First Landing State Park in Virginia Ultimate Guide

First Landing State Park in Virginia is where history, nature, and adventure converge to create an unforgettable experience. In this article, we’ll provide a complete guide into everything you need to know that makes this area a true Virginia treasure. 

We’ll discuss the region’s origins and transformation into Virginia’s very first state park. We’ll also discuss the most convenient entrance, the best time to visit, and the top things to do here. 

But that’s not all – we’ll explore the wildlife to see here and the attractions near the park, such as the bustling Virginia Beach and the historical marvels of Jamestown. We’ll also provide you with a list of essential items to bring and offer insights on where to find accommodations within the park. 

So, let’s set out on this adventure together as we uncover everything there is to know about First Landing State Park!

About First Landing State Park in Virginia

Visitors enjoy walking along the first landing state park beach
Visitors enjoy walking along the park’s shoreline as massive cargo ships sail up and down the Atlantic. / Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation photo

First Landing State Park is a place of incredible natural beauty and profound historical importance. Picture lush green forests, calm waterways, and sandy shores that create a stunning, peaceful, and captivating backdrop. 

But this park is more than just looks – it holds stories of Native American tribes and early settlers, making it a special link to the past. The blend of its natural charm and historical value makes First Landing State Park, VA, a truly one-of-a-kind destination.

History: A Journey Back in Time

As you dive into the history of First Landing State Park, you’ll uncover an intriguing past. Many years ago, Native American tribes called this land home, living off its resources. Then, in the early 1600s, explorers from Europe arrived, encountering the area. As time passed, settlers established their presence, creating a connection between cultures.

Becoming Virginia’s First State Park

Fast forward to the 20th century – in 1933, this piece of land became Virginia’s first state park, preserving its natural beauty and history. It officially opened on June 15, 1936. So, as you explore the park, you’re essentially stepping back through time, walking where Native Americans lived, where settlers forged a new life, and where a state park was born to protect and share these stories.

How to Get to First Landing State Park VA

If you’re driving, follow the directions to Virginia Beach. Once you’re near the coast, look for signs guiding you to the park entrance. It’s easy to spot, and you’ll find yourself on a path leading straight to the park. If you’re using public transportation, consider a combination of buses or trains to reach Virginia Beach, and then grab a local ride-share service or taxi to take you to the park entrance.

Entrance to First Landing State Park

The 64th Street entrance is your best bet. This entrance offers easy access and leads you directly into the heart of the park. Regarding fees, there’s a small charge for entry, which helps maintain the park for everyone to enjoy. If you plan on visiting frequently, consider getting an annual pass – it’s a great way to save on multiple visits.

At the entrance, you’ll find helpful staff ready to assist you and provide any information you might need. There’s a visitor center, too, offering maps, brochures, and insights into the park’s attractions. If you want to grab some snacks or souvenirs, a gift shop is also conveniently located here.

Best Time to Visit First Landing State Park

Each season brings its own charm and activities to enjoy. During spring, the park comes alive with vibrant blooms and fresh greenery. The mild weather is perfect for hiking and exploring without the summer crowds.

The First Landing Beach becomes a popular spot for relaxation and water activities as summer arrives. The warm temperatures make it ideal for swimming and picnicking by the shore.

Autumn paints the park with breathtaking colors as the leaves change. The cooler weather is great for hiking, and the scenery is simply stunning. The fall is my favorite time to visit, but spring is a close second.

In winter, the park takes on a tranquil beauty. The crisp air and fewer visitors make it a peaceful time for walking through the woods or along the beach.

Things to Do at First Landing State Park

Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a history buff, or simply looking for a relaxing escape, this park has something special in store for you. From hiking through lush trails to exploring historical buildings, from enjoying the beach to encountering diverse wildlife – there’s no shortage of things to do and discover. So, let’s dive into the top activities that await you in this stunning area.

Camping Options

One of First Landing's lovely campsites situated under shady oak trees
One of First Landing’s lovely campsites situated under shady oak trees.

Camping at First Landing State Park is a special chance to experience some of Virginia’s natural landscapes. There are different campgrounds to pick from, so you can make your experience match what you like – whether you enjoy being in a quiet forest, seeing the beach, or having quick access to hiking trails. 

Every campground gives you a calm place to relax and explore, and they have amenities like bathrooms to keep you comfy. Enjoy a picnic by a campfire or look at the stars in the open sky. Let’s take a look at three great options:

Bayside Campground:

  • Overview: Bayside Campground offers a serene retreat tucked between the woods and the water, providing a cozy camping experience.
  • Campsites: Over 200 campsites.
  • Reservations: Required for all campsites.
  • Accessibility: Suitable for both tents and RVs.
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, grills, restrooms, and hot showers available.
  • Nearby Activities: Access to biking trails, kayaking, and proximity to the Chesapeake Bay.

