Sandbridge Beach: The Outer Banks of Virginia

Sandbridge Outer BanksThe Outer Banks are stretches of peninsulas and barrier islands that run 200 miles along the coast of North Carolina and Virginia. The Outer Banks strand actually begins in Virginia with the 4.5-mile long Sandbridge Beach. Because Sandbridge Beach is backed by Currituck Sound to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, its geography is similar to that of the North Carolina Outer Banks. That similarity (and also cultural similarities) have earned Sandbridge Beach the nickname “The Outer Banks of Virginia.” For those who love the remote, untamed, and relaxed atmosphere of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Sandbridge Beach is a must-see.

Unique Location

The Outer Banks strand is one of the few places in the United States where geologists don’t fully understand the geological formation. It’s believed that the strand is about 18,000 years old — a relic of glacial movement. This unique environment is the ideal home for some unusual birds. While you’re on the beach, keep an eye out for rare Surf Scoters, Northern Gannets, and even Peregrine Falcons. You’ll see Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking in the surf year-round, but if you visit in winter you may even catch a glimpse of a migrating humpback whale.

Colorful History

In the late 1800s, Sandbridge Beach was the location of hunting clubs typical of the time. Then the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge was created in 1938, absorbing most of the clubs. Before World War II, Sandbridge Beach was a local secret. Then in 1952 Harvey Lindsay and a group of friends from Norfolk bought the entire strip for $100,000. Lindsay began building Sandfiddler Road and placing cottages on top of the man-made sand dunes.

In 1952, a 100′ x 220’lot cost investors $2,700, or $50 a month with $50 down. Most buyers were nearby Virginia natives for whom Sandbridge Beach was a yearly summer family tradition. These groups built small cottages without heat, dug their own wells, and shared a telephone line with a three-minute limit each.

Cottage owners typically moved to Sandbridge for the whole summer, with fathers commuting on the weekends. Simple meals were created from whatever they caught that day, plus vegetables sold out of the back of a farmer’s truck. Milk and eggs came from a weekly dairy delivery. The long, lazy days were spent lounging on the beach, roasting hotdogs and marshmallows, playing cards, making up games, and working jigsaw puzzles. Nowadays, not much has changed in the way families use Sandbridge Beach, and locals who knew Harvey Lindsay say that he would appreciate how little time has changed his favorite retreat.

Mild Weather Most of the Year

While the history and ecology of the Outer Banks are surely among the things that make Sandbridge Beach so special, the weather is yet another. While winters can bring quite a chill with lows in the 30s, the average temperature for spring, summer, and fall is a delightful 70 degrees, with summer highs in the upper 80s. During an average year, Sandbridge Beach enjoys 213 days of sunshine, with constant ocean breezes to cool off even the hottest days.

With such ideal weather, it’s no wonder that celebrities and VIPs call this stretch of coastline home. Baseball fans may recognize Major League player Ryan Zimmerman — he grew up in Sandbridge Beach and still owns a home here. The former governor of Virginia, Bob McDonnell, also owns a home in Sandbridge Beach. Natives of the area include Pharrell Williams, Mark Ruffalo, and Gabrielle Douglas, so don’t be surprised if you spot one of them on your vacation.

Quiet, Untouched Beaches

Sandbridge Beach is relatively remote, which means that beaches remain nearly as quiet and uncrowded as they were in Harvey Lindsay’s day. Beaches are also purposefully family friendly, with waters monitored by lifeguards from the Virginia Beach EMS Lifeguard Division. Lifeguard stands can be found at the beaches near the Sandbridge Seaside Market and Little Island Park, and all other stretches of sand are regularly patrolled. Lifeguard hours are from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time from Memorial Day through Labor Day.

Free Beach Access

Sandfiddler Road runs along the Atlantic Ocean side of Sandbridge Beach. There are beach access paths on most blocks, with public beach access walks at the 2500 and 3700 blocks. Little Island Park is the most popular and well-appointed beach access. This park features two bathhouses, food trucks, a snack bar, fishing pier, picnic tables and shelters, a playground, tennis courts, and basketball courts. Further north, there is convenient beach access near Sandbridge Market and Sandbridge Island Restaurant. There are two large public parking lots nearby, plus a bathhouse.

The Ideal Outer Banks Vacation

Ideal temperatures, breezy days and nights, easy beach trips, and a slow pace reminiscent of simpler times are hallmarks of an Outer Banks vacation. Sandbridge Beach, Virginia’s Outer Banks, has all that and more.

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