Kiptopeke State Park

Kiptopeke State Park

On Virginia's beautiful Eastern Shore, explored by Capt. John Smith in 1608, Kiptopeke offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay. It's also a great place to explore unique migratory bird habitat along the Atlantic flyway. The park has six-bedroom lodges, RV and tent camping, a yurt (part cabin-part tent), camping trailers and a bunkhouse. Guests also enjoy the park's boat ramp, lighted fishing pier, picnic areas, 5.1 miles of hiking and biking trails, playground, beach bathhouse and swimming beach. Seasonal interpretive and educational programs focus on natural history, birding and bay ecology.

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Hours

Day use and overnight guest visitation, 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. Pier open 24 hours a day April 1 - Dec. 31.

(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

Parking/Admission: $3 Monday-Friday and $4 Saturday/Sundays/holidays

History

The site was purchased by the Virginia Ferry Corporation for the northern terminus of the Virginia Beach to Eastern Shore Ferry. In 1949, when the terminus was moved from Cape Charles, the site was named Kiptopeke Beach in honor of the younger brother of a king of the Accawmack Indians who had befriended early settlers to the area. Kiptopeke means Big Water. In 1950 the terminus opened after the completion of a $2.75 million pier, promoted as the world's largest and most modern ferry pier. Ferry service ended in 1964 when the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was opened. In May 1992 the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation bought the 375 acres from John Maddox, who had operated the property as Kiptopeke Beach Family Resort. The park opened on Memorial Day weekend in 1992. In 1999, an adjacent 160 acres was purchased on the south end of the park. Then one acre next to the park’s contact station was bought in 2000. In 2009 another 26 acres were bought, bringing the park’s total acreage to 562 acres. A total of 126 acres has been reforested in the park.

Activities

The concrete ships located off the park's waterfront offer some of Virginia's finest fishing. For the land-lover, a large fishing pier with picnic tables and lights to attract fish is available. No fishing licence is required from the pier, but a valid Virginia saltwater fishing licence is required for fishing from the shore. The southern beach is great for surf fishing and beachcombing. Motorboats are allowed and a new ramp has been completed and has 4.5-foot mean low water.

Hiking trails are available. Stroll through upland hardwood forest along Baywoods Trail and look for tracks of foxes, deer and many birds. In the fall, you can visit the Kiptopeke Bird Banding Station and watch the ongoing research. The southern beach also is perfect for a hike. The upland Baywoods Trail and southern beach are connected by extensive boardwalks so that visitors may explore Kiptopeke's dune formation. When hiking on the southern beach, please observe signs designating the special habitat area that is closed to visitors. Bicycle trails are available along the park's entrance road.

Bay, beach swimming: Chesapeake Bay (lifeguards). Kiptopeke's northern beach fronts nearly half a mile on the Chesapeake Bay and features a beach and lifeguarded swimming area from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pets are not allowed on the beach.

Facilities

Kiptopekes' Environmental Education Center is a perfect place to bring students to learn about the Chesapeake Bay. The park features Virginia's State Parks: Your Backyard Classrooms program. There are picnic grounds and shelters and overnight camping.

On-line camping and over-night reservations are available through the park's website.

Accessibility

Electic and water site #44 is adjacent to bathhouse 1. Tent sites 110 and 141 are beside bathhouse 2. Sites have a raised fire-ring and an extended top picnic table.  
The two campground bathhouses are ADA accessible. Bald Eagle Bluff walkway is ADA-compliant up to the beach overlook but does not allow universally accessible beach access.
A free beach wheelchair is available on request. Those interested should inquire at the park office or camp store or speak with the  waterfront attendant.
There are two universally accessible parking spaces at the Bald Eagle Bluff Walkway's entrance.
The Hawk Observatory is ADA-accessible.  
Both picnic shelters are ADA-accessible as is a concrete walkway connecting the shelters to the picnic bathhouse, which is ADA-accessible.
The playground is surrounded by a sand surface.
There are two handicapped-only parking spaces at shelter 1 and one at shelter 2.
Park office has a 1½” threshold at the front door.
The fishing pier is ADA-accessible up to the fishing-cleaning station. The pier has a firm surface of dirt, gravel and grass.
There are two handicapped-only parking spaces at the boat ramp, one such space at the fishing pier and one by the Wood Warbler Boardwalk.
The beach bathhouse is ADA-accessible.
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.

Main image: Kiptopeke State Park
Captain John Smith Trail
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