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Eastern Shore
Belle Isle

Belle Isle State Park

One of the great things about Virginia state parks is that many of them have a unique feature that makes them worth a visit. Belle Isle is no exception.

The special draw of this state park is the Bel Air House, a colonial reproduction that features replicas of period furnishings and is available for rent. (more…)

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Fort Monroe National Monument

Lighthouse at Fort Monroe, Wikimedia

The Fort Monroe National Monument on the tip of the Virginia Peninsula has been an integral part of Virginia history for centuries.

The fort was built by French engineer General Simon Bernard between 1819 and 1834. The construction was built in response to the War of 1812 to strengthen America’s borders and fortifications.

Located on Old Point Comfort, the 565-acre peninsula on the Chesapeake Bay, Fort Monroe was designed to protect the bay and those living around it.

Robert E. Lee, head of the Confederate Army, was among many who helped to build Fort Monroe.

The fort was operated by Union troops during the Civil War, serving as a safe haven for thousands of slaves fleeing the Confederacy.

Today, the fort remains in adaptive use. Visitors flock to the monument to learn more about its rich history and many uses.

Location

Fort Monroe is located 65 miles east of Richmond, along the Chesapeake Bay. It is located on the Virginia Peninsula in Continental Park.

Visitors to the park are asked to follow signs for Casemate Museum upon entering the peninsula.

The park is a three-hour drive from Washington, D.C., and a 40-minute drive from Virginia Beach. From Roanoke, the park is a four-hour drive.

Hours and Admission

The Fort Monroe National Monument is one of the newest national parks. Hours and programs have not yet been set, but full schedule programing is expected to develop within a few years.

The grounds at Fort Monroe National Monument are open continuously for outdoor activity.

Casemate Museum, operated by the Commonwealth of Virginia with support from the United States Army, is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The museum is not open on Christmas Day, Thanksgiving Day, New Year’s Day, and Easter Sunday.

The museum is wheelchair accessible.

Guided tours are available for groups of 10 or more.

Admission to the museum and to the grounds of Fort Monroe is free.

Things to Do
Visitors to Fort Monroe can enjoy exploring the 63-acre fort and the peninsula on which it is located.

Casemate Museum offers an extensive history of the fort complete with displays and exhibits.

Visitors can walk along the Civil War trails and can take a virtual tour of Casemate Museum.

Fort Monroe National Monument offers a variety of concerts and exhibits throughout the year.

For the summer of 2013, the fort is hosting a Summer Concert Series called Music by the Bay. Concerts take place every Thursday evening and are free to attend.

On the Fourth of July, the U.S. Fleet Forces Band performed at Fort Monroe Music by the Bay.

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Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail

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Map of the John Smith Trail, Wikimedia

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail stretches across several states, but begins in Maryland and Virginia.

The trail gives visitors and history enthusiasts to walk in Captain John Smith’s footsteps, and to imagine what the land was like for Smith and his crew on their first journey to the New World.

Visitors can enjoy hiking, biking, and canoeing at this national park.

Location

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is located in Chesapeake Bay, in the eastern portion of the state of Virginia.

The routes and trails of John Smith cover more than 3,000 miles, reaching into Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. Access points to the trail are located in numerous places.

Those visiting the Virginia portion of the trail can access it in the Chesapeake Bay area.

Numerous access points to the trail are located in the Chesapeake Bay. Most notable access points are the Elizabeth River Trail in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Rappahannock River Water Trail in Norfolk, Virginia.

Hours and Rates

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is open cyear round.

Due to inclement weather, parts of the trail are sometimes closed at certain times throughout the year. Before setting off on the trail, it is important to check the map to see if any parts of the trail have been temporarily closed.

This national trail has no admission fee for hikers or bikers.

No permit is needed to travel by boat along the trail, apart from any licenses required by the state of Virginia.

Some access points associated with the trail may require separate fees or reservations.

Things to do

Exploring the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail is bound to keep visitors engaged and busy for any extended amount of time. Here are a few things to do in the Virginia portion of the trail.

Boaters and paddlers can follow John Smith’s Adventures along the James River. This is a way to experience and follow John Smith’s journey by water.

Those who do not own a boat, but still wish to see some of John Smith’s journey by water can take a ferry to Tangier Island. From there, visitors can also take the ferry to Smith Island in Maryland.

Hikers along the trail can see several historical landmarks along access points. Places of interest include recreated American Indian houses at Henricus Historical Park and First Landing State Park.

The Pamunkey Indian Reservation is another popular stop among visitors to the trail. Visitors will gain a thorough understanding of the tribe’s past and present identity.

