If you are a true camper at heart, you won't want to miss this opportunity during your Sandbridge, VA, vacation.
Nestled at the southernmost tip of Virginia's coast, False Cape State Park is truly a world apart. All told, it covers 3,844 acres of utterly unspoiled landscape, with 15.3 miles of trails and six miles of pristine beachfront. To the west, it borders massive Back Bay; to the east, it runs right along the Atlantic Ocean. At its lowest point, it forms the official state line between Virginia and North Carolina, just above the Outer Banks.
What's more, it's remarkably private. Even at the height of summer, you can wander amid the park's lush meadows, leafy woodlands, grassy dunes, and shimmering marshes – and practically have the whole place to yourself.
Best of all, you can pitch your tent at one of 12 primitive campsites for a totally peaceful experience far from the hustle-bustle. Just be sure to call 1-800-933-PARK well ahead of time to make your reservation. You'll receive an information packet with full instructions for your camping adventure.
Getting There Is Half the Fun
False Cape State Park is accessible only by foot, bicycle, tram, and paddle craft.
To Reach the Park by Foot or Bicycle: You must go through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The entrance fee is $2 per pedestrian and $5 per vehicle.
If possible, park at the Refuge parking lot. If it's filled, park at nearby Little Island City Park (for a modest fee). Then, hike or bike one of two gravel trails that wind through the Refuge to False Cape State Park: East Dike Trail or West Dike Trail.
At any given time, only one of these trails will be open. When you enter the Refuge, look for a prominent sign pointing you to the currently open trail.
After hiking or cycling for about 4.5 miles, you'll reach the False Cape Visitor Center (open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). Here you'll get further directions to your campsite plus additional park information.
To Reach the Park by Tram: Throughout most of the year, you can hop aboard the Blue Goose Tram for a scenic trip through Back Bay Refuge to the contact station at False Cape State Park. Along the way, you'll view gorgeous scenery, spot lots of colorful wildlife, and enjoy a fascinating talk by your friendly, expert driver.
The round-trip trek costs $8 per adult and $6 for seniors and kids (ages 3 to 12). Tots under 3 ride free.
Call 757-426-7128 ahead of time to book your reservation. Then arrive at the Refuge Visitor Center before the tram's 9 a.m. departure. The trip through the Refuge takes about an hour.
To Reach the Park by Boat: Use one of several convenient boat ramps – one at Little Island City Park, the other at the Game Warden headquarters on Back Bay Landing Road. Launch your kayak, canoe, or other paddle craft east across Back Bay. After a few miles of paddling, you'll reach the False Cape Landing Dock, where you'll find tie-ups for your boat.
What to Expect Once You Reach Your Campsite
False Cape's 12 tent-only campsites are scattered throughout four areas: Barbour Hill Bay, Barbour Hill Ocean, False Cape Landing Bay, and False Cape Landing Ocean. There's ample space between areas, so you'll have plenty of privacy.
But make no mistake, this camping experience is not for the faint of heart. Ideally you won't want to bring along very small children, novice campers, or anyone who might need emergency medical care. But DO bring along a spacious tent, sleeping bags, bug spray, sunscreen, blankets, first-aid supplies, trash bags, plus enough food and drink for your stay. Open fires and charcoal grills are not permitted, but you may use a small propane camp stove to heat your meals.
If this sounds like your perfect idyll, you'll have a fabulous time. Far away from the madding crowd, you can lie on the beach, gaze up at the stars, listen to lapping waves, and get in touch with Mother Nature. It's an unforgettable experience.
What to Do During the Day
False Cape State Park offers fun activities including:
- Sunbathing, picnicking, and shell collecting on the beach
- Swimming, surfing, and snorkeling in the Atlantic Ocean
- Surf fishing (provided you have a Virginia Saltwater License)
- Fly fishing in Back Bay (with a Freshwater License)
- Birdwatching near the ponds and marshes, where migratory waterfowl cluster from fall through spring
- Hiking the picturesque trails and scoping out flora and fauna
- Exploring the Wash Woods settlement, where you'll discover the ruins of a 19th-century church and cemetery
Afterward, You'll Have a Blast Getting Back to Civilization
If you plan to return by the Blue Goose Tram, be sure you arrive at the False Cape Visitor Center by 12:45 p.m. Otherwise, simply clear out of the Refuge by half an hour before sunset.
Then return to your luxurious vacation rental, where you'll enjoy all the comforts of home plus amenities galore!