It had been ten years since I last stepped foot in Virginia Beach and in such a short time span, it seemed like so much had changed. My first trip to the area in 2007 was unmemorable and had I not taken pictures of my experience, I would not have remembered any of it.
In 2017, when I was deciding on destinations to travel to for my week-long spring vacation, I almost passed over visiting Virginia Beach. There were so many other seemingly appealing destinations such as the Caribbean and the southern part of the East Coast that I was considering. Had I chosen to skip Virginia Beach completely, I would have missed out on all of the wonderful experiences that the area had to offer. Virginia Beach truly took me by surprise and I had a wonderful time during my 4 days in the area despite visiting during the off-season.
During the planning phase of my trip to Virginia Beach, I was able to find an affordable beachfront hotel through AirBnB. Every morning after rising from my bed, I stepped out onto my balcony, peered out over my guardrail and looked out across the Atlantic Ocean at the magnificent sunrise. One of the best decisions that I could have made when planning my Virginia Beach vacation was selecting a hotel right on the beach where the ocean was at my doorstep.
When planning a trip to any destination, outside of booking accommodation, it is also essential to research activities that are of interest to you. In my past travel experiences, I often decided to not do too much research before my vacation and go with the flow of things once I arrive (like the time I randomly ended up in Viñales, Cuba); but since I was not traveling solo during my trip to Virginia Beach, I knew that I would have to seek out experiences that would be of interest to both my boyfriend and myself.
One of the things that my boyfriend loves to do during every trip is to look at animals up close, and our trip to Virginia Beach was no different. During our time spent in Virginia Beach, we took a boat tour with Rudee Tours to watch dolphins swimming in the ocean.
I found the experience of taking a short daytime dolphin cruise in the Atlantic to be magnificent. It was the first time that I had ever seen dolphins in the ocean. I loved watching them travel together below the surface of the water while riding the waves underneath our boat.
During our trip to Virginia Beach, we also paid a visit to the Virginia Aquarium.The Vaquarium, although small, was very nice. There was a good selection of fish in the main building, fun activities for children, and an adventure park on the premises.
No trip to Virginia Beach would be complete without checking out the food scene.
Several weeks before our trip, I bookmarked a number of places that I wanted to try based on recommendations from locals, travel bloggers, and review sites.
Although we only spent a couple of days in the area, my goal was to eat as much food as humanly possible, so we visited the following places:
• Dockside Seafood & Fishing Company (Google – 4.4/5): Anytime you visit a beach destination, you should definitely have seafood. The shrimp at Dockside was good, the local Hatteras Style Clam Chowder left a little to be desired, but the view overlooking the Wolfsnare Creek was gorgeous – definitely worth paying a visit to the restaurant for.
• Bay Local Eatery (Google – 4.7/5): Definitely eat breakfast/brunch here at least once during your trip to Virginia Beach. Skip the Jamaican Dark Rum French Toast and get The Hangover – definitely worth it!
• Waterman’s Surfside Grill (Google – 4.5/5): While I cannot comment on the food here, I can comment on the delicious crush drinks they have. They are said to have created the Orange Crush, but the jury is out on that. In addition to the Orange Crush, the Caribbean Crush is definitely another hit!
• Doc Taylor’s Restaurant (Google – 4.6/5): I discovered this hidden gem by accident and I was sure glad that I did. The prices here are rock bottom and the food is great! It is frequented by locals, so you know it must be good. Don’t miss out on their $2.50 mimosas & bloody marys. Reservations not accepted and there is almost always a wait, so if there is a seat at the bar try to grab it!
• Commune (Google – 4.6/5): Several bloggers recommended this place so I knew I had to check it out. Absolutely loved the farm-to-table aspect of this restaurant and the biscuits and gravy. The chicken left a little to be desired.
• Esoteric (Google – 4.6/5): Located right next door to Commune, Esoteric is a cool place to have dinner and has somewhat of a Brooklyn-vibe to it. The staff is extremely hospital and the food is great. Definitely, don’t skip the beet salad!
• Duck Donuts (Google – 4.7/5): I am a sucker for a good donut (which you probably already know after reading about my obsession during my trips to Austin and Memphis). After randomly spotting Duck Donuts while walking down the street, I quickly googled the brand to see if it was any good and I found out that they are known for having some of the best donuts in Virginia.
