Autumn is a special time of year at Sandbridge Beach. Summer temperatures give way to cooler fall days and nights, crowds thin, and locals get excited about the prospect of putting on knitwear and, occasionally…socks. Fall is a time where locals can finally relax and enjoy all Sandbridge Beach has to offer without all of the summer chaos. We get to move at a slower pace, have wide open beaches, and enjoy some of our favorite activities. If you find yourself here for the fall season, then you will definitely want to join in on some of these activities! Here are 7 fall activities that Sandbridge locals love.
Catch the Sunrise
Sunrises on Sandbridge Beach are spectacular. The sun comes up early in the summer — just after 6 a.m., but this sunrise is worth getting up for. If you don’t want to set the alarm on vacation, sleep with your blinds open and get up as the sky begins to lighten. Grab your coffee and walk to the beach to watch the show.
Breakfast at Baja Coffee
Reward yourself for rising at the crack of dawn with a hearty (or light) breakfast from Baja Coffee. The shop is open from 6:30 to 11:30 a.m. Tuesday through Sunday, and is located just a short drive from the fishing pier.
Treat yourself to a freshly baked cinnamon roll or muffin, a breakfast wrap, yogurt and homemade granola, a fresh-fruit smoothie, or even a gluten-free quiche.
Baja’s coffee comes from Kill Devil Coffee Roasters in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The beans come from small independent farmers who are focused on sustainability and organic growing methods. This is the most delicious small-batch coffee you’ll find, so you may want to linger for a second cup.
False Cape Bike Tour
After breakfast, it’s time to get moving with a False Cape bike tour. The bike tour is a new activity for Surf & Adventure Co., and it’s sure to become one of the most popular.
Meet at Little Island Pier for a 10 a.m. start on one of two tours. You can either bike the semi-paved roads in False Cape State Park or rent a fat-tire sand bike and cruise the beach. Tour the interior roads, and you’ll pedal through high dunes and diverse ecosystems. Of the two tours, this is the least strenuous. Keep an eye out for critters such as deer, foxes, birds, and wild pigs.
The beach tour will take you east of the dunes across pristine, undeveloped beaches. You may see dolphin and seabirds starting their day too.
Lunch at Simply Steamed
If you’re ready for a break and a big glass of tea, head to Simply Steamed. Start with a jumbo shrimp cocktail, crab cake, She Crab soup, gazpacho, or a salad before diving into one of their famous sandwiches. Choose from local favorites such as the seafood wrap, shrimp taco, lobster salad, or crab-cake sandwich, or go for traditional entrees such as a BLT, Club, or fish sandwich. Take your lunch to the deck outside the seafood market and relax.
Before you leave, notice their one-pot take-out meals. Pots are custom made to order and can include corn on the cob, onions, red potatoes, and any combination of shrimp, clams, mussels, crabs, lobster, and crawfish. A small pot feeds two or three people, and the large pots can feed a large group or family. All you have to do is steam the contents of the pot in water, beer, or wine, and serve.
Shopping at Sandpiper Beach Shop
After lunch, it’s time for a little shopping at Sandpiper Beach Shop. This cute store is the best place to find the ultimate Sandbridge Beach souvenir. You’ll also find beach clothing for the whole family, sun hats, beach toys, sunblock, games, beach-themed home décor, and more.
Fishing and Swimming at Little Island Park
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
Go to an Oyster Roast
To seaside residents, oyster season is the unofficial beginning of holiday celebrations. This year’s oyster harvesting window is late, beginning on October 1 if the weather cooperates. As soon as it’s officially legal to gather oysters, the social season starts. Oyster roasts range from small impromptu backyard gatherings to large public fundraisers. Simply Steamed on Sandpiper Road offers build-your-own to-go steam pots as well.
Local restaurants usually have oyster roast nights throughout the fall where you can grab a bucket for around $10. Oysters are only a small part of what’s on the menu at an oyster roast. Hearty soups and stews, homemade bread, and plenty of desserts round out these traditional parties. If you’re invited to one, it’s traditional to bring a dish to share.
