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False Cape State Park

4001 Sandpiper Rd., Virginia Beach, VA, 23456; Phone: 757-426-7128; Email: FalseCape@dcr.virginia.gov

About this park ...

Latitude, 36.593813. Longitude, -75.886521.

Photos and video

General Information

Nestled between Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, False Cape State Park is one of the last remaining undeveloped areas along the Atlantic coast. As the former home of Native Americans, the historic Wash Woods community and a Coast Guard life saving station, False Cape honors the hardy souls who made a living from the sea. The park offers an opportunity to experience nature in a unique, primitive setting. Be prepared for weather conditions. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen and insect repellent. False Cape features guided kayak trips, primitive camping, interpretive programs, hiking and biking trails, and six miles of pristine Atlantic Ocean beach. The park is accessible only by foot, bicycle, beach transport, tram or boat. There is no public vehicular access. Tram transportation is available April 1 through Oct. 31 through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where there is an entrance fee. Between Nov. 1 and March 31, access to the park is restricted to hiking or biking along the beach, by boat or by the park's beach transporter, the Terra-Gator. To make reservations for the beach transporter, call 800-933-7275.

The Back Bay Restoration Foundation operates a tram (PDF) that leaves from the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (4005 S. Sandpiper Rd. in Virginia Beach) and travels through the wildlife refuge. The trek allows visitors to explore the park for two hours in the Barbour Hill contact station area or ride farther to False Cape's Wash Woods area. This area has a church site and cemetery. The tram provides a round trip ride and is not available for overnight guests. Overnight guests must either hike or bike through the refuge, or canoe or boat in. Both day use and overnight visitors are advised to read all warnings regarding visiting the park to learn what is expected and about preparation. All visitors must follow refuge regulations while on refuge property.

Hours

Dawn to dusk. Those hiking to the park through Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge must be out of the refuge by dusk.

Location

From Interstate 64, exit on to Indian River Road East. Go 13 miles, then turn left onto Newbridge Road, then right onto Sandbridge Road. Next, turn right onto Sandpiper Road to Little Island City Park. Parking fees required Memorial Day to Labor Day. Day use only parking also is available at Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.

From First Landing State Park and oceanfront, turn east onto Shore Drive (Route 60); follow Pacific Avenue to General Booth Boulevard, then left on Princess Anne Road and then straight onto Sandbridge Road. Turn right onto Sandpiper Road to Little Island City Park. Parking fees are required from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

The park's latitude is 36.593813. Its longitude is -75.886521.

Drive Time: From Virginia Beach's oceanfront to Little Island city parking lot is about 40 minutes.

Note: Groups of 10 or more are required to obtain a special-use permit from Back Bay Wildlife Refuge two weeks in advance of trip.

The tram for False Cape operates from April 1 through Oct. 31 on a first-come, first-served basis. Call the park at 757-426-7128 for more information.

Park Size

4,321 acres. Beach Size: 5.9 miles of beachfront, extending to North Carolina line.

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Cabins, camping

OVERNIGHT FACILITIES

Primitive camping year-round. No cabins. The park does not offer same day reservations. For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online or call (800) 933-PARK. Click here for park fees.

Because False Cape is very primitive and has unusually restrictive access, reservations are not available online. For safety's sake, please take the time to carefully read and follow the information below.

  • Little Island City Park in Virginia Beach - the place from which most visitors depart to False Cape - is closed on New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, at noon the day prior to Thanksgiving Day, on Thanksgiving Day, at noon on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day.
  • On days when the lot is closed, False Cape staff will meet incoming and outgoing campers at 1 p.m. sharp to let current campers depart and incoming campers enter with enough time to hike, bike and set up camp before nightfall (about 5 p.m.).
  • Parking is never available at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for overnight guests. Campers must instead park at the Little Island City Park, leave a copy of their confirmation letter on the dashboard, and walk from five to nine through Back Bay Refuge to the park’s campsites.
  • Pets are not allowed access to the park through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. See below for more information.
  • Beach camping is subject to tides. During significant high tide event, the park may close the campsites.
  • All park guests are subject to Back Bay Refuge and Little Island City Park's rules and regulations.
  • Campers must be out of the refuge before to sunset when arriving and departing False Cape State Park.
  • Be prepared for biting flies during the summer. They are very common.

False Cape State Park camping - Camping is permitted year-round, but reservations are required. Same-day reservations aren't taken for False Cape. Campsites at the park are in four distinct areas - Barbour Hill Bay, Barbour Hill Ocean, False Cape Landing Bay and False Cape Landing Ocean - which are separated by significant distances. For camping information, contact the Reservation Center at 1-800-933-7275.

The park accommodates primitive camping, tents only, and offers 12 sites. A maximum of four people are allowed on each of sites 1-9. Sites 10-12 allow six people per site for groups of 12 or more (groups of 12 or more campers are required to be assigned to the area comprising sites 10-12). Drinking water is available in three locations, all in the Barbour Hill section - near the contact station and near the two camping areas there. False Cape Landing campers must bring their own containers to transport water from the water source. Water not suitable for drinking is available in each camping area. Carry everything in and everything out. There are several pit (i.e., non-flushing) toilets. Open fires are not permitted; camp stoves may be used for cooking.

