Most people have heard of Virginia Beach, and other Virginia beaches are on the rise for name recognition, too. However, there are “local” beaches that are easily accessible and remain fairly hidden gems. No doubt, a number of our readers will be familiar with some of these and think we’re crazy for calling them “hidden,” but for the majority of Virginians (and of course, visitors), these aren’t top-of-mind locations when one considers going to “the beach.”
Consider these the next time you’re ready to day-trip or head out for a weekend and want a little sand between your toes. See the map below.
* Note: Some beaches may require a nominal entrance fee.
Chesapeake Bay Beaches
Cape Charles Beach is a free public beach on the bay side of the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The locals position this beach as a great one for moms, thanks to the lack of serious waves and clean “wading pool” water. Also in Cape Charles is the beautifully hidden and private beach at Sunset Beach Hotel & Beach Club, an affordable stay with hotel, KOA, and RV options.
Chesapeake (Chic’s) Beach is “the beach” for Virginia Beach residents. Bayside, the waves are minimal and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel dominates the landscape. Parking is on-street or fee-based at nearby First Landing State Park or Lynnhaven Boat Ramp.Grandview Beach is within Grandview Nature Preserve. On-street parking and beach access are free. Don't forget that this is a nature preserve; please follow "leave no trace" practices. Pets are prohibited April 15 to September 15. No biking.
The Ocean View Beaches are where locals go when they want to cool off. Free, public access is easy to find, restrooms are tidy, and food is nearby.Outlook Beach can be found on the Chesapeake Bay at Fort Monroe, and is perhaps Hampton's best kept secret. Summer lifeguards are on duty; dogs are prohibited May 15 to September 15.
James River Beaches
It's amazing how few people know about Jamestown Beach. Located next door to Jamestown Settlement, this large beach park offers concessions, shaded picnic areas with charcoal grills, observation pier and more.
Buggs Island Lake / John H. Kerr Reservoir is Virginia's largest lake and offers many opportunities for beach-goers.
- Buffalo Park - North side of the lake off Route 58; 21 camp sites.
- Ivy Hill Park - South side of the lake off Route 825; picnic areas, portable toilets and day-use fee.
- Longwood Park - South side of the lake off Route 15; 66 camp sites.
- North Bend Park - North side of the lake off Route 4; 244 camp sites.
- Palmer Point Park - South side of the lake off Route 4; picnic areas, portable toilets and day-use fee.
- Rudds Creek - North side of the lake off Route 58; picnic areas, flushing toilets and day-use fee.
There are two lakes at Sherando, but only one is for swimming. Spread out on the warm sand and take a dip when you get too toasty. You can also camp, picnic, fish, kayak, or hike at this U.S. Forest Service-managed area.
Philpott Lake has 100 miles of shoreline. Surely there's a beach or two for your enjoyment, right? Of course! These locations charge a day-use fee for non-campers.
Pretty white sand awaits you at Lake Arrowhead Beach. This 34-acre lake beach, just below Skyline Drive, offers concessions and a lifeguard are on-site, as well as picnic accommodations. The lake also welcomes fishing and boating (bring your own kayak or canoe - no gas engines).
State Park Beaches
Virginia’s third largest lake, Lake Anna spans 13,000 acres with over 200 miles of winding shoreline. As one of the best lakes for large-mouth bass on the East Coast, Lake Anna is a popular spot for year-round fishing. You may not be on the coast, but you’ll easily forget it when you lie out on the sand of Lake Anna State Park’s swimming beach. Picnic sites, camping, and recreational areas are all located inside the park.
Located on the Northern Neck’s Rappahannock River, Belle Isle State Park boasts 733 acres and seven miles of shoreline. Enjoy three picnic shelters, hiking, biking and bridle trails, motor boat and car-top launch and overnight lodging at the Bel Air Mansion and the Bel Air Guest House. Rent a bike, canoe or motorboat, a universal access playground, boardwalk and fishing pier and educational programs.
Check out these parks with beaches (also pinned in purple on the map below)!