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.
Please don't bring any firewood into the park. Firewood can harbor destructive, invasive species.
Day use and overnight guest visitation, 6 a.m. - 10 p.m. Pier open 24 hours a day April 1 - Dec. 31.
Located on Virginia's Eastern Shore, this park offers recreational access to the Chesapeake Bay and the chance to explore a unique coastal habitat featuring a major flyway for migratory birds. Kiptopeke is three miles from the northern terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, which has a substantial each-way toll charge, on Route 13. Turn west on Route 704; the park entrance is within a half mile. The park has an area for swimming Memorial Day to Labor Day. Drive Time: (Coastal Virginia traffic may extend time) Northern Virginia, four hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 45 minutes; Richmond, two hours; Roanoke, five hours.
The park has camping, 6-bedroom family lodges, rental RVs, yurt and a camping lodge (bunkhouse). For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online or call 1-800-933-PARK. Rental rates for cabins and camping vary by season, dwelling and park. First, determine the appropriate season, which can vary by park, then the relevant rate.
Visit a Flickr photoset of overnight accommodations at the park. The lodges and RVs vary. Dwellings may not match what's shown in the photos.
You also may want to learn about cancellation and transfer policies. A fee is charged per pet per night for cabin stays.
Lodges (sites Lod 01, 03, 04, 05 and 07)
During prime season, lodges are reserved for full weeks only. The reservation period starts on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday. A two-night minimum stay is required the rest of the year, however in prime season guests who wish to stay less than a week may call 30 days prior to desired arrival date to see if there is vacancy for two-night minimum stay. Check-in is 4 p.m. and check-out is 10 a.m. They are open year-round and may be reserved 11 months in advance. Each lodge offers:
Total sites of each type: Lod (lodges), 5
Sites Lod 01, Lod 03, Lod 04, Lod 05, Lod 07: Each lodge has six bedrooms, three full baths, two queen size beds in two bedrooms, two single beds in two bedrooms and two sets of bunk beds in two bedrooms (each room sleeps four); no bed rentals.
Recreational yurts are a modern adaptation of an ancient nomadic shelter. Functionally speaking, it's a cross between a tent and a cabin. The Kiptopeke yurt, the only of its kind in Virginia's park system, has a spectacular view of the Chesapeake Bay with a large wooden deck, picnic table, fire ring with cooking grate, an exterior floodlight, food preparation table and a water spigot. Reservations are required. No smoking, cooking or pets are allowed in the yurt. Two vehicles allowed with room to park boat or trailer. Additional vehicles must pay the daily parking fee and park in the overflow lot.
Check-in is 4 p.m. and checkout is 10 a.m. Prices are the same as those for one-bedroom cabins (click here for details). The rental season begins on the first Friday in March ends on Labor Day. Cabin rental and cancellation policies apply to the yurt. Weekly rentals are required in prime season, which runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Weekly rentals start on Sunday. There's a two-night minimum rental during rest of camping season.
Camping Lodge (bunkhouse) Two-night minimum stay during peak season; no full-week requirement. The three-room trailer has seven bunk beds, a large front deck, picnic tables, a water spigot and a fire-ring with a cooking grate. Cooking and smoking are not permitted inside the camping lodge (bunkhouse). Parking for five vehicles is covered; all other vehicles must pay the park's daily parking fee and park in the overflow area. This lodge is available only from the last Friday in March to the first Monday in December. This facility is not sold 11 months in advance. It goes online in January each year. Check in is at 4 p.m., check-out is at 10 a.m.
The transfer deadline policy and cancellation and pet fees are the same as those for cabins.
Camping (other than Yurt and RVs):
Total sites of each site type: Tent Std, 47; E/W, 54; EWS (E/W/Sewer), 32; RVs, 5; YURT, 1; Gpop, 5
Total campsites: 143
The park has more than 5 miles of hiking and bicycle trails. Explore upland hardwood forest along Baywoods Trail and look for tracks of foxes, deer and many birds. 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. Bicycle trails are available along the park’s entrance road and the Raptor, Songbird, Chickadee and Mockingbird trails. Bikes may be rented at the camp store.
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Kiptopeke's trails.
There are two unguarded beaches on the Chesapeake Bay. Kiptopeke’s northern swim beach is nearly half a mile long and open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pets, fishing, jet skis, canoes, kayaks and other boats are not allowed there. There is no additional charge for using the beaches, but swimming cannot be guaranteed should circumstances beyond the park's control require prohibiting it. The south beach is open to swimming, fishing, crabbing, boating and pets kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet.
Fishing: 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 license is required from the pier, but a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license is required for fishing from the shore. Those pier fishing who are over 16 and do not have a Virginia saltwater fishing license must, however, register for the free Virginia Fisherman Indentification Program. Pier fees apply (adults, $3/day; children, $1/day). The south beach is great for beachcombing and surf fishing, but a Virginia saltwater fishing license or Maryland license with a valid Virginia FIP number is required. Launch: Motorboats are allowed. The ramp has 4.5-foot mean low water. Parking limited to 70 boat trailers. Because parking is limited, campers who wish to park their trailer at the boat launch area must pay $3. There's no charge for boat launching for camping guests who park trailers at their campsite. Kayaks must be launched from only the south beach or the park's designated kayak launch, not from the boat ramp or north swim beach. Solo kayaks, tandem kayaks and paddleboards may be rented at the camp store. Click here for park fees. Purchase an annual boat launch passport by calling 1-800-933-PARK.
