Home to the world’s largest naval base, Norfolk, Virginia overlooks Hampton Roads at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay. Married to the sea long ago, this maritime city has a lively waterfront, brilliant beaches, and numerous ways to discover the water. The cruise terminal is right in downtown and includes exhibits about the area’s rich history, including artifacts from the Jamestown settlement.
What We Love
Virginia Beach: This three-mile strand boasts a coastal boardwalk and bike path and plenty of places to eat and drink along the shore. There’s a wide range of outdoor entertainment during the summer months, from jugglers and palm readers to bands and fire eaters.
Portsmouth Olde Towne: Across the Elizabeth River from downtown Norfolk, this restored waterfront area has the largest collection of period homes and other historical structures between Washington, D.C., and Charleston.
Best Known For
Nauticus: This ocean-themed museum and science center includes aquariums, touch tanks, a naval exhibit, and the USS Wisconsin, one of the largest battleships ever built.
Yorktown Battlefield: Forty miles north of downtown Norfolk, the waterfront national park is where the 1781 Siege of Yorktown played out. The three-week confrontation ended in British surrender and victory for the Americans in the Revolutionary War.
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Who It's Best For
Military History Buffs: Between the USS Wisconsin, tours of Naval Station Norfolk, Yorktown Battlefield, and the General MacArthur Memorial, there’s plenty to satiate even the most ardent battle aficionados.
Water Sports Addicts: From board surfing and paddle boarding to sailing, kayaking, and futuristic Flyboarding, there are varied ways to explore Norfolk’s many waterways.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
You and Everyone You Know: If you go in the summer, be prepared for crowds. Virginia Beach is packed, even on weekdays, and parking can be a nightmare.
Takes a Toll: If you’re thinking of driving the world-famous Chesapeake Bay Bridge–Tunnel over to the Delmarva Peninsula, consider the fact that the round-trip toll will cost you at least $26.
Joe Yogerst is a California-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Travel + Leisure.