We were so excited! We were finally able to make camping reservations for two nights at First Landing State Park. This is a place we’ve visited many, many times, and camping there has been a goal for the past couple of years.
As fate would have it, our plans had to change the day before our trip when we realized that we would not be able to tow our trailer to the beach with either of our vehicles (long, frustrating story). We were still determined to get our ocean fix, however, so we booked a room (for just one night) at a motel we’ve stayed at before in Virginia Beach.
We left home around 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, June 28th, and took the slower, more “scenic” route to Virginia Beach along Rt. 5, southeast of Richmond, VA. This is an especially pretty drive in the Fall when all of the leaves are changing colors, but it’s a nice, low-stress/low-traffic route any time of the year.
One of the highlights of going this way is crossing the James River on a ferry near Jamestown. Established in 1607, Jamestown was England’s first permanent colony in North America, and you can see replicas of the ships–as well as other parts of the settlement–from the ferry.
Two ferries run back and forth across this wide stretch of water, and as we drove onto the “Surry,” we could see the other ferry heading towards Jamestown.
Various types of sea birds hang out near the docks, and I can usually get some good pictures. This time was no exception:
It takes 15-20 minutes to cross the James River, and some of the gulls get their exercise by following behind the ferries, hoping to catch fish that are churned up by the propellers.
After crossing the James River, the rest of the drive to Virginia Beach winds through Surry, Smithfield, and other small towns. All in all, this route adds about 30 miles and almost an extra two hours to the trip, but sometimes the slow pace and extra travel time beats all the congestion and traffic in the Hampton Roads area.
We arrived at our motel just before the 3:00 p.m. check-in. Located in Virginia Beach Town Center–10 miles from the oceanfront–we’ve always found it to be clean and comfortable. The biggest draw is that it makes a summer trip to the beach more affordable, since a similar room right on the beach during this time of year costs 3x as much!
We quickly changed clothes and headed to the beach. And as we always do when we’re by the ocean, we let the tide wash away TIME–at least for a little while…..
Absolutely blissed out! It was so nice to just relax and focus on the sound of the waves….
The weather was perfect–just about 80 degrees with a nice breeze. We could have stayed out there for hours….
That evening we went to one of our favorite seafood restaurants for dinner. All-you-can-eat crab legs? Yes, please!
After dinner, it was back to the oceanfront to walk off our meal on the Virginia Beach boardwalk. It was surprisingly cool, and we were glad we’d brought our sweatshirts!
The next morning, we checked out of the motel and drove to the campground at First Landing State Park. We knew a friend was camping there, but we had no idea which site he was in. We cruised through, looking at all the campsites, RVs, trailers, and tents (maybe some day we’ll camp there!), and as we drove back by the entrance of the park towards the visitors center, we saw our friend driving in! The timing was so coincidental; 15-seconds either way and we would have missed him! He was more than a little surprised to see us. 😉
This state park has over a mile of beach on the Chesapeake Bay. The gentle waves make it a perfect spot for families with young children, and the water is much warmer than the ocean at this time of year. I wandered around taking pictures while the guys got in the water.
The 60x zoom on my camera allowed me to take some surprising clear pictures of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which you can see from the park.
We spent an hour or so on the beach, then Jim headed back to his campsite to pack up. Our next stop was the section of First Landing State Park that’s accessed from 64th Street.
We always love walking along this pretty trail, and you never know what you’ll see. Sometimes there are lots of birds (gulls, herons, ospreys, etc.), but we saw very few this time. We usually visit in the early morning or late evening, so perhaps the birds are less active during the middle of the day. Regardless of the reason, it was still an enjoyable walk. 🙂
It was low tide, and we watched a whole army of tiny crabs scuttling across the mud:
As usual, we stayed a bit longer than we’d planned to, so after driving west through Ocean View all the way to the end of Willoughby Spit, we decided to take the “faster” route home by getting on I-64 West. Didn’t happen…. First surprise was that the entrance ramp at the end of Rt. 168 was closed, and the second surprise was seeing a long–literally miles-long–backup at the east entrance to the tunnel. Not good….
We thought that maybe the tunnel on Rt. 664 would be less congested, so we wove our way south through Norfolk to get there.
We went through one tunnel….
…and just before heading into the second tunnel, I realized that we were crossing the James River! Again! As many places along the James that we’ve visited, I’d never realized that it empties into the Chesapeake Bay right at Hampton Roads!
As it turned out, all of our running around with the intention of having a quicker trip home didn’t save any time or any miles; in fact, it was almost exactly the same distance as our trip the day before on Rt. 5. And as we looked at the 3-mile-long backup of cars trying to get into the Hampton Roads area from the west, we started to wonder if we’d really want to tow our trailer into this mess, regardless of the route. Dunno….
There was a lot of traffic and non-stop construction from Hampton Roads to west of Williamsburg on I-64. Finally (just west of Richmond), things settled down and the rest of the drive home was much easier.
We’re so glad we had the opportunity to get our ocean fix at Virginia Beach this summer–even if just for one night!–but it’s always nice to come home to our mountains, too. 🙂