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Virginia Beach Neighborhoods

Hampton Roads consist of seven cities, of which Virginia Beach is the easternmost. Virginia Beach itself is divided between the main resort area, the city of Virginia Beach, the northern, Chesapeake Bay beaches and large stretches of protected natural beauty to the south. Norfolk and its eating and arts scene is to the west. All in all you’ll likely need a car to explore the area outside of the main resort, though you may very well spend a lot of time just chilling on Virginia Beach.

Resort Beaches

The focus of tourist interest in Virginia Beach—indeed, what most people refer to when they think of "Virginia Beach"—is the main resort area. It's comprised of 3 miles of condos, multilevel hotels, restaurants, bars, parks, the Boardwalk and, of course, lots of buttery soft sand. This is a pretty easy area to navigate. Pacific and Atlantic avenues (and the Boardwalk itself) are the north-south thoroughfares, with numbered streets counting down until they (and the land) terminate at Rudee Inlet and Grommet Island Park. Just across the inlet is quiet Croatan Beach, beloved by locals and surrounded by high-end houses.

Chesapeake Beach

North of the resort beaches is Chesapeake Beach, which fronts (imagine this) the Chesapeake Bay. As befits a beach that sits near a quiet, calmer body of water, Chesapeake Beach—really a series of beaches—is more peaceful, wooded and removed from the human crush on the resort beach. The drawback is no Boardwalk and seaside festivities. If you come out this way, make sure to follow in the footsteps of John Smith and explore the pretty marshes and forests of First Landing State Park. Chesapeake Beach is situated above the Virginia Beach Virginia Beach, northwest of the resorts and just to the east of Norfolk.

Norfolk

Norfolk is the largest, most important city within Hampton Roads. Site of the largest naval base in the world, there’s no doubt Norfolk is a military town first and foremost. There are plenty of sailors on shore leave all around, so expect some rowdiness come the evening. On the other hand, that naval presence gives Norfolk a cosmopolitan vibe, exemplified by a punchy arts scene and the sublime beauty of the historic Ghent district, replete with old houses, cafes and restaurants. This area makes for a nice escape from your escape; if you’re beached out, Norfolk’s maritime-urban vibe provides a nice contrast.

Sandbridge & South

South of the main resorts the beach turns into a speckling of barrier islands specked with marshes, woods and prime bird-watching opportunities. Sandbridge is a quiet residential zone with its own beaches and cozy character, an area that is again favored by locals and missed by the crowds. Much of the area here is protected wildlife reserves, which affords visitors the opportunity to witness the best of the considerable natural beauty—pulsing wetlands, hidden inlets and deep forests of pine and oak—of this part of the East Coast.

Virginia Beach

The city of Virginia Beach constitutes several communities that stretch west from the resort beaches to the limits of Norfolk. While this area tends to be passed up by tourists, it actually has a lot of charm, mixing a big beach town’s sense of fun with Upper South friendliness and hospitality. On a practical note, the best shopping and dining in Virginia Beach is not, in fact, on the beach—it’s out here in the communities that sprawl away from the hotels. Coming out to the Virginia Beach the town as opposed to Virginia Beach the beach gives one the opportunity to pull the curtain back on the wizard, as it were, and have a sense of how locals live their lives.
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