Campers should also be aware that groups of 10 or must get a special-use permit from the refuge at least two weeks in advance of their trip. There's no vehicular access to this park. Passage by foot or bicycle only, and only during daylight hours, is allowed through the refuge. Vehicular access through the refuge and False Cape State Park is prohibited, and violators will be prosecuted for trespassing.

Distances to False Cape campsites from Little Island City Park: Little Island City Park to Barbour Hill contact station, 6.2 miles; Little Island City Park to Barbour Hill Bay or ocean sites, 6.9 miles; Little Island City Park to False Cape Landing bay sites, 8.7 miles; Little Island City Park to False Cape ocean sites, 8.95 miles

False Cape Reservations:  All campers must receive their confirmation letter and information packet before camping here. Please take the time necessary to read the information you receive. False Cape is an unusual and potentially unpleasant place for those who are unprepared. If there is not enough time for receipt of the packet by mail, campers must arrange to have the information faxed or emailed to them. Check with local companies that accept incoming faxes for the public (i.e., Kinkos, some hotels/motels, etc.), if necessary. No exceptions. All overnight guests must bring two copies of their confirmation letter. One must be placed on the dashboard of their vehicle; the other clipped to the site marker.

False Cape has four primitive campgrounds.

  • No more than four people per site are allowed at Barbour Hill Bay Side, Barbour Hill Ocean Side and False Cape Ocean Side campgrounds (up to 12 total in each campground).
  • Up to six people per site are allowed at the False Cape Bay Side campground (up to 18 total in the campground). This campground also accommodates group camping.
  • Campers may reserve as many sites as desired so long as the maximum capacity is not exceeded.
  • Camping at False Cape State Park is not recommended for young children, inexperienced campers, or those who need access to emergency medical care.
  • There is no electricity. Pit toilets only; no showers.
  • Campers must park at Little Island City Park (see above under "Overnight Facilities" for holidays during which access to this parking lot is limited). Campers must leave their confirmation letter on the front dashboard where it is clearly visible. If they do not, their car will be towed. For the security of your vehicle, you must park under the lights by the telephone booth. On weekdays from Memorial Day through Labor Day, Little Island City Park charges Virginia Beach residents $2 a day and non-residents $4 a day. The park charges $5 on weekend days and on holidays. Little Island City Park is open from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. from November through March and until 11 p.m. from April through October. These fees are subject to change.
  • Access to the park is by boat, interior or beach trail through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge.
  • Boat access: You can launch your canoe from Little Island City Park. Boat docks are provided at Barbour Hill and False Cape Landing, near the Back Bay sites. Only experienced boaters familiar with Back Bay, which is large, should attempt to access False Cape by boat. In particular, shifting winds can dramatically affect water depth and navigation, making it unsafe for many boaters. The park charges those unable to paddle out a fee to transport their boats out of the park.
  • Interior access: Cannot be used November 1 through March 31 because of wildlife management. Hikers and bikers must pay $2 or more each to travel through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. You can only be on refuge property during daylight hours. Groups with more than 10 members must obtain a special use permit from the refuge. Fees are subject to change.
  • Beach trail: Plan to travel near low tide for easiest access. Hikers and bikers must pay $2 or more per person to travel through Back Bay Wildlife Refuge from April through October. You can only be on refuge property during daylight hours. These fees, which are federal, are subject to change.
  • Ticks and biting insects are numerous; insect repellant is a must. Also, beware of venomous eastern cottonmouth snakes.
  • All trash must be packed out when you leave.
  • Pets are allowed at False Cape but not allowed through the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Pets can be brought in only by boat to one of three landings in the park or through the North Carolina entrances.
  • Note: The park and the refuge are closed for a few days in October for a game management program hunt. Click here for details on the managed hunts.
  • All fees are subject to change.

Cabing, camping

Rental rates for cabins and camping vary by season, offering and park. Rates are subject to verification by DCR's state parks reservations staff (1-800-933-PARK). First determine the season, which varies by park, then the rate. Click here for park fees.

Recreation

TRAILS

Hiking, bicycle trails, self-guided trails. Five trails, including the Barbour Hill self-guided interpretive trail, total 15.3 miles. They are available for hiking, biking and exploration. The park’s location on a barrier spit allows visitors to observe beaches, dunes, maritime forests of oak and pine, wooded swamps, marshes and the bay all in one visit.

Va. Outdoors sign

Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of False Cape's trails.

SWIMMING

There are no designated swimming areas.

FISHING, BOATING

Fishing - Freshwater and saltwater fishing with a valid Virginia fishing license. Boats - Motorboats permitted.

HORSES

None - no horses allowed.

Park Trail Guide

Click here for the park's trail guide.

Nearby Attractions

Not Listed

Picnic Shelters

Two tables, near contact station at Barbour Hill.

Meeting Space and Facilities

MEETING FACILITIES

The Wash Woods Environmental Center can accommodate day visitors or 20 people overnight. The center offers a kitchen, restrooms, shower, meeting room, library, AV equipment and lab.

