First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park

As Virginia's most-visited state park, it's an oasis within urban Virginia Beach. The park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. First Landing offers many recreational and educational activities and has many unusual habitats including bald cypress swamps, lagoons and maritime forest, as well as rare plants and wildlife. Cabins, water and electric hook-up campsites, picnic areas, boat ramps and a camp store with bicycle rentals are also available. The Chesapeake Bay Center houses historical and educational exhibits. The Trail Center conference room, outdoor courtyard, pavilion and amphitheater can be rented for special events and weddings.

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Hours

Day-use areas open 8 a.m.-dusk. When open, overnight areas are accessible 24 hours a day.

The trail center, which has a small gift shop, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

(Note: Many places fill to capacity on busy, nice weather days, especially holiday weekends. Please call ahead or visit the official website to get the most up-to-date information before visiting.)

Fees

In State Daily Parking: $5; $7 Prime Season weekends and holidays

Out of State Daily Parking: $7; $9 Prime Season weekends and holidays

History

The park is where English colonists first landed in 1607. Native American canoes, Colonial settlers, 20th century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park's waterways. Its cypress swamps were a source of fresh water for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships during the War of 1812. Legend has it that Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways were used by Union and Confederate patrols during the Civil War. Built in part by an all African-American Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933-1940, the park is a National Natural Landmark and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Activities

Fishing and crabbing (valid Virginia fishing license required).

Boating: Motorboats and other small craft may be launched from boat ramps in the park's southern area (no rentals available).

Swimming: at your risk in Chesapeake Bay.

Interpretive Programs: Crabbing, Junior Rangers, Kritter Kids, evening programs, beach walks, osprey hikes, nature hikes and night hikes.

Trails: Hiking, bicycle trails (and bike rentals), self-guided trails; 9 walking trails total approximately 19 miles.

Picnicking: picnic area equipped with drinking water, fire grills, refuse disposal, tables and restrooms; large shelter available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis by calling 1-800-933-PARK.

Environmental Education Center: First Landing's Chesapeake Bay Center features a wet lab, educational displays and an ecotourism welcome center; programs for grades K-12 with curriculum guide for teachers.

Facilities

Chesapeake Bay Center: visitor information, environmental education, displays; Trails Center with exhibits on the history and marsh life in the park. The trail center, which has a small gift shop, is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. It houses exhibits on the park’s natural and cultural resources and has a manned information desk. The Trail Center has a conference room available for rent for meetings, wedding and other functions.

A visitor information center at the park also has information on area tours and attractions.

Campgrounds, picnic areas and shelters, laundry facility, trails, bike rentals, amphitheater, courtyard with gazebo. .

Accessibility

Most facilities are handicapped accessible; see park website for details.

Although motorized vehicles are not permitted on park trails, electric wheelchairs and electric scooters that meet the federal definition for wheelchairs are allowed to enable people with disabilities to use the trails.
A specialized beach wheelchair is available. Call (757) 412-2320 for details.

Pets

Pets are allowed in all Virginia State Parks. State regulations prohibit pets at designated swim areas and require pets to be confined or kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet and kept under supervision while in the park. Pets are also not allowed in public facilities (bathhouses, visitor centers, park offices, restaurants, etc.) While pets are allowed at False Cape State Park, they are not permitted access through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Main image: First Landing State Park
Captain John Smith Trail
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