Details on Va., Md. state park beaches
Heading reluctantly back toward my car, I spotted someone else who seemed just as thrilled to be on the beach as I was. I assumed that the furry creature frolicking in the sand near the fishing pier was a dog. Missing my two pooches, I couldn’t help approaching. The animal on the end of this leash, though, turned out to be a frisky little ferret named Miss Vette.
For her owner, Coleen Anderson of Ocean City, Md., being able to bring Miss Vette along to the beach is one of the appeals of Kiptopeke. That, and “it’s very peaceful, and it’s very jet-ski friendly.”
Pets and big water toys aren’t the only reasons to visit state parks. After a recent week of Skee-Ball and outlet shopping in Rehoboth Beach, Del., I wanted to leave all that hubbub behind for a quieter, more natural experience on the Virginia and Maryland coasts. If the crowds were smaller, too, so much the better.
Enveloped by forest
I didn’t think I’d find that quiet scene at Virginia Beach, my first stop. So instead of heading for the resort city with the long boardwalk lined by hotels and restaurants, I jumped off I-64 one exit before the road that leads to the main strip. Already, things felt less hectic as I passed a lake, a golf course and an inlet that opens into the Chesapeake Bay on my way to First Landing State Park.
Here, parking required no complicated strategy, as it would have at the main city beach. I paid my $4 admission and pulled into the wide-open lot. Rather than rush to the beach, I spent some time with the history exhibits in the visitor center. Settlers from the Virginia Company first came ashore in 1607 on the spot where the park now sits. To honor that legacy, officials changed the park’s name from Seashore State Park to First Landing State Park in 1997.
In the colonists’ spirit of exploration, I rented a rusty red bike from the park’s camp store. The park boasts a trail system of about 20 miles (although only one of the 10 trails is accessible to bikes).
As I entered the woods, the beach couldn’t have felt more distant. The forest enveloped me. A replica of a Native American dwelling sat along the trail, and cypress swamps lent a primeval feeling to the lush green atmosphere. I encountered some other cyclists and a number of joggers, but mostly, only the crunching of my bike on the gravel and the guitar-like croaking of the frogs punctuated the silence.