Autumn is a special time of year at Sandbridge Beach. Summer temperatures give way to cooler fall days and nights, crowds thin, and locals get excited about the prospect of putting on knitwear and, occasionally…socks. Fall is a time for residents to chill, and if you’re visiting Sandbridge Beach in the off-season, you just may find yourself in the flow of relaxed, time-honored fall activities.
Go to an Oyster Roast
To seaside residents, oyster season is the unofficial beginning of holiday celebrations. This year’s oyster harvesting window is late, beginning on October 1 if the weather cooperates. As soon as it’s officially legal to gather oysters, the social season starts. Oyster roasts range from small impromptu backyard gatherings to large public fundraisers. Simply Steamed on Sandpiper Road offers build-your-own to-go steam pots as well.
Local restaurants usually have oyster roast nights throughout the fall where you can grab a bucket for around $10. Oysters are only a small part of what’s on the menu at an oyster roast. Hearty soups and stews, homemade bread, and plenty of desserts round out these traditional parties. If you’re invited to one, it’s traditional to bring a dish to share.
Practice Your Photography Skills
Diffused sunlight in fall makes this time of year a photographer’s dream. Not only are you more likely to get a shot of a deserted beach or forest trail, but wildlife tends to be more active as well. One of the best scenic places for photographers is the beach at sunrise or sunset. You may spy passing dolphins near shore, but you’re sure to capture a peaceful tableau — especially the morning after a storm.
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is another photographer’s paradise. You’re likely to spot photogenic birds such as osprey, songbirds, gannets, and terns — especially in the mornings. Keep an eye out for the tundra swan, a beloved visitor who overwinters in the refuge. It’s worth the hike to venture into the pine forests with your camera. These “wet forests” are home to herds of deer, owls, unusual birds, and even bobcats.
With cooler temperatures and less competition, fall is prime time to go fishing at Sandbridge Beach. Local fisherfolk will tell you that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to have fun and catch fish, especially if you’re just headed to the beach or the pier.
For beach or pier fishing, you’ll need a long rod known as a “heaver.” These rods are 11 to 12 feet in length and can handle heavy bait and 8 ounces of lead weight (known here as “8 and bait”). In the fall, you can also use a smaller rod for casting lures and jigs. Wherever you plan to fish, be sure to get a fishing license and make note of size and catch regulations.
Bike or Hike to False Cape State Park
False Cape State Park is one of the only places left where you can camp right on the beach. It’s also one of the few places where you’ll likely find yourself utterly secluded. The trick is getting there. False Cape State Park lies in front of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which does not allow motor vehicles.
Park at Little Island Recreation Area (you’ll need a permit), and then complete the last five miles to the campsites through Back Bay on foot, by bike, or by canoe. You’ll need a reservation and a permit to camp. Fall is great weather for camping on False Cape, plus the park is home to migrating birds, deer, feral horses, and pigs.
When the temperatures drop, it’s time to take dinner outside. Several restaurants on Sandbridge Beach have outdoor patios or screened outdoor patios. Try Baja Restaurant, Sandbridge Island Restaurant, Lago Mar Italian Restaurant, Margie & Ray’s Crabhouse, Pungo Pizza, and Blue Pete’s for fabulous outdoor dining.
Holiday Lights at the Beach
From November through January you can take in McDonald’s Holiday Lights at the Beach on the Virginia Beach Boardwalk. The dark Atlantic Ocean provides the perfect backdrop for thousands of sparkling lights. These aren’t just any holiday lights either — you’ll see 30 blocks of nautically themed displays such as dolphins, boats, mermaids, sharks, surfing Santa, and more.
Try Local Brews
The Virginia Beach Craft Beer Festival takes place in nearby Virginia Beach every October. Fifty breweries offer tastings of their best beers, and the festivities include live music and food vendors. Virginia Beach has a healthy population of local brewers and breweries, so a pub-hopping educational tour through the region’s best pints is always a favorite activity. Great options include the Reaver Beach Brewing Co., Back Bay Brewing Co., and Wasserhund Brewing Co.
Summer may be behind us, but for Sandbridge Beach visitors, some of the best days of the year are yet to come. Visit Sandbridge Beach in the fall and you’ll enjoy temperate weather and plenty of local fun.