VISITOR CENTER, GIFT SHOP

Be sure to stop by the visitor center in the Barbour Hill area to learn about the park's history and events. There's also a small gift shop there.

RESTAURANT:

None at this park.

LAUNDRY

None at this park.

ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER

Wash Woods Environmental Center: Located directly on the bay, the center offers a myriad of possibilities for ecological studies. The center can accommodate day visitors or 20 people overnight. The center offers a kitchen, restrooms, shower, meeting room, library, AV equipment and lab. Call (757) 426-7128 to arrange for your educational experience.

Note: False Cape State Park and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge are closed from the first Saturday through the second Saturday in October each year for the Game Management Program (Hunt).

SPECIAL FEATURES

Consider a ride in the Terra Gator or tram.

Other Info

ACCESSIBILITY

  • Park access is restricted, and the primitive conditions at the Park make it difficult for all but the seasoned back country camper. No facilities meet ADA standards.
  • In the spring and summer, a tram is available to take customers to the park, through the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge. Riders get off the tram at the Barbour Hill contact station or the Wash Woods area and can explore the park for several hours. While the tram is accessible with advance notice, wheel chair users are limited to the roadways in the immediate vicinity of the contact station since deep sand is the norm from that point on. There is no shelter available to get out of weather. While there is a non-flush toilet in the vicinity, it has no rails, nor is the door wide enough for wheelchair access (there is a platform leading to the facility).
  • Accessibility has been reviewed for the Wash Woods Environmental Center; plans are incomplete at this time.
  • The Terra-Gator is not universally accessible. The ramp to accomplish this is unfortunately too long to be transported by the particular vehicle.
  • Persons with various ability levels that do not require wheelchairs can find the park usable within their limits of mobility. Certain health conditions can limit the park's accessibility.

NATURE, HISTORY PROGRAMS

Astronomy, bus tours, birding hikes, night hikes, canoe trips and seining programs. The park also offers special programs in conjunction with Virginia Marine Science Museum, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Click here to view all parks' events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.

CONCESSIONS

None.

HISTORY

In the 1800s, False Cape gained a reputation as a shipping graveyard. The area got its name because its land mass resembled Cape Henry, luring boats into shallow waters. One of the area's first communities, Wash Woods, was developed by survivors of such a shipwreck. The village's church and other structures were built using cypress wood that washed ashore from the wreck. From the turn of the century until the 1960s, False Cape was a haven for a number of prestigious hunt clubs, which took advantage of the area's abundant waterfowl. The park's Wash Woods Environmental Education Center is a converted hunt clubhouse. A 1966 study of Virginia's outdoor recreation resources recommended that a substantial ocean beachfront be made available for public use on the Atlantic Ocean south of Virginia Beach. The development of the park began with the purchase of approximately 4,300 acres of land.

FRIENDS GROUP

Join the Friends of False Cape State Park. The nonprofit, citizen group provides voluntary help to DCR for the preservation and conservation of the park. The group educates the community about park offerings and supplies funds, materials and labor for special projects. Its success depends on those who appreciate the outdoors and wish to preserve this special place. Members enjoy special friends-only events throughout the year. Learn more about the group by calling or emailing the park.

 

MASTER PLAN

Master plans must be written for parks before they're built. The plans are updated at least once every five years thereafter. The plans cover the size, types, infrastructure and locations of facilities as well as the site's special features and resources. Three public meetings are held during the initial development of each plan. Click here for this park's master plan.

WILDLIFE

Virginia State Parks are great places to discover and reconnect with the wild world. Bring a camera and share your captures with the world. But please don't disturb or get too close to the animals. The park is, after all, their home. Here are a few recent natural encounters others have had at False Cape State Park.

View all wildlife encounter photos from False Cape State Park.

 

Upcoming Events

Date Event Type Event
01/01/2014  9:00 a.m.
     To       
12/31/2014
Geocaching/GPS
Self-Guided Programs
GPS Rental Units and Activities
01/01/2014  9:00 a.m.
     To       
12/31/2014
Kids/Family
Outdoor/Nature/Natural History
Self-Guided Programs
Nature Adventure Backpacks
01/01/2014  9:00 a.m.
     To       
12/31/2014
Canoeing/Kayaking/Standup Paddleboard
Geocaching/GPS
History/Culture
Kids/Family
Outdoor/Nature/Natural History
Wash Woods Environmental Educational Center

At a Glance

The pictographs directly below show park offerings. Mouse-over the image for a short text description or click here to view a legend in which each pictograph's meaning is expressed.
BikingCamp Store/Gift ShopCampground, Group CampingCanoe AccessEnvironmental Education Center, Nature/Cultural ProgramsGroup LodgingHikingMotor Boats PermittedPicnic TablesRestroomsSelf (interpretive) TrailShore
Biking, Camp Store/Gift Shop, Campground, Group Camping, Canoe Access, Environmental Education Center, Nature/Cultural Programs, Group Lodging, Hiking, Motor Boats Permitted, Picnic Tables, Restrooms, Self (interpretive) Trail, Shore