Cape Henry Trail Campground:

  • Overview: Cape Henry Trail Campground offers convenient access to trails and nature near the park’s entrance.
  • Campsites: Around 20 campsites.
  • Reservations: Required for all campsites.
  • Accessibility: More suitable for tents and smaller camping setups.
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, fire rings, and nearby restrooms.
  • Nearby Activities: Direct access to hiking trails, birdwatching, and nature walks.

Dunes Campground:

  • Overview: Dunes Campground promises a unique camping experience right by the beach, with the soothing sound of waves as your backdrop.
  • Campsites: Roughly 80 campsites.
  • Reservations: Required for all campsites.
  • Accessibility: Better for tents and smaller campers.
  • Amenities: Picnic tables, restrooms, and outdoor showers.
  • Nearby Activities: Beachside relaxation, swimming, and beachcombing.

Hiking Trails

Long Creek Trail travels along the water's edge inside the park
The Long Creek Trail travels along the water’s edge inside the park.

Whether you’re a casual nature lover or a seasoned hiker, this park offers an array of trails to suit your preferences and skill level. Each trail presents a unique journey through Virginia’s natural beauty, from tranquil marshes to towering trees.

Bald Cypress Trail:

  • Distance: About 1 mile
  • Trail Type: Loop trail
  • Time to Hike: Approximately 1 hour
  • Highlights: Experience the charm of cypress swamps, ancient trees, and the serene beauty of the marsh.

Long Creek Trail:

  • Distance: Around 2.6 miles
  • Trail Type: Out-and-back trail
  • Time to Hike: About 2 hours
  • Highlights: Enjoy picturesque water views as you hike alongside Long Creek, offering glimpses of wildlife and serene landscapes.

Osmanthus Trail:

  • Distance: Roughly 3 miles
  • Trail Type: Loop trail
  • Time to Hike: Around 2.5 hours
  • Highlights: Traverse through diverse ecosystems, including forests and marshes, while getting a chance to spot various bird species.

Sand Ridge Trail:

  • Distance: Approximately 6 miles
  • Trail Type: Loop trail
  • Time to Hike: About 4 hours
  • Highlights: Discover the park’s varying landscapes, from maritime forests to sandy dunes, offering a complete nature experience.

Kingfisher Trail:

  • Distance: About 1.5 miles
  • Trail Type: Loop trail
  • Time to Hike: Approximately 1.5 hours
  • Highlights: Delight in the sight of waterfowl and other wetland creatures as you walk through marshy areas and along a tidal creek.

Unwind by the Water: Your Beach Getaway

Boardwalk pathway leading to the first landing state park beach
Boardwalk pathway leading to the beach.

When you’re ready to soak up the sun and feel the sand between your toes, First Landing State Park’s beach is the place to be. Easy access from the park lets you enjoy a relaxing day by the water’s edge. 

Whether you’re looking to catch some rays, build sandcastles, or listen to the soothing waves, this beach offers a serene escape from the everyday hustle. Amenities here include picnic areas with shaded spots for enjoying a leisurely lunch and nearby restrooms. 

Boating & Kayaking

This is your chance to dive into the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay and its peaceful marshes. If you’ve got your own boat, bring it along and set sail on the bay’s calm waters. If not, no worries – you can rent boats right at the park. Grab a kayak and paddle your way through the scenic surroundings, or hop into a rowboat for a leisurely cruise.

Historical Structures Where History Comes Alive 

Among the various VA historical sites, this park has some fascinating structures. These buildings carry stories from the past, giving you a glimpse into the lives of those who lived here before. As you walk through the halls and rooms, imagine the people who once called these buildings home.

Each historical building has a tale to tell, from rustic cabins to charming cottages. You’ll get to see how people lived and what their surroundings looked like. You might also learn something new about the early days of the area.

These buildings aren’t just relics of the past – they’re windows into a different time. There are even historical programs with skilled interpreters that bring history to life through interactive demonstrations, showcasing daily activities, crafts, or tasks as they were done in the past. 

These live demonstrations provide a dynamic way to learn about the area’s history. They allow you to see, touch, and even participate in activities that offer a deeper understanding of the lives of those who lived here centuries ago. Alongside the demonstrations, you’ll also find exhibits that display artifacts.

Guided Naturalist Tours: Discover Nature’s Secrets

For those eager to uncover the mysteries of the park’s ecology, First Landing State Park offers a unique opportunity – the Naturalist Tour. 

During these guided tours, you’ll walk alongside experts who are passionate about the environment. They’ll point out the unique plant species, teach you about the resident wildlife, and unveil the intricate balance of ecosystems. As you roam through forests, marshes, and sandy shores, you’ll uncover the interconnected web of life that makes this park thrive.

