The beach and Boardwalk offer plenty for families to enjoy. But did you know that there is a secret side - a place to unplug your family for a day and feel free?
The facts as I see it.
Virginia Beach has an impressive boardwalk, energizing free concerts, public fishing piers, terrific theater, great restaurants and miles of beach ideal for any family vacation. Busch Gardens or Williamsburg is an easy drive. And amid all of this add access to electronic connections (I mean Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, etc.) and where ever they may lead. Crazy, right? It may leave you thinking when does the vacation begin?Unplug, you can do it.
Loosening the electronic noose can be done. It takes some effort and general agreement by all. We did it (unplugged) at First Landing State Park with Tidewater Adventures. They offer oodles day adventures and unplugging is always required.Here’s the scoop.
Following directions hastily written on a paper napkin we turned left at 64th street and drove through a modest neighborhood continuing past the gate house for the back side of First Landing State Park. We saw early morning bicyclists heading down Cape Henry Trail toward the Narrows of Broad