The south beach is open to swimming, pets, fishing, crabbing and boating. A valid Virginia or Maryland saltwater license is required and anglers must register with Virginia Department of Marine Resources' Fisherman Identification Program.
For information on fishing and boating regulation and licenses, visit the Virginia Marine Resource Commission's website. For the latest fishing update, click here. Click here for information about tides - pick "Chesapeake Bay, Eastern Shore," then "Kiptopeke Beach."
None at this park.
Click here for the park's trail guide.
Virginia Beach and Norfolk attractions are 45 minutes away. Williamsburg, Yorktown and Chincoteague are all within 1.5 hours of park. Click here to visit the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism website. Points of interest include the Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center, one of the United States' top five visitor centers, has free access and is three miles south; quaint waterfront towns and fishing villages; Cape Charles has historical museum, art gallery, restaurants, antique shops and harbor; unique boating experiences such as passenger ferry to Tangier Island; charter fishing rentals; Cape Charles-Northampton County Chamber of Commerce and the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce have brochures available. Check out the nearby Eastern Shore of Virginia Fisherman Island and National Wildlife Refuges, one of North America's most important bird migration corridors. Also nearby are the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Island National Seashore.
Kiptopeke has two shelters available for rent. Each can be rented from 8 a.m. to dusk (all day). They're available March through November. Click here for park fees. The picnic area restroom is closed Nov. 1 through April 1. Parking fees are in addition to shelter rental.
Shelter 1 - This shelter offers a grill, picnic tables and nearby restrooms. It accommodates up to 80 and has three wheelchair openings. Nine tables are 7 feet long and three others, which are universally accessible, are 16 feet long. There's also seating available outside the shelter for up to 40 additional people, but these tables cannot be rented. The shelter has no electricity. A playground, drink machine, and water hydrants and several grills are nearby.
Shelter 2 - This shelter offers a grill, picnic tables and nearby restrooms. It accommodates up to 80 and has three wheelchair openings. Nine tables are 7 feet long and three others, which are universally accessible, are 16 feet long. There's also seating available outside the shelter for up to 40 additional people, but these tables cannot be rented. The shelter has electricity. A playground, drink machines and water hydrants are nearby, as are several grills.
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
None, but the park rents family lodges that may be used for small retreats and get-togethers.
None. Guests may buy local gifts, souvenirs, fishing supplies, ice and pre-packaged food at the park's camp store.
Local restaurants: Stingray's, 3 miles north on Hwy. 13; McDonalds, 6 miles north on Hwy 13; Hardees, 7 miles north on Hwy 13; Food Lion, 6 miles north on Hwy 13. 9 miles away in Cape Charles there are several restaurants including Aqua, Brown Dog Ice Cream, Kelly’s Gingernut Pub, Rayfields and The Shanty.
Each bathhouse in the campground has coin-operated washers and dryers. A vending machine there has laundry soap.
Kiptopeke is a perfect place to bring students to learn about the Chesapeake Bay. The park features Virginia’s State Parks: Your Backyard Classrooms, a 40-activity curriculum guide for use by teachers of grades K-12. More information is available by calling the park. Fall bird-banding tours are available by appointment. Please call the park office for scheduling: (757) 331-2267.
Just west of the beach are nine 1944 concrete McCloskeys that rest in 20 feet of water. The park's south end has some of the East Coast's most pristine upland maritime forest. Kiptopeke's Taylor Pond is a freshwater pond with two wildlife viewing blinds and a native species garden. In the fall, experience the songbirds and raptors that make Kiptopeke the largest migratory stop-over on the Atlantic Flyway.
The park offers many opportunities to learn and explore. Programs are offered daily from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Programs include beach safaris and owl prowls and sessions on fishing, kayaking, crabbing, seine netting, lure-making, saltwater jewerly and campfires. Special events include First Day Hike, Recycling Day, Kids to Parks Day, Clean the Bay Day and the Eastern Shore Birding Festival Kids Exploration Exhibit. Click here to view all parks' events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
A camp store is operated during camping season. It's open from late May to mid-October. Firewood, candy, ice, ice cream, drinks, coffee, hats, shirts, postcards, frozen bait, tackle, microwavable sandwiches, beach accessories and camping supplies are available. The store also rents bikes, solo and tandem kayaks, and paddleboards.
The site was purchased by the Virginia Ferry Corporation for the northern terminus of the Norfolk 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 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.
A group is being formed. Contact the park for details.
Master plans must be written for parks before they're built. The plans are updated at least once every 10 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.
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 Kiptopeke State Park.
View all wildlife encounter photos from Kiptopeke State Park.