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The 15 Best Beaches in Virginia [2023]

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Amar Hussain
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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Though Virginia might not be the first place most people think about when it comes to U.S. beaches, this coastal state has some of the best beaches in the country. It’s not hard to see why when you consider the more than 7,000 miles of shoreline in the state.

If you’ve never been, you might be overwhelmed trying to decide which beaches you should put at the top of your must-visit list. Every beach is a little different and could be better suited to different travelers. We’ve looked at each part of Virginia’s coast to curate this list of the state’s best beaches.

Map of the 15 Best Beaches in Virginia

The 15 Best Beaches in Virginia

1. Assateague Island National Seashore

Assateague Island
Image Credit: NPS

Assateague Island straddles the Virginia and Maryland border. The main draw of this protected island is the wild horses that live on the land. There’s a lot to explore while you’re on the island, apart from the horses. There are marshes, brush, and plenty of beaches where you can pass time.

One of the best things about going to Assateague for a beach day is the fact that the entire island is considered swimmable. You don’t have to worry about pollution or dangerous rocks making the swim too treacherous. There are some areas signaled by flags that are deemed particularly safe.

However, you still have to make sure you exercise caution. There are no lifeguards on duty here. The only exception is busy weekends during the summer when the park might have someone on duty if the rangers anticipate a lot of crowds.

2. Belle Isle Beach

Belle Isle Beach
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

With nearly 900 acres of land, Belle Isle State Park is a spacious place for a weekend getaway. You can camp, fish, or go for a refreshing swim.

The coastline is generally safe for swimming, especially if you stay near the shore. Once you start going deeper into the water, the current gets a little stronger. While there are rapids in the park, don’t try to swim in that water. There are no lifeguards and the water is too strong to be able to even wade in it safely without a raft.

Keep in mind that many locals love coming to the park on summer weekends, so if you’re able to, try to plan your visit during the week to make sure there’s space for you. You’ll also be able to ensure there’s plenty of room to spread out.

3. Bethel Beach

Bethel Beach
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Bethel Beach is a natural preserve, so it’s the perfect place to go if you’re looking for an authentic coastal experience. You won’t find beach establishments, umbrellas, or restaurants lining the shore as you might near the bigger cities.

The sand on the beach is soft and surprisingly smooth considering there’s no one there to rake it. Instead, the coast maintains itself naturally thanks to the tide and the wind that hits Bethel.

If you choose to go swimming, staying near the coast is safest, but you don’t have to worry about a drastic drop-off coming out of nowhere if you venture out a little further.

There are lifeguards on duty during the summer months, especially on weekends. They’ll keep an eye on you and be able to answer any questions you might have about the water’s safety.

4. Buckroe Beach

Buckroe Beach
Image Credit: Hampton VA Parks & Recreation

Buckroe Beach is the perfect place if you want a beach day somewhere that’s near any amenities you might need without having to deal with excessive crowds.

The locals take pride in their coast, which inspires visitors to do the same. That means everyone makes an effort to keep the sand and water clean. You don’t have to worry about boats coming too close to the shore, which cuts down on pollution and makes the water safer.

Buckroe is considered one of the most family-friendly beaches in Virginia. That’s in no small part thanks to how peaceful the area is. You can let your kids play and splash around without bothering or being bothered by anyone.

Hot Tip: While it can get pretty packed on busy weekends, like Independence Day weekend or Memorial Day, there usually aren’t many crowds, so you can stretch out freely.

5. Cape Charles

Cape Charles
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

With less than 2,000 residents living in the area, Cape Charles is the small-town beach destination of your dreams. It’s also one of the state’s best-kept secrets because very few Virginians know about it, let alone people from out of state.

However, that also means it’s not a great place to go if you expect a lot of luxury and services within walking distance of the water. The beach here is more natural. It’s lined with bushes and trees, which offer a little shade if you don’t have an umbrella with you.

The sand is just a short walk away from the main parking area, though, so you don’t have to worry about lugging around bags and chairs if you want to have a picnic on the beach. The most popular beach areas have lifeguards on duty on busy weekends.