The Naturalist Tours offer a chance to ask questions, engage in discussions, and learn about the intricate relationships that sustain the park’s biodiversity. These tours cater to all ages and knowledge levels, making it an educational and enjoyable experience for everyone. They also share stories from the past, adding another layer of insight into the history of First Landing State Park.

Nature Photography: Capturing the Enchanting Rainbow Sheen

The mesmerizing rainbow-colored swamps of First Landing State Park
The mesmerizing rainbow-colored swamps of First Landing State Park.

If you’re a photography enthusiast, this is a moment you won’t want to miss. As the sunlight interacts with the water’s surface, it creates a magical spectrum of colors that’s simply captivating.

To capture this enchanting scene, bring your camera or smartphone to the park’s shores. Find a good vantage point where you can see the sunlight reflecting on the water. Experiment with different angles and compositions to frame the rainbow sheen. Don’t forget to adjust your camera settings to capture the vibrant colors and the delicate play of light.

Patience is key – the rainbow sheen might appear at different times, depending on the sunlight’s angle. Stay ready, and be prepared to snap that perfect shot when the moment arrives. 

Wildlife Encounters: Discovering Nature’s Residents

First Landing is the perfect place to visit for some excellent birdwatching opportunities
First Landing is the perfect place to visit for some excellent birdwatching opportunities. / Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation photo

The wildlife here is abundant. Here are just some of what you can see here: 

Birdwatching Haven: Look to the sky and treetops to spot an array of birds. The park is a haven for birdwatchers, from the majestic osprey to the colorful warblers. Head to marshy areas and woodland edges to catch sight of these feathered friends as they go about their daily activities.

Marsh and Wetland Dwellers: As you stroll through the marshes and wetlands, watch for frogs, turtles, and waterfowl. Listen for the distinct croaks of frogs and the serene calls of ducks and herons in these aquatic habitats.

Forest Explorers: Venture into the park’s forests to potentially encounter furry residents like squirrels, rabbits, and deer. The wooded areas offer a chance to witness these animals in their natural surroundings.

Beachcombers and Scavengers: Along the beach, keep an eye out for seagulls, sandpipers, and other shorebirds. These adaptable creatures have made the coastline their playground, scavenging for food and leaving their tracks in the sand.

Explore Beyond the Park: Nearby Adventures Await

Virginia Beach

virginia beach

You’re in for a treat when you’re ready to venture beyond First Landing State Park. Just a stone’s throw away, you’ll find the vibrant city of Virginia Beach. Its lively boardwalk, sandy shores, and an array of dining options make it the perfect place to soak up the beachside atmosphere. Virginia Beach is definitely one of Virginia’s great beaches and is a great option to relax by the water, try out water sports, or indulge in delicious seafood.

Jamestown Settlement

And if you like history, you don’t want to miss the opportunity to visit nearby Jamestown – a treasure trove of America’s past. Discover the story of the English colonists who established Jamestown and learn about the interactions with Native American tribes. It’s a chance to walk through history, seeing replicas of the ships and buildings that shaped the nation’s beginnings. The exhibits and re-enactments here are outstanding!

jamestown settlement in virginia
Jamestown Settlement in Virginia

Preparing for a Day of Adventure: What to Bring

As you gear up for an exciting day visit to First Landing State Park, make sure you’ve got everything you need to make the most of your adventure. Here’s a handy list of essentials to pack:

  • Comfortable Clothing: Opt for weather-appropriate attire that lets you move easily. If you’re planning water activities, don’t forget your swimsuit and a change of clothes.
  • Sturdy Footwear: Comfortable shoes, like sneakers or hiking boots, are a must for exploring the trails and enjoying the outdoors.
  • Sun Protection: Shield yourself from the sun’s rays with sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. It’s important to stay sun-safe throughout the day.
  • Hydration and Snacks: Pack plenty of water and light snacks to keep you fueled during your adventure.
  • Bug Repellent: Bring insect repellent during warmer months to keep those pesky bugs at bay.
  • Camera or Smartphone: Capture the beauty and memories of the park with a camera or smartphone to snap photos of the stunning landscapes and exciting moments.
  • Binoculars: If you’re a nature enthusiast, binoculars can help you get up close to wildlife without disturbing them.
  • Map or Guidebook: Make sure you have a map or guidebook of the park’s trails and attractions to help you navigate.
  • Reusable Water Bottle: Staying hydrated is key, so bring a refillable water bottle to stay refreshed throughout the day.
  • Trash Bag: Pack a small bag to collect your trash, as keeping the park clean is a responsibility we all share.
  • Cash or Card: Some parks may have entry fees or offer optional activities requiring payment, so bring cash or a card just in case.

