The 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.” Sandbridge Beach is a must-see for those who love the remote, untamed, and relaxed atmosphere of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
Unique Location of Sandbridge Beach
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. The formation left behind is what is known as barrier islands; ever-changing masses of sand that run alongside the coast. Barrier islands are much longer than they are wide, and have the ocean on one side, and a lagoon or bay on the other side, between the island and mainland. This ecological sweet spot attracts the best of nature, from deep-sea animals to marsh-dwelling critters.
Barrier islands are fiercely protected by the government and locals alike; the transitional nature of these islands makes them much more susceptible to natural disasters, which can be exacerbated by excessive building development. The sweeping sand dunes in front of the ocean are so much more than just the picture-perfect photo backdrop (although they are pretty great for this reason). They serve as a natural sea wall to protect the island from extreme overwash brought on by storm surges. Building and heavy foot traffic on the dunes can compromise their integrity. Thus, you will spot many signs that read “STAY OFF THE DUNES”. The dunes are the highest point of the island. Although the official number varies, on average, the town sits at just 12 feet above sea level.
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, Ospreys, and even Peregrine Falcons. You’ll also see Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins frolicking in the surf year-round. If you visit in winter you may even catch a glimpse of a migrating humpback whale.
In the late 1800s, Sandbridge Beach was the location of hunting clubs typical of the time. 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. 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 Virginian natives for whom Sandbridge Beach was a yearly summer family tradition. These groups built small cottages without heat and dug their own wells. They even 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. Fresh vegetables were 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. Today’s locals who knew Harvey Lindsay say that he would appreciate how little time has changed his favorite retreat. Sandbridge is tucked between the large metro area of Hampton roads, providing an oasis just a few miles outside of the city.
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. Winters can bring quite a chill with lows in the 30s. Summer highs often hit the upper 80s. However, the average temperature otherwise is a delightful 70 degrees. Sandbridge Beach enjoys 213 days of sunshine during an average year, with constant ocean breezes to cool off even the hottest days. Many make the mistake of underestimating the beauty of Sandbridge beach during the off-season.
Try planning a Spring or Fall vacation if you prefer seclusion and less extreme temperatures. Some may even prefer to vacation around this time, as the mild temperatures allow them to spend more time outside, without the risk of sunburn or exhaustion, fewer fellow vacationers, and traffic is a breeze. Pretty beach days are very easy to come by in the off-season, as well.
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. Subsequently, the 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. There are Lifeguard stands at the beaches near the Sandbridge Seaside Market and Little Island Park. 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, a 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.
Sandbridge Beach Houses
Choosing the perfect beach house may be the most difficult part of your vacation here. There are so many awesome options to pick from! In Sandbridge, you can find houses ranging from the quintessential East Coast “Beach Box”, to large properties with 10 or more bedrooms. If you’re looking to host a large family reunion or even a wedding, there’s a perfect house for you. Many houses will offer a spacious living area, large dining room with two tables, a private pool, and more! If you’re looking for something quiet and cozy, there’s a cottage for that! Perfect for small families, there are plenty of smaller beach houses for any budget. Whatever your style, let us help you find the perfect vacation rental for your next trip to Sandbridge Beach!
Family Activities in Sandbridge Beach
Sandbridge is home to a few sites to explore if you are looking for something fun and exciting to do. Nature lovers will surely enjoy exploring False Cape State Park. Try partaking in the abundance of activities it has to offer including hiking, biking, kayaking, camping, and more. You and your family can also enjoy Little Island Park. The area is equipped with play structures perfect for smaller children, along with activities for older kids and young adults, including basketball and volleyball courts. There is also a fishing pier at Little Island, perfect for the angler in your group! Nearby, you will find all the attractions of Virginia Beach, including the aquarium, Cape Henry Lighthouse, and the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art! If all else fails, check out these Family Games you can play at the beach!
The Ideal Sandbridge Beach 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.