The region known today as the Hampton Roads Area is made up of not only the large natural harbor, into which five rivers flow, but of the peninsula to the north that extends southeast from Williamsburg, and the Tidewater area between the mouth of the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean. On the peninsula are the cities of Newport News and Hampton; to the south and east are Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake, and Virginia Beach.
These cities have been shaped by their proximity to the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers that empty into it, either as ports and shipbuilding centers or, in the case of Virginia Beach, as a hugely popular beach town and vacation attraction. Hampton and Norfolk are the “old” cities of this area; recent development and revival efforts have made them worthy of a second look.
Virginia Beach Must-Sees
Pick a beach to suit your mood – Virginia Beach has 14 miles of sandy shoreline open to the public. The resort area along Atlantic Avenue is a lively zone of street performers, cafes and live music, while Chesapeake Beach (known locally as Chick’s Beach) is a tranquil stretch along sparkling Chesapeake Bay.
Shake off the sand and explore the region’s other natural wonders. The pristine, 8,500-acre Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a rich landscape of barrier islands, dunes, maritime forests, ponds and freshwater marshes – the perfect place to hike, paddle and watch for wild horses and American bald eagles.
A $25 million renovation has made the Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center even more desirable for visiting families. The new Restless Planet exhibit is home to 6,000 animals, including exotic cobras, Komodo dragons and hedgehogs.
For a memorable adventure, go dolphin-watching – on an ocean kayak! Local outfitters offer tours.