As an angler, you know that the adventure of fishing is as much about the experience as it is reeling in the a big one. If you’re used to one fishing (or fish), you’ll love the variety that awaits you in Sandbridge Beach, Virginia.
Did you know that Sandbridge Beach, a community of Virginia Beach, is one of the nation’s prime locales for watching dolphins at play?
It’s true. The shallow shoreline waters just off Sandbridge Beach literally teem with dolphins, especially when the weather is warmer. Visit the shore at sunrise or sunset for your best chance to spot these beloved marine mammals as they leap and frisk in the waves.
Have you noticed? Families simply don’t spend time together the way they used to. According to psychologist Dr. Jim Taylor, writing in Psychology Today, busy lifestyles and 24/7 technology are driving us apart. “It’s gotten to the point,” he writes, “where it seems like parents and children are emailing and texting each other [even] more than they’re talking.”
#1 Sort Your Stuff With Packing Cubes
A beach vacation requires packing lots of little bits and pieces, especially if you have kids. Invest in several small or medium clear packing cubes to quickly sort and group small items. For example, you can have separate packing cubes for miniature toys, travel size toiletries, suntan lotions, and first aid necessities. Clear packing cubes not only make packing more manageable, but they also make it easier to lay your hands on what you need when you arrive.
#2 Make a Pocket Beach Towel
Traditional terry beach towels aren’t nearly as cool as thin, roll-up towels that have pockets for sunglasses, suntan lotion, eReaders, books, and toys. You can buy roll-up beach towels with pockets on Amazon, but you can also make your own. Martha Stewart’s website has an easy-to-follow pattern, and you don’t even need a sewing machine.
#3 Create a Bottle Safe
Upcycle a large format plastic bottle to create a secret stash for your phone, keys, and cash. From the back, cut the top half of the bottle nearly all the way off, just leaving the front panel intact. Wash the bottle with plenty of dish soap and let it dry. Attach a piece of clear packing tape to the back to hold the two pieces together. At the beach, stash your valuables in the bottle and tape it shut. No one will ever know!
#4 Make a Waterproof Camera
Cell phones are expensive, and they aren’t waterproof, so it’s a little risky to take one to the beach. Luckily, several manufacturers have started making inexpensive waterproof bags for phones. Not only do these bags keep your phone (and keys) safe at the beach, you can actually take them into the water so you can snap photos. Waterproof phone bags range from $10 to $30 — not a bad investment when you consider you’ve got a ready-made waterproof camera.
#5 Create a Sand-Free Zone
Beach lovers know that sand has a way of getting into everything, and it’s no fun when it gets into your picnic. You can easily create a clean, sand-free zone with a fitted sheet. Just place the sheet upside down on the beach and put four heavy items, such as beach bags or coolers, in the corners and pull the elastic over them.
#6 DIY Sunscreen
Catch the Sunrise
Sunrises on Sandbridge Beach are spectacular. The sun comes up early in the summer — just after 6 a.m., but this sunrise is worth getting up for. If you don’t want to set the alarm on vacation, sleep with your blinds open and get up as the sky begins to lighten. Grab your coffee and walk to the beach to watch the show.
Breakfast at Baja Coffee
Reward yourself for rising at the crack of dawn with a hearty (or light) breakfast from Baja Coffee. The shop is open from 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and is located just a short drive from the fishing pier.
Treat yourself to a freshly baked cinnamon roll or muffin, a breakfast wrap, yogurt and homemade granola, a fresh-fruit smoothie, or even a gluten-free quiche.
Baja’s coffee comes from Kill Devil Coffee Roasters in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The beans come from small independent farmers who are focused on sustainability and organic growing methods. This is the most delicious small-batch coffee you’ll find, so you may want to linger for a second cup.
False Cape Bike Tour
After breakfast, it’s time to get moving with a False Cape bike tour. The bike tour is a new activity for Surf & Adventure Co., and it’s sure to become one of the most popular.
