over seven miles of free and accessible Chesapeake Bay shoreline. Joggers and walkers will appreciate that it’s level and completely continuous.
The beach has gentle waters great for both kayaking and families with small kids. Folks just looking for a quiet lazy day floating in the Bay’s warm water will also appreciate the mellow beach ambiance.
While there’s limited street parking, Ocean View boasts 30 access points along the beach. There’s also a park, which hosts events all through the summer. Friday nights are theme nights, with bbq, dancing and family movie nights. Sunday nights in the park highlight the local orchestras and a swing band. Ocean View is a great place to throw up a hammock and soak up the sun before heading to the boardwalk for nightly festivities.
North End Beach, Virginia Beach
This is the best beach in Virginia to feel like a local. Most of the resorts & hotels are further south along the coast. The North End Beach is where Virginia Beach locals head when they want to get away from tourists & resort culture. It’s spacious and the further North visitors head, the fewer guests.
Score a spot on any street for free parking (unlike along the boardwalk), since there’s beach access every block. Keep in mind, because it’s a public access beach there are no nearby amenities for food or restrooms. Pack a lunch and enjoy the much less crowded shoreline.
Waves may not be as big as other beaches, but with the lack of crowds, it’s still great for surfing. Those who want even more exclusivity can visit in the winter and walk the beach almost in complete isolation.
First Landing State Park, Cape Henry
A dream spot for hikers and naturalists, First Landing State Park teams with wildlife and breathtaking scenery. Numbers don’t lie and this is the most visited state park in Virginia. Find First Landing just west of the North End Beach.
In addition to gorgeous beaches, it’s also the location of salt marshes and maritime forests. Spanish moss-covered trees line miles of hiking and biking trails. There’s both camping sites and cabins for overnight stays. Dogs are welcome overnight for an additional fee, but it’s free to bring a four-legged friend to hike for the day.
Just over a mile of the beach at First Landing State Park is along Chesapeake Bay. There’s no guard, so swimmers do so at their own risk. Beach-goers who are more interested in boating consider this one of the best beaches in Virginia. Pro-tip: there’s no fee for boat launch for guests who are staying overnight in the park.
Buggs Island Lake, Southern Virginia
The best beaches in Virginia aren’t always on the Atlantic. The John H. Kerr Reservoir is the largest lake in the state, offering 800 miles of gorgeous shoreline.
Those looking for a beach trip with a lot of activity options should head to Buggs Island. Guests can boat, hunt, ride horseback and golf in the areas surrounding the lake. Camping is available, and a variety of watersports, including waterskiing, fishing, sailing and of course swimming.
Side trips abound in towns surrounding the lake. Those who need a break from the outdoors can visit museums, go shopping, and check out local restaurants. The area is rich with history including plantations and Native American artifacts.
Assateague Island National Seashore, Chincoteague
This is a long skinny island next to Chincoteague that possesses 37 miles of some of the best beaches in Virginia. Wild horses run free here, as they do on Chincoteague.
The adventurous can make a reservation to camp on the beach. For those more interested in glamping than camping, Chincoteague Island is a short drive away, and with all kinds of overnight options. Active visitors can rent bicycles and ride from Chincoteague to Assateague. For a little more horse-power, score an over-sand riding permit. There aren’t many beaches in Virginia that allow motorized vehicles. Here, beach-goers can ride twelve over-sand miles.
Surf fishing and shellfishing are both common activities on the island, and there’s a number of launching points for kayaks and canoes to circumnavigate the island. Visitors who want a little wildness from their Virginia beaches should head to Assateague.
Sandbridge, Hampton Roads
This is the best beach in Virginia for those looking to slow down, unwind and truly relax. Located just 15 miles south of Virginia Beach, it’s light years away from the bustling resort mentality.
Visitors will find sea oats waving in the breeze atop the gentle sand dunes of this beach in Virginia. When the hammock naps get to be a bit much, hike and explore in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park––both are within driving distance.
Families visiting the spacious beach will enjoy being able to set up camp for the day without feeling crowded. Sandbridge is the local alternative to Virginia Beach culture. The beach isn’t overcrowded with amenities, but is still convenient to access.
Cape Charles Beach, Northampton
This beach is located in the historic district of the Southernmost town in the state. Its waters are clean and gentle, constantly refreshed by the Atlantic ocean. Nearby beach towns offers restaurants and shopping for visitors who want a break from the sand and surf.
This beach isn’t guarded, so those who choose to swim do so at their own risk. Families with small children call this the best Virginia beach because of its wide white sand beach and shallow waveless water.
Beach access is available at every block of Cape Charles, as well as wooden platforms with benches for taking in view of Chesapeake Bay.
Locals brag about the spectacular sunsets viewed from the shore. Early risers will catch impressive sunrises as well.
Active beach goers don’t need to travel far to find golf courses. There’s miles of hiking trails at nearby state parks and wildlife refuges. History and architecture buffs will want to check out the historic district. Right near the beach is one of the largest concentrations of late-Victornian buildings on the East Coast.
Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve, Mathews
This nature preserve is 100 acres of pristine white beach, sand dunes and salt marshes. Of the beaches in Virginia, Bethel offers ample opportunity for viewing wildlife and seeing rare plants. It’s also the habitat of the endangered Beach Tiger Beetle, a striking black and white sand dwelling insect.
A gravel parking lot is the only amenity offered. Visitors should plan their visit accordingly, or pack a picnic lunch. Bring the whole family, as leashed dogs are welcome throughout the preserve.
Those who visit several times throughout the year will see the coastline reshaped by storms and wind. This is the beach for sunrise and sunset strolls, wading in the water, picnics and sun tanning. It’s not optimal for swimming, but 185 different species of birds are known to frequent the shore here.
“Chics Beach”, Chesapeake City
Discover one of the best locals only beaches in Virginia. It is less well known than other Virginia beaches, but offers resort culture. The beach is two miles, with close proximity to restaurants, shopping, and rental properties.
Older residents of the area still call the area Chesapeake Beach. The nickname “Chics” comes from a hot dog stand that use to serve beach-goers. Now, a full restaurant offers surf & turf fare and views of the bay.
Last year the beach underwent a huge renovation project, widening the beach to provide more space for walking and sunbathing. Thrifty visitors will appreciate free street parking. Be forewarned, it may be tricky to snag a spot during weekends and holidays.
Colonial Beach, Westmoreland State Park
This is the only beach in Virginia listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The State Park is packed with activities for families with kids, or anyone who likes to stay busy while relaxing.
Colonial is the second-longest public beach in Virginia, nestled against the Potomac River. The water’s edge is great for beachcombers and walkers. Hidden in the sand is an abundance of fossilized shark teeth, waiting for discovery. There’s plenty for birdwatchers to take in, as hikers often spot bald eagles overhead.
The town offers a public boat ramp for navigating the shore. Fishing is available at any of the piers along the beach. Landlubbers can rent either a bicycle or a golf cart to get around town, and there’s a trolley service as well. The beach has all the amenities for a weekend stay including restaurants with water views, shopping, and rental properties.