You’ve come to Sandbridge Beach, VA, for serenity, peace, and privacy. But your kids (ages 6 and up) are clamoring for a thrilling adventure. What do you do? That’s easy. Only 11 miles away via Sandbridge Road and Upton Drive, you’ll find world-class treetop ziplining at Adventureworks Wetland Zip Tours, 1304 Prosperity Road, just south of Virginia Beach.
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
Whether you crave ocean-fresh seafood or authentic Mexican cuisine, Sandbridge Beach has world-class food to tantalize your taste buds. Here are 6 of the best restaurants in the Sandbridge Beach area for you to try during your next visit. Go ahead… eat like a local!
Want your seafood Asian-style? Boardwok serves up well-priced Asian and American cuisine for lunch, dinner, or takeout. The menu has classic favorites such as teriyaki, tempura, and noodle dishes. But if you’re looking for a real treat, try one of the wok dishes which are the owner’s specialty.
Have folks in your crew that aren’t into Asian? There is also a sprinkling of classic American entrees such as chef’s salad, deli sandwiches, and crispy chicken tenders. You’ll find Boardwok at 1993 Sandbridge Road. Don’t feel like going out? You can also order online for delivery in the Sandbridge area.
Baja is one of Sandbridge Beach’s most beloved restaurants. This local hangout at the south end of Sandbridge Beach has a happy beach vibe, an impressive menu, and a lively list of activities and entertainment all through the summer.
Are you a coffee connoisseur? Don’t miss out on this restaurant’s famous local blend, Baja Coffee. Heading out for some fishing? Want a quiet place to gently wakeup and welcome the new day? This unique blend of java is served Tuesday through Sunday mornings. Pick up a cup of joe and a pastry from 6:30 a.m. until noon. Dinner is served from 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Seafood lovers can choose from steamed oysters, shrimp, crab, and local fish dishes. Baja also offers burgers, chicken, salads, soups, steaks, and pizza.
Sandbridge Island Restaurant
Located next to the Seaside Market, Sandbridge Island Restaurant, Raw Bar & Pizza has a great view, and regularly wins awards including “Best of the Beach,” “Best Kept Secret,” “Best Local’s Hangout,” “Best Pizza,” and “Best Outdoor Dining.”
Not only well-renowned for their food, Sandbridge Island Restaurant also has plenty of fun activities. Lay down your fork and pick up a mic for Karaoke on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Rather be outdoors? You’ll love the weekly Deck Party on Saturdays and Sundays.
Their menu will tempt you with raw bar options such as shrimp, crab legs, oysters, clams, and more. Their Surf & Turf combos include so many items that you may need to order an appetizer while you decide. Choose from crab cakes, fried oysters, fish prepared any way you like it, and more, and then add a steak or barbecued ribs to round out the meal. Sandbridge Island also has traditional sandwiches and burgers, a great kids’ menu, and a creative pizza menu.
Not all restaurants are found in buildings. When you want a quick (but completely awesome) meal, get your lunch or dinner on wheels. Bandidos Taco Stand is a popular food truck that serves delicious tacos and burritos made from fresh ingredients.
Open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day (except Saturday, when they open at 7 a.m.), visitors and locals alike are proud to say they eat here once a day, every day. The service is friendly, the fish tacos are unlike anything you’ve ever had before, and the prices are unbeatable. Tacos range from $3 to $5, and drinks are just $1. Look for their flag on your way to Little Island Beach, then pull up at one of the picnic tables under the trees to eat.
Crab boils are one of heaven’s simple pleasures especially when you’re at the beach. When you do them yourself, however, they can be rather messy. The local’s secret? Get it to go!
Simply Steamed is a Seafood takeout market with daily lunch specials, fresh seafood, soups, salads, and more. However, this market is most famous for their steam pots — disposable pots packed with your choice of seafood, veggies, and a special spice blend. Just pick up your pot, take it home, and pop it on the stove or grill. If you’ve got a crowd to feed, try their “Party in a Can” for $7 per person.
Margie & Ray’s
No review of Sandbridge Beach restaurants would be complete without Margie & Ray’s. Who would have thought that – what was once a country store and tackle shop – is now a proper restaurant with a cult following that reaches far and wide.
Margie & Ray’s is one of the only places where you can get a full breakfast in Sandbridge Beach. Open all day, they offer a hearty lunch menu of seafood dishes, sandwiches, and salads, as well as a whopping dinner menu that includes their famous buffet-style seafood platters. Note: you’d better come hungry!
Find the restaurant at 1240 Sandbridge Road between Ashville Bridge Creek and Hell Point Creek, next to Indian Cove Resort.
Whether you’re on the way to the beach or looking for a relaxing dinner, there’s no shortage of Sandbridge Beach restaurants serving up delicious food, grand views, and friendly service.
Sandbridge Beach is on the Atlantic Flyway, a bird migration path that begins in the Arctic and follows the Atlantic Coast down through Florida to the Caribbean.
Tundra Swan Migration
Tundra Swans are large white birds with black bills. With a wingspan of up to 5 feet, these waterfowl are a sight to behold, especially in large numbers. Tundra Swans leave the Arctic in late October, and it’s believed that as many as 10,000 migrate to the Virginia coast through spring. They prefer brackish water, tidal rivers, marshes, and wetlands where they find plenty of favorite foods such as grasses and pondweeds. In Sandbridge Beach, look for flocks of Tundra Swans in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the bay and freshwater ponds.