Meet at Little Island Pier for a 10 a.m. start on one of two tours. You can either bike the semi-paved roads in False Cape State Park or rent a fat-tire sand bike and cruise the beach. Tour the interior roads, and you’ll pedal through high dunes and diverse ecosystems. Of the two tours, this is the least strenuous. Keep an eye out for critters such as deer, foxes, birds, and wild pigs.
The beach tour will take you east of the dunes across pristine, undeveloped beaches. You may see dolphin and seabirds starting their day too.
Lunch at Simply Steamed
If you’re ready for a break and a big glass of tea, head to Simply Steamed. Start with a jumbo shrimp cocktail, crab cake, She Crab soup, gazpacho, or a salad before diving into one of their famous sandwiches. Choose from local favorites such as the seafood wrap, shrimp taco, lobster salad, or crab-cake sandwich, or go for traditional entrees such as a BLT, Club, or fish sandwich. Take your lunch to the deck outside the seafood market and relax.
Before you leave, notice their one-pot take-out meals. Pots are custom made to order and can include corn on the cob, onions, red potatoes, and any combination of shrimp, clams, mussels, crabs, lobster, and crawfish. A small pot feeds two or three people, and the large pots can feed a large group or family. All you have to do is steam the contents of the pot in water, beer, or wine, and serve.
Shopping at Sandpiper Beach Shop
After lunch, it’s time for a little shopping at Sandpiper Beach Shop. This cute store is the best place to find the ultimate Sandbridge Beach souvenir. You’ll also find beach clothing for the whole family, sun hats, beach toys, sunblock, games, beach-themed home décor, and more.
Fishing and Swimming at Little Island Park
Traveling with your dog takes a little planning, though, so we’ve put together a list of tips to help you and your best friend have a good time together at your dog friendly vacation rental in Sandbridge.
And, don’t forget to check out our first article on Dog-Friendly Tips for Vacationing in Virginia Beach.
Packing for Your Dog
Your dog will need her own bag of supplies to keep her comfortable and happy while she’s away from home. You’ll probably want to bring:
- Jug or bottle of water for the ride
- Collapsible water bowl
- Waste bags
- Leash and harness or collar with your phone number on the back
- Vaccination records (just in case)
- Bed or favorite blanket
- Favorite toys
- Old beach towel
- Flashlight for walking at night (it’s dark out here!)
Before you leave, Google the nearest vet or pet emergency room and program it into your cell phone contacts. If you need them, you won’t have to waste time searching for help.
If your dog isn’t use to traveling, start by taking her on several short drives so she gets used to the motion, sights, and sounds of being in a car. Have a co-pilot give her lots of attention, praise, and treats so she recalls riding in the car as a happy experience she wants to repeat.
You’ll also want to find out early if your dog gets carsick. If she does, there are ways to help her cope, such as using a crate with limited views, or a middle seat so she can look out the windshield.
Once your dog is adjusted to the car, give her access to her favorite bed or blanket so she can take a nap once the excitement wears off. For safety, never let your dog ride in the driver’s lap (or in the open bed of a pickup truck).
Adjusting to the Rental House
Ready to discover the underwater sights off the coast of North Carolina? Bring your snorkeling mask or buy one locally. If you’re just leisurely paddling around, you won’t need fins. If you’re on a serious exploration mission in search of share-worthy photos, fins will help you maneuver more accurately and quickly.
When snorkeling from the beach, watch for shells and sea glass that are partially buried in the sand. Snorkelers are often rewarded with treasures that beachcombers miss. You are likely to see small fish, shrimp, and schools of baitfish in the warm, shallow waters near shore.
Sandbridge Beach is near some of the most famous shipwrecks on the coast. Book a scuba tour for expert guidance to these beautiful and haunting sites. Lynnhaven Dive Center is near Sandbridge Beach, and they have a custom dive boat that is built for comfortable diving in Atlantic waters. For wreck dives, divers can hold on to lines so they don’t get caught in the current and miss seeing the wreck.
