GENERAL INFO: The park is the site of the first landing of the Jamestown colonists in 1607. Native American canoes, colonial settlers, 20th century schooners and modern cargo ships have navigated the park's waterways. During the War of 1812, its Cypress swamps were a source of fresh water for merchant mariners, pirates and military ships. According to local legend, Blackbeard hid in the Narrows area of the park, and interior waterways served as landing sites for Union and Confederate patrols and blockade-runners 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 National Historic Landmark. Now, as Virginia's most-visited state park, it's a natural oasis in Virginia Beach's urban oceanfront area.
The park has 20 miles of trails and 1.5 miles of sandy Chesapeake Bay beach frontage. Offering many recreational and educational activities, it's a great place to explore unusual habitats featuring bald cypress trees, lagoons, rare plants and wildlife, and maritime forest ecology. 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 historic exhibits, educational displays, a wet lab and aquariums operated by the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center. The Trail Center, outdoor courtyard, pavilion and amphitheater can be rented for special events and weddings.
AT-A-GLANCE: The pictographs directly below show park offerings. Click on those of interest or read below for more detail. Mouse-over the image for a short text description or view a legend in which each pictograph is explained.
LOCATION: From I-64, take Northampton Blvd.-U.S. 13 North (Exit 282). Go through eight lights, then turn right at the Shore Drive/U.S. 60 exit (last exit before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel). Take a right on Shore Drive and go four and a half miles to the park entrance. To reach the Chesapeake Bay Center, park office, camping or cabins, turn left off U.S. Rt. 60 at the stoplight and check in at the contact station or park office. For the Trail Center, picnic area and trails, turn right instead.
Its address is 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-1415; Latitude, 36.918020. Longitude, -76.051547.
Drive Time: Northern Virginia, three and a half hours; Richmond, two hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 20-30 minutes (this facility is in the area); Roanoke, five and a half hours.
OVERNIGHT FACILITIES: For information on availability of overnight accommodations, particular park amenities or to make a reservation, you can reserve online or call (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.You also may want to learn about cancellation and transfer policies. A fee is charged per pet per night for overnight stays.
Visit a Flickr photoset of typical cabins and lodges at the park. Cabins and lodges vary; any given dwelling may not match what's shown in the photos.
Weekly rentals begin Friday, Saturday or Sunday. The contact station is open 24 hours Memorial Day through Labor Day. All cabins have two bedrooms. Although near the Chesapeake Bay, none has a view of the water. Cabins 1 through 6 are wood-frames with hardwood floors. Cabins 7 through 20 are cinderblock with cedar siding and have concrete floors. All cabins are across Shore Drive, which separates them from the beach and bay.
When you reserve a cabin, you'll get a confirmation letter that includes a reservation number. Please bring the letter or the reservation number when you check in. The reservation number is part of a pass code you'll need to get into your cabin, which has keyless entry. Also, be prepared to show a valid ID. And if you've arranged for someone else to check in for you, make sure that person has the reservation number.
Total sites of each type: Two-bedroom frame: 6. Two-bedroom cinderbock: 14.
Two-bedroom frame: Sleeps four, allows six. One double bed and two singles.
Two-bedroom cinder-bock: Sleeps four, allows six. One queen-size bed and two singles.
Total cabins: 20
Park has sites with and without electric/water hookups.
Total sites of each type: EW-20ft, 47. EW-30ft, 24. EW-50ft, 36. Std-20ft, 74. Std-50ft, 7.; E01-E22 Group Campground, 22.
EW-20ft - Electric/water site for tents, pop-ups and RVs up to 20 feet long. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers. 20-amp service.
EW-30ft - Electric/water site for tents, pop-ups, RVs up to 30 feet length. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers. 20, 30 and 50-amp service.
EW-50ft - Electric/Water site for RVs only 32-50 feet in length. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers. 20, 30 and 50-amp service.
Std-20ft - No electric/water on this site. Accommodates tents, pop-ups and RVs up to 20 feet in length. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers.
Std-50ft - No electric/water on this site for RVs 32-50 feet in length only. These sites are grass-covered and not in the shade. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers.
E01-E22 Group Campground - No electric/water on these sites. Three-site minimum purchase required. Each campsite has a picnic table and fire-grill. Bathhouse with hot showers. Good for tents, pop-ups and small campers. Group camp area - site specific; maximum six people per site. A large shelter, which is available only to campers, may be rented.
TRAILS: Hiking, bicycle and self-guided trails. Nine trails total about 20 miles, including bike and fitness trails. The most popular, the first section of the Bald Cypress Trail, is one-mile, crosses dunes and ponds, and is universally accessible. A brochure for the self-guided tour is available at the Trail Center. Trail walks are conducted by interpreters in-season, and trail guidebooks are available in the Trail Center. Bicycles allowed on Cape Henry trail only. The park's Bay Store rents bikes in-season.
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of First Landing's trails.
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 First Landing.
View all wildlife encounter photos from First Landing.
FISHING, BOATING: Fishing and crabbing are popular from the Narrows located between Broad Bay and Linkhorn Bay. A valid Virginia saltwater fishing license is required. Annual parking-launching passports are available by calling 1-800-933-PARK.
Boating: Motorboats and other small craft may be launched from the Narrows boat ramp located at the 64th Street extension in the park’s southern area. Facilities include the use of launching ramps, parking for cars and boat trailers and restrooms. Swimming at the Narrows is not advised because currents there are strong.
Canoes and kayaks are not available for rent within the park but can be rented from outfitters nearby in Virginia Beach.
EVENTS: Click here to view park events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
THE TRAIL CENTER / VISITOR CENTER, GIFT SHOP: The Trail Center has a meeting room for up to 45 people. It is available for rent; call (757) 412-2320. New exhibits on the park's natural and cultural history will be in place in December 2012. A small gift shop is in the center.
NATURE, HISTORY PROGRAMS: The park offers many various self-guided and guided programs that cover crabbing, junior rangers, beach walks, nature hikes and structured environmental education programs. Large clubs, school groups and community organizations can request specific historical, cultural and environmental programming related to their educational goals. The park participates in Virginia's State Parks: Your Backyard Classrooms, a 40-activity curriculum guide used by K- 12 teachers and home-school coordinators. Call 757-412-2306 for details.
Click here to view park events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
Special events include Clean the Bay Day, March for the Parks, International Coastal Clean-Up and the Fall Harvest Festival.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER: First Landing's Chesapeake Bay Center features educational displays that focus on the First Landing by English settlers here in 1607. A visitor information center at the park also has information on area tours and attractions.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center, Virginia Beach boardwalk, Norfolk Naval Base, Cape Henry Lighthouse and First Landing Cross in adjacent Fort Story. Check www.visitvirginiabeach.com and www.virginia.org for more info.
PICNIC SHELTERS: The picnic area is equipped with drinking water, fire grills, refuse disposal, tables and restroom facilities. A large picnic shelter is available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis by calling the Reservation Center at 1-800-933-PARK. Click here for park fees.
First Landing State Park Picnic Shelter
One shelter is available for rent. It can be rented from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. (all day). Parking fees are not included in shelter rental.
Cancellation policy: No refund within 14 days before reserved date. Before then, there's a cancellation fee.
Amenities: The shelter has two charcoal grills, electricity, picnic tables and access to restroom (restroom closed November 1 to April 1, but a portable toilet is available then).
The shelter is in the main picnic area, which is not on the beach side of the park (on same side of Shore Drive as the Trail Center). The shelter can accommodate about 80 people under the shelter. Seating for larger groups is available around the shelter in the main picnic area. The picnic area as a whole is not reserved and the general public will be permitted to use the other tables around the shelter.
Other facilities, including a courtyard, gazebo and amphitheater, can be rented for weddings, conferences, special events and seminars. Call the park at (757) 412-2320 for details.
SPECIAL FEATURES: Amphitheater, courtyard with gazebo. Click here to learn about First Landing's various wedding offerings.
CONCESSIONS: The Bay Store has a variety of groceries, snacks, camping supplies, firewood and outdoor recreation supplies. Concessions operate daily with the following schedule: March to Memorial Day, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Memorial Day to Labor Day, 8 a.m. - 11 p.m.; hours from Labor Day to Mid-October are 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The store also rents bikes, fishing equipment and crabbing gear, and sells bait, souvenirs, cold sandwiches, hot dogs, nachos and T-shirts.
HISTORY: In 1933, the Commonwealth of Virginia bought the park's more than 2,000 acres from the Cape Henry Syndicate Inc. for $157,000. The park was built in the early 1930s by mainly African-American CCC workers. It was dedicated June 15, 1936. In 1965 the park’s natural area was included in the National Register of Natural Landmarks because of its distinction as the northernmost location on the East Coast where subtropical and temperate plants grow and thrive together. In 1977, the park's trail system was designated as part of the U. S. Department of Interior's National Recreational Trail System.
The park's name was changed in 1997 from Seashore State Park to First Landing State Park to reflect its heritage as the first place where members of the Virginia Company landed. They went on to settle Jamestown. In 2007, the park hosted a re-enactment of the first landing. The National Register of Natural Landmarks and the National Register of Historic Landmarks have listed First Landing State Park because of its heritage.
FRIENDS GROUP: To learn about volunteering opportunities, call (757) 412-2308. You can help enhance First Landing's educational and preservation offerings. Friends of First Landing State Park is an organization that supports the park through fund-raising and volunteer efforts.
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 (PDF) for this park's master plan.
CONTACT INFO: First Landing State Park, 2500 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA 23451-1415; Phone: 757) 412-2300; Email: firstlanding. Learn more about park offerings by calling 1-800-933-PARK or email resvs. Be sure to specify the park of interest.