Our first adventure after moving back from New Zealand was a visit to Virginia Beach for the long weekend in May. Virginia Beach is a coastal city located on the Atlantic Ocean in the state of Virginia with several state parks, miles of protected beach areas and hundreds of hotels and restaurants along its ocean front. It even holds the Guinness World Record for the longest pleasure beach in the world! Not exactly sure what that means, but I do know their motto is ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ 🙂
During our 3 days in Virginia Beach we managed to pack in a full weekend of outdoor and adventure activities, so here is our take on the Best of Virginia Beach when it comes to outdoor activities, rainy day options and food! Watch the video below to see it all!
What I enjoyed most about Virginia Beach was the amount of green space in the city. There are 3 parks within a 20 minute drive and even when cruising down the main strip, you didn’t feel like you were in a big city as the streets were lined with massive lush trees. Two of our favorite outdoor adventures were with the guys at Surf & Adventure Co in Sandbridge – fat tire beach biking and river kayaking!
Kayaking Hell’s Point Creek
Just behind the shop, we dropped our kayaks into Hell’s Point Creek which flows into Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A narrow creek whose water levels are dictated by the wind, not the tide, it was a peaceful oasis as we paddled through the shallow waters. Along the way we saw a variety of wildlife from white and grey heron, groups of pipping plovers, a muskrat, cotton mouth snake and a turtle! I would have loved to explore all the little inlets through the tall grass, but with the wind picking up we had to double back as the water was getting sucked out of the creek and we needed to be sure we could get back to the dock.
Fat Tire Biking False Cape State Park
One of the most secluded areas of Virginia Beach is in False Cape State Park that runs to the border of North Carolina. False Cape got its name due to its resemblance to Cape Henry, resulting in ships being lured to its shallow waters and running aground. The high number of shipwrecks in this area earned it the nickname ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’.
The best way to explore this park is by bike – Fat Tire bike! Josh at Surf & Adventure Co took us on a tour through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and into False Cape State Park where we cruised passed quiet bays and through lush forests before putting our Fat Tire bikes to the test on the sand! You seriously couldn’t make it out to the beach without those ~5 inch tires! They were so much fun to ride along the vast sand flats of the secluded beaches. If it wasn’t starting to rain I could have stayed out there all day!
Climbing Cape Henry Lighthouse
Located on an active military base, the lighthouses at Cape Henry offer a unique little adventure. The first is getting into the area as you have to enter an active military base. That means you have to show your drivers license and proof of ownership/rental agreement and insurance, followed by a vehicle inspection and assurance you don’t have any weapons. Once inside though, there is a quaint little shop where you pay $8 to climb to the top of the historic lighthouse that has stood watch over Chesapeake Bay for over two centuries. The spiral staircase brings you to the top with 360 degree views of the base including the other Cape Henry Lighthouse! How often do you get to view a lighthouse from another lighthouse??
Take a Hike through First Landing State Park
Just down the road from Cape Henry Lighthouse is First Landing State Park. This 2,888 acre park offers a variety of activities including hiking, swimming, fishing, biking and boating. I wish we could have explored more of this park, but we opted for the short 2.5km loop walk down the Bald Cypress Trail. My favorite part was all the Cypress trees sprouting out of the swamps along the trail. They were really quite unique and something I’ve never seen before. If only we’d had more time to explore!
Virginia Beach Fishing Pier & Boardwalk
A visit to Virginia Beach wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the famous fishing pier. Stretching out of the ocean in the heart of downtown, it is usually lined with eager fisherman hoping to catch their dinner! It also provides a great perspective back towards the shore and just how far the beach goes in either direction!
Walking along the boardwalk there are heaps of restaurants and little shops to explore. You might even come across King Neptune along your way as he overlooks the city of Virginia Beach at the gateway of Neptune Park. Jordan kept calling him King Triton and I couldn’t help but sing ‘Under the Sea’ in my head as we gazed at this massive 34 foot bronze statue!
Rainy Day Options
If there’s one thing for certain in travel, it’s that you can’t control the weather. We didn’t have the best luck when it came to weather on this trip but we made the most of it no matter what and Virginia Beach has some great activities to fill the day!