If you’ve always wanted to learn to scuba dive, Lynnhaven also offers private scuba instruction and certification. Certification takes about four days; most of that is spent practicing in open waters near Sandbridge Beach. Training doesn’t last all day, so if you want to get certified on your vacation, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy other activities at Sandbridge.
Standup Paddle Boarding, or SUP, is a fun sport, great exercise, and it’s not as hard as it looks. Beginner paddleboards are wide and long for maximum stability, so don’t worry too much about falling off. You can rent paddleboards from Ocean Rentals or Surf & Adventure and take them to the beach on your own.
An alternative to surfing, paddleboarding allows you to use a paddle to get past the breaking waves (instead of exhausting your arms). Once you’ve cleared the rough waves, you’re already standing up — keep your eyes open for “foamies” or an “A-frame” and ride it to shore. Sandbridge is a beautiful place to learn to paddleboard — the waves are gentle, and the bottom is sandy (just in case you do fall off).
Tours are also an ideal way to enjoy paddleboarding. Rudee Inlet paddleboard tours are just up the road from Sandbridge Beach. They offer dolphin tours, sunset floating yoga, bald eagle spotting, and more, depending on the season.
Ocean Rentals also offers standup paddleboard tours. Beginners will enjoy touring the calm waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, while more experienced paddlers can venture out on an ocean tour from Little Island Park. Paddlers should be older than 12, but no experience is necessary or expected.
Sandbridge Beach is a kayaker’s paradise. For real peace and quiet, rent a kayak from Ocean Rentals and paddle the pristine waters of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Ocean Rentals also takes kayakers on guided tours of Back Bay and the open waters of North Bay. Kayakers can revel in the majesty of the refuge, and get up close with birds such as herons, egrets, bitterns, and migratory ducks.
Treat yourself to a truly memorable experience and sign up for a sunset ocean kayak, or a sunset dolphin kayak tour. Kayakers will see dolphin and pelagic birds such as pelicans and gannets. Some trips go out into the ocean and back, and some have a delicious end at Blue Pete’s restaurant with a van ride home.
Surfing is the ultimate beach watersport, and Sandbridge Beach is the ideal place to learn or practice your skills. If you’ve always wanted to learn, Surf & Adventure Company offers private surf lessons and surf camps for beginners. Lessons are two hours long and are held on the north side of Little Island Park Pier. Once you’re ready to surf on your own, you can rent surfboards by the day or by the week from Surf & Adventure or Ocean Rentals.
Preparing for Water Fun
If you plan to enjoy watersports on your Sandbridge Beach vacation, one of the best investments you can make is a long-sleeved rash guard with SPF protection. Rash guards initially kept surfers from getting rashes caused by surf wax, but today they offer sun and wind protection for any water lover.
Whether you’re just relaxing, honing your skills, or developing new ones, the waters around Sandbridge Beach are an aquatic paradise for anyone who loves
Renting a house or condo can be significantly less expensive than renting a hotel room (or rooms). At hotels, you’re paying for service: room service, maid service, parking, and concierge. However, on a beach vacation, most people will happily pass on the 8 a.m. housekeeping knock on the door and overpriced food. When you rent a house, you get to skip paying for extras you don’t want or need.
When renting a house at Sandbridge Beach, you get more bang for your buck. More space, the amenities you really want such as full kitchens, washer and dryer, dishwasher, microwave, blender, and more. You also often find Sandbridge Beach vacation rentals give you premium locations near the attractions you love most.
The average hotel room is only 325 square feet. That’s a pretty small space to share with another person, or your entire family, for a week. Even the coziest rentals at Sandbridge Beach have a bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living room, and a porch.
Why spend your beach vacation looking at a parking lot or bank of air conditioners when you could be looking at the ocean? Many rentals are beachfront or beach view, giving you gorgeous vistas from every room.
A private porch with rocking chairs is better than a tiny hotel balcony. After a day at the beach, you can spend a quiet summer evening cooking, reading, and relaxing on your porch instead of watching TV in a hotel room.
Like to sleep in? Rather have your breakfast and coffee before your shower? Prefer peace and quiet to the noise of elevators and rude guests yelling outside your door? With a vacation rental house, you have complete control over the decibel level and your schedule.
