In 1607 – 13 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock – a band of intrepid British settlers made landfall at Cape Henry, Virginia. Today their historic landing site is a 2,888-acre state park, popular all year ’round for swimming, hiking, biking, boating, fishing, crabbing, and more.
Best of all, it’s just 22 miles north of Sandbridge via scenic Sandbridge Road. So, it’s the perfect spot for a pleasant day trip while you’re staying at Sandbridge Beach.
Admission to the park is just $4 per vehicle ($5 on weekends), and the grounds and trails are open daily between 8 a.m. and dusk. So, pack a lunch, gather the fam, and head up for a few hours – or an entire day – of healthy outdoor fun.
Love to Swim or Bask in the Sun? Hit the Chesapeake Bay Beach
The park’s beautiful sandy beach stretches for 1-1/4 miles along sparkling Chesapeake Bay. If you have tots in tow, you’ll love it: The bay’s placid blue waters are much calmer than Atlantic Ocean surf, so they’re safer for families with children. (But please note: There are no lifeguards, so swim at your own risk, and keep careful watch on your little ones.)
Four wooden boardwalks give you hassle-free access to the beachfront. One of the boardwalks begins just off the parking lot right at the main entrance, so it couldn’t be more convenient.
The beach itself is delightful – a broad expanse of clean white sand fringed with grass-covered dunes and leafy coastal shrubs. Your kids will have ample room to play, so be sure to bring along shovels, buckets, and other beachy toys. And don’t forget bug repellent – the nearby vegetation can attract some pesky skeeters.
In the distance, you can see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel. Your kids will love watching the ships traveling in and out of port.
When you’re all finished splashing in the waves and frolicking on the shore, you can wash off at one of the outdoor showers located along the boardwalks. (Restrooms are also available close to each walkway.)
Prefer Hiking or Biking? Explore Miles of Gorgeous Trails
Nine scenic hiking trails crisscross First Landing Park. Covering 19 miles in all, they encompass a wide range of habitats: cypress swamps, salt marshes, freshwater wetlands, grassy dunes, sandy shoreline, and lush maritime forest.
Eight trails are for hiking only, but the longest path – Cape Henry Trail – also permits bicycles. Bring your own bikes or rent them at a modest charge from the Park Store/Information Center (located near the main entrance).
Whether you’re hiking or biking – or both – you’ll want to start off at the Trail Center, where you’ll find plenty of info on trail routes, habitats, wildlife, and natural history. Then get set to discover:
- Cape Henry Trail, six miles of wide, sandy road (plus some blacktop) winding north to south through dense forests, swamps, and marshlands
- Bald Cypress Trail, an easy 1.5-mile loop around shimmering cypress swamps, with boardwalks and platforms where you can pause and observe the fascinating flora and fauna
- High Dune Trail, just a quarter-mile long but well worth the trek to the top of a forested ridge with sweeping, picturesque views (especially in the winter when the leaves are off the trees)
- Kingfisher Trail, a pleasant half-mile hike through gorgeous maritime forest
- Long Creek Trail, five miles of scenic beauty, skirting shoreline, marshland, and White Hill Lake, with picture-perfect views and prime vantage points for birdwatching
- Osmanthus Trail, a 3-mile jogger-friendly loop across secluded bottomlands
- Osprey Trail, 1.2 miles long, with a lovely stretch along a tidal beach
- White Hill Lake Trail (1.4 miles), a wide, easy walking path through forests and swampland, connecting Cape Henry and Long Creek Trails
- Fox Run Trail, another connecting trail, only a third of a mile long so it’s terrific for tots and seniors
Plus, Go Boating and Fishing
At the end of the park’s 64th Street road you’ll find a convenient boat launch next to a spacious parking lot. The ramp is three lanes wide, so you can easily launch your rig, no matter what its size. You’ll pay just $4 for using the launch plus another $4 ($5 on weekends) for parking. And you’ll have direct, immediate access to two beautiful bays (Linkhorn and Broad).
Nearby you’ll find the Narrows, a small sandy beach where you can cast your line for saltwater gamefish or drop a net for blue-claw crabs. (If you opt for fishing, you’ll need a Virginia saltwater license.)
Top It All Off with the Perfect Picnic
Near the park’s main entrance you’ll discover a tree-shaded picnic area, complete with charcoal grills, picnic tables, a group pavilion, and a nearby restroom facility. Unpack your lunch, fire up the grill, and enjoy!
Then Head Back to Your Comfortable Rental at Sandbridge Beach, VA
After a fun-filled day at First Landing State Park, you’ll appreciate the peace and serenity of your Sandbridge Beach rental unit. Relax on the deck or patio, sip a cool drink, gaze at the sunset, and get ready for tomorrow’s adventures.