6. Chesapeake Bay

Chesapeake Bay
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB

If you’re planning to visit the Chesapeake Bay, make sure you’re familiar with the area’s other names: Chic’s Beach and Chick’s Beach. The beach is located in a residential neighborhood, so it’s calm, clean, and safe for families or travelers who just want a little peace and quiet.

There aren’t many businesses within walking distance, though. Make sure you pack everything you’ll need, like a lunch or beverages, before you head out for the day. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive somewhere.

Most out-of-towners flock to other beaches, so this one doesn’t get too busy except on holiday weekends. Instead, you’ll just share the sand with the locals, perfect if you hate feeling like a tourist while you’re traveling. The sand is also soft and easy to walk on if you want to go for a stroll.

7. Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
Image Credit: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region via Wikimedia Commons (license)

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is part of Assateague Island, so it’s perfect if you want to check multiple places off your list of Virginia beaches to visit. While the entire island is protected, this area was sectioned off to preserve the wildlife that calls the area home.

Chino Teague has gained notoriety all around the country. The sand is pristine and untouched by development and construction, making it one of the most natural stretches on the East Coast.

However, like the rest of Assateague, you won’t find lifeguards on duty here. There are park rangers that patrol, but their main job isn’t to keep track of swimmers. So be cautious and make sure to keep an eye on youngsters if you’re planning on taking a dip in the water while here.

8. Colonial Beach

Colonial Beach
Image Credit: Visit CBVA

If you’ve ever said you like long walks on the beach, Colonial Beach is the place for you. It’s the second-longest public beach in the state, measuring 2.5 miles in length. Colonial Beach is yet another place that’s perfect for a quiet family getaway or a romantic weekend.

The beach’s town, also called Colonial Beach, is a resort area that has all the tourist amenities you could ever want. But it’s also peaceful and full of history. If you want to take a break from splashing around in the water, you can walk into town and learn about the area’s history.

The waters at Colonial Beach are calm and have a gentle current that most swimmers will be able to handle. The sand is soft and velvety if you’d prefer to stay on the shore.

9. Croatan Beach

Croatan Beach
Image Credit: Croatan Civic League

Croatan Beach is yet another hidden gem on Virginia’s coastline. It’s nestled in a residential area, so you won’t find too many tourists venturing over here because a lot of people either don’t know it exists or don’t think it’s a public beach.

You’ll have to pay for parking if you decide to visit this beach by car, but that’s a small price to pay if you are on the lookout for a beach that won’t get too rowdy. You’ll mostly find locals enjoying the sun, sand, and water here, but you’ll be welcomed with open arms, too, as long as you do your part to keep the beach clean.

Even though the beach is quiet, you can still make your own excitement. The water is prone to waves, so you can try your hand at surfing.

10. Lake Anna State Park

Lake Anna State Park
Image Credit: Virginia Tourism Corporation

Lake Anna State Park is an outdoor lover’s paradise. With miles of trails, horseback rides, and plenty of greenery to explore, you definitely won’t get bored at the park. The beach here is freshwater since it surrounds the lake. You won’t have to worry about currents, either.

The lake is safe to swim in, but there are specifically designated swimming areas. You won’t get in trouble if you swim outside of these zones, but they’ve been set aside for your safety. These are the areas under the watchful eyes of the lifeguards on duty.

These swimming sections also ensure you don’t encounter any boats since you can also sail and fish on the lake. The park is spacious, so you won’t have trouble finding room, especially if you avoid going on busy holiday weekends during the late spring or summer.

11. Ocean View Beach

Ocean View Beach
Image Credit: Doug Lewis via Flickr (license)

Ocean View Beach has some of the cleanest water in the state. It’s so beautiful that it’s even earned the nickname the jewel of Virginia. The water is gentle, and you can sit on the shore and listen to the soft and consistent sound of the tide, or you can wade or swim in the water leisurely.

There are 7 miles of coastline, making it the perfect spot to go if you want to keep up your exercise routine while you travel but also want to take advantage of the beautiful scenery. You can even have a picnic here. You can set out a blanket anywhere on the beach, and there are designated spots where you can start a grill and have a cookout.

