Kiptopeke State Park — Cape Charles, VA

On Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore, explored by Capt. John Smith in 1608, Kiptopeke offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay. The site was named Kiptopeke in honor of the younger brother of a king of the Accawmack Indians who had befriended early settlers to the area.  Kiptopeke means Big Water. It’s also a great place to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway. Kiptopeke is three miles from the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

Location: 3540 Kiptopeke Dr., Cape Charles, VA 23310 (~39 miles/53 min. from Virginia Beach, ~172 miles/3 hr. 25 min. from Fredericksburg)

Hours: Day use and overnight guest visitation, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m. Pier open 24 hours a day April 1 – Dec. 31.

Cost: $7/car Homeschoolers are free with NOI or ID.

Swimming: There are two unguarded beaches on the Chesapeake Bay.

  • Northern Beach–
    • Nearly half a mile long and open from Memorial Day to Labor Day
    • Pet, fishing, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and other boats are not allowed here
  • Southern Beach–
    • Open to swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating and pets kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet

Fishing: No fishing license is required from the pier, but a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license is required for fishing from the shore.  Pier fees apply (13 and older,  $5/day; children 6-12, $3/day; under 5, free). 

Camping: The park has camping, 6-bedroom family lodges, two and three-bedroom cabins, a yurt and a camping lodge (bunkhouse). For more information, click HERE.

Trail: The park has more than 5 miles of hiking and bicycle trails. A trail guide can be found HERE.

Biking: Bicycle trails are available along the park’s entrance road and the Raptor, Songbird, Chickadee and Mockingbird trails. Bikes may be rented at the camp store.

Events: Kiptopeke State Park offers so many different scheduled programs. For a current list, click HERE. Here are a few that caught our eyes:

  • Pirate Treasure Hunt
    • Live action role play
    • Navigate through the park by following a map
    • Solve riddles
    • Reward
  • Wagon Rides
    • By appointment only
    • 2-hour tour up to 12 riders
    • $15 suggested donation
    • Take a seat on the wagon and listen to Rangers discuss the natural, cultural, and historical wonders of Kiptopeke and the Eastern shore
    • Email to reserve a time
  • Scavenger Hunt
    • Kiptopeke themed
    • Free copies at the entrance Kiosk or HERE.
  • Junior Ranger Booklet
    • Pick up booklet at Park Office
    • Complete activities and questions
    • Return to Park Office for an official patch

Website: Kiptopeke State Park

We have been to Virginia Beach numerous times. I’m not sure why we never ventured over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel to Kiptopeke State Park. The bridge was amazing, and we all loved Kiptopeke State Park.

Information about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel:

I was intimidated by this bridge/tunnel as I dislike tunnels. I wasn’t too sure about driving over it by myself. I like it when the hubby drives, but he was at work in Virginia Beach. I survived! It really wasn’t that bad. The Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge is scarier. The kids really enjoyed the views, and I loved listening to the free driving tour (see details below). It was very informative.

  • Measuring 17.6 miles from shore to shore
  • Consists of more than 12 miles of trestle roadway, 2 mile-long tunnels, 2 bridges, and 4 man-made islands
  • Takes approximately 30 minutes to cross
  • In 2000, recognized as one of the “Seven Structural Engineering Wonders of America for the 20th Century
  • FEES:
    • Off-peak $14/car, Peak $18/car
    • Return trip within 24-hours (E-ZPass only) Off-peak $6/car, Peak $2/car
  • Listen to a free driving tour while crossing the bridge. The tour is tailored to your travel direction, northbound or southbound. Visit to download your tour.

Our Kiptopeke State Park Visit

Kiptopeke was amazing. We drove into the park and headed straight to the parking by the fishing pier. We enjoyed watching the fisherman out on their boats. We heard that the concrete ships located off the park’s waterfront offer some of Virginia’s finest fishing. Yes, the ships are concrete…all 9 of them. These ships were retired from active service and intentionally placed here in the late 1940s as a breaker to protect a ferry terminal pier.

“During both of the World Wars, a shortage of wartime steel demanded more creative materials, as it turns out – concrete, when molded into the right shape, is more buoyant than you might think. These particular ships are from a fleet of 2-dozen made by McCloskey and Co. in 1942. They mostly served as cargo ships, sailing as far as the South Pacific.” (Only in Your State)

We walked along the beach on both the northern and southern sides. The kids had so much fun trying to catch crabs on the northern side. There were quite a few crab holes. They almost caught a pretty large one.

The beaches were pretty quiet with only a few people setting up on the southern side. It was so peaceful just walking along the water’s edge.

After leaving the beaches, we went to the Butterfly Garden and Hawk Observatory. The Kiptopeke Hawk Watch has documented more migrant falcons than any other location in North America. (The peak of the migration is in the Fall.) There’s a nice playground near the Butterfly Garden. We were planning on walking on the Baywoods Trail, but the kids were hot and tired after playing at the park. And, we still wanted to make it to Cape Charles Beach.

We definitely can’t wait to head back to Kiptopeke State Park.

Don’t forget to enter your visit at Virginia State Parks Trail Quest.

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