The Atlantic seaboard of the USA is blessed with some lovely beaches, even if the waters may lack the warmth of some more exotic holiday regions of the world.
The proximity of beaches in Virginia to densely populated areas made the State attractive to holidaymakers long before air travel became so common.
The smell of the sea adds to the fun of feeling the sand between your toes.
If you want a great family day out, head for the beach.
Virginia is blessed with many fine stretches of sand, often comfortably sheltered from the elements.
Crowds might gather at the more popular beaches at weekends, spring break, and during the summer weeks, but you can find tranquillity if you seek it.
If you are after some tips on the best spots of shoreline to take a break, check out this list of the 15 Best Beaches in Virginia for inspiration.
1. Bethel Beach, Mathews County
This narrow stretch of sand covers 105 acres.
Its dunes change form as the wind blows and the tides caress the shore.
There are some fairly deep channels and a little bay.
The salt marshes attract varied birdlife; the lagoons are filled with waders looking for food.
This Natural Area Preserve is a great place to explore, but also a lovely place to relax on the sand.
Some areas of the shoreline are closed to the public during bird nesting seasons, showing that Virginia is truly committed to conserving its natural environment.
2. Chesapeake Beach, Chesapeake City
A residential district between Lynnhaven Inlet and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel with a lovely beach, this region was developed a century ago.
Locally known as Chic’s Beach, it is one of the best beaches in Virginia, attracting large crowds on weekends and in high season.
Water sports are available, such as jet skiing and paddle boarding, while children often spend endless hours building sand castles.
Walkers love this place, and cyclists are regularly seen along the water’s edge.
3. Westmoreland State Park, Westmoreland County
The State Park runs for 1.5 miles along the Potomac River in Westmoreland County.
The protection afforded to the park results in a lovely place for people to enjoy and respect.
You can choose to chill out on the beach if you like, but there is so much more on offer – hiking trails, fishing, camping facilities and wooden cabins for rent.
There are lovely views of the river from Horsehead Cliffs, an impressive flow of water which is six miles wide at some points.
There are over 1,300 acres of paradise here.
If you are keen on history, you are not far from the birthplace of both Robert E. Lee and George Washington.
4. Colonial Beach, Westmoreland County
Colonial Beach is a 2.5 mile stretch of sand in front of the small resort of the same name.
It was popular with Washington D.C. residents from the early 20th Century – although there is much history associated with the town, it is the beach that is its main attraction.
Sunbathers and swimmers flock to the sandy shore, others stroll along the boardwalk, fish, sail or keep their eyes open for ospreys.
Restaurants are plentiful, so there is everything a family might need for a great holiday by the Atlantic and the Potomac River.
5. Cape Charles Beach, Chesapeake Bay
This beach on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is yet to become well-supported, and those who know about it are happy if it remains a relative secret.
The small town has a rich history.
Lovely streets with shops and hotels provide plenty of things to do, while the public beach is great for children.
The waters are shallow and perfectly safe, often collecting into small pools.
There are kayaks for rent and other water sports for those looking for action.
Fishing is a popular pastime, so when dining in the evening, look for fresh fish on the menu.
6. Croatan Beach, Virginia Beach
The small beach is less than a mile long and is extremely popular with surfers, who have two designated places to enjoy the waves.
There are lifeguards in attendance, and facilities include restrooms and showers.
It is much quieter than the nearby Virginia Beach boardwalk.
Those wanting to learn to surf can get lessons in the middle of summer.
There is a fee for parking but the beach is free.
An interesting piece of trivia – it was bought by a religious group for development of a training center in 1898 but these plans never materialized.
7. Chincoteague Beach, Chincoteague Island
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge has some of the best beaches on the Atlantic.
It can be fairly windy, but there are sheltered areas as well.
Lifeguards are in attendance because it is busy in the high season with people wanting to sunbathe and swim.
Bird watchers are often rewarded, as are anglers and beachcombers.