Be prepared to walk a little if you need to use the restrooms during your stay.

12. Sandbridge Beach

Sandbridge Beach
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB

Sandbridge is a secluded beach that’s a fantastic option if you don’t want to deal with crowds, especially if your trip to Virginia falls on a popular holiday weekend.

There are sand dunes you can explore, and the sand itself is plush and easy to walk on, so you can explore for hours without worrying about getting tired or sore. There’s even a pier you can walk to the end of for some dramatic views, especially around sunrise or sunset.

While the summer is the best time to visit if you want to go swimming, any time of year is worth a stop here. The fall and winter get a little chillier and breezy, but Sandbridge is so beautiful it makes the lower temperatures worth it if you want to go for a walk on the sand.

13. Oceanfront, Virginia Beach

Oceanfront Virginia Beach
Image Credit: Virginia Beach CVB

Virginia Beach is one of the most well-known coastal cities in the state, and for a good reason. With 3 miles of boardwalk and numerous stretches of beachy sand, it’s a major vacation destination for people from all over the Eastern Seaboard.

Virginia Beach Oceanfront is where all of the action is. There are plenty of places where you can have some excitement if beach parties, music, and lively entertainment are your style. There are places where you can have plenty of peace and quiet if you want to sit back and relax while you enjoy the sand and sun.

There are also numerous attractions if you need a little time away from the sand, as well as nearby restaurants and shops if you need anything.

14. Westmoreland State Park

Westmoreland State Park
Image Credit: Virginia State Parks via Flickr (license)

Westmoreland State Park should definitely be at the top of your list if you’re looking for somewhere less well-known for your next beach adventure.

With natural shores and fossils embedded in the landscape, it sets itself apart from the other coastal areas in Virginia. You can come for a day trip, but camping for at least a night will ensure you get the most out of your Westmoreland visit.

There used to be designated swimming areas in the park, but they’ve closed down from a lack of upkeep. However, you can still go into the water here if you want to. Just make sure you keep in mind that there aren’t any lifeguards, so you’ll have to swim with extra caution.

Hot Tip: You can bring your dogs with you to the park as long as they’re leashed while in public areas.

15. Willoughby Beach

Willoughby Beach
Image Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Norfolk District via Flickr (license)

Willoughby Beach is nearby another famed beach on this list, Ocean View. Like its neighbor, this part of the coast is a favorite among Virginians statewide.

Even people who live on the coast will find themselves planning a trip to visit these waters. The locals are friendly and are happy to help if you have any questions while you’re in the area, but you might find it hard to pull yourself away from the beach.

It’s an excellent spot for families because you’re close enough to the city to get whatever you need, and there’s some excitement to keep you entertained. However, you can also get some peace and quiet, and you don’t have to worry about the beach getting too loud or chaotic, which could overstimulate young children. There’s not much shade here, though, so you’ll want to pack a hat or an umbrella.

Final Thoughts

Virginia has a surprising number of beaches, so there are plenty of options to choose from when you’re planning your vacation. However, the perfect spot for you will vary depending on your travel preferences. Hopefully, this list has helped you figure out which Virginia beach locale is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Virginia’s beaches nice?

Virginia has dozens of beaches, so it stands to reason that some will be nicer than others. What you consider “nice” might also differ from someone else’s preferences. Virginia has many beaches suitable for virtually any visitor.

Does Virginia have white sand beaches?

Virginia has multiple white sand beaches, especially along its northern shores. This type of sand is notoriously soft, though you can still enjoy your time on the state’s golden beaches as well. There are even beaches with pebble or grass shores, depending on your coastal preferences.

Are Virginia's beaches clean?

Virginia’s beaches are very clean. Beaches near tourist areas tend to have more clean-up to keep the site pristine, but there might be more debris during the day. Secluded areas without boats also tend to be cleaner.

Are Virginia beaches family-friendly?

In general, Virginia’s beaches are family-friendly. Most stretches of the state’s shore are “dry,” meaning alcohol isn’t allowed, and there typically aren’t any loud parties. However, on busy summer weekends, the beaches might start to get a little rowdier towards the evening hours or after dark.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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