Although it’s right there in the name, Virginia Beach is more than a sandy, summer destination. Between the milder weather, smaller crowds, and variety of outdoor activities, you’ll see why there is no off-season here. This winter, head to the coast and discover Virginia Beach from a new perspective.
Miles of Trails
Walking, biking, horseback riding—no matter how you prefer to get around, there are miles of beach, forest, and boardwalk to explore.
At First Landing State Park, hike through seven distinct ecosystems, including 1.25 miles of beachfront where you can stop to take in the beauty of the dunes and tidal marsh. An additional 19 miles of interpretive hiking trails snake through protected habitats, including the maritime forest community, one of the most endangered habitat types in the world. The fairly flat pathways are accessible for the whole family, including your four-legged friend. Keep the fun going overnight as you settle into one of 200 campsites just off the beach. Pitch a tent, hook up an RV, or reserve a rustic cabin with running water, electricity, and heat.
If you are up for a more adventurous stroll, discover one of the last remaining undeveloped areas along the East Coast at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Winter is the perfect time for wildlife lovers to visit as a variety of wildfowl make their way to Virginia Beach to feed and rest. The refuge’s Winter Wildfowl Walks are a great way to get a firsthand view guided by an expert birder. Give your legs a rest and hop aboard a tram tour as you keep an eye out for bobcats, foxes, deer, coyotes, and other wildlife.
Extend your miles as you make your way out to False Cape State Park. This mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean offers primitive beachfront camping. During the winter months, False Cape can only be reached by hiking, biking, small boats, or the tram service through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so be prepared to carry all of your supplies in. These all-natural campsites and pristine beaches provide a quiet and secluded getaway.
Without the humidity that summer brings, biking the many landscapes of Virginia Beach is one of the best ways to see the sights. The three-mile Virginia Beach Boardwalk was built with cyclists in mind with separate biking and walking paths. Break out the classic beach cruiser, take on a challenge with a tandem, or rent a four-wheeled surrey bike as the whole family works as a team to pedal full-steam ahead.
Take your wheels down to the water’s edge as you ride a fat tire bike across the crowd-less beaches. From the oceanfront to the Chesapeake Bay, you’ll find the wide tires of these bikes make traversing the wet sand as easy as pedaling on pavement. Rent your ride from Surf and Adventure Company or Ocean Rentals LTD for a day exploring in true local fashion.
Looking for a real thrill? There’s nothing quite like trotting down the beach on horseback as the wind ruffles your hair and the surf pounds on the shore. Head to the beaches of the Oceanfront District where Virginia Beach Horseback offers guided rides along the water’s edge.
By the Water
Located where the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean converge, there is no shortage of things to do on the water. No matter what time of year it is, whether you prefer saltwater or freshwater, these waterways offer abundant fishing opportunities.
The Norfolk Canyon, just off the coast of Virginia Beach and 115 fathoms deep, is home to big fish like billfish, yellowfin tuna, cobia, wahoo, and more. The Chesapeake Bay is another hotspot for anglers as the largest natural estuary in the United States and home to 348 species of finfish. Between 70 to 90 percent of the world’s rockfish reside in the bay, making Virginia Beach the perfect place to host the Annual Mid-Atlantic Rockfish Shootout every winter.
Hop aboard a charter out of Rudee Inlet and let the boat’s crew take you into the heart of the action. You can also launch a kayak or canoe from several points in the area, including at Dozier Bridge, Hutton Circle, Birdneck Launch, and Owl Creek Boat Ramp. A number of local outfitters, like River Outfitters and Ocean Rentals LTD, provide rentals for while you’re in the area. For even more options, consider dropping a line from the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier at the Oceanfront, the Little Island Pier in Sandbridge, or Seagull Pier on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
While it might not be for everyone, powerful Nor’Easters can push some sizeable swells down the coast for some epic winter waves. While the ocean and air temps don’t get as cold as up north, a thick wetsuit and neoprene armor help when it gets a bit brisk out on the surf.
Taste and Sip
When you’re done exploring the great outdoors, head inside to warm up, refuel with a bite to eat, and relax with a refreshing beer. Hot Tuna is a must-visit while you’re in town for the freshest seafood and live music. If you feel like treating yourself, head to Mermaid Winery for a delicious entrée and wine tasting.
From juicy IPAs bursting with hops to complex barrel-aged sours, there’s a beer for everyone who visits. Follow the Virginia Beach Beer Trail as you sip your way through the area, from the Chesapeake Bay District to the Oceanfront, at 12 local breweries. For something a little bit stronger, two distilleries in town offer one-of-a-kind experiences. From a 500-gallon hybrid pot still system with a 20-foot vodka column inside a hotel at Tarnished Truth Distilling Company to an old surf shop-turned craft spirit haven at Chesapeake Bay Distillery, you won’t want to miss a taste of these delights.
While everyone else is heading to the mountains, discover a different side of Virginia Beach this winter.
All photos courtesy of Visit Virginia Beach