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Get in touch with nature at Kiptopeke State Park

Take a day off of work and drive down to an Eastern Shore oasis that will leave you feeling relaxed, recharged and ready to take on the world.

Travel down to the Eastern Shore and experience a fun day at Kiptopeke State Park.
Photo courtesy of Kiptopeke State Park

Escape the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia by traveling down to Eastern Shore gem Kiptopeke State Park for a day. With its iconic World War II concrete boats along the shoreline and its many recreational activities, Kiptopeke offers an array of activities for families. Plus, throughout your visit, keep an eye peeled for hawks and other species of birds. They nest throughout the park, making Kiptopeke a favorite destination for bird-watchers.

The trip is about a four-hour drive from Northern Virginia, so leave early in the morning and take I-95 south and I-64 east over the Lucius J. Kellam Bridge. If you would rather extend your visit, there are many overnight options in the park. You can rent a six-bed family lodge for a week, bring a tent or an RV or spend two nights in a yurt or bunkhouse.  // Kiptopeke State Park: 3540 Kiptopeke Dr., Cape Charles

Noon: Take in the salty fresh air as you step out of your car in the parking lot, which is right next to the Chesapeake Bay.  Walk a couple of yards and dip your toes into the hot sand of the South Beach. Have a scenic picnic lunch before slipping into your bathing suit to hit the waves, hunt for seashells along the shore or spend time with your four-legged best friend. Pets must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. It’s known for being generally deserted, so you will feel as though you have the beach all to yourself.

2 p.m. Glide in and out of the iconic concrete World War II ships beached off the coast of the park. If you’d prefer a watersports adventure, rent kayaks and paddleboards from the camp store located near the boat launch or launch your own boat for free and set sail on the teal-colored waves. You can launch kayaks from the South Beach or from the park’s kayak launch. Prices vary based on the type of boat you select to rent. In order to launch a boat, you must have a valid boat launch passport. The boat launch ramp for low water averages about 4.5 feet.

4 p.m. Try your hand at fishing off of the lighted pier on the south side of the beach. The fishing pier is a prime location for catching sea life because it not only contains a fish-cleaning station, but it also dumps the fish remains back into the Chesapeake Bay, thus attracting even more fish to the area. Striped bass, flounder and mackerel are just a few of the species of Virginia saltwater fish to be caught. Anyone over the age of 16 must either register for the free Virginia Fisherman Identification Program or provide a valid Virginia Saltwater Fishing License if they choose to fish from the shore instead of the pier.

5 p.m. Stroll along the south side of the beach until you arrive at the scenic Bay Overlook. From there, turn left onto the Mockingbird Trail, connect with the Brown Pelican Trail and go north up the island until you hit the Baywoods Trail and turn right. Take in the beauty of the Butterfly Garden as you walk along the path, then emerge in front of the picnic shelters just in time for your freshly caught fish dinner. Or bring hamburgers and hot dogs to fire up on Kiptopeke’s outdoor grills. (Firewood is not permitted in the park.) There’s a nearby play area for children, too.

7 p.m.  Cap off the day by hiking on the Baywoods Trail until you get to the Wood Warbler Boardwalk and emerge on to the beach. There, set up camp to watch the iridescent yellows, oranges and reds that make up a quintessential Eastern Shore sunset.  

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