First Landing State Park – Virginia Beach

First Landing State Park is Virginia’s most visited state park. It is where English colonists first landed in 1607. Native American canoes, Colonial settlers, 20th-century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park’s waterways. Its cypress swamps were a source of freshwater for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships during the War of 1812. Legend has it that Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways were used by Union and Confederate patrols during the Civil War.

Location: (~152 miles/2 hours 20 min. from Fredericksburg.)

  • Main Entrance: 2500 Shore Dr., Virginia Beach, VA 23451
    • Chesapeake Bay Center, park office, camping or cabins
    • On the opposite of the road is access to the Trail Center, picnic area and trails
  • Second Entrance: 64th St., Virginia Beach, VA 23451 (Located off of Route 60 / Atlantic Avenue–this entrance is on the south side of the park and provides access to the Narrows boat launch and beach, the bike trail, and hiking trails.)

Hours:

  • Park: 8 a.m. to dusk
  • Office/Visitor Center: Open for overnight check-in and information from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m. daily
  • Trail Center: Currently closed.  Plans are for a late June opening. You can get to the trail center by taking the south entrance off of Shore Drive, which is opposite the entrance to park’s main contact station. First Landing State Park’s trail center is the the main hub for accessing the trails that run through the park
  • Chesapeake Bay Center: Houses historical and educational exhibits-the center showcases a historical exhibition of the first landing of settlers in 1607, aquariums, environmental exhibits, classroom space, a wet lab and touch tank.

Cost:

  • $7/car, $10 on weekends Apr.-Oct.
  • Homeschoolers receive free entrance with ID or NOI
  • Memorial Day, 4th of July, and Labor Day are the holidays charged weekend rates.
  • Parking fees are waived on Jan. 1 and on National Public Lands Day and any other day specified by the Director. Parking fees for Veterans are waived on Nov. 11.
  • Free Parking at a Virginia State Park with any REI purchase. You can also get one night free camping stay if you join the Virginia State Parks Loyalty Program.
  • When you pay for parking at one Virginia State Park, you can visit any others that day for free. And if you’re staying overnight, you have free access to any park during the range of time on your hang tag.

Trail Map: Hiking, bicycle and self-guided trails. Ten trails total about 20 miles, including bike and fitness trails. Click HERE for a trail guide.

Kids in Park: Have FUN outdoors and WIN prizes.

  • Kids in Parks is an expanding network of family-friendly outdoor adventures called TRACK Trails. Each TRACK Trail features self-guided brochures and signs that turn your visit into a fun and exciting outdoors experience. Best of all, you can earn PRIZES for tracking your adventures! 
  • First Landing State Park is a Kinds in the Park location.
  • You can download an adventure brochure HERE or find printed ones at the kiosk in the park. The kiosk can be found at the trailhead for the Bald Cypress Trail.
  • Click HERE for more information.

Chesapeake Bay Beach:

  • One of the few places in Virginia Beach where there is public access to the bay coastline. 
  • 1.5 miles of beach frontage
  • Beach is relatively uncrowded
  • Water is calmer
  • Tendency to have more bugs. Bring bug spray.
  • Four boardwalks that provide convenient walkways to carry you over the dunes and onto the beach
  • Outdoor showers on each of the boardwalks
  • Restrooms nearby
  • Swim at your own risk as there are no lifeguards
  • Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel is visible from the shore here.

 

Webpage: First Landing State Park

We were excited to head to First Landing State Park during our recent visit to Virginia Beach. We ended up parking near the Trail Center. Unfortunately, it wasn’t open. There are bathrooms through the front door of the Trail Center and those were open.

We decided to do the Bald Cypress Trail. This ended up being a good choice as we stumbled onto the Kids in Park Track Trail kiosk. The kids each grabbed a brochure, and we started the hike. Number 5 picked up “The Need for Trees” brochure, and Number 6 picked up “Nature’s Hide & Seek”.

The trail has a number of boardwalks and observation platforms that carry you over and allow you to look into the swamps. The trail crosses over forest covered dunes, making for a few slight uphill and downhill climbs. This trail is not stroller friendly. It’s perfect for sunny days, though, as the majority of the trail is in the shade.

We loved this hike. It’s one of the park’s most popular hiking treks. It starts at the Trail Center and intersects many other trails as it winds through the bad cypress swamps. There used to be numbered/lettered posts along the trail that corresponded to a self-guided tour booklet. The posts are still there, but there are no numbers or letters on them.

The learned that the water’s dark color is caused by tannic acid which is released from decaying tree bark, leaves, and natural debris. Pirates and sailors used these ponds for drinking water since tannic acid acts as a preservative.

The trails are well-marked. Be sure to stay on the trail and keep a watchful eye. We saw two snakes near the side of the trail.

The squirrels are very friendly. They must be used to people feeding them. We had a bag of nuts and ended up sharing with them.

We really enjoyed this state park. The kids said they can’t wait to come back and do more exploring.

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