Baltimore Sun, July 15, 2007
Virginia Beach. Myrtle Beach. Rehoboth Beach. What do these all have in common? Obviously, the “beach,” but what if you are not a “sit-and-read-a-book” type of beach person? Well, then head to Virginia Beach where outdoor activities go well beyond the beach, and there is bound to be something for everyone to enjoy in your group. Yes, Virginia Beach – which attracts three million annual overnight visitors – is famous for its historic Boardwalk, but the resort town is also home to more than 18,600 acres of state parks and wildlife refuges, offering outdoor activities galore.
However, before we ditch the beach, active beachgoers will find plenty to do on the beach. Jet skis, parasailing and boogie boards can be rented onsite, but if you’re looking to tackle something new and different, why not try your hand at finally learning how to surf? At Virginia Beach’s Billabong Surf Camp you can learn how to “Hang 10” from local professional surfer and former East Coast champion Jason Borte, while at Virginia Beach’s Quiksilver Surf Camp, former top 10 A.S.P. World Tour competitor, Wes Laine, will show you the ropes. Surfboards are provided, and individual instruction, two-hour classes, as well as one-, three and five-day camps are offered.
If you’d rather watch the pros surf, next month, more than 100 of the world’s top professional surfers, as well as 400 amateur surfers, will take part in North America’s oldest surfing contest, the East Coast Surfing Championships.
Golf enthusiasts can test out their game at one of Virginia Beach’s eight public golf courses and with courses designed by such notable golf course designers as Arnold Palmer, Fred Couples, Jack Nicklaus and Pete Dye, you’re bound to find one that matches your taste, and the resort town’s mild temperatures make golfing possible year round. Some of the more popular ones include Bay Creek Golf Course, Heron Ridge, The Signature at West Neck and Hell’s Point Golf Club.
Bay Creek features two challenging 18-hole courses, one designed by Palmer, the other Nicklaus; Couples’ Heron Ridge will test your nerves with 13 holes with water hazards or natural wetlands; The Signature at West Neck’s 13 lakes, wetlands and wooded terrain will provide breathtaking scenery, while Palmer’s signature jigsaw-shaped beach bunkers may drive you crazy; and Hell’s Point Golf Club’s lakes and 61 bunkers allows this course to live up to its devilish name where careful shot planning is more important than distance driving.
Golf packages are available at www.vbgolf.com.
Cast a Line
Due to its strategic location of where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach offers plenty of fishing diversity. Known as the Striped Bass Capital of the World, anglers can also land flounder, mackerel and tuna, and four public fishing piers – which have tackle rental and bait – allow you to fish without leaving the beach. Offshore, half- and full-day private charters are a great way to spend the day with friends and family, and summer is the perfect time to fish for tuna, kingfish and Spanish mackerel. If you’re planning a fall trip here, tuna, white marlin, swordfish, striped bass and wahoo await.
For the more serious angler, Virginia Beach is home to several annual fishing tournaments, including the Red, White & Blue Billfish Tournament, the Striped Bass World Championship, Waterman’s Rockfish Shoot-out and the Virginia Saltwater Fishing Tournament. Freshwater and saltwater fishing licenses are required.
Hit the Trails!
Whether you prefer to go via bike, foot, canoe or kayak, Virginia Beach’s has got you covered with tons of trails to explore. The 7,000-plus-acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the adjacent False Cape State Park offer a combined 12,000-plus acres to explore. Hike through beaches, dunes, farm fields, salt marshes, forest, swamps and woods and look out for otters, red fox, horses and more than 300 species of birds. Meanwhile, the North Landing River Natural Area Preserve, owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy, has an interpretive canoe trail, and First Landing State Park contains the maritime forest community, one of the most endangered habitat types in the world.
Hiking and bike riding also can be enjoyed in one of Virginia Beach’s five campgrounds, complete with bicycles, pools, playgrounds and boat ramps. More than 70 cabins and over 1,800 campsites provide plenty of options.
Finding our Feathered Friends
Birding could not be easier in Virginia Beach, thanks to the Seashore-to-Cypress Loop, which is part of the Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail. The trail includes 12 viewing sites and traverses Virginia Beach as well as neighboring Norfolk. Look up to see migrant shorebirds and songbirds, as well as the 10,000 snow geese that return to Virginia Beach every year.
If birds aren’t your thing, there is nothing more exciting than catching a glimpse of a bottlenose dolphin or humpback whale. Each summer, bottlenose dolphins converge on Virginia Beach, and the resort town offers both relaxing dolphin watching cruises and exciting ocean kayaking trips to see these amazing mammals up close. Plus, due to a partnership with the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, the cruises include interpretive guides who will inform you on dolphin social behaviors and the latest dolphin research. Most trips are one to two hours.
Looking for a closer look at the dolphins and a little more excitement? Then, take part in a guided dolphin watching kayak trip, catch a tan, get some exercise and possibly be splashed by these playful mammals.
During the cooler months, humpback and fin whales stop by for a visit, and whale watching tours, also sponsored Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center, are a great way to spend the day with the family.
For more information on these and other great outdoor activities, visit www.vbfun.com.