On the eastern coast of Virginia sits an oceanfront city that's lesser-known than its neighbor just to the south, Virginia Beach. While the latter is famous for its distinctive boardwalk, iconic tribute to Neptune the god of the sea, nightlife, boutique shops, and beaches, it's not the only coastal option for those looking to go south. A quieter alternative exists just across the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel and if driving over and underwater doesn't bother you, it's worth checking out.
The city in question is Hampton, and it's larger than Virginia Beach, more affordable, has multiple beaches, and a myriad of other activities for families, couples, and solo travelers.
A Little About Hampton, Virginia
The greatest thing about Hampton is its location. It's exactly at the mid-point of the east coast along the Atlantic which provides beach-goers with prime beach access, as well as stunning views. It's also a city that comes with a history and has plenty of museums and historical locations that pay great tribute to that.
The city of Hampton is part of the coastal region known as Hampton Roads, which includes Virginia Beach and several major military bases, so those interested in military history will thoroughly enjoy this area, as well. For anyone looking to just spend a lazy, relaxing day at the beach, that's no problem - even the city's nature preserve includes a long span of quiet coastline that's perfect for soaking up rays on the Atlantic.
What To Do, And How To Do It
The drive to Hampton from the north, south, or west is an easy-going one and doesn't produce much stress (as opposed to driving into a major city, such as NYC or Boston, for example). So, from the get-go, it'll feel like a vacation before travelers even arrive. For those flying, Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport is literally one town over from Hampton - so renting a car or grabbing an Uber will be unbelievably easy.
Once visitors have arrived at their lodging (more about this below), it's time to plan a day in Hampton! Any good first vacation day starts off with a great breakfast or quick bite and, luckily, there are plenty of places to do that in this city, including many diners with great options. For the closest to the beach, try Laura's Rise & Shine:
- Hours: Wednesday - Sunday 7 AM - 1 PM, closed Monday & Tuesday
Booking Accommodations: Tips
One thing to note about Hampton is that, unlike Virginia Beach, there are no hotels along the coastline - it's strictly residential and beach land. This is wonderful for maintaining a quiet, low-key atmosphere, but it does present some challenges when finding a beachfront property. The good thing about this is the affordability of hotels, inns, and B&Bs; most are under $150/night, with many falling under $120.
This means there will be a drive to get to any nearby beach. The best alternative to this is booking an Airbnb, and by searching for Buckroe Beach in Hampton (the biggest beach in the city), travelers will be rewarded with a list of homes along the coast, with 80% of them falling below $200/night, and several hovering around $120-$180/night. To save even more money, consider a property that's set a few blocks away from the beach in a residential neighborhood.
Head To The Beach!
Buckroe Beach & Park is the perfect way to soak up the sun on the first day. The park is great for the kids while the beach is much quieter than that of Virginia Beach, and has a super casual vibe.
Restrooms are available on-site and for those who have rented houses in the immediate area, the walk isn't bad at all. A walk down the beach will bring beachgoers to the James T. Wilson Fishing Pier, which has great views, and, along the way, they'll also pass by Hampton Watersports for all recreational water activity needs.
Do Some Historical Exploring
After the beach fun is over, a quick ride down to the end of the shoreline will bring visitors to the Fort Monroe National Monument, which is in the center of a waterfront downtown-like area. This small community gives way to the military fort which is surrounding by water canals and makes for a great historic walk.
Visitors can head to the museum or keep exploring the outskirts of Fort Monroe, which include Old Point Comfort Lighthouse, Fort Monroe Public Beach, and Oozlefinch Beers & Blending, a brewery. Here, visitors can stop by Firehouse Coffee 1881 for a quick refuel or bite to eat, or head to The Deadrise for casual seafood with waterfront deck seating.
End-Of-Day Brews & Fun
When heading to Old Comfort Lighthouse, which is open daily from 9 AM- 5 PM, visitors can walk along Fenwick Road to see other historical landmarks.
Following the historical markers will bring visitors to Continental Park, before heading back to Oozlefinch Beers & Blending to indulge in food trucks, brews, live music, and lawn games.