Virginia Is for Lovers: First Landing State Park
Where Is It?
First Landing History
First Landing State Park used to be known by a different name. It was originally called Sea Shore State Park. I'm king of glad they changed the name since I could think about was 'she sells sea shells by the sea shore'. Keep in mind that a lot of locals (particularly those older than 30) will most likely call the park by its original name. This can cause a bit of confusion for those from out of the area.
First Landing is a great example of what the first Europeans found when they first landed (get the name?) in Virginia. The pristine dunes and undisturbed maritime forests are truly a sight to behold. The park itself consists of two parts, separated by shore drive. There is the beach side that boarders the Chesapeake Bay and the side that consists mainly of maritime forest that extends to the narrows. The narrows is a body of water that leads in to the Chesapeake Bay, the channels are narrow at points and have many turns. Don't let the river like appearance fool you, that is brackish water.
The campground at First Landing is on the side with the beach. While there is no beach camping at First Landing it is pretty darn close. The tent sites are to the right of the main beach area, while the RV sites are along both sides. First Landing also offers cabins and yurts in other areas of the park.
You can reserve your campground ahead of time, and can even pick out a site that works best for you. If being as close to the beach as possible is important to you, you can make sure you get the closest site. If being near the bathrooms is more of a priority you can arrange that too.
There are sites that offer hook ups for electric and plumbing, or just electric. Those sites are specifically marked on the map, they also come with a higher rental fee. Honestly after driving around the campground area I wouldn't say there are bad sites. I loved our site: it was fairly close to the beach, a short walk from the bathrooms, and we had portable water just across from us. Just make sure that you look at the map and the corresponding camp site information guide when you go to pick out your site because some sites are larger than others.
The campground offers an area for group camping, when you reserve this area you need to book for at least 3 sites. This area was the only place I would have considered crowded (I did not take pictures as I felt it was rude to take pictures of other people camping) and seemed to mainly be scouting groups.
The campgrounds are very well maintained. The roads are all clearly marked and the sites themselves are labeled. There are several bathhouses in the campground. Each has male and female restrooms with several stalls. (There were even outlets by the sinks in the women's restroom) There are also several closed showers. Outside has a large sink, I saw many people washing their dishes in the sink after dinner time.
There is parking available at each campsite. The rangers will only allow two cars per site. Some of the sites were able to fit two trucks with no problem. My site, however, I think it would have called for us to be a little creative with parking to fit two cars. There were a few sites that were close the swampy areas and the parking for those sites was very muddy. It did rainy quite heavily the night before so that very well could have been a contributing factor. A truck with 4 wheel drive may not have had a problem parking there, but my little sedan would never have made it out.
I absolutely loved this tent! It was easy to assemble, I think it only took us 7 minutes which was great considering we never put up a tent ourselves before. It was roomy, though I'm not sure I'd want to be in it with 4 adults. It was so easy to take down, only one person needed to disassemble it. I felt that it was a great price for such a large tent, I'm very pleased with my investment.
First Landing state park has some of the best hiking in Virginia Beach. Well, its some of the only hiking in Virginia Beach, but that doesn't make it any less magical. The trails are not just paved walkways, there are some that have a bit of difficulty with roots extending from the ground and steep elevation changes and those who are not steady on their feet may want to stay to the easier paths. The trails are all clearly marked and there is a map that shows each trails length and difficulty rating.
I was a little disappointed that the only trail map we could find was at the trail center. We had walked from the campgrounds and had to follow the markers to get to the trail center so we could find a map and figure out what trails to do. It was maybe a mile from the campground to the trail center. In the future we could just follow the road from the entrance and it would be a straighter shot, but the scenery is lovely and it would only save a few minutes.
There is a large parking area with several picnic area near the trail center. There were even charcoal grills set up at the picnic sites and a playground.
Honestly, I'm a little upset with myself. I've lived in Virginia Beach for years, and been coming to First Landing regularly for several years and this was my first time on the hiking trails. I really felt like I had been missing out all this time. I loved how untouched the area felt. The maritime forest is just beautiful and feels otherworldly. I look forward to going back for day trips to hike all the trails.
It should come as no surprise that I love the beach at First Landing. I've even dedicated an entire post to it before. It is considerably less crowded than the oceanfront. It feels more natural than the oceanfront. Not to mention it is one of the few beaches in the area that is dog friendly year round.
The beach can get a bit busy during peak vacation season, but I've never had an issue finding a spot. I'm also not afraid of walking for a bit. There are several boardwalks that lead to the beach, one for the main entrance and several for the campers. When we camped there was hardly anyone at the beach. It was a beautiful warm weekend with only a handful of people enjoying the beach. I'm sure in the summer there would be more people, but for late spring I was pleasantly surprised.
I loved our camping getaway weekend. I had been worried because we saw a review online (the day of the trip) saying to stay away from a specific campsite and we had that site booked. The review had been wrong. Maybe they had made some changes. Maybe the review was fake. I don't know, but I was so happy that with our site. Like I mentioned earlier I didn't feel like there was a single site I saw that I felt was bad. They were all pretty much the same, just with different distances to different amenities.
Our untested tent did fantastic overnight and was plenty of room for the two of us. We learned how to improve our culinary adventures for future camping trips. Despite having a late check in time (4pm) we were able to fully make camp and relax before dinner.
We ended up taking two long walks on the beach. Watched several species of birds from our campsite. And we hiked nearly 5 miles on the maritime trails. I'd go camping at First Landing again in a heartbeat!