How do you make education fun? Take it to the beach! At Sandbridge Beach, VA, kids can expand their knowledge and boost their skills while having the time of their lives. Here are just a few possibilities.
Sandbridge Beach may be a hidden gem, removed from the hustle-bustle. But this secluded coastal paradise offers plenty to see and do, including fun-filled attractions for your entire family. Here are just a few options.
There are few things more romantic than enjoying a beautiful sunrise or sunset on the beach with your significant other. Keep an eye on the weather and try to pick the clearest day of your vacation so that too many clouds won’t fog your view, especially if you opt for the sunrise view. If you want extra brownie points, pack a surprise picnic or some mimosas to enjoy while you take in the sights and sounds of the ocean together. If you bring the kiddos along on vacation and have someone to watch them, you might even be able to sneak away and enjoy some alone time on the beach before they wake up.
Exploring Back Bay
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has all the beautiful scenery you could ask for. From beach views to the woodlands and marshes that stretch over 9,200 acres, this is the perfect place for outdoor-lovers to go on a peaceful nature hike. A fun addition that would double as a way to remember your Sandbridge Beach vacation would be to have a photography competition during your hike.
Take pictures of different scenery and any wildlife you come across during your hike (and don’t forget pictures of/with each other) and choose a winner at the end…loser buys ice cream at Sandbridge Sugar Shack!
Sandbridge Sugar Shack
Speaking of the Sugar Shack…treat your significant other to coffee, ice cream or frozen yogurt and then rent a couple bikes and explore the area. Keep an eye out for special events going on like live music and face painting. They also do fun specials like “dress up like a mermaid or a pirate for 50% off” which sounds like a date all by itself!
Craft Beer Tour
While not specifically in Sandbridge, the Virginia Beach Guided Craft Brewery Tour is a fun, and educational, date idea for beer enthusiasts. You’ll be provided transportation to and from each brewery, guided through each brewery for a behind-the-scenes experience. With over 5 breweries in Virginia Beach, your sure to find your new favorite brew.
For the sporty couple, Hell’s Point Golf Club has a beautiful and challenging course for all ages. With a well-maintained course and wide variety in holes. If you’re a couple who enjoys a little friendly competition, this date idea will be fun and occupy a good amount of time when you’re all beached out for the day. If you’re vacationing with other couples, you could even make it a group date!
Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center
Vacation Budget Tips
- Check For Specials and Discounts
One of the best money saving tips we can give any vacationer is to check for specials. The best benefit to staying in Sandbridge as opposed to Virginia Beach is the seclusion. We all know the old saying “you get what you pay for” but in this case you can get the seclusion of Sandbridge for close to the same price as busy Virginia Beach. Our Specials page is constantly updated to reflect the most current discounts and specials.
- Make The Most of Your Rental
Your vacation rental should have everything you need to enjoy a budget-friendly vacation. All our properties include a full-sized kitchen and a grill. Since you will have a kitchen and grill you can save money by cooking rather than going out to eat. Most of our properties are equipped with some form of entertainment: pool table, foosball table, volleyball court, private pool, etc. Having this kind of entertainment is a fun, cheap way to enjoy your vacation while you’re not on the beach.
- Rent Beach Equipment
I know what you’re thinking, “why rent beach equipment when I’m trying to have a budget-friendly vacation?” Well the fact of the matter is you can rent kayaks, surfboards, boogie boards, and bicycles fairly cheap for the entire week.
The ocean at Sandbridge Beach changes with every passing hour. From high tide to low tide, calm seas to stormy waves, sunrise, and sunset, capturing the natural majesty of the ocean is a powerful way to preserve your vacation memories.
Take a beach walk and capture close-up shots of seashells, sand castles, dunes, and vegetation. If you have a DSLR camera, turn your setting to “micro” to get the best details. If you’re using a camera phone, zoom in so that smaller objects fill the whole frame.
Sandbridge Beach is dog friendly, and nobody has more fun playing on the beach than our furry friends. Keep your camera ready so you can capture those wet, goofy smiles as these playful pups dash by.
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge
There’s no end to the photo opportunities at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. This 8,000-acre barrier island is home to hundreds of species of birds, including flocks of Tundra Swans and rare ducks. On the ocean side, keep a lookout for turtle nests, diving seabirds, and dolphins. In the wetlands and forests, stay camera ready for deer, bobcats, hawks, and colorful songbirds.
