Spending a day at the beach is a summertime ritual for Virginians. Luckily, the commonwealth has thousands of miles of coastline to enjoy. However, the beaches can get overcrowded during the dog days of summer.
If you’re looking to have a fun day of sun, sand, and water, consider visiting one of the commonwealth’s least-crowded beaches. What they lack in beachgoers, they certainly make up for in beauty. Here’s your 2023 list of the eight least-crowded beaches in Virginia that you should check out (but don’t tell too many people).
Outlook Beach, Fort Monroe’s only public beach, is a great place to go for swimming, sunbathing, and relaxing. “Surrounded by water on all sides, the Fort Monroe beaches extend for miles and offer some of the best views of the Chesapeake Bay,” according to the Hampton Convention & Visitor Bureau.
Lifeguards are present from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Memorial Day through Labor Day, so you can feel comfortable bringing your little ones along.
Buckroe Beach and Park borders the Chesapeake Bay with a little under a mile of clean beach. With its many amenities, this beach is ideal for a family. It has three picnic shelters, with tables and grills, and large restroom and shower facilities. There’s also a spacious nautical-themed playground for children.
If you don’t want to pack lunch, look for one of the food carts and trucks that sell both cold and hot treats during the summer. The lifeguard schedule is the same as Outlook Beach.
Location: Virginia Beach
If you’re in Virginia Beach and want to enjoy a day near the ocean without all the commotion that comes with the Boardwalk, the Back Bay National Wildlife Preserve should be at the top of your list. The 9,108-acre park, situated on a thin strip of coastline typical of barrier islands, has plenty of secluded beaches.
After enjoying the beaches, go for a hike or bicycle ride on one of the park’s many winding trails. You’ll likely spot one of the many animals that live there, including bobcats, foxes, deer, rabbits, and loggerhead sea turtles. Turtles also nest on the beach during the summer.
Yorktown Beach offers a unique beach experience due to the fact that it’s located in Historic Yorktown. The two-acre public beachfront caters to family fun. “The beach is perfect for sunbathing, boating, swimming, and fishing,” says Visit Williamsburg. You can also rent kayaks, paddleboards, and bikes to explore the area.
It’s a great beach to visit if you or someone you’re with is in a wheelchair, as it features a Mobi-Mat and Mobi-Chair. The chair is free to rent for two-hour increments between 10 a.m.-6 p.m. for those who are disabled but still want to get in the water.
If you pack your lunch, you can have a picnic in the 10-acre grassy area that’s beside the pier.
Location: Cape Charles
Perhaps the biggest reason to visit the Cape Charles Town Beach is that it’s the only public beach on the Eastern Shore that doesn’t require an entrance or parking fee.
“The beach is safe for families with small children,” the Virginia Tourism Corporation said. “The shallow waters of the Chesapeake Bay, clean and refreshed by our proximity to the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean, make delightful vacations for mothers. There are no waves here. Mothers can relax here while their children splash and play in the oversized wading pools of Cape Charles beaches.”
The beach area also has a large pavilion, park benches, and public restrooms. To find the beach, you’ll want to go to Bay Avenue where there’s beach access at the end of every block. It’s 10 miles north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Location: Colonial Beach
Colonial Beach’s Downtown Boardwalk Beach is the ideal beach destination on the Northern Neck peninsula. While the boardwalk has lots of the same excitement as Virginia Beach’s Boardwalk, it’s not nearly as crowded. When you visit the beach, you’ll find a bathhouse, water sports, swings, Town Pier, shops, food trucks, and restaurants. Be sure to take your photo with the interactive LOVEwork sculpture.
If you find this beach to be too lively for you, consider checking out nearby North Beach. It’s a little quieter and more secluded but doesn’t have all the fun the boardwalk has to offer.
Location: Westmoreland County
The beaches of Westmoreland State Park are formed from the banks of the Potomac River. The park stretches for about 1.5 miles along the river and neighbors the former homes of George Washington and Robert E. Lee.
You’ll want to go to Fossil Beach. The cliffs that flank it on both sides have eroded over time and as a result released fossils into the river. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some shark teeth. The park’s Horsehead Cliffs also provide visitors with a spectacular view of the Potomac River.
Location: Mathews County
The Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve doesn’t offer your traditional recreational beach experience, but it is a nature lover’s dream.
“The preserve consists of sandy shoreline, low dunes and salt marsh habitat separating the eastern side of Winter Harbor in Mathews County from the Chesapeake Bay,” the Virginia Tourism Corporation said.
Because the preserve is home to federally threatened species, activities like sunbathing and picnicking are prohibited. However, you can bring your four-legged friend with you as long as they’re on a leash.