More Quality Time
If you’re traveling with friends or family, everyone tends to part ways after dinner. Sharing a rental house means everyone can have their space, but still hang out together over coffee or late-night games or drinks without feeling they’re bothering others.
Rentals can come with fun and useful amenities such as outdoor grills, hammocks, Jacuzzi tubs, books, a fireplace, screened porch, rocking chairs, beach toys, and more. Sometimes these thoughtful touches become the best part of a vacation.
Even beachfront hotels can’t rival a rental on a quiet stretch of shoreline. Hotels need space for parking, restaurants, and staff offices. Rent a house, and you won’t have to face the business end of a hotel’s location. Instead, it will be just you, your home, and the ocean.
Rentals give everyone the space to do as they please. You can get the group together for a boisterous game night, or everyone can have their spot to read, nap, and relax.
Few hotels allow pets, and even if they do, it can be difficult for your furry friend to find a place of their own to get comfortable. Many rentals are pet-friendly, and there’s ample room for dog beds, crates, games of chase, and whatever makes your buddy happy. A rental also allows you to give your sandy, salty dog a bath before she gets in bed with you.
Live Like a Local
Sarongs are rectangles of cotton fabric about two yards long. A staple of Indonesian and Malaysian culture, they are brightly colored or patterned and traditionally worn as skirts or dresses. However, this up-and-coming trend has beachgoers embracing the sarong for its versatility for the whole family. They roll up small (about the size of a sandwich), so they don’t take up much room in your luggage or beach bag.
Here are some of our favorite ways to use a sarong at Sandbridge Beach.
When you’re headed to the beach, it’s easy to pack several sarongs in your beach bag. In fact, half a dozen rolled-up sarongs take up less space than one terrycloth beach towel. Imagine having enough towels for the whole family in one small, lightweight bag. Because they are thin, they dry quickly in the sun. Use a sarong in this manner, and you’ll likely always have a dry towel.
Shawl or Cover-Up
Most of the time you’ll only need shorts and a T-shirt or a light sundress at Sandbridge Beach. However, in the evenings or on breezy days it’s nice to have a quick cover-up. Keep a sarong in your bag and eliminate the need for bulky sweaters or sweatshirts.
Carry a spare sarong, and you’ll always have a light wrap for outdoor meals in the evening, nighttime beach walks, or to cover up in light wind. They can be used to wrap up chilly kids on the beach or at dinner, and they pack and stow quickly. When it’s too hot for a sweatshirt but too cool for short sleeves, sarongs make lovely nap blankets at the beach or on the porch.
Tie your sarong into a small sling and you’ll have an instant picnic bag or grocery bag. At the beach, use it to carry kids’ toys, shells, driftwood, or other treasures.
Sometimes the mosquitoes come out before you’re ready for them. If you’ve forgotten your bug spray, or just don’t want to smell like pine insecticide at dinner, cover up with your sarong.
Use your sarong as a beautiful picnic blanket for two, or spread out several colorful squares to make a picnic table for the whole family. Depending on how tightly you roll them, two or three sarongs will fit in a gallon Ziploc baggie to keep them dry if you want to pack them in your cooler.
Swim Cover-ups for Women, Men, and Kids
You don’t need to buy an expensive swimsuit cover-up. Sarongs can be worn tied below the waist as a short or long skirt, or around the neck for a short dress. Because sarongs are easy to pack, you’ll have more room in your beach bag for a good book and plenty of snacks. Men can wear sarongs, too— in fact, men in T-shirts, flip-flops, and long sarongs are a common sight on world-renowned beaches from Bali to Puerto Rico.
Sarongs come in beautiful, bright colors that blend in with a beachy vibe. With just a few smart twists you can wrap a sarong into a pretty sundress that will take you from the beach to lunch. Wrap it in a longer sundress, slip on your fun flip-flops or sparkly sandals and you’ll be ready for a casual dinner.