Indoor Skydiving with iFly
Ok this has been on my list for a very long time. Every since I experienced free-falling while tandem skydiving a few years ago I’ve been wanting to experience that feeling of flying again. So when we came across iFly Virginia Beach we just couldn’t resist the chance to try indoor skydiving!
iFly is a vertical wind tunnel that creates a stream of air allowing you to enjoy the thrill of skydiving without having to jump out of a plane! After a quick instructional video (to learn hand signals since you can’t hear anything in the wind tunnel), you get geared up in these awesome jumpsuits and get ready for your flights! The base package is two 1 minute flights which is great if you’re maybe a little nervous and not looking to go too far outside your comfort zone. If you’re a bit more adventurous and want to be able to do some manoeuvres in the tunnel on your own (without as much assistance from the instructor), let me tell you – it is SOOOOOO worth it to get the extra time and go for the two 2 minute flights.
Both Jordan and I got to do so much more in just that extra minute each flight, learning to fly on our own and spin left and right and up and down. You can even pay an extra $10 for the ‘high fligher’ experience where one of the instructors will float you way up inside the tunnel! Seriously I was addicted. And the fact that the instructor told me I was a complete natural made me wish we had one of these near us so I could go back and learn more! A MUST DO if you’re visiting Virginia Beach!!
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
On a rainy Saturday morning, the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center was a great place to spend a few hours! With over 800,000 gallons of aquariums and live animal habitats that highlight Virginia’s diverse and unique marine environment, there was plenty to explore. The huge aquarium tunnel was definitely the highlight though. It was mesmerizing watching the fish, sting rays and sharks swimming around and above you as you stood underneath. The sting ray touch tank was pretty cool too! I had no idea how slimy those little guys were!
Skyzone Trampoline Park
Jordan and I have been to a similar trampoline park in Toronto before, but couldn’t resist another chance to check out another Skyzone Trampoline Park when we were looking for something to do that evening. While the large trampoline rooms and dodgeball game was enticing, we spent most of the night having dunk competitions and doing flips into the foam pit! We both have a love for the game of basketball and the dream of dunking may have been distant in the past, with the help of some trampolines and a padded rim – those dreams came true! Jordan really showed off his skills with 360 dunks, through the legs and big air on the regulation height net! I was just stoked to do a regular dunk on the slightly shorter net over and over again!
The foam pit was pretty fun too being able to take all caution to the wind knowing you had a soft landing in the giant pit of foam blocks. The hardest part was trying to get OUT of the foam pit as the landing usually buried you in the process. This was a fun way to spend a rainy Saturday night!
Neither Jordan or I are big ‘foodies’ so when we were heading to Virginia Beach we threw out the question on our social media channels asking our followings where we should eat. We received a bunch of really great recommendations and while part of me wishes we could have spent the whole weekend trying each one, these were our favorite spots we hit.
If you are a seafood lover like us then CP Shuckers is the place to go! It is a popular sports bar and reasonably priced and famous for its oysters. So we ordered up a dozen of their raw oysters and baked Oysters Rockefeller, but couldn’t help and throw some snow crab legs in there too! It was a seafood feast!
Repeal Bourbons and Burgers
If there’s one thing I love, it’s a really good burger. So when I heard about Repeal Bourbons and Burgers, we had to check it out. Located in the heart of the city, it was a quaint little burger joint with a lot of character. The menu was mouth watering which made it really hard to decide. I opted for the ‘Silly Gringo’ made of homemade chilli & Tabasco onion strings while Jordan picked the ‘Fire & Brimstone’ burger. Both made with wild board meat and paired with their famous Truffle Mac & Cheese. The wall full of bourbon was tempting to pair with the burger, but considering it was lunch time we passed this time.
The Green Cat Juice Bar & Market
While traveling, Jordan and I really miss our morning smoothy. So when we passed The Green Cat Juice Bar & Market one morning we pulled in to get our fill of fruit in the morning. The menu was quite unique and had a number of organic and healthy choices which is exactly what we were looking for. We opted for the ‘smoothy bowl’ and green smoothy and both really hit the spot! (We’ve now started making our own smoothy bowls in the morning too!)