Bustling Virginia Beach is one of the top spots for sun lovers on America’s Atlantic seaboard. Tucked away in the south-east of the state where the Chesapeake Bay meets the ocean, this buzzing coastal city is a hit for its beautiful big beach and the lively Oceanfront boardwalk.

    But there’s more fun in the sun to be had than the often-crowded Virginia Beach – the outlying region boasts a smattering of lesser-known coastal gems. Read on to discover the best beaches around Virginia Beach to make the most of your east coast vacay.

    1

    Virginia Beach Oceanfront

    The state of Virginia’s bustling main beach

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    Virginia Beach Oceanfront is the epicentre of the state’s seaside recreation scene. During the summer months, the 3-mile-long stretch packs out with sun-seekers who come to bask in the warm Atlantic rays. Meanwhile, its famous boardwalk bustles as live performers and buskers entertain the crowds, a fun and festive feel for the whole family. 

    The Virginia Beach pier provides superb fishing, while bikers and hikers love doing laps of the lengthy oceanfront boardwalk. In either case, keep an eye out for dolphins in the distance who come to frolic through the waves.

    Location: 1413 Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, USA

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    2

    Sandbridge Beach

    A quieter option south of the city

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    Sandbridge Beach straddles a quaint residential strip some 30 minutes south of busy Virginia Beach – the perfect laidback alternative to its hectic northern sister. Rather than thick throngs and a festive vibe, Sandbridge Beach boasts peace and tranquillity along its near-deserted coastline.

    Several charming holiday homes are available for rent right down the strip, so you’ll be spoilt for choice when picking out a place to stay. Young families love the calmer swell here, and there’s ample opportunity to explore the surrounding marshes and dunes. 

    Location: 3128 Sandfiddler Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456, USA

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    3

    Chick’s Beach

    A local favourite seldom-visited by vacationers

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    Chick’s Beach, also known as Chesapeake Beach or Chic’s Beach, stretches for 2 miles between the Lynnhaven Inlet and Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The picturesque stretch is becoming increasingly popular with local families for its stunning coastal scenery and calm, inviting waves.

    Yet despite its beauty, Chick’s Beach remains relatively off-the-beaten-path, so parking spaces are limited, and there aren’t any restrooms to use. Still, these pristine sands are almost empty outside of weekends and holidays, making it an ideal spot for a relaxing day at the beach.

    Location: 4410 Lee Ct, Virginia Beach, VA 23455, USA

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    photo by Bdmccray (CC BY 3.0) modified

    4

    First Landing State Park

    A historic state park with a big beautiful beach

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    First Landing State Park, which sits tucked between Virginia Beach and Chick’s Beach, serves as the region’s premier outdoor recreation destination. The gorgeous coastal reserve is home to 3,000 acres of protected freshwater cypress swamps, with a multitude of boardwalk trails to explore on bike or foot.

    The historical site marks the spot where Virginia’s first settlers landed in 1607, and legend has it that the infamous pirate Blackbeard used to hide out here. These days, a camping ground and picnic spot (fees apply) serve the calm, quarter-mile beach. Watch out for the little ones, though, because no lifeguards patrol the stretch.

    Location: US-60, Virginia Beach, VA 23459, USA

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    photo by Virginia State Parks (CC BY 2.0) modified

    5

    Croatan Beach

    Virginia’s surfer’s paradise

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    Croatan Beach resides just south of the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, but it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle. This chilled 0.75-mile stretch is a popular spot for newbie surfers, thanks to its unintimidating left and right breaks. Surf camps operate throughout the summer and offer board rentals to day-trippers at reasonable rates.

    The restroom facilities here are well-maintained, and a lifeguard keeps an eye on proceedings during the busier months. You’ll find plenty of parking available in the area for as little as $5 per day.

    Location: Atlantic Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, USA

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    photo by bobistraveling (CC BY 2.0) modified

    6

    False Cape State Park

    A secluded beach backed by wildlife-rich marsh

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    False Cape State Park is where nature lovers go to get wild – the stunning 6-mile park is cut off from the outside world and is famed for its biodiversity. There’s no road access; explorers must motorboat or hike their way in (or take a tram during the summer), meaning this place is literally off the beaten track.

    Aside from the unspoilt beaches, False Cape is famous for its wildlife. Hundreds of species of nesting and migratory birds call the park home, while scores of cute critters like otters, red foxes, white-tailed deer, and wild horses roam freely throughout the land. Keep an eye out on the beach for nesting loggerhead turtles.

    Location: 4001 Sandpiper Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456, USA

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    photo by Virginia State Parks (CC BY 2.0) modified

    7

    North End Beach

    Go beach-bumming with the locals

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    North End Beach connects to the busy Virginia Beach Oceanfront, yet sees only a fraction of the crowds. Residents of Fort Story and North Linkhorn tend to visit this laidback stretch, resulting in a local rather than touristy kind of vibe. On the downside, the lack of out-of-town visitors means no restrooms facilities and limited parking options.

    After you’ve had your fun in the sun, you can visit the historical sites of Fort Story, including the 18th-century Cape Henry Lighthouse. Alternatively, take a gorgeous 2-hour boardwalk hike through the marshlands of the First Landing State Park until you hit First Landing Beach.

    Location: Ocean Front Ave, Virginia Beach, VA 23451, USA

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    8

    Little Island Park

    A gorgeous beach with fantastic facilities

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    Little Island Park, sometimes known as Sandpiper’s Beach, is a charming family-friendly spot just over the pier from Sandbridge Beach. And much like its larger neighbour, the swell is calm here, which makes it ideal for the little ones to frolic.

    Just behind the beach, you’ll find a well-equipped recreational centre with basketball and volleyball courts, plus a playground. Washroom facilities are available, and the whole area is free, aside from a nominal $5 parking fee. Surfers tend to hang ten on the other side of the pier, and there’s excellent fishing both off the beach and the jetty. Lifeguards patrol the stretch in summer, and leashed pets are welcome under certain conditions.

    Location: 3820 S Sandpiper Rd, Virginia Beach, VA 23456, USA

    Open: Daily from 7.30 am to 8.30 pm

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    photo by PumpkinSky (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    9

    Ocean View Beach Park

    Ocean View Beach Park

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    Folk from Northfolk love hanging out at Ocean View Beach Park, the city’s most popular recreational zone. Yet unlike Virginia Beach Oceanfront, this vibrant stretch rarely feels crowded, so it’s a top spot to come and chill out on the sand.

    Just behind the beach is a well-maintained public park with washrooms, showers, and a pavilion for picnics. Local gurus organise yoga sessions in front of the crashing waves, and there’s a pretty boardwalk should you fancy a gentle seaside stroll. Parking and dining are readily available at the adjacent shopping mall.

    Location: 100 W Ocean View Ave, Norfolk, VA 23503, USA

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    photo by J. Albert Bowden II (CC BY 2.0) modified

    10

    Willoughby Beach

    A quiet escape near Northfolk

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    Willoughby Beach is the ideal place to go for a relaxing beach escape within easy reach of Northfolk. Situated on the quaint Willoughby Spit that overlooks the bay of the same name, the beach is just 20 minutes from town yet sees few visitors outside of the national holidays.

    Only a modest selection of lodgings and dining options – both budget and luxury – is available to choose from, which kind of adds to the peaceful vibe of the place. For a quick half-day escape, head south to the Norfolk Naval Station to admire the military’s enormous maritime war machines.

    Location: Ocean View Ave, Norfolk, VA 23503, USA

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    photo by L. Allen Brewer (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer

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