Sarongs are great when it’s too hot to wear anything else. They’re also nice to throw on as a robe if you’re renting a house with other people and sharing common space. Wrap a sarong around you if you’re not ready to properly dress yet, or are on the way to or from a shared bath.
Instant Shade Canopies
Midday sun can be hot at Sandbridge Beach. Find four long pieces of driftwood, tie the ends of your sarong to the tops, and then wedge the sticks in the sand. You’ll have instant (and pretty) shade without having to haul a beach umbrella around.
Tie Up Dirty Laundry
Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin
Topping the list is the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin. Dolphins are abundant at Sandbridge Beach, and are often seen from the beach or the pier. They like to swim in groups called pods, so if you see one, you’ll likely see several more. The best time to see dolphins at Sandbridge is between Memorial Day and Labor Day around sunrise and sunset.
Black bears are common to inland Virginia, but they can also be seen around Sandbridge Beach from time to time. Black bears aren’t aggressive, but if you happen to see one, give it plenty of room (and never feed them).
Gray foxes are small, about 2 or 3 feet long, and weigh about 8 pounds. They can be seen around Sandbridge Beach, especially in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but many people mistake them for small dogs at first. They’re shy, harmless, and smart, so they are fun animals to watch.
Bats are an essential part of the ecosystem at Sandbridge Beach, though they sometimes get a bad rap. In fact, bats are useful, gentle, smart, and can live up to 30 years. (They also have sweet little fuzzy faces.) Sandbridge is home to 5 kinds of bats, including big brown bats, evening bats, red bats, and Easter big-eared bats.
Our bats do us a favor by eating mosquitos and other flying insects. In fact, a single bat can eat up to 1,000mosquitos and cockroaches in one hour.
If you see a bat in Sandbridge Beach, it’s your opportunity to marvel at these helpful flying mammals instead of being afraid. Watch for them at sunset, especially near tall trees, piers, or bridges.
Speaking of flying, if you see a small mammal floating through the air — you’re not going crazy. Flying squirrels make Sandbridge Beach their home, and they are interesting to watch. They don’t really fly, though — instead, they jump from branches and spread their webbed arms out so they can glide on the air. They are primarily nocturnal, so keep an eye out for large guinea pig-like critters near sunset.
Sandbridge Beach has a unique population of rabbits called marsh rabbits. These cottontails are strong swimmers and are found on the coast. Marsh rabbits are much smaller than other rabbit species, so if you think you’re seeing a baby bunny, you’re probably looking at a marsh rabbit. Watch for these fuzzy creatures in the marsh or the dense brush at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.
Small herds of deer can be spotted in or around False Cape State Park and in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In summer, deer tend to come out in the cooler evening and morning temperatures to eat, so watch for them alongside roads if you’re up early or headed to dinner after dark.
Bobcats are a bit of a mystery and a legend at Sandbridge Beach. A little larger than a housecat, bobcats are easily mistaken for stray cats in dim light or at night. They are sometimes sighted inside Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but they’ve also been seen (and heard) near First Landing State Park.
Five kinds of sea turtles return to Sandbridge Beach to nest in the spring and summer: Loggerhead, Kemp’s ridley, green turtle, leatherback, and hawksbill turtles are all much-beloved visitors to our shores. Sea turtles are protected, so if you see a nest, keep children and dogs away from it.
So many frog species make their home at Sandbridge Beach that you can make a game out of seeing how many different kinds you can find on your vacation. Sandbridge frog species have fun names such as Narrow mouth frog, cricket frog, spring peeper, squirrel tree frog, spade foot toad, Upland chorus frog, and Southern leopard frog. Pick up a frog identification guide online or at your local bookstore and enjoy getting to know our slippery friends.
Salamanders are so plentiful at Sandbridge Beach that you probably won’t need to look for them. These little creatures eat their weight in bugs hundreds of times over every day; so if you see one, let it go on its way.
Sandbridge Beach is an animal (and reptile) lover’s paradise. Whether you make a special trip to Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge or just take in your surroundings from the beach or water, our animal residents will be a memorable part of your vacation.