Practice Your Photography Skills
Diffused sunlight in fall makes this time of year a photographer’s dream. Not only are you more likely to get a shot of a deserted beach or forest trail, but wildlife tends to be more active as well. One of the best scenic places for photographers is the beach at sunrise or sunset. You may spy passing dolphins near shore, but you’re sure to capture a peaceful tableau — especially the morning after a storm.
Back Bay Wildlife Refuge is another photographer’s paradise. You’re likely to spot photogenic birds such as osprey, songbirds, gannets, and terns — especially in the mornings. Keep an eye out for the tundra swan, a beloved visitor who overwinters in the refuge. It’s worth the hike to venture into the pine forests with your camera. These “wet forests” are home to herds of deer, owls, unusual birds, and even bobcats.
With cooler temperatures and less competition, fall is prime time to go fishing at Sandbridge Beach. Local fisherfolk will tell you that you don’t need a lot of expensive equipment to have fun and catch fish, especially if you’re just headed to the beach or the pier.
For beach or pier fishing, you’ll need a long rod known as a “heaver.” These rods are 11 to 12 feet in length and can handle heavy bait and 8 ounces of lead weight (known here as “8 and bait”). In the fall, you can also use a smaller rod for casting lures and jigs. Wherever you plan to fish, be sure to get a fishing license and make note of size and catch regulations.
Bike or Hike to False Cape State Park
Far From the Noise, Close to the Action
Sandbridge Beach is a sandy peninsula with 4.5 miles of pristine beach, nearly 10,000 acres of national wildlife refuge, no hotels, quaint rental cottages, and a laid-back atmosphere. There’s only one road to the small community, so days and nights are quiet and crowds are small.
The remote feeling of Sandbridge Beach is why natives and visitors love it here. You can read for hours on end with no interruption and walk on the beach for miles without dodging people every few steps. At night, sleep with the windows open and you’ll only hear the sounds of the surf.
Solitude and serenity are not the only hallmarks of Sandbridge. Its prime location means you’re only 15 miles from the bustling Virginia Beach resort area. This is world famous for its family-friendly attractions, including the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, Water Country USA and Ocean Breeze waterparks, the Military Aviation Museum, and more restaurants and shopping than you can cover in a month.
Loaded With Local Charm and Flavor
There are no hotels on Sandbridge Beach, so when you stay here you’ll feel like you belong. Rental homes and cottages are cozy, relaxed, and full of charm. To live like a local while you’re here, do what natives do: Play bingo at the Sandbridge Fire & Rescue Station on Wednesday nights, take in an outdoor concert on the pier at Little Island Park, or listen to live music on the patio at Baja Restaurant.
You also won’t find any chain restaurants in Sandbridge Beach. Get your morning cup of Joe at the Simply Steamed coffee shop, grab an afternoon cone at the Sandbridge Sugar Shack, and pick up a lunch picnic at the Sandbridge Seaside Market. At dinnertime, tuck into regional specialties including seafood, hushpuppies, and more at favorites like Blue Pete’s, Rudee’s, or Lucky Oyster. Here, our version of going out to “see and be seen” means making new friends and catching up with neighbors over oysters or pizza.
Kid-friendly and Uncrowded
Even at the height of summer you won’t find the mass of people on Sandbridge Beach that you’d find on Virginia Beach. Kids have more room to run and play, waves are usually small and gentle, and the ocean floor is sandy and soft — a great place to learn to surf, skimboard, body surf, or just wade in the water. As an extra safety measure, lifeguards are on duty from Memorial Day to Labor Day at Little Island Park and other Sandbridge beaches. There are also restrooms in Little Island Park, which is convenient for families with little ones.
At Sandbridge, kids can have fun in a more relaxed environment. Young ones and teenagers can have a good time flying kites on windy days, catching ghost crabs (and having races to see whose is fastest before letting them go), watching for dolphins, and hunting for shells at the tide line. If you need a day with a little more action, or need to pass a rainy day, a quick drive to Virginia Beach offers laser tag, a children’s museum, rock-climbing gyms, and movie theaters.
Love nature? Have a budding naturalist in the family? Spend the day exploring Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. With plenty of kid-friendly programs and activities, even the most dedicated computer and TV addicts may discover their inner scientist.
