It’s almost summer time and you know what that means… Sandbridge Beach day! Pack your bags, fill the cooler, and grab the family. We all love having fun on the beach under the warm rays of the sun. There is just something about spending time on the beach with the sound of the ocean rolling onto the shore that makes a summer day seem more enjoyable than anything else. If you’re anything like me, then you enjoy staying at the beach all day and making the most of it. But, what happens when people in your group start complaining that they want to leave because they are bored? Or maybe you are someone who wants to be able to stay at the beach all day, but you can never make it that far because you get bored. Well if either of those apply to you than here are my top 10 best beach activities.
Optimal Times to Find Seashells
On any day, shelling is best at low tide. Sandbridge Beach has a relatively mild tidal range, with water rising between three and six feet, depending on the lunar cycle. The tide cycles twice a day, with six hours separating low tide and high tide.
Want to boost your shell-finding mojo? Look for them during low tide when there is a full or new moon lunar phase. Full moons cause higher tides and stronger currents, which can dislodge large shells, and more shells, from the seabed and wash them ashore. If there will be a full or new moon during your vacation, plan your shell-collecting trip near low tide on those days.
Though you won’t be able to plan for it, after a storm is also a great time to go shell hunting. Storms can cause strong waves and currents that wash greater quantities of shells onto the beach. After a storm is a wonderful time to walk the beach and handpick the large shells, sand dollars, and more that are easily churned up.
Types of Shells
Sandbridge Beach combers will find a variety of whelks, including knobbed whelks, channeled whelks, and lightning whelks. Telling one whelk species from another is fairly easy: In lightning whelks, the aperture or opening is on the left (think “L” for “lightning”). Knobbed whelks have knobby protrusions on the top, just as their name suggests. Channeled whelks have a dainty appearance, almost like the spiral of a cinnamon roll.
The rare Scotch Bonnet is the most-prized find on any East Coast beach. This small shell looks like a cone with a fat middle. Because it’s only about 2″ long, you’ll need to keep a sharp eye out as you walk the beach. If you find one, it’s worth celebrating.
Olive shells are somewhat rare, though a dedicated comber has a good chance of finding at least one. Olive shells are small, about 1″ to 2″ in length, and look like rolled tubes. If you find one, look closely at the intricate patterns.
Many other types of shells are common, but no less fun to find. Look for large, smooth clam shells, which locals call “quahogs,” and use them as soap dishes or bedside jewelry caches. Jingle shells are small, shiny, circular shells that reflect the sun like mother-of-pearl. Moonsnail shells are about the size of a quarter and look like a traditional snail shell. Oyster drills appear to be tiny conch shells with fancy ribs and patterns. You may also find razor clam shells, scallops, slipper shells, sundials, surf clams, tulip shells, angle and turkey wings, wentletraps, wormsnail shells, and pen shells.
Be Sure They’re Vacant
It’s very important to be sure any shells you collect are vacant. Seashells are home to marine snails, clams, mollusks, crabs, and more. If you pick up a shell and see that there’s something living in it, gently place it back in the water. The Sandbridge Beach ecosystem is fragile, and seashell-dwelling critters are an important part keeping it healthy.
You may find sand dollars, sea urchins, or starfish washed up on the beaches. Remember — it is illegal to collect them if they’re alive. How can you tell? Gently pick them up, turn them over, and look for moving cilia (tiny hairs).
For whelk shells or other shells that may contain mollusks, look inside the opening or gently place your finger in the opening to see if it’s occupied.
Where to Look on Sandbridge Beach
The beach at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is never crowded, so your chances of being the first to find sea goodies is higher. False Cape State Park is another excellent place to have a stretch of sand to yourself. However, the northern ends of Sandbridge Beach have more shallow water, which means more shells.
Be sure to check carefully around any fallen trees that have washed up on the beach. Heavy objects can cause indentations where shells are trapped as they wash in on an incoming tide. Wherever you look, take a small sand shovel and carefully dig anywhere you see shells collecting.
Shell hunting on Sandbridge Beach is one of the best ways to spend a morning or afternoon. To increase your chances of taking home a few sea treasures, have patience, check the weather and tides, and take in the beauty of nature.
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?