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Chesapeake Bay in Virginia Beach

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The shorelines of Virginia Bea
ch attract visitors from all over the state and country every year. Chesapeake Bay, located in the heart of Virginia Beach, is no exception.

Location

Chesapeake Bay is located outside the main resort area of Virginia Beach, along Route 60.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which scales the distance over the water between the Atlantic Ocean and Chesapeake Bay, makes the area easily accessible while providing visitors with a stunning view of the ocean.

Chesapeake Bay is a three hour drive from Washington, D.C., and an hour and forty minute drive from Richmond. From Roanoke, Chesapeake Bay beach is a four and a half hour drive.

Amenities

The Chesapeake Bay is known for its ample supply of fish. Both Maryland and Virginia residents flock to to the waters in hopes of catching black sea bass, blue catfish, and largemouth bass.

The beaches in the Chesapeake Bay are slightly more tranquil than others in the Virginia beach area.

The beaches in the Chesapeake Bay area can be accessed via Shoreline Drive.

Beaches in this are equipped with most amenities. Restaurants are located nearby.

Restrooms are available on most beaches. The beaches are sandy and smooth.

All of the beaches in Virginia Beach are free, well maintained, and open to the public. Umbrellas, boogie boards, and beach chairs can all be rented from vendors located along the shoreline.

It is important to note that the named Chesapeake Bay Beach is located just across the state border in Maryland. The Virginia side of the Chesapeake Bay area has several beaches, all part of Virginia beach.

State Parks

First Landing State Park commemorates the place where 100 English settlers landed in April of 1607. There, they established the first elective government, before moving upriver toward Jamestown.

The park has nature and history programs dedicated to educating visitors about the region, as well as fishing, boating, and 19 miles of trails for hiking and biking.

Cabins can be rented at First Landing State Park.

Chippokes Plantation State Park is also located nearby. This park has two miles of shoreline along the James River for visitors to fish on.

Nearby Attractions

The Chesapeake Bay region was home to some of the nation’s most influential people, including George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Stratford Hall Plantation, Lee’s estate, is open for visits and house tours.

Ingleside, one of Virginia’s best known wineries, is also located in the area.

Visitors are sure to enjoy a visit to Westmoreland Berry Farm and Orchard during their stay. The orchard is famous for its jams.

Restaurants

The Chesapeake Bay region offers nearly every kind of fare. Some of the more popular restaurant include:

Colonial Beach Yacht Center Dockside Restaurant
1787 Castlewood Drive
Colonial Beach, VA 22443
804-244-8726

Linda’s Restaurant
Rt. 198
Matthews, VA 23109
804-725-7070

Virginia Originals Chesapeake Grill
One Island in the Bay
Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, VA
757-318-4818

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Camping in Eastern Virginia

The Eastern region of the state of Virginia is home to a variety of parks, trails, and places to camp.

Though not marked by the mountain ranges characteristic of the central and western portions of the state, Eastern Virginia is known for its beautiful rivers, shoreline, and tamer landscape.

National Parks

Eastern Virginia is home to several national sites of interest that would accompany a camping trip nicely.

George Washington’s birthplace, the Colonial National Historical Park, and the Jamestown National Historical Site are all in the Eastern portion of the state.

Visitors to Jamestown and the Colonial National Historical Park should include the Yorktowne Battlefield, the Colonial Parkway, Historic Jamestown, and Colonial Williamsburg in their itinerary.

Prominent campgrounds near these sites include the Williamsburg Campground, the Jamestown Beach Campground, and the American Heritage RV Park.

State Parks

Several state parks in Eastern Virginia offer camping.

The Chippokes Plantation State Park is situated just across the James River from Historic Jamestown.

The Chippokes Planation is one of the oldest working plantations in the country, started in 1619.

The plantation offers trails for biking, horseback riding, and picnicing. The plantation is also equipped with an olympic sized pool.

The Chippokes State Park has two campgrounds, both of which can accommodate up to six people per site.

Both sites are equipped with electric and water, firewood, and enough room for two vehicles. Campers have access to the swimming pool.

Kiptopeke State Park is another park with overnight camping facilities that is definitely worth a visit.

Kiptopeke State Park is located on the Eastern shore of Virginia, offering beautiful views of the ocean and migratory birds. The park has a variety of overnight accommodations, including a lodge, cabins, RV trailers for rent, and a campground.

The campground has enough room for two vehicles. Sites have water, electricity, sewer hookups, hot water, and restrooms.

Fire ring grills are at each campsite, and firewood is available for purchase. Campers are asked not to bring their own firewood.