American Black Duck Migration
Naturalists watch for the first American Black Ducks to arrive from Canada as an indication of the start of fall migration. American Black Ducks are a “priority species” for conservationists, as their numbers have declined sharply due to over-hunting. American Black Ducks tend to hang out with flocks of mallards, so look carefully for the orange bill and teal wing patch. Watch for this species in fresh and saltwater ponds in Back Bay. They are also frequently spotted from the Blue Goose Tram.
Other Migratory Birds
More than 300 species of birds have been sighted in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge alone. The Refuge is an important part of the Atlantic Flyway because it provides over 8,000 acres of diverse wildlife habitat. Observant birders may spot waterfowl such as buffleheads, Harlequin Ducks, gadwalls, and mergansers. Back Bay is the only place you’ll find the secretive LeConte’s Sparrow, one of the smallest sparrows in North America.
Red Knots, a medium-sized shorebird, comes to Sandbridge Beach to rest and replenish their weight before breeding season. Millions of songbirds stop along the barrier island to wait for the perfect weather window for flying across Chesapeake Bay. Look carefully — you may also see the American Redstart, Hooded Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Seaside Sparrow, Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and White-crowned Sparrow.
Sandbridge Beach: A Buffet for Birds
Migrating birds come to Sandbridge Beach looking for food and safe cover in which to rest. The unique diversity of the barrier island provides plenty of both. Waterfowl find a buffet of aquatic plants while other birds enjoy a feast of small crabs, rodents, insects, or winter berries. The salt marshes and woodlands provide a quiet place to recharge, especially in areas that are accessible to humans only by foot. Freshwater ponds are perfect bird baths, so you may even see saltwater species taking a break inland.
Best Places to Bird
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is the best place to photograph and observe birds. With 9,000 acres of beaches, woods, marshes, and fields, Back Bay is a bird mecca. Besides the Blue Goose Tram, no motor vehicles are allowed in Back Bay, so plan to do your birding by bike or on foot. There are 8 miles of trails and viewing platforms, and all the peace and quiet you can ask for.
In Back Bay, you’re likely to come upon the Snow Goose and Tundra Swan, but you’ll also see loons, tiny grebes, and colorful waterfowl. Walk along the beach and you may even see Peregrine Falcons on their migration path. Keep an eye out over the water for Northern Gannets, and over the marsh for Northern Harriers.
If you’re looking for ducks, visit the 870-acre freshwater impoundment in Back Bay. This human-made wetland was purpose-built as a rest stop and feeding ground for migrating waterfowl, shorebirds, and wading birds. Duck aficionados will also enjoy a visit to the Atlantic Waterfowl Heritage Museum, an easy 20-minute drive from Sandbridge Beach. This museum is home to a large display of decoys, bird art and sculpture, and a photo history of the area, including the days when Back Bay was a duck hunter’s paradise.
Winter Wildlife Festival 2017
High-Tech Beach Umbrellas
Gone are the days of tiny, flimsy beach umbrellas that force you to chase the shade around the clock. Large, vented market-style umbrellas that tilt are a good starting point, but we can do you one better. Consider portable cabanas and sand tents that provide high SPF protection and ample space for the whole family. For the ultimate indulgence, check out camp-style beach chairs with built-in personal umbrellas and foot rests. These chairs are portable, designed to be packable, and made of ultra-lightweight material. Plus, they allow you to adjust how much sun you get.
Catch the Breeze
Staying comfortable at Sandbridge Beach starts the minute you hit the sand. Some beachgoers plant their chairs and umbrellas against the sand dunes or near the boardwalk because they don’t know if the tide is coming in or going out. If you set up camp right at the waterline, however, you’ll be in the best position to catch the cooling sea breezes. Not sure of the tides? Download a smartphone app that tells you when the water will be rising and falling.
Battery-Powered Fans and Misters
Battery-powered personal fans can help you stay chilled out by generating your own breeze. It’s even better if the fan has a built-in mister. Check your local beach store or online retailers for a handheld water-misting fan. These cute contraptions look like a small spray bottle with a fan on top. You can also get a USB fan that plugs into your smartphone port, but be sure to keep your mobile device away from water.
Cool Head Beach Pillow
The Cool Head Beach Pillow is an ingenious refillable pillow that helps keep body temperatures down during beach naps. Fill the pillow with water and release as much air as needed to keep your head comfortable. When the water inside the pillow warms up, just empty and refill.
Water fights are so much more fun on hot days. Fill up your super soaker or water blaster and start an old-fashioned water gun fight. Resist the urge to use water balloons — the color and shape of broken balloons is whimsical — but deadly — to fish and turtles.
Stay fueled up, and cooled down, with bite-size cold snacks that are easy to pass and share. Cut watermelon into 1″ cubes or use a melon baller to scoop out snack-sized portions. Freeze pineapple slices or grapes for an icy treat that won’t melt even if your ice does, and use chilled celery sticks to scoop up salsa or cold hummus.
Water, Water, Water
It’s easy to underestimate how much water you need on a steamy day by the ocean. Even if you’re just reading, you’ll lose moisture sweating. Take along more water than you think you’ll need, and be sure to drink it even if you’re not thirsty. If you’re not normally a water drinker, consider lightly flavored carbonated water in cans, or sliced cucumbers, lemons, and limes in your water bottles to encourage hydration.
Take a Dip
Going for a swim is the best way to cool off on a hot beach day. However, if you’re not a swimmer — or don’t like swimming in the ocean — wading or sitting in shallow water will help keep you cool. If you are a swimmer, take a dip every 30 minutes, and be sure to reapply sunblock after you get out of the water.
Take a Break