As the unbearable summer heat fades into refreshing evenings complemented by crickets chirping and frogs croaking, one of our favorite activities is embarking in a good old-fashioned family camping trip. No matter where you reside in Coastal Virginia, you don’t have to travel far to find an ideal spot to pitch a tent, start a campfire and break out the marshmallows. Here are five favorite camping locations, complete with gorgeous natural views and amenities to suit anything from the classic camper to the glorified glamper.
False Cape State Park, photo by Matt Haddaway
False Cape State Park, Sandbridge—The most isolated and infrequently visited state park in the State. False Cape occupies the southernmost tip of the Virginia portion of the Currituck Peninsula; its 3,884 acres are separated from Sandbridge by the 8,000-acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and are accessible by hiking, biking or shuttle. Those who make the trip are treated to miles of wild beaches, gorgeous Back Bay sunsets and primitive camping beneath maritime forests of mature live oaks and sugar maples. Four small primitive camping areas are available. Sites from $20.
Chippokes Plantation State Park, Surry—This lesser-known gem is located on 1,947 acres across the James River from Jamestown along the edge of Cobham Bay. It is home to the nation’s oldest continually farmed plantation, which dates to 1619. Catch a tour of its 1854 Italianate Jones-Stewart Mansion, visit the onsite Farm and Forestry Museum, and explore nearby Hog Island Wildlife Management Area. Lodging includes 51 camping sites with electricity and water, four cabins and a small but fantastic rental house dating to the 1770s. Tent sites from $35.
First Landing State Park
First Landing State Park, Virginia Beach—Rests just north of Virginia Beach proper within sight of the Cape Henry Lighthouse. Direct access to Route 60 and nearby shops, premium bath houses and pull-up camping sites make for easy glamping. Expect 20 miles of hiking and biking trails through 2,888 acres of unusual ecosystems like bald cypress swamps, lagoons and dense maritime forests. And don’t forget—1.5 miles of bay-fronting beaches. Lodging includes 20 cabins, four yurts and 65 camping sites. Tent sites from $30.
Kiptopeke State Park, Cape Charles—Location is key. Situated on the bay side of the Eastern Shore just 8 miles past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and about 10 miles from downtown Cape Charles, Kiptopeke offers rugged natural beauty, seclusion and easy access to cultural amenities. The 562-acre park boasts 47 standard tent sites and 86 equipped with water, sewage and electricity. Looking for something a bit more luxe? Rent a cabin or yurt. Expect 5 miles of hiking and biking trails—including dune-spanning boardwalks—and two beaches. Tent sites from $30.
Belle Isle State Park, Lancaster—This 892-acre Northern Neck jewel brings access to 7 miles of shoreline along the Rappahannock River. Explore eight distinct types of wetlands by canoe and kayak, including Mulberry and Deep creeks. Ten miles of multiuse trails offer exquisite bird-watching opportunities. Lodging includes rooms in the historical Bel Air House and 28 camping sites, about half of which have water and electricity. Tent sites from $15. Canoe and kayak rentals from $30 a day.