Wild Beach is 11 miles long, so hikers are in their element, with Toms Cook Hook almost as long.
Surfers and kayakers enjoy the waters and there is a good chance of finding crabs in the pools.
8. First Landing State Park, Cape Henry
This is a fairly quiet beach which stretches for a mile and a quarter.
The water is calm and warm in the summer months in First Landing.
The Park covers almost 3,000 acres, with hiking and cycling alternatives to the coastal activities of swimming, fishing, and boating.
There are camping facilities and cabins for overnight stays, and picnics during the day are great fun.
Swimming is not permitted in some places and there are no lifeguards in attendance.
The fragile plants in the dunes are protected by the boardwalks leading to the beach.
9. Buckroe Beach, Chesapeake Bay
Buckroe Beach covers eight acres and is under a mile wide, with facilities including a playground, picnic areas with plenty of shade, BBQs and tables and a number of trails for walkers and cyclists.
It is a popular beach with ample parking and lifeguards on duty in the high season.
On Sundays, in the summer, you can enjoy a concert, and on Tuesdays, there will be outdoor movies with a family theme to watch.
Dogs are not allowed during the summer.
The swimming is good and you can rent kayaks and paddle boats.
10. Virginia Beach, Virginia
At the meeting of the Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay, you will come across Virginia Beach, a stretch of sand that attracts huge numbers of tourists each year.
Sunrise is a magical time if you get up early enough, and then the sands and water beckon.
If you want to do more than sunbathe, rent a bike to explore.
There is a good chance of seeing dolphins in the waves.
Fish are plentiful so you will have the chance of enjoying a fresh catch on your plate at dinner time.
11. Kiptopeke State Park, Chesapeake Bay
This Park has become a popular recreational area, having once been the terminal for the ferry between Cape Charles and Little Creek.
It is a great place for birdwatching, hiking or biking.
There is a fishing pier and good facilities for kids, making it a great place for families.
Camping has become popular, while there are wooden cabins for rent as well as other forms of accommodation.
It is never particularly busy, so it is a perfect place for those wanting some time to relax on their holiday.
12. Ocean View Beach, Norfolk
With around 7.5 miles of beach and calm seas, Ocean View is a perfect place for both sunbathers and swimmers.
It is well-organized, so families arriving will find everything they need.
Fishing is popular and it is also fun to search the rock pools for crabs and other miniature sea creatures.
There is plenty of shade for those who need a break from the sun, with picnic tables and a bathhouse as well.
Children are perfectly safe in the calm, shallow waters, which also attract those wanting to paddleboard or kayak.
Many visitors simply enjoy a stroll and others jog by the water’s edge.
13. North End Beach, Virginia Beach
A local favorite with people living in Fort Story, this beach is dog-friendly and great for families.
There are two historic lighthouses which you can tour if you can get up the energy to leave the sand.
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was first commissioned in 1792, and the second one, still used today, dates back to 1881. North End Beach remains fairly quiet, so it is ideal for those wanting to avoid crowds.
Because the beach is largely used by locals, there has been no need for facilities that you may expect to find elsewhere.
Parking can be a challenge at times because of resident’s parking.
14. Assateague Island National Seashore, Chincoteague
This is back to real nature – little development with lovely white sands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Wild ponies roam the area but still tend to avoid any visitors.
You may like to climb up the lighthouse that dates back a century and a half.
The views from the top reveal a wonderful natural environment with dunes very much the home of those ponies.
You should take your own picnic with you if you plan a day out here, but please make sure you take all your litter away with you when you leave.
15. Sandbridge, Virginia Beach
This beach sits in front of a residential area and is a peaceful contrast to the beaches in the heart of the city.
There are rental homes available, so families can enjoy the beach and stay for a few days on vacation.
There is very little in the way of cafes and restaurants.
There are marshes to explore and wildlife to observe, while there are plenty of opportunities to hike amongst the dunes, kayak or fish.
If you opt for a vacation at Sandbridge, you will have all the space you need to enjoy this stretch of coast.