Outdoor enthusiasts, get ready to fall in love with Virginia Beach. Here, the great outdoors isn’t just great, it’s sensational. We’ve got more than 4,000 acres of city and state parks, natural areas and wildlife refuges to explore. That’s on top of more than 120 miles of scenic waterways, including inlets, bays, rivers and channels, that are perfect for a relaxing paddle. Enjoy our mild climate as you discover new ways to experience Mother Nature, whether on foot, by bike, by boat, or with a paddle. Adventure is just around the corner. Here’s what to check out first:

Kayaking - First Landing State Park

Kayaking in First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is a sprawling 2,888-acre park in Virginia Beach that’s bursting with adventures thanks to nearly 19 miles of hiking trails (including two mixed-use nature trails that can accommodate both hikers and bikers), a boat launch and 1.5 miles of sandy bliss on the Chesapeake Bay. You’ll want to kick off your shoes and sink your toes into the warm sand the moment you arrive. A spacious campground (typically open March through early December) offers RV and tent sites, cabins and yurts just steps from the beach, allowing park-goers to drift off to sleep to the sounds of gently lapping waves.

This popular park wows with a variety of natural habitats, including shallow tidal marshes, curious bald cypress swamps, sun-kissed sand dunes, and lush maritime forests. It’s an all-season spot.

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Sunset in the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is truly for nature lovers. This 9,108-acre wildlife refuge is a mosaic of barrier islands that protect a variety of native habitats, including sand dunes, freshwater marsh, shrub-scrub and upland forest. Established in 1938, this wildlife refuge provides refuge for migratory birds (tundra swans and snow geese, among them) as well as a range of species, such as river otters, white-tailed deer and red foxes.

Several short hiking trails, including the Seaside Trail and Raptor Trail, reward visitors with stellar views of the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay. As the gateway to False Cape State Park, visitors can hop on an open-air tram for a four-hour guided tour that starts at Back Bay (on select days, depending on the season). There is a boat launch, but kayak rentals are not available, so bring your own gear if you want to get out on the water. As a heads up, swimming and dogs are not allowed at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Hiking - False Cape State Park
Hiking False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park

False Cape State Park is a rare find, lauded as one of the last undeveloped areas on the Atlantic coastline. This 3,844-acre state park sits nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Back Bay, offering 22 named hiking and biking trails, including the 6.2-mile Sand Ridge Trail (one-way), which runs along the spine of this state park from north to south, nearly all the way to the North Carolina state line. The park also has four primitive camping areas, a visitor center and one of the most picture-perfect attractions at any state park: the “Southernmost Virginia State Park” buoy.

This somewhat-remote slice of paradise is only accessible by foot, bicycle, personal watercraft, or the open-air tram that leaves from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge to travel the four miles to False Cape State Park. The park offers ranger-led activities, like night hikes and beach clean-ups. The tram tour includes an interpretive program that breathes life into the historic Wash Woods church and cemetery within the park.

Mount Trashmore - Family

Family Walking in Mount Trashmore Park

Mount Trashmore Park

Mount Trashmore Park is the ultimate transformation story, a 165-acre park that was cleverly created from a landfill. Today, this vibrant, eco-friendly park has two man-made mountains, two playgrounds, a skate park, and multi-use paths for walking and biking. Thanks to an abundance of green space, Mount Trashmore is the perfect place to go to let the kids kick a ball around, to fly a kite, or to enjoy a picnic lunch under a clear blue sky.

There are two sparkling lakes at Mount Trashmore Park, including Lake Trashmore and Lake Windsor. Casting a line for largemouth bass, white perch and sunfish is allowed with a valid fishing license. You can also drop in your own kayak for a paddle at Lake Windsor. At Lake Trashmore, look for 10 outdoor fitness stations dotted along the perimeter trail around the lake. It’s like your own open-air gym, but with scenic views and fresh air.

Munden Point Park.jpg

Munden Point Park

Munden Point Park is a 100-acre park that sparkles thanks to its location on the North Landing River. Bring your own kayak or canoe to drop in at the boat launch for a scenic paddle or unleash your competitive side at the 18-hole disc golf course. The green space has it all for a full day of fun, including picnic shelters with charcoal grills, playgrounds, and softball fields, as well as courts for volleyball and basketball when you want to get in a game.

Anglers can cast a line for largemouth bass, bluegill and white catfish. (Don’t forget to bring along a valid freshwater fishing license.) Pack a picnic lunch and set up for the day under a canopy of trees. It’s a picturesque location when you just want to laze the day away, or even enjoy a nap in the shade.

Stumpy Lake Natural Area

Stumpy Lake Natural Area

Stumpy Lake Natural Area spreads across 1,422 acres, with a 278-acre lake that wows visitors with curious bald cypress trees that just seem to be reaching out of the lake. Paddlers find a peaceful escape, thanks to calm waters, breathtaking views and local wildlife, such as egrets and river otters. Bring your camera, as the photo ops are plentiful.

Land lovers, revel in scenic, dog-friendly hiking on the 1.5-mile loop trail that starts at the back of the parking lot. It’s also an ideal trail for bird-watching, so bring your binoculars and keep your eyes peeled for bald eagles, pileated woodpeckers and green herons. The fishing deck off Elbow Road offers a scenic overlook with sweeping lake views. Fishing is allowed with a valid freshwater fishing license, but swimming and motorboats are not permitted at Stumpy Lake.

Red Wing Park

Red Wing Park

Red Wing Park is a 97-acre park that’s known for its lush gardens, including the Bee City USA Pollinator Garden and the Miyazaki Japanese Garden, which celebrates the “sister city” relationship between Virginia Beach and Miyazaki, Japan. In spring, you’ll find show-stopping cherry blossom trees here, and an annual Cherry Blossom Festival draws admirers each March.

Shaded paths and picnic tables allow visitors to revel in the serene landscape, making this a wonderful park to visit when you want to relax. That’s not to say there’s not a lot to do: This park also has a playground, a basketball court, tennis courts,and large grassy fields for kicking around the ball. Fido will have fun, too, at the fenced-in dog park.

Pleasure House Point

Pleasure House Point Natural Area

Pleasure House Point Natural Area is a true coastal gem that sits perched next to Pleasure House Creek and Crab Creek. It’s popular with hikers and dog walkers thanks to a scenic expanse of salt marshes, maritime forest and tidal creeks. Two trails, the Beach Trail and the Meadow Trail, connect to form a two-mile loop that circumnavigates Pleasure House Point. A small sandy beach on the north end of the park is popular with pups and children.

Kiddos will also go wild for the playground at Loch Haven Park, which sits adjacent to this 118-acre natural area. There is no dedicated parking area for Pleasure House Point Natural Area, but there are plenty of legal parallel parking spaces on Marlin Bay Drive. The park is across from a single-family subdivision, but once you’re near the loblolly pines and marsh grasses, you’ll feel miles away from the suburban bustle.



About Our Writer

Erin Gifford is a Virginia-based travel and outdoors writer. She especially enjoys writing about road trips, outdoor recreation and national parks. Her credits include Parents, The Washington Post, Thrillist, TIME and AFAR.com. She has written three hiking guidebooks for Falcon Guides and has created a hiking website, GoHikeVirginia.com. She also runs half marathons and is working toward completing one in all 50 states (so far, she has checked off 36 states).