And the adventure continues!
While I was enlisted in the Navy I was stationed in Norfolk VA for many years. This gave me a chance to find tons of little nooks and crannies of history scattered from Virginia Beach to Yorktown.
Many of these places, Jamestown, Yorktown, Williamsburg are obvious locations for American history but there are plenty of lesser known areas in Hampton roads that should be on any history nerd’s (I include myself in this group) bucket list of places to visit.
Starting from the Southern end and working our way North…Virginia Beach!
Most people know Virginia Beach for the beach…kind of an obvious statement there but personally whenever I visited there it was mostly filled with military (this time I am excluding myself from this group) and college kids partying. Which is anyone’s cup of tea but personally I enjoy exploring more than getting drunk on a beach.
There are a lot of cool things happening at Virginia Beach, in the summer there are all kinds of concerts on the beach, monster truck rallies, cool beach shops, inventive putt-putt golf courses and my personal favorite the Virginia Beach Aquarium. So there is a lot to do for whatever your interests are or if you are traveling with your family.
There are some really amazing bars and restaurants there! My favorite bar on the boardwalk is Calypso Bar & Grill. They have live music, you can drink out on the patio to enjoy the sunshine and the view but it has a great atmosphere!
If you are like me and have a taste for seafood there is one place that you have to try, Bubba’s Seafood Restaurant and Crabhouse! All of the seafood they serve is local and catch by the family’s carter company. Absolute best Blue Crab you can get in the area and a must try location.
Moving on to other attractions and sights to see, obviously if you are a beach lover Hampton Roads the places for you! There are tons of beaches from Virginia Beach all the way up to Yorktown beach and everywhere in between. But one of my particular favorite things to see on…or near the beach is lighthouses.
So for sea lovers, lighthouse nuts and history nerds this next place is for you. Virginia Beach is home to the first American built lighthouse (built by the government that is) Cape Henry Lighthouse. Located on Fort Story, now this is a military base so here are some notes from the Cape Henry Lighthouse:
Note to Our Visitors: The Cape Henry Lighthouse is located within Fort Story military base. To visit the lighthouse, you must pass through the security gates of Fort Story at 89th Street and Atlantic Avenue. NO FIREARMS OR WEAPONS ARE PERMITTED ON BASE. Please have identification including a picture with you for all visitors aged 16 years or older. This ID should be a student or state or Federal issued ID card. Proof of vehicle insurance and current vehicle registration is also required for admission to Fort Story Military Base. If accessing the Cape Henry Lighthouse by bicycle, you must follow Virginia State Law and wear a helmet at all times. The security personnel have the right to examine your car before issuing a pass to enter the military base and visit the lighthouse. While we apologize for the inconvenience, we respect the military’s interest in force protection. The security guards are courteous and efficient, but please allow a few extra minutes for entry into the site. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation.
For your safety and comfort, please observe the following rules for climbing the Cape Henry Lighthouse:
- You must be at least 42 inches tall to climb the lighthouse.
- Children may not be carried up the steps.
- Backpacks and frontpacks are not allowed on the staircase.
- We strongly discourage flip-flop
So these are things you want to just be mindful of these things before visiting but the climb up and the view is totally worth it!
Moving up from Virginia Beach to my next favorite location is Fort Monroe. (I know, you think I have this thing for bases and forts…)
To get to Fort Monroe you have the pass across and under the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel. This is a very cool and very interesting bridge and road to take because it actually dips under the Chesapeake Bay.
Be forwarded about the HRBT, check the traffic channel – AM1680 traffic can be really bad and you could get stuck on the tunnel for an hour (sometimes more if there is an accident). It really is hit or miss most days, try and plan to not be in traffic between 4-6pm during the week, this is when most of the military bases get off work so you want to avoid being on the roads when they are all trying to get home.
Just on the other side of the HRBT is Fort Monroe. Unlike Fort Story, Fort Monroe is a retired military based – decommissioned in 2011. This is one of my favorite places in Hampton Roads, how many places can you go and say that you can drive over an actual moat? When you drive into the historic portion of the fort you drive over the reinforced draw bridge. Turning to the right (because the main road in the fort is a single direction…to the right) you can make a full circle around the fort following the fort walls.
My favorite part about Fort Monroe is parking my car and walking around the wall top! You can see where the cannon turrets used to stand, you can look out over the Chesapeake Bay where the Ironclads Monitor and Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) battle in Hampton Roads were just in sight of the Fort’s walls; the Monitor and the guns of Fort Monroe prevent the Virginia from entering the Chesapeake Bay from Hampton Roads; President Abraham Lincoln visited Fort Monroe to plan and expedite the capture of Norfolk.
What I love about the Fort is the history and the simplicity. The lighthouse warding off ships from the shoreline, the beaches that are perfect for families sitting in the sand watching the ships enter and leave port. And just up the road from Fort Monroe is the quaint town of Pheobus!
If you are looking for AMAZING food local food you will find it in Pheobus…Old Towne Tavern. One of the greatest local joints you will find on the Northern side of the Chesapeake Bay. The Crab dip is something to write sonnets over!
Moving North! Hampton city has a lot to offer, there is shopping, lots of restaurants, more beaches, there really is something there for everyone. My favorite place to visit in Hampton is the Virginia Air and Space Center and the Mariner’s Museum. Both highlight the vast history of both by land and by sea in Hampton Roads.
The Air and Space center is free of admission however the Mariner’s Museum does have an admission fee. My favorite thing about the Mariner’s Museum is the Nolan Trail. This is a 5 mile trail that circles the museum and the lake behind the building. It is a beautiful woodland trail that leads you over bridges and around a lake, so if you have a sunny day during your visit and enjoy a pleasant walk in the woods. You won’t regret it.
Moving further North, Yorktown. I would suggest getting off I-64 for this trip you take Route 17 from Newport News/Hampton to Yorktown. It is far more of a scenic route and usually has much less traffic. First thing you should do is hop on the Yorktown Trolley, this blue and brass beauty takes you on a 4-mile loop around the main areas of the town. When you have finished your trolley ride, there are great shops all along the boardwalk on the edge of York river. There are plenty of museums in the area too explaining the extensive history of Yorktown, most recently completed is the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown.
If you decide to park your car in the parking lot of the American Revolution Museum there is a scenic River Walk trail that leads you down into Yorktown, this is the route I suggest. The town is far to small to just drive through and if the weather is nice enough why not walk it? When you reach the end of the boardwalk along the beach you have some delicious options for food that have some real local color. The Yorktown Pub and the Beach Deli are great options for lunch, Yorktown pub also has a delicious selection of local brews on tap. If you are thinking date night and a little more upscale consider Riverwalk Restaurant, it’s menu choices are a little more upscale along with their prices.
Well this is the conclusion of my tracks through history in Hampton Roads I hope you have found even a portion of this piece informational…travel your heart out!
Traveling Photographer Out…