If you dream of limiting screen time for your family, Sandbridge Beach has enough outdoor activities to keep everyone busy for days. Whether you fish from the pier or in the wildlife refuge, take a family-friendly kayak tour, or hop on the Blue Goose trolley and see who can spot the most birds, Sandbridge Beach has infinite ways to entertain you.
Award-Winning But Undiscovered
Huffington Post named Sandbridge Beach “One of the Top 10 Beaches in America,” and the American Shore and Beach Preservation Association recently named Sandbridge Beach “One of America’s Best Restored Beaches.” This beautiful place also routinely lands among the top contenders for Best Beach on Yelp and TripAdvisor.
For all the accolades, Sandbridge Beach remains relatively undiscovered. You won’t find crowded beaches, traffic jams, loud parties, or long lines at markets and restaurants.
With the best location for peace and quiet, an atmosphere reminiscent of the days when life was much simpler, and the best location for attractions, Sandbridge Beach just may be one of America’s best-kept secrets.
Sandbridge Island Restaurant
This relaxing, family-friendly restaurant is right on the beach, and locals take advantage of the proximity to pop in for a bite in between sunbathing and skimboarding. Enjoy pizza, seafood, sandwiches, and cocktails with a great view of the ocean. Favorites are the half-pound steamed shrimp appetizers, creamy She Crab soup, and award-winning pizza. Sandbridge Island Restaurant also has a budget-friendly happy hour, a menu just for kids, and daily raw bar specials. Their giant TV screens make it a great place to watch Sunday football, but you can also have your meal delivered or get it to go.
Located on Sandpiper Road, this quaint restaurant is a long-time local favorite for brunch, surf ‘n’ turf, and happy hour. Baja serves dinner Wednesday through Saturday and brunch Sundays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Visit in the summer and you’ll enjoy live music with dinner, or Karaoke on Thursdays. Be sure to stop by on Tuesdays for their weekly dodge ball tournaments — competition is friendly but fierce! Baja’s peaceful patio is also great place to just unwind and enjoy the sunshine.
Margie & Ray’s Crabhouse
Locals say there are only two places to eat: Home or Margie & Ray’s. This rustic local favorite is located on Sandbridge Road and serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast platters are inexpensive and hearty, so they’re a perfect start to the day. Lunch is seafood, seafood, and more seafood, prepared any way you like it — or a choice of sandwiches including burgers. If you’re headed for dinner at Margie & Ray’s — come hungry. It hardly seems possible, but the seafood choices only expand on the dinner menu and are accompanied with traditional Southern sides.
Every vacation town has a restaurant that locals like to keep to themselves. In Sandbridge Beach, it’s Blue Pete’s. Owned by twin brothers who grew up in the area, this special restaurant is nestled next to a creek in a five-acre wood near the Back Bay National Wildlife Sanctuary. Owners Nicholas and Aristotle Cleanthes not only offer fresh takes on seafood, they also put a great deal of time and effort into the experience of dining at Blue Pete’s. To the brothers, all visitors are locals, and they love nothing more than to see vacationers return year after year.
Lago Mar Pizza
Also on Sandbridge Road, Lago Mar Pizza is where locals converge for their Italian food fix. Lago Mar offers unique pizzas, subs, gyros, wraps, Stromboli, calzones, pasta, and seafood. Their tidy, charming patio is a great place to spend a long lunch or dinner, but they also offer delivery and takeout. Note that on Thursdays they offer Family Night specials of a large pizza and salad for $20 — plus free ice cream for the kids.
La Bella Italia
If you’re up for even more Italian food, La Bella Italia has it. This trattoria, café, bakery, and deli has an upscale menu and a refined ambiance that is perfect for a special dinner out. Vegans love their expansive vegan menu, and foodies appreciate their well-curated wine list. This is a true Italian restaurant with specials such as stuffed eggplant, prosciutto with Parmesan and peppers and fresh bruschetta. The best way to enjoy La Bella Italia is relaxing at one of their charming tables, but if you have a beachfront rental you might want to get your dinner to go and enjoy your sauce with the sunset.
Kabuki Steak House and Sushi