No matter if you call our home Hampton Roads, Coastal Virginia, Tidewater, or something else, one thing is clear: There is plenty of water around. Summertime offers so much variety in water fun that there is always something for everyone.
1. Summertime Specials
Let’s start with The Hermitage Museum & Gardens, a hidden treasure for those who don’t know it is there, and the lovely sponsor of this post. Sunsets on the River is a perfect time to check out the beautiful gardens, the museum, and listen to live music on the grounds.
For those who always wanted to learn to sail, or have kids interested in it, summertime marks the beginning of the season for Sail Nauticus.
Rudee Inlet in Virginia Beach has many options for boating, fishing, water animal sighting, and more. The inlet feeds directly into the ocean and is within walking distance from the Boardwalk.
Another special series you don’t want to miss this summer is Big Bands on the Bay, which happens every summer at Ocean View Beach Park in Norfolk.
When people come here, they often think ocean first. Whether you want a touristy experience, or an off-the-beaten path beach day, we’ve got something for you.
The Boardwalk (Beachstreet USA, right) includes hotels, entertainment, parking, food, and shopping. In addition, you’ll see life guards patrolling. This is not the place to take your pet to the beach, though. It is a great place to swim, boat, kayak, parasail, and do loads more beachy things.
If you are looking for a little less bling and fewer tourists, try the North Beaches up the Oceanfront. Parking will be more difficult to find and there are no lifeguards sitting on the beach, but you may find more room on the sand and less out-of-towners.
Another option is a longer trip south to Sandbridge. Calling itself the Outer Banks of Virginia, this is a good place to rent a beach house and kick back from it all.
3. Bay Beaches
For those of us who have been here for a while, the Oceanfront is great, but we learn to love our local bay beaches. These are the places you take your kids when you want to stay away from the larger crowds.
Chick’s Beach in Virginia Beach is a great place for locals. These beaches are a little more pet friendly (check times pets are allowed), there are funky restaurants hidden around, the waves are smaller for the little kids, and it is generally less crowded. Parking and bathrooms aren’t that great, but the pace is perfect.
Another gem is Buckroe Beach and Park in Hampton. This is a swimming beach with picnic tables, grills, restrooms, a playground, and areas for all kinds of family fun. You can rent kayaks and paddleboats, and you’ll find park rangers on site year round.
Oceanview Beach Park in Norfolk is a mix of the city and the bay with restaurants, events, lifeguards and a boardwalk. Not far up the road, you can catch a nice dinner at Sunset Grill in Willoughby Harbor Marina on the water.
Our family loves to visit the beaches at Ft. Monroe in Hampton. The beaches are smaller, with inlet-like swimming holes. There is a nice tire swing nearby. One of the draws to the area is the nearby Casemate Museum and the fort itself, which includes a moat!
4. River Water Fun
Sometimes it is nice to hop in a boat on the river and go somewhere. We are not short of those, either.
Jamestown Beach Park has been under renovations, but is slated to reopen on Memorial Day. This beach offers restrooms with showers, concessions, fishing, small watercraft access, some green space, and a little shopping.
If you head to Jamestown, don’t miss the FREE Jamestown Ferry. The ferry will take you on the James River (car and all) to Surry County.
5. Harbor fun on the Eastern Shore
Looking for a little something different? Grab the car and head to the Eastern Shore. Cape Charles is a quaint, cool area for kite surfing, fishing, boating and family picnics. Check out their website for special event information.
6. City Water Walks
The thing about having water everywhere is that, sometimes, your downtown areas are attractions just for the water.
Downtown Hampton offers many events during the summer and has plenty of water to walk around.
Town Point Park in Norfolk is a great place to go for a festival, or even a jog. Check out their events here or check out Nauticus and the Battleship Wisconsin while you’re out there. This is just the place to kayak during the Parade of Sails that kicks off Harborfest.
Olde Towne Portsmouth is a great place to visit. The food is delish, the houses are super, the shopping is eclectic, and the history is deep. You can even take a ferry from Town Point Park over to Olde Towne to round out your waterside adventure.
Beautiful Smithfield is a great place to visit, and Smithfield Station is a fab place to watch the sunset while enjoying the local flavor.
7. Parks and Trails
Our waterways slither through our beautiful parks, offering many opportunities for hiking, fishing, and more.
First Landing State Park in Virginia Beach is a wonderful place for a hike, bike, and camp. Check out the Narrows for some old fashioned rope swinging fun.
Newport News City Park offers many amenities, including short term boat rentals, camping, fishing, and outdoor sports.
At the Mariners’ Museum and Park in Newport News, you can take advantage of the Noland Trail.
Chesapeake offers the Northwest River Park and Campground for the perfect outdoor family adventure.
8. Natural Refuge Areas
For nature lovers, these are great ways to view the ecosystems that surround us.
The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Suffolk is perfect for canoeing, biking, hiking, kayaking, and viewing our wildlife.
The Eastern Shore also offers hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, education, and plenty of photo ops at the National Wildlife Refuge.
Grandview Natural Preserve is a great place for photography as it is really meant for nature watchers.
9. Fishing Piers
Fish, or eat, at the Ocean View Fishing Pier in Norfolk. You can also grab a trip head boat fishing.
If you’re down in Sandbridge, check out the Sandbridge Pier (also known as the Little Island Fishing Pier).
Catch one at the Oceanfront while on the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier.
10. Water Parks
What kid (or adult) doesn’t enjoy an occasional trip to a waterpark? We have those, too!
Virginia’s largest water park, WaterCountry USA, opens in May in Williamsburg.
Near the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center in Virginia Beach, Ocean Breeze Waterpark is a great stop for families with younger children. While older children and adults will love it too, this one is a better destination for the little guys than WaterCountry.
Join the good folks at The Hermitage Museum & Gardens this summer for concerts, a contemporary origami exhibit Above the Fold, summer art camp, and classes at the Visual Arts Studio. Open Friday through Tuesday, 10-5pm. Stay up to date on their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.