GENERAL INFO: 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) and camping trailers. 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.
Kiptopeke Birding Areas - Since 1963, Kiptopeke has been the site of bird population studies. Sponsored by the Coastal Virginia Wildlife Observatory and licensed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, volunteers capture, examine, weigh, band and release resident and migratory birds each year from mid-August through November. In the raptor research area, hawks, kestrels, osprey and other birds of prey are observed and banded from September through November. Kiptopeke’s hawk observatory is among the top 15 nationwide.
Please don't bring any firewood into the park. Firewood can harbor destructive, invasive species. Click here to learn more.
Park Size: 562 acres.
Weather: Click here for the Weather Channel's report for Kiptopeke.
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 click hereto view a legend in which each pictograph's meaning is expressed.
LOCATION: Located on the eastern shore of Virginia, 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: (Bay Bridge Tunnel Traffic may extend time) Northern Virginia, four hours; Tidewater/Norfolk/Virginia Beach, 45 minutes; Richmond, two hours; Roanoke, five hours.
Latitude, 37.169934. Longitude, -75.979292.
PARK MAP: Click here.
OVERNIGHT FACILITIES: Camping, 6-bedroom family lodges, rental RVs, yurt and 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. 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 overnight accommodations at the park. The lodges and RVs vary. Dwellings may not match what's shown in the photos.
Click here for details on reservation cancellation and transfer policies. A fee is charged per pet per night for overnight stays.
Five have been built and are open. 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. 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 sleeps up to 16 and has six bedrooms, three baths, universally accessible, two queen size beds in two bedrooms, two single beds in two bedrooms, two sets of bunk beds each in two bedrooms (each room sleeps four); no bed rentals.
Yurt and RV guests
Check-in time is 3 p.m. on arrival date; Checkout is 10 a.m. on departure date. Prices are the same as those for one-bedroom cabins (click here for details). The rental season for our onsite RVs is March 1 through end of camping season, the first Monday in December each year. The rental season for the yurt ends after Labor Day because thereafter it's used by research staff. Cabin rental and cancellation policies apply to the yurt and RVs. Weekly rentals are required in prime season, Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Weekly rentals start Friday, Saturday or Sunday. There's a two-night minimum rental during rest of camping season. The yurt is the only facility at Kiptopeke that does not allow pets.
Recreational yurts are a modern adaptation of an ancient nomadic shelter, combining a beautiful wood frame and durable, electronically bonded architectural fabric. 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.
Kiptopeke has five RV trailers for rent (sites TR01, TR02, TR05, TR06 and TR07). Smoking is not allowed. Guests must bring their own linens, pillows and TV. RV guests who bring their own coaxial cable and TV may enjoy cable service.
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 March 1 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 3 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.
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: 147
SWIMMING: Unguarded beach swimming on Chesapeake Bay. Kiptopeke’s northern beach fronts nearly half a mile on the Chesapeake Bay and features a beach and swimming area from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Pets are not allowed on the northern swimming beach. There is no additional charge for using the swim beach, but swimming cannot be guaranteed should circumstances beyond the park's control require prohibiting it. No canoes, kayaks, jet skis or boats are allowed in the swimming area. The south beach is open to swimming and pets, as well as fishing, crabbing and boating.
TRAILS: Hiking and bicycle trails - More than four miles of trails. Stroll or bike through 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.
Visit the Explore Virginia Outdoors website for enhanced maps and video tours of Kiptopeke's trails.
WILDLIFE: Virginia State Parks are great places to connect 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.
View all wildlife encounter photos from Kiptopeke.
FISHING, BOATING: 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 with the free Virginia Fisherman Indentification Program. Pier fees apply (adults, $3/day; children, $1/day; adult coupon book, $20). The southern beach is great for surf fishing and beachcombing. Boat 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. 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."
HUNTING: Click here to learn about this park's hunting opportunities.
EVENTS: Click here to view park events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
NATURE, HISTORY PROGRAMS: Guided hikes, fishing clinics, canoe programs (fee), campfire programs, waterfront activities and weekly birding programs in fall. Clean the Bay Day (mid-June). Bird-banding runs from mid-August to late November. Eastern Shore Birding Festival, September. Click here to view park events, festivals, workshops and interpretive programs.
ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION CENTER: 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.
NEARBY ATTRACTIONS: 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.
PICNIC SHELTERS: 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. Each is near park restrooms. 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 no 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.
CONCESSIONS: 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 are camping supplies are available.
RESTAURANT: Local restaurants: Sunset Grille, near the park entrance; Stingray's, 3 miles north on Hwy 13; McDonalds, 6 miles north on Hwy 13; Hardees, 6.5 miles north on Hwy 13; Food Lion, 6 miles north on Hwy 13.
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.
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.