First Landing State Park is a truly unique camping destination. It is a 2,888 acre natural area set within the coastal urban area of Virginia Beach. Essentially, you get the best of both worlds—the great outdoors and nature programs as well aseasy access to great restaurants and attractions.
As a long-time Virginia Beach resident, park employee, and local tourist—I’ve developed a “sample itinerary” for a weeklong camping stay at First Landing complete with insider tips related to traffic, sights, park programs, and what to bring.
Campsite check-in begins at 4pm. The contact station is the “gatehouse” located at the park entrance. Because we have a very short driveway, you will be directed to pull through, park your vehicle and come to the front window to get your site assignment. Be sure to watch the informational video while you are waiting to get your site assignment.
Once you get your site set up, you can stop by the park’s Campstore for anything you need. The Campstore stocks groceries, RVparts, fishing gear, charcoal, firewood, souveniers, and more!! Be sure to pick up a “Sunny Day Guide” from the kiosks outside the campstore…it is chock full of coupons.
After dinner, spend some time on the park’s beautiful Chesapeake Bay beach. There are no lifeguards on duty, but the slow wave action and shallow water make it a great spot for small children to play in the surf.
Once the sun sets, you’ll want to build your own campfire. Firewood is available at the campstore–please don’t burn deadfall or cut trees in the park. If you like, join the park’s evening Campfire program where you might make a few new friends while you eat some S’mores.
Did you know First Landing State Park hold the Guinness World Record for the World’s Largest S’more??!! Stop by the Chesapeake Bay Center to find out just how big it was and how many chocolate bars, graham crackers, and marshallows it took to make it!
As you settle in for the night, remember quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. The main contact station is staffed 24 hours a day from mid-June through mid-August. If you have any questions or would like to report any problems, you can let them know.
Good morning!! If you haven’t already set up a screened tent over your picnic table, you ought to do that first thing this morning. In the cooler morning air, mosquitoes and biting flies can be an inconvenience.
Be sure to reset your tent stakes–the park is in a wetlands area and the moisture in the soil can loosen your stakes after the morning dew is absorbed. Also, be sure to secure your RV and any valuables while you explore the park and the Hampton Roads area.
Historic Triangle (Jamestown, Yorktown, Colonial Williamsburg) area are the Top 5 things most visitors like to do while in the Hampton Roads area.
We’ll visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse today and the other attractions later in the week when the traffic and crowds should be lighter.
First Landing State Park is named for the First Landing of the Virginia Company that went on to settle England’s first permanent colony, Jamestown, in the New World. Before setting off for the Lighthouse at Fort Story, stop by the park’s Chesapeake Bay Center First Landing Museum where you can get some perspective on the Virginia Company and their New World adventures.
Once you walk through the First Landing exhibit, you’re ready to head over to Fort Story to see the cross and lighthouse. Fort Story is a working military base so be prepared by having appropriate identification with you and be prepared for a vehicle search. Access to the lighthouse is via the Atlantic Ave/88th Street gates–about 5 miles east of the park on Shore Drive. (Turn left out of the park’s campground entrace!)
There are strict rules about climbing the lighthouse stairs. Children must be 42″ tall, children can not be carried up the staris, and not backpacks or frontpacks are allowed.
After visiting the lighthouse, you’ll probably be ready to spend the afternoon on the beach. Be sure to check the park’s program schedule for evening guide hikes or nature programs. Every Saturday night, First Landing offers an excellent night hike–and it is FREE!
Sunday morning in a great time to visit the Oceanfront/Boardwalk. To get there, turn left out of the park’s campground entrace, follow Shore Drive until it turn into Atlantic Avenue. There is a parking garage at 31st and Atlantic.
The huge King Neptune statue is a great meeting place if your group wants to split up and do separate activities. There are also many excellent and affordable breakfast spots nearby.Bike rentals and skate rental kiosks are located up and down the boardwalk.
Lifeguards are on duty for much of the main summer season along the Oceanfront/Boardwalk. A flag system is also in place. Be mindful of the riptide current and heavy wave action along this section of the Atlantic. Red flags mean no swimming; yellow flags mean to be EXTREMELY CAUTIOUS–wade only to your ankes; green flags mean it is safe to swim. The area past 5th Street is designated for surfer’s only. There is an excellent handicap/stroller accessible playground for small children at 5th Street.
On Sunday afternoon, I recommend you take a leisurely drive across the Kiptopeke State Park.
Kiptopeke State Park has an excellent fishing pier and boat launch. Kayaks are available for rent as well.
After working up an appetite fishing or hiking at Kiptopeke State Park, I recommend you stop by Stingray’sfor some great seafood and souveniers.
Traffic in Hampton Roads can be a challenge! I recommend you hold off on Busch Gardens and the Historic Triangle until mid-week. Since this is a tourist area and many people take long weekend trips, tunnel traffic westbound on Mondays can be very heavy.
Of course, you have to be flexible with the weather. When I’m camping, I usually hold an indoor activity in reserve in case of rainy weather or severe sunburn from the previous day’s activities. The newly renovated Virginia Beach Aquarium makes for a great indoor activity!!
The Virginia Beach Aquarium has a IMAX movie theater, excellent outdoor walking trail, fabulous exhibits, a shark tank, seaturtle tank, and numerous touch tanks!
First Landing State Park has an excellent partnership with the Aquarium. Throughout the year, many rehabilitated sea mammals are released from the park into the wild. While these events are unpredictable, you might get lucky and witness a seal release like this one that happened last year.
Virginia’s Historic Triangle is a unique area that bore witness to the settlement of the New World, the colonization of the New World and the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown that ensured victory for the American Revolutaries.
As always, traffic approaching the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel can be heavy. Tunnel back ups can sometimes reach 6 miles. There are numerous signs that indicate the length of the back-up. Bear in mind, on average, each mile of back up equates with a ten-minute delay. I recommend that you leave early–before 7:30 a.m. and return late–after 7:30p.m.
The bridge tunnel traffic is heaviest from 8am-10am and 3pm-7pm. Use HOV lanes whenever possible. Also, when traveling eastbound on your return trip–stay in the far left lane–it moves faster and allows you to avoid merging traffic.
There is so much to see and do in this area, I recommend you pick just one or two sites to focus on. If you are looking to plan your visit with a timeline theme, you ought to visit the Jamestown sites first, then Colonial Williamsburg, ending with the Riverwalk Landing for dinner or ice cream.
If Virgina’s agrian history is more to your liking, take the Chippokes Plantation State Park. Chippokes Plantation State Park houses the Chippokes Farm & Forest Museum, the ante-bellum Stewart Mansion, and 18th century River House. Don’t forget your bathing suits for a dip in their olympic-sized swimming pool!
Once you return to the First Landing, check the program schedule for the Stargazing program times. Stargazing is offered every Tuesday night!!
It’s Busch Gardens time!! As a long-time annual passholder, I have a lot of experience with visiting Busch Gardens. Even though it is mid-week traffic an be an issue near the Busch Gardens exit off I-64. Arrive early and leave early evening or arrive early afternoon and leave after the rides shut down.
By going mid-week, you are avoiding the “locals crowd” that tend to visit Busch Gardens on the weekend and you are avoiding the “long weekenders” who visit on Mondays and Fridays.
Check out the Busch Gardens website for all the info you need to make the most of your visit.
If you return to First Landing in time, be sure to check out the Moonlight Movie offered every Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. in the park’s amphitheater. The movie is always age appropriate and has a nature/wildlife theme. The movie is always free and popcorn/soda/candy is available at the Campstore.
Now that you’ve thoroughly explored the Hampton Roads area, it is time to thoroughly explore the park.
First Landing has 20 miles of trails! You can rent a bike at the Campstore and ride the 6-mile (one way) Cape Henry Trail down to the Narrows/Broad Bay area. This small beach and wetland area is great for birdwatching. You might see eagles, owls, osprey, egrets, and herons.
On Thursdays at 2pm, the park offers a “What’s in the Nets?” program at the Chesapeake Bay Center Boardwalk. Park naturalists, with your assistance, will seine for small fish, shellfish, shrimp, and crabs. You can get an up close look at all the different marine life in the bay’s shallows.
Then at 4pm every Thursday, park naturalists conduct a guided hike through the Bald Cypress Trail. You absolutely have to bring your camera to this program!!
Enjoy the beach in the morning and then make ready to check out of your site by 3 p.m. Be sure to take all your trash to the dumpster at the Chesapeake Bay Center and notify the contact station staff of your departure.
Remember the campground is open seasonally from early March to early December, but the cabins are available for reservation year-round.