Little Island Park & Pier
Little Island Park is a 122-acre beach park just north of Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The 400-foot long fishing pier provides spectacular opportunities to photograph crabs, fish, diving pelicans, the sparkle off the water, sunrises, sunsets, and even passing dolphins breaching the waves.
Lotus Garden Park
Lotus Garden Park is just north of Little Island Park on Sandbridge Road. This park has a lovely pond that is full of blooming lotus flowers. Lotus Garden Park is a haven for colorful water birds, frogs, butterflies, and other animals and exotic insects. For the best pictures here, go slowly and observe the water and flowers carefully.
False Cape State Park
Between Back Bay and the ocean, you’ll find False Cape State Park, an undeveloped slice of heaven. This historic site has 6 miles of pristine beach and hiking trails that pass by photo-worthy locations such as an old church site with a cemetery, the Coast Guard Life Saving Station, and the remnants of the Wash Woods community settlement.
You can hike or ride bikes around the park, but you can also take a tram ride that leaves from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you’re short on time, the tram is an excellent way to make a round trip through the park and see the highlights. The park is open from dusk until dawn each day for visitors. You’ll want to bring plenty of sunscreen and bug spray.
Family & Friends
Of course, the heart and soul of Sandbridge Beach are the people who come to share the joy of this special place. It’s easy to wind up a vacation with hundreds of scenic photos, but the best photos to help you remember your vacation feature you and your family or friends. Make a vacation resolution to take at least one group shot each day, commemorating your favorite moment or most dramatic discovery. If you’re traveling with your kids, remember how quickly time flies. Those photos you take of your children playing on the beach may just become your favorite memories years later when they’re grown.
Whether you’re using your cell phone camera or a DSLR camera, a few quick tips can help you take better photos of your Sandbridge Beach vacation.
Lighting: The hour just after sunrise and just before sunset are known to photographers as “the golden hours.” During this time, sunlight is naturally diffused, giving everything a heavenly glow. Take photos of people (and things) when the sun isn’t directly behind them, so you don’t get a dark, backlit effect. Pictures come out better when the sunlight is indirect; the closer you are to noon the more washed out your photos will be.
Composition: Frame your photos with the subject either directly in the middle of the frame or filling up two-thirds of the frame. If you’re taking pictures of a trail or boardwalk, place the start of the path in the corner of the screen.
Quantity: If you’re using a digital camera, the best way to get a fantastic photo is to take lots of pictures and edit down to your favorites later.
With its pristine beaches, protected parks and refuges, and breathtaking scenery, Sandbridge Beach is a photographer’s dream. Take plenty of pictures, seek out off-the-beaten-path gems, and capture your favorite moments and discoveries each day to enrich your memories later.
See Back Bay From the Water
There’s something special about seeing Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge from the water. Fall is quiet — the right time to enjoy watersports and tours. Always wanted to learn to paddleboard or surf? Come on down.
Kayak the Tributaries
Rent a canoe or kayak from Surf & Adventure Co. and take their two-hour guided tour of the quiet tributaries that run through the refuge to the Atlantic Ocean. Your guide will help you identify all the magnificent birds and wildlife that become active in cooler temperatures.
If you’re feeling more adventurous, take an ocean kayak tour. You’ll likely spot dolphins and pelagic birds as you cruise the quiet waters of the coast. For a special treat, book the Blue Pete’s kayak tour. This one-way paddle begins in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and ends at Blue Pete’s restaurant around sunset. Have dinner, then catch your ride back to your car at the refuge.
Learn to Surf or Paddleboard
Waters around Sandbridge Beach are still warm enough in early fall to surf or paddleboard, though you might want to rent a thin wetsuit. Sandbridge Beach has gentle waves and a sandy bottom, making it the ideal place for beginning paddleboarders or surfers. You can rent surfboards and paddleboards by the day or week, and some outfitters even deliver right to your cottage.
Hike Off the Beaten Path
Hike or Camp False Cape State Park
The East and West Dike Trail to False Cape State Park is open until October 31. False Cape State Park is accessible only by foot or by boat, so this is a truly special bucket list trip. There are a few primitive campsites in the park, and staying overnight allows visitors to experience the absolute quiet and stunning starlight displays that day visitors miss. False Cape also features the ruins of a church and cemetery that are worth exploring.