Choosing Where to Stay at First Landing State Park

a rustic cabin in first landing state park VA
One of the park’s rustic, cozy cabins. / Va. Dept. of Conservation and Recreation photo

Whether you’re a camping enthusiast or prefer a cozy lodge, there are various options.

Camping Under the Stars: If you’re a nature lover, camping is a fantastic way to experience the park up close. As discussed above, First Landing State Park offers several campgrounds with varying amenities, from basic sites to those with electricity and modern conveniences. Whether you’re tent camping or bringing your RV, you can choose the perfect spot to set up camp amidst the natural surroundings.

Rustic Cabins: For a unique experience, consider staying in one of the park’s rustic cabins. These cozy accommodations offer a blend of comfort and nature, providing you with a pleasant place to unwind after a day of adventures.

Charming Cottages: The park also features charming cottages that offer a home-away-from-home feel. With modern amenities and picturesque settings, they’re ideal for families or groups seeking a bit more comfort during their stay.

Note: To secure your spot, making reservations in advance is a good idea. Whether you’re booking a campsite, cabin, or cottage, you can typically do so online or by contacting the park’s reservation system. Keep in mind that popular seasons may fill up quickly, so it’s best to plan ahead to ensure you get the accommodation that suits your needs.

Final Thoughts

From the rich history to the captivating landscapes, First Landing State Park offers a world of adventure waiting just for you. Delve into the past as you explore the park’s historical roots, walk through the diverse ecosystems, and witness the beauty of wildlife in its natural habitat. You can go camping under the stars, embark on exciting hikes, or enjoy the beach’s tranquil shores.

As you plan your visit, remember to pack your essentials, like comfortable clothing, sun protection, and your camera to capture those breathtaking moments. And when it comes to accommodations, choose from camping, cozy cabins, or charming cottages – whatever suits your style. 

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Does it cost to get into First Landing State Park? 

Yes, there is an entrance fee to access the park. The fee helps maintain the park’s facilities and preserve its natural beauty.

Can you walk to the beach from First Landing State Park? 

Absolutely! The park offers easy access to the beach, allowing you to take a leisurely stroll from various points within the park.

What time does First Landing Beach open? 

The opening time of First Landing Beach may vary. Still, it usually opens in the early morning hours, allowing visitors to enjoy the beach throughout the day.

Can you bring dogs to First Landing State Park? 

Yes, you can bring your furry friend here. Just make sure to follow park regulations, including keeping your dog on a leash and cleaning up after them.

How long is the First Landing State Park trail? 

The length of the trails varies. Multiple trails with different lengths cater to various hiking preferences and skill levels.

How to reserve First Landing State Park? 

You can easily make reservations for campsites, cabins, and other accommodations through the park’s official website or reservation system.

How much is camping at First Landing State Park? 

The camping fees vary depending on the type of site and the season. You can find detailed information about camping fees on the park’s official website.

Does First Landing State Park have showers? 

Yes, the park offers shower facilities for campers, allowing you to freshen up after a day of outdoor adventures.

Can you have fires at First Landing State Park? 

Yes, you can have fires at designated fire pits and grills within the park. Make sure to follow park guidelines and regulations when having fires.

Can you drink alcohol at First Landing State Park? 

While alcohol consumption is allowed in some areas within the park, it’s important to follow park rules and regulations regarding alcohol use.

What is the cleanest beach in Virginia? 

First Landing State Park’s beach is often regarded as one of the cleanest Virginia beaches, providing a pristine and well-maintained shoreline for visitors to enjoy.

Are dogs allowed on the beach at First Landing State Park? 

Yes, dogs are allowed on the beach at First Landing State Park, but they must be on a leash and under control at all times.

What is the history of the first landing in Virginia Beach? 

The history of the “first landing” in Virginia Beach refers to the landing of English colonists in 1607 at the site that later became Jamestown, marking the beginning of English settlement in America.

Where was the first landing in the United States? 

English colonists’ first landing in the United States took place in 1607 at the site that later became Jamestown, Virginia.

What is the most visited park in Virginia? 

Shenandoah National Park is one of the most visited parks in Virginia, famous for its scenic Skyline Drive and stunning natural beauty.

What is the oldest state park in Virginia? 

First Landing State Park is the oldest state park in Virginia, with a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1936.

About Me

My husband and I have three precious daughters and live in the Kansas City, KS area. One of our favorite things to do is travel across the country visiting our extraordinary US National Parks!

Let us know what you think about our content and if you have any questions, suggestions, or have any favorite memories or tips you would like to share. We would love to hear from you!

Happy Travels! Sandy

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