Campers have access to swimming, fishing, and the boat launch pier.

Campers can enjoy the park’s four mile of trails, shoreline, and designated bird watching areas.

Eleven miles west of Williamsburg sits the York River State Park.

This park has a marsh where salt and fresh water meet, creating a rich natural marine and plant life. York River State Park has over 25 miles of trail made for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and exploring the marsh and river shoreline.

No overnight camping is provided at this park, but it is only an hour from Chippoke Plantation, making it an excellent option for a day trip while camping at Chippoke.

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York River State Park

Photo Credit: Virginia Dept. Conservation & Recreation

Just outside of Williamsburg sits a state park with a mission.

Preserving part of the York River is the park’s main objective, but the park officials also want to extend to the public a place where visitors can enjoy all that this area has to offer.

York River State Park succeeds in both accounts. With part of the land along the river set aside as a preserve, visitors will find that there is still plenty of room for fishing, swimming, boating and hiking.

Within the 2250 acres of York River State Park freshwater and saltwater come together providing an ecosystem that is unlike what you’ll find in most other state parks.

This setting means that there is an abundance of marine life and the fishing is great.

York River State Park is also home to hiking and biking trails as well as some trails that are appropriate for horses.

While hiking, visitors should be sure to keep watch for some of the many birds that call the park home. Some are here year round while others are just passing through.

Some visitors may even be fortunate enough to spot one of the bald eagles that have been seen in the park.

York River State Park is only for use during the day, and does not offer any overnight accommodations. Several nearby camping alternatives are nearby.

Dogs are welcome on the trails, but they must be kept on a leash at all times.

York River State Park is a great choice for water related activities including boating and fishing, but it is also wonderful for wildlife spotting and hiking.

Special activities are available such as kayak trips, fishing lessons, fossil hikes and nature programs that are designed specifically for kids.

One popular activity is the moonlight canoe trips that are offered from May through October.

One of the special events held at York River State Park is Stewardship Virginia. This event is dedicated to teaching people how to care for the environment and protect the gifts that nature has allowed us to enjoy.

York River State Park

Parking is available at the park
There are no overnight facilities
Handicap accessible: Yes. Some of the park is handicap accessible.
Pet-friendly: Yes, but pets must be kept on a leash at all times. Public bathrooms: Yes
Directions: From I164 take the exit 231B and continue on Croaker Road for about a mile. Turn right on Riverview Road and the park entrance will be on the left.

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Chippokes State Park

Photo Credit: Virginia Dept. Conservation & Recreation

There was a time when the James River in Virginia was lined with plantation homes and farms. While the plantation lifestyle is a thing of the past, Chippokes State Park gives visitors a chance to step back in time.

Chippokes Plantation is one of the oldest working farms in the entire state. Other plantation homes nearby are open for tours, but Chippokes in unique in that it still retains all of its original 1700 acres.

The plantation, the mansion and several outbuildings were donated for use as a state park. Today, visitors can tour the mansion, built in 1854, which is filled with antiques from that time. The park is also home to the Chippokes Farm & Forestry Museum.

Watch tradesmen such as blacksmiths and cobblers ply their trade. Visit the working sawmill and learn about farming, livestock and the daily details of life on a Virginia plantation. Enjoy a self-guided tour of seven buildings where you will see just how much work went into running a sprawling plantation.

The mansion and museum are reason enough to visit Chippokes State Park, but along with all the history you’ll also find much of what you would expect from any other state park. Enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails. Spend an afternoon fishing or boating or stake out a spot to do some camping.

Chippokes has both tent sites and cabin camping.

Pets are welcome on the trails and for camping. Please keep in mind that pets must be on a leash at all times.

Programs and Events

Chippokes State Park also offers several educational programs and is the site of some special events each year.

Two of the most popular are the Steam and Gas Festival, which takes place the weekend following Memorial Day, and the Pork Peanut & Pine Festival, which is held the 3rd weekend in July.

If you plan to stay overnight during either of these events then you will need to plan ahead as the park’s accommodations tend to sell out well ahead of these festivals.

Chippokes State Park is a working museum and state park in one. This makes it a wonderful choice for your next family getaway.

Chippokes State Park Basics
There is a fee to tour the house and museum. Please call 757-294-3439
Cabin/House Prices: Varies by cabin type and season
Handicap accessible: Much of the park and museum handicap accessible
Pet-friendly: Yes, but pets must be kept on a leash at all times. There is a $10 per night per pet fee for overnight pets
Public bathrooms: Yes
Located at 695 Chippokes Park Road in Surry, Virginia

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