Prefer a bed to a sleeping bag? Day hikers who take the 7.6-mile coastal trail hike in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge can see white-tailed deer, multiple species of birds, migrating waterfowl, foxes, rabbits, and the occasional sea turtle. This hike will take you through diverse ecologies such as beaches, sand dunes, fields, marshes, and woodlands so you can kiss boredom goodbye.
Go Offshore Fishing
Newer to the area, we have indoor skydiving at iFly. iFly is a 14’ temperature controlled indoor skydiving venue located on Pacific Ave. in Virginia Beach. Once you check-in you will have a small training session where you learn the proper body position for flying and hand signals the instructor will use while you are flying. After that you gear up and are ready to go! Each flight last 60 seconds. Even if you have little ones who are brave and want to go it is totally safe for anyone ages 3 and up!
The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium
Spend the day zipping from tree to tree at The Adventure Park at Virginia Aquarium! The Adventure Park is the largest forest climbing park in the nation with 15 trails, 21 zip lines, 6 difficulty levels and 200 challenge bridges. You will be able to choose a 2 or 3 hour forest adventure. This does not include the safety orientation that you must take before climbing. With 15 different trails to choose from, beginner to advance, The Adventure Park is a great way to spend a day of active fun with your friends and/or family.
Stand Up Paddleboarding
Stand up paddleboarding, also known as SUP, is a bit more relaxing but still a lot of fun and gives you a full body workout. Riders balance themselves standing on the board and use a paddle to navigate through water. While staying in Sandbridge you have access to all the canals and Back Bay Wildlife Refuge to paddle through. If you are looking for more of a rush you can head over to the beach and catch some waves. Never paddle boarded before but interested in learning? Check out Surf and Adventure! They offer group or private lessons and well as SUP tours.
Spend the day soaking in the sun while experiencing nature at it most pristine. With over 121 navigable miles of waterways Virginia Beach is a perfect place to go kayaking. If you have your own kayak there are a few different launch sites at Back Bay Wildlife refuge. If you are traveling you can rent or go on a kayak tour at Surf and Adventure. They offer 6 different tours from a eco tour to a kayak fishing tour.
You can get such an adrenaline rush from offshore fishing especially if you catch a blue marlin or a yellowfin tuna. Most trips last from 12 to 17 hours and need to be reserved in advance. The day starts before the sun comes up. You will head out to wrecks, offshore towers, and underwater canyons 75 miles from shore. Once you get where you are going you will drop your line and hopefully be reeling in a 300-pound tuna. You can book offshore fishing charters with Rudee Tours. They even offer 3 hourly nightly fishing tour, from 6 pm to 9pm, that is perfect for kids.
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge/ False Cape State Park
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park is such a beautiful place to go hiking or biking. These are two different locations and offer different sights but you can only access False Cape through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.
Back Bay has 8 miles of scenic trails to explore. They offer tours and educational programs. You will have amazing views of the bay and may see some wildlife such as birds and deer along the trails.
False Cape has 6 miles of beaches, 12 campsites, and 9 miles of hiking/biking. They also offer tours and educational programs. If you plan on visiting for just the day you will be able to take a tram from Back Bay. You will have 2 hours to explore the area. While you are there be sure to check out Wash Woods area. There is an old church and cemetery. If you plan on stay the night you will have to hike/bike through Back Bay refuge.
Even though many people choose to vacation in Virginia Beach to spend the day in the sun building sandcastles there are many activities in the area for the more adventurous time. Have you tried one of these activities? I am sure there are many other things to do in the area to get your adrenaline going. Is there a place that you go to every year that we may have missed?
Here are our favorite ways to de-stress at Sandbridge Beach:
#1 Visit During Off-Season
If you love a relaxing beach vacation during summer, you’ll really love it in the winter. In the off-season, locals are more casual, there’s a convivial community feeling in the air, and you’ll have the best restaurants and attractions all to yourself. You’ll also find deep discounts on rentals, making Sandbridge Beach the perfect place to sneak in an extra few days of vacation.
