Yes, Virginia Beach has a beach. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Virginia Beach has the world’s longest stretch of pleasure beach, as part of its 35 miles of coastline, counting both its oceanfront and its shoreline just inside Cape Henry and the Chesapeake Bay. Surprisingly, it’s also Virginia’s most populated independent city, at just under half a million (459,470 in the 2020 census), which might be due to it being Virginia’s largest in land area, at 497 square miles. A referendum in 1963 joined the small but dense resort city at 2 square miles with the much larger but rural Princess Anne County (247 square miles), making it the Virginia Beach we know today. Local leaders decided that the name of the town was better known than the county’s and so chose it as the official name.
What about the other 248 square miles? It’s water, including the sprawling Lynnhaven River system at the mouth of the Chesapeake, the Rudee Inlet from the Atlantic, and the giant, all freshwater Back Bay, which includes the National Wildlife Refuge and False Cape State Park. So, what does all that water offer to residents and visitors? A huge range of activity, as well as quiet places to relax after a big day on, in, or along the water.
Surprisingly, Virginia Beach has been an East Coast surfing mecca for over a century. Its long Atlantic beachfront offers a wide range of waves that ebb and flow with the seasons. There are plenty of surf shops where a visitor can buy equipment, get information and in-the-water instruction, and even shape a personal board. A highlight of the year is the August East Coast Surfing Championships, which Virginia Beach residents and visitors have celebrated here for most of the past century.
Interested in paddling? Virtually all of the water welcomes hardy souls in/on kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. Bring your own and find plenty of access points. For rentals, instruction, and guided tours, there are outfitters in Back Bay, the Lynnhaven complex of waterways, and the Chesapeake, as well as along the Atlantic beach. If the wind is blowing and the waves are too rough in one area, there will always be somewhere else where conditions are tranquil. Some of the outfitters can also advise on great places to fish from kayaks. Want to see some hair-raising kayak-fishing action that also instructs? Check out the website of local resident Kayak Kevin Whitely. For Back Bay, Cory Routh of Ruthless Fishing Adventures is as good as they come.
For fishing enthusiasts, Virginia Beach offers something every month of the year, and the variety is stunning. Try fishing off the beach, shoreline areas like Pleasure House Point Natural Area, or off one of several piers. Multiple local tackle shops offer gear, bait, ice, and good advice. The waters around the 17.6-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel offer a multitude of species from spot, such as croakers, and sheepshead to big, powerful black drum, red drum, and cobia. There are multiple guide services along Great Neck Road east of Lynnhaven Inlet, such as Virginia Beach Sport Fishing, who can help.
Virginia Beach fishing resources range from local ponds to Bluewater charter boats that search offshore for marlin and tuna with the Virginia Beach Fishing Center. Rudee Tours offers “head boats” that accommodate individuals, couples, and families on a per-person basis for fishing or wildlife watching, including dolphins, sea turtles, and even whales.
Do your homework by visiting the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center further up the Rudee Inlet. Virginia Beach offers visitors more than marina activities, in terms of music, arts, food, and more, but we’ll have to save those resources for another week.