7 Best Beaches in Virginia

The Surfboarder
Joe Rebello / Getty Images

Admittedly, beaches aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Virginia, the land of Civil War battles, country villages, and the hazy Blue Ridge. But with more than 7,000 miles of coastline—including a scenic network of rivers and estuaries, the formidable Chesapeake Bay, and the meandering Atlantic coastline—Virginia offers an amazing number of sandy escapes to enjoy. From popular Virginia Beach to the remote Tangier Island, reachable only by ferry, here are seven of the best beaches in Virginia to pitch your umbrella.

01 of 07

Virginia Beach

Virginia Beach
DenisTangneyJr / Getty Images

Fun neighborhoods, quirky restaurants, craft breweries, and art galleries make this coastal city a natural draw. But, perched where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic in southeast Virginia, it also has beaches. In fact, Virginia Beach claims 38 miles of coastline, which altogether comprise the world’s longest pleasure beach, according to the the "Guinness Book of World Records."

Given how long it is, the shoreline has been divided into a few different beaches. The Oceanfront is the busy center of Virginia Beach, with outdoor cafés in vintage seaside cottages, street performers, mini-golf, and the 3-mile, neon-lit boardwalk. For more quietude, there’s Sandbridge Beach, just south of the boardwalk, a secluded realm of sand dunes on the Atlantic. Here, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park have marshes and open waters to kayak, hike, and fish.

Chic’s Beach, on the Chesapeake Bay facing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, is more old school, offering 2 miles of beach and calm waters—along with laid-back restaurants and breweries. It’s also one of the few places on the East Coast where you can watch the sunset over the water. And First Landing State Park, named for the 100 English settlers who settled here in 1607 before moving upriver to establish Jamestown, has 1.25 miles of glorious Chesapeake Bay frontage.

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02 of 07

Colonial Beach, Northern Neck

Potomac Sunrise

Tom Saunders/ Flickr

The far-flung Northern Neck peninsula, east of Fredericksburg, is a salty realm of historic villages, oyster farms, historic sites, and wide, open beaches. Here, tucked-away Colonial Beach on the Potomac River, believe it or not, has the second-largest waterfront in Virginia. Spanning more than 2 miles, it boasts five different beach fronts. Downtown Beach is where the action’s at, with food trucks, waterfront restaurants, souvenir shops, and outfitters offering stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and waterskiing. The beach areas further north and south of downtown are quieter. Sunrises and sunsets are spectacular everywhere.

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03 of 07

Cape Charles, Eastern Shore

Eastern Shore Sunset
Carroll Creative Imagery / Getty Images

Golden sands and clear blue waters make Cape Charles on the Chesapeake Bay, at the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, one of the state's most popular beaches. The waters are calm and shallow, making the destination ideal for families with young kids. There’s a boardwalk and fishing pier, and you can walk to the restaurants and coffee shops downtown, where you'll find laidback, small-town charm. Brown Dog Ice Cream is the go-to for ice cream, as it sources ingredients including peaches and coffee from local farmers. Outfitters offer stand-up paddleboards, kayaks, and guided excursions; one popular trek paddles to Chatham Vineyards for wine tasting.

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04 of 07

Assateague Island National Seashore

Catching those sun rays
Eye Soul Photography,LLC / Getty Images

A 37-mile-long barrier island between Virginia and Maryland, Assateague Island National Seashore draws people from all over to see its wild horses trotting along surf-swept sands. Supposedly the descendants of Spanish horses that swam ashore after their 17th-century Spanish galleons sank (or maybe descended from horses that colonists freed on the isle to avoid mainland fence taxes), these stout, cordgrass-munching creatures are definitely endearing. But there’s more on the island, including beaches!

Protected by the Assateague National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague’s beaches remain in a natural state. Meaning, when you throw down a towel on the golden sands, you’re surrounded by nothing but oat grass, sand dunes, and of course, wild horses. The Virginia gateway to the island is Chincoteague, which offers B&Bs, seafood restaurants, and nature tours.

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05 of 07

Ocean View Beach, Norfolk

Ocean View Fishing Pier Norfolk Virginia during sunset
by Patricia Gee / Getty Images

Best known as a Navy town, Norfolk has 7-plus miles of sandy beaches along the Chesapeake Bay, located in the aptly named Ocean View neighborhood. To reach the shoreline, there are public walkways that provide access every few blocks, although there’s limited on-street parking and no public restrooms. For that reason, we recommend planning your beach day around one of three parks: Community Beach Park, Sarah Constant Beach Park, and the buzzing Ocean View Beach Park. Open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, they each offer parking, restrooms, shade trees, and lifeguards. While summer concerts and dances can be enjoyed at Ocean View Beach Park, cavorting dolphins and spectacular sunset views over the water are a given no matter where you go.

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06 of 07

Jamestown Beach, Williamsburg

Jamestown Beach

Sarah Ross / Flickr

Jamestown is, of course, most famous as the first permanent English settlement in North America. No doubt the colonists weren’t focused on basking in the sun in 1607, but today, Jamestown is home to a small, mostly freshwater beach on the James River. Especially popular with families, it offers inviting shallow waters and a newly renovated shoreline. There are charcoal grills, shaded picnic tables, launches for kayaks and canoes, and an observation pier. Note that parking can be tough to find along Jamestown Road, the main beach access.

Another beach overshadowed by its history is nearby Yorktown Beach, the site of the final Revolutionary War battle. It also has a two-acre public beach with a fishing dock and picnic area; a Mobi-Mat and Mobi Chair provide access for visitors in wheelchairs.

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07 of 07

Tangier Beach, Tangier Island

Tangier Island

VSPYCC / Flickr

Located in the middle of the Chesapeake, Tangier Island has a lost-in-time feel, with watermen having culled crabs and oysters here for centuries. Tangier Beach itself is a little hard to get to—you have to take an island ferry from the mainland towns of Irvington or Reedville to reach the island, then walk another 20 minutes (or go on a five-minute bike ride) to get to the southern tip. But once you arrive, you'll be greeted by a remote expanse of blue-green water, white sands, and normally no one else around. Given the ferry schedule, you’ll have only a couple of hours to enjoy this escape, unless you stay overnight in one of the island’s charming B&Bs.

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  1. Guinness World Records. "Largest Pleasure Beach." Accessed December 21, 2022.