#2 Go Beachcombing
Temperatures at Sandbridge Beach during the winter are fairly temperate. Don a fleece and savor long, solitary walks on the beach. Since you’ll have the sand all to yourself, keep an eye out for rare treasures such as the Scotch Bonnet seashell, Queen Helmet Conch, and the conical Lettered Olive shell.
You may also find “fairy shells,” or fossils made of staurolite — a mineral that was created when the Appalachian Mountains rose from the sea. Beachcombing is more fun when you have a seashell guide to help you identify your beach bling, so pick one up at a local shop before heading out.
Shelling isn’t the only joy of having the beach to yourself; you’ll also be the solitary audience for majestic shorebirds and playful Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins. Sunrise and sunset are particularly memorable when the vista is yours alone.
#3 Go Fishing
Bring your poles and spend a relaxing day on Little Island Fishing Pier. Get a five-day fishing license from a local sporting store and you’ll have free rein to angle during your vacation. In winter, striped bass school through the area searching for baitfish — in fact, they’re so plentiful it’s difficult not to catch one. You can also expect to catch tautog, spotted sea trout, puppy drum, and flounder. If you want to fish offshore, you can score tasty tilefish and sea bass.
#4 Take in the Sights
Winter is a great time to take in the nearby sights and attractions. On Sandbridge, relax on a ride through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park on the heated Blue Goose Tram. From the comfort of your warm ride you’ll see wintering waterfowl and other wildlife while learning about the history of the refuge and the park.
Nearby, you can visit the Virginia Science Museum, the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, the Virginia Living Museum, and more.
#5 Visit the Spa
There’s no faster way to banish stress than with a trip to the spa. Nearby spas include Natural Balance Spa & Yoga, Body Logic Massage, Picasso Salon & Spa, and the Seaside Day Spa. Whether you want a new haircut, a pretty manicure and pedicure, or a deep-tissue massage, local spas provide all the services you need to go home feeling great.
#6 Sample the Seafood
Sandbridge restaurants are open year ’round and offer delicious regional dishes only available in winter. Indulge in local oyster roasts and specials on freshly caught bass and flounder.
Some of the best places to sample Sandbridge Beach seafood are Margie & Ray’s Crabhouse, the legendary Blue Pete’s, Sandbridge Island Restaurant, and Baja Restaurant. You won’t find lines or long waits for tables during off-season, just friendly locals, lucky travelers, and plenty of incredible regional flavors.
#7 Take a Drive
In summer, everyone is eager to spend as much time at the beach as possible. However, cooler winter temperatures present the perfect opportunity to explore the rest of Sandbridge Beach, and Virginia Beach, by car. Pack your binoculars and camera, turn up the heater, and set out for a leisurely journey. Stop at scenic spots for photos, shop for souvenirs (often at reduced prices), and take time to get to know the undiscovered nooks and crannies of Sandbridge Beach. When you get hungry, break for lunch at an out-of-the-way restaurant before heading home.
Whether you’ve had a busy year or just need a break before a new year gets in full swing, a winter holiday in Sandbridge Beach is the ideal way to de-stress and recharge. Pack a few warm clothes, binoculars, and nature guides and you’ll be ready to take in the unspoiled scenery and unbroken solitude of Virginia’s beautiful barrier island.
Visitors to Sandbridge Beach come for seclusion, pristine beaches, and the rare opportunity to be immersed in an unspoiled natural environment. Sandbridge Beach may be compact, but what it lacks in square mileage it more than makes up for in breathtaking wildlife refuges and family-friendly state parks.
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge covers more than 9,000 acres on the Currituck Banks Peninsula. The refuge borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Back Bay of Currituck Sound to the west. This salt- and freshwater refuge was established in 1938 to preserve a critical feeding and resting habitat for migrating waterfowl. As part of the Atlantic Flyway, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a temporary and permanent home to hundreds of species of birds.
Back Bay Refuge is also an important habitat for loggerhead sea turtles and other animals. During fall and winter, thousands of ducks, tundra swans, and snow geese stop at the refuge for rest and recreation. Visitors may also spot great blue heron, the elusive American bittern, American black ducks, osprey, deer, muskrats, river otters, bobcats, and raccoons.
Visitors can enjoy a diverse geography that includes sand dunes, marshes, ponds, beaches, and forests by hiking or biking the marsh trails, strolling the boardwalk, or walking the beach. A good first stop is the Visitor Contact Station, which is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. For a broad overview of the refuge before you dive in on your own, take a ride on the Blue Goose Tram, which offers an excellent guided tour through Back Bay and False Cape State Park.
Want to learn more about this special place? The refuge offers educational and public service programs, including Clean the Bay Day, fishing clinics, turtle conservation programs, the Pond Explorers program, and marsh nature hikes. Canoes and kayaks can be launched at Horn Point, and fishing is available off the dock and the beach.
False Cape State Park
False Cape State Park lies between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This is a primitive, undeveloped park that was once home to Native Americans and the historic Wash Woods community. The park is accessible only on foot, by bicycle, tram tour, boat, or beach transport. If you are looking for quiet and seclusion, this is a wonderful park for kayaking, camping, hiking, beachcombing, and trail biking.
False Cape State Park is on the two-hour tram tour that begins in Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Overnight campers are welcome in the park, but be sure to bring plenty of water, insect repellent, and sunscreen and be prepared for pop-up storms.
Little Island Park
Little Island Park is a small but mighty park north of Back Bay Refuge. This beachfront park has a 400-foot fishing and crabbing pier, and an ideal surfing and swimming beach. Little Island has all the amenities families need for a fun day at the beach including picnic shelters, charcoal grills, a playground, canoe and kayak rental, restrooms, fishing pole rentals, concessions, and vending machines. Visitors can also check out sport and beach gear such as basketballs, baseball bats, corn hole boards and bags, Frisbees, soccer balls, volleyballs, and beach wheelchairs from the park office.
Little Island Park welcomes dogs anytime after Labor Day weekend and before Memorial Day weekend. Otherwise, dogs are allowed in the park and on the beach before 10 a.m. or after 6 p.m. the rest of the year.
Red Wing Park
Just a short drive from Sandbridge Beach you’ll find Red Wing Park, a 97-acre park that is home to some of the most beautiful gardens in Virginia. If you’re visiting in warm months, you’ll likely see outdoor weddings and formal wedding photography taking place. This park not only boasts a picturesque Japanese garden, but also plenty of picnic shelters with grills, playgrounds, a dog park, concessions, restrooms, and basketball, volleyball and tennis courts. Red Wing also allows visitors to borrow sports equipment from the park office.
For nature lovers, Sandbridge Beach is the perfect place to turn off the cell phone and get back in touch with Nature and what really matters most. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge has something for all ages and abilities — whether it’s an adventurous solo overnight camping trip or a relaxing, educational tram ride through Back Bay Refuge and False Cape National Park.
Sandbridge Beach has both primitive and thoughtfully appointed state parks for those seeking solitude or fun family outings. Pack a picnic and your sunscreen, then head for the hiking trails and uncrowded beaches of Sandbridge’s state parks and you’ll be set for a day you’ll remember for years to come.
Planning Your Budget-Friendly Itinerary
Sandbridge offers five miles of white, sandy beaches, towering sand dunes, and sun-soaked ocean vistas. You can make the most of your trip when you incorporate some of these low- or no-cost activities into your itinerary:
=&0=&—As home to thousands of geese, ducks, swans, sea turtles, and other wildlife, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers eight miles of trails where visitors can explore the beauty of nature. For just a few dollars, you can purchase a day pass to take your family hiking or biking along the scenic trails, where you may spot a bald eagle or brown pelican.
=&1=&—Located at the southern tip of Sandbridge Beach, Little Island Park offers plenty of activities for both children and adults. Play a pickup basketball game, let the smaller kids enjoy the playground, and bring a picnic basket to enjoy at one of the shaded shelters. In the afternoon, venture onto the beach for swimming and surfing, or just enjoy a stroll in the sunshine as you look for shells.
=&2=&—Bring your boogie boards for some wild, crazy ocean fun! Easier than surfing, boogie boarding lets you and your kids experience the excitement of catching some waves without the athletic prowess needed for other kinds of watersports. If you don’t have boogie boards, you can rent them for about $20 per week.
=&3=&—Most rental homes in Sandbridge include a grill for the backyard. Fire up the barbecue for some hamburgers and hot dogs or slap some steak and chicken on the grill for an unbeatable outdoor dinner. When you are pleasantly full, relax on the deck to enjoy the sunset or take a walk along the beach to look for shells.