• Pochohantas Pancake House (Google – 4.4/5): I have to admit I was a bit skeptical of this place, and yes it is VERY touristy and has an over-the-top Indigenous (Native American) theme, but the price is low, the portion sizes are generous, and the food is tasty. Definitely make sure to check out Pochohantas if you are looking for cheap breakfast near the beach!
In addition to spending a good portion of my trip eating and seeing animals, I also walked up and down the Boardwalk several times people watching and taking an obligatory photo of the statue of King Neptune.
The actual Boardwalk in Virginia Beach is not filled with shops and vendors like the Boardwalks in places like Ocean City, MD and Atlantic City; it is only in use by bikers and pedestrians.
In addition to eating the foods and seeing the usual sights in Virginia Beach, I was curious to see what else the area had to offer, and to my surprise, there was much, much more.
Unbeknownst to me prior to my visit, Virginia Beach had quite a nice wine scene. As an oenophile, I knew that I definitely wanted to check out some of the local wine, so I made my way over to Pungo Ridge Winery.
Pungo Ridge is a small seasonal farm winery located on the outskirts of central Virginia Beach. Unfortunately, Pungo Ridge is closed during the winter and spring seasons to tours, however, I was able to call ahead and stop by to pick up a batch of their delicious blackberry wine.
One activity that my boyfriend enjoys doing during vacation is fishing, so during our trip to Virginia Beach, we decided to check out a few places where we could go and catch some fish.
Our first stop was to the Sandbridge Little Island Fishing Pier (pictured above). The Little Island Fishing Pier is a small 400-foot pier that sits on the Atlantic Ocean. During the off-season, there is no charge to visit this pier, but from May to October there is a small fee for both fishing and sightseeing.
Little Island Fishing requires visitors to bring their own fishing gear, and since we did not have any with us, we decided to seek out a pier that could provide us with some.
Our search for a place to fish brought us to Ocean View Fishing Pier, about a half hour drive away from Virginia Beach in Norfolk, Virginia.
Ocean View had everything that we were looking for: a nice long pier (1690 feet into the Chesapeake Bay), fishing equipment, bait, and beautiful views.
Although my boyfriend and I did not have any luck catching fish that day, we had an excellent time fishing at Ocean View. We enjoyed it so much that we ended up staying way past dusk!
The following day, we decided that we wanted to see some of the nature that Virginia Beach had to offer, so we headed to First Landing State Park, the most visited park in the entire state of Virginia.
When we arrived at First Landing, my boyfriend and I opted to rent bicycles from the park’s gift shop to explore the entirety of the park.
One thing that really stood out to me about the park was how diverse it was. In addition to your standard vegetation, the park has an interesting cyprus swamp, several lakes, and marshland.
The park also has a number of different trails for visitors. Some of the trails support bikers and there are a few that do not. My boyfriend and I decided that we would bike through the park along the Cape Henry Trail.
The very first thing that we came across was a unique looking swamp filled with Cyprus trees. It slightly reminded me of the swamp tour that I had taken several years back when I visited New Orleans.
As continued traveling through the park, we came to a large but secluded lake where a small handful of people were sunbathing and playing the guitar. It was the perfect opportunity to stop and rest for a little bit after so much cycling.
Visiting First Landing was one of the highlights of my trips to Virginia Beach, and is an experience that definitely should not be missed.
If you visit the park during your trip, I recommend spending a minimum of 3 hours there cycling around and enjoying everything that it has to offer. If you are really interested in hiking or camping at the park, consider checking out the experience of bloggers Wander the Map, Osmanthus Adventure, or Supanova Wife.
On our final day in Virginia Beach, we decided to spend some time on Chic’s Beach, a beach located on the Chesapeake Bay.
I found this beach to have much more of a local vibe than downtown Virginia Beach. Not only were there very little tourists, it was a lot less crowded, which I definitely appreciated.
In addition to having a beautiful sunset, you can also find blue crabs roaming around the beach. If you enjoy photography, you will definitely enjoy capturing a few photos while standing underneath the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
If you are considering a destination to travel to during the off-season, consider visiting Virginia Beach – you will not be disappointed!