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Yesterday, I was in a conversation with a friend who wanted to have "the very best camping experience" for their summer getaway but didn't want to travel far.
My answer was Sherando Lake Recreation Area. However another friend, who eats, breathes and lives for the camping experience reminded me of another local secluded adventure site that I was ashamed I forgot. The local secluded adventure site was no other than First Landing State Park.
Most of us locals know that First Landing State Park is off the beaten path of most tourist's destination plans, but is still Virginia's number 1 most visited state park. The park was built in the 1930s under Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal program (Civilian Conservation Corps) and was named Seashore State Park. However, in 1997 the name was changed to First Landing State Park, to reflect its rich Virginia heritage and history. First Landing State Park was so named because the Virginia Company had landed there before embarking on their journey up the James River to settle at Jamestown.
First Landing offers a variety of activities for whatever gets you motivated. They offer boating, biking, picnicking, as
well as nature and history programs. Swimming is offered in the Chesapeake Bay, but be warned there are no lifeguards on duty. Also, the park wants to remind its visitors that swimming is strictly forbidden in the narrows or at the boat launch.
Next on the to do list is camping. The offer sites with and without electric/water hookups for those of us who want to
pitch a tent. For those less inclined to "rough it", they have 20 fully functional cabins that can be rented weekly beginning on Friday - Sunday. The rangers wanted me to tell you the contact station is open 24 hours a day during the summer season.
(Memorial - Labor Day) These two-bedroom cabins offer all the amenities of home style comforts including a refrigerator, stove, microwave and even a coffeemaker to get you going each day. Also, there is no need to bring pots and pans because they are included.
No park would be complete without nature trails. The nature trail encompasses 2,888 acres of nature's glory totaling
more than 19 miles on 9 differently distinct courses. The most popular trail is called The Bald Cypress. The Bald Cypress has a total distance of one mile, snaking across ponds and dunes without losing any of the panoramic view. Did I mention this trail is also handicapped accessible?
Hunting wild animals is strictly forbidden for you game hunters, but there is a lot of fish and crabs available to
quench your own animal desire. Fishing and crabbing is located between Linkhorn and Broad Bay Narrows. Please remember to bring a valid Virginia saltwater fishing license.
Each year at The First Landing, there is two special festivals that occur. The first is called the Dog Days of summer.
This year it will be held on Saturday July 18th. It is a day to bring man's best friend along to show how special they are
in our lives. Also, making a special appearance and demonstration is the best canine unit in the region - our very own Virginia Beach K-9 unit.
The second event is simply called The Fall Festival but don't let the name fool you. There will be pumpkin carving for the kids, hay rides, kid crafts, and other special features to be announced. The best part for me at this festival is the sing along, toasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories from around a campfire. This year the event will be held on October 17th between the hours of 2-8 pm.
Well, this is just a few of the memories you will experience at First Landing. First Landing has so much to offer, you
will be pressed for time to get in all the sights, smells and emotions during a single vacation. I recommend that you put aside a day each week and slowly absorb the sense of awe that nature has to offer. I would like to personally thank Sean Strickland for reminding me that once again Virginia Beach truly does have everything to offer, especially when it comes to "the camping experience".
Michael A. Dutton
LOCATION: From I-64, take Northampton Blvd.-U.S. 13 North (Exit 282). Go through eight traffic 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. For the Trail Center, picnic area and trails, turn right instead.
All fees are subject to change and without notice.