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Virginia Beach Family Adventures Include Kayaking, Beach Time and Surfing Lessons. Sharing family vacation experiences without electronic connections has its benefits. Spending time sans cell phones, pagers, IPods or IPads means more time to be shared - sort of a self-imposed family time out together. Kayaking Back Bay NWR near Virginia Beach with Teens

Just outside Virginia Beach proper there are several places to disconnect with your kids – First Landing State Park, False Cape State Park and the awesome Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. We chose Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge for our time out together. Our Back Bay family day of kayaking was a success so I know disconnecting can be done.
Here's the scoop. When my children were toddlers we began exploring wilderness areas together. Acting as self-appointed guides, my husband and I often created our own version of “Wild Kingdom” requiring our two youngsters to look and listen; to scrutinize and identify tracks; to find true North and above all to experience a sense of place. When they were little we made a game of counting Volkswagen Beetles on paved roads and turtles along pathways or waterways. Ten years ago, the prize for the first spotted – gum and the most spotted – Gummy Bears. As teens they took things to a higher level challenging each other and often surprising me with their observations. Then as now, the vigilant vacation competition is unspoken but the make and model or genus and species are required to win the prize -- a visit to Starbucks.

Our day adventure began at Sandbridge Eco Sports now known as Ocean Rentals about 30 minutes south of Virginia Beach. (There were no Volkswagen Beetles on the highway so it would be turtles to count.) Chuck Comely, our guide, was quick with the paperwork and in no time we were directed through the shop and out the back to the dock where a friendly hound acted as our escort to the water’s edge. Dockside our attention was once again on Chuck as he explained the plan of the day. Once our safety review was complete, all eyes were on the kayaks and the sepia-black water channel where our adventure would begin. (No turtles at this point.)

We paddled the sepia-black water channel in silence, our brightly colored kayaks gliding; each stroke creating burnt umber ringlets of water. Moving single file along a natural waterway framed by marsh reeds, shaded by oaks and an occasional loblolly pine, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed unending and wild, really wild. Back Bat National wildlife Refuge Entrance South of Virginia Beach

As we emerged from under the leafy canopy the channeled widened framed by cattails and marsh reeds. Our guide, sensitive to the energy level of the group, paused to point out indigenous birds, well-camouflaged nests and before he could say turtle, a shout confirmed, “Turtle on the right!”  All eyes turned to ancient looking eastern mud turtle sunbathing on a fallen tree. Unspoken, the competition had begun. Our guide confirmed that red-bellied, painted, eastern mud, and snapping turtles are most common so for turtle spotting this was heaven. I knew that the end of our day would be at Starbucks.   

Our route took us off the main water channel and along waterways lined with cattails. Our guide picked wild black berries for us to sample and indicated plants to avoid. We practiced maneuvering around fallen logs as a watchful hawk glided the wind channels above us. We counted snapping turtles sunning on logs and saw the ears of three shy deer through the marsh grasses. Marsh flowers danced with the breeze and song birds, concealed by the over growth, accompanied the wiring sound created as the breeze rustled the marsh grasses. Our family time out day was both energizing and relaxing. Did I mention - absolutely no cellphone connections?
The obvious advantage of navigating the Back Bay by kayak is the chance to move almost silently in the wilderness. In addition to enjoying the beautiful feeling of remoteness, our time with Chuck Comely was terrific. He filled our heads with information about the earliest residents and how they survived by using the plants in the area for food, shelter and medicine. He talked about earlier times when the region was used by prestigious hunt clubs. He explained the challenges of today and opportunities for the future. We had some serious moments and plenty of fun. Most important for us, he verified our turtle tally and declared a winner. 

For parents or grandparents who are looking for an easy paced outdoor adventure still water kayaking offers the chance to experience nature at its best without facing extreme challenges associated with whitewater or ocean waves. With young children it’s a way to share time; listen to the quiet of nature; discover bird nests and best of all count turtles. 

Location on the planet.  Anchored in the southeastern corner of the state where Virginia meets the sea, Virginia Beach is four hours by car, southeast of Washington, D.C. 

Make it happen. To speak to a Virginia Beach family vacation expert call toll-free 1-800-VA-BEACH (822-3224) or go to

Or you may wish to connect with Virginia Beach via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram 

Virginia Beach Family Vacations and Outdoor Adventure.  
Virginia beach Family Adventure Kayaking.The family vacation advisors at Virginia Beach CVB have provided us with five additional family adventure suggestions.
1. Best beach combing ever. False Cape State Park has more than 10 miles of non-commercial beach, bordered by acres of dunes, marshland and woods. It is easy to bike to the edge with older children or with tiny tots take the tram at Little Island City Park in Sandbridge. The tram, called “The Terra Gator” is operated by reservation only; it departs Little Island City Park in Sandbridge daily during the warm season and on weekends from November through March each year. 
2. Kayaking with dolphins. Bottlenose dolphins populate the waters of the estuarial Chesapeake Bay all year long. From May through October, it is possible to enjoy a guided kayaking adventure which includes very close encounters with the playful dolphins. 
3. Fun on the water. From surf camps and standup paddle boarding (SUP) lessons to boogie-boarding, windsurfing, hydro boarding, jet-skiing, parasailing, sailing and boating fun on the water is easy along the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. 
4. Saddle up and canter on the beach. During the fall, and winter months riders may ride horseback the shore. From June through September it is also possible to swim on horseback in the North Bay near secluded Sandbridge Beach. 
5. Count the birds by the sea.  The Seashore-to-Cypress Loop is part of the Coastal Phase of the statewide Virginia Birding and Wildlife Trail, operated by the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. The loop, which contains 12 viewing stations, weaves through Virginia Beach and extends into Norfolk. 

Updated content by Nancy Nelson-Duac and images from files. Additional outdoor adventure ideas provided by Virginia Beach Tourism family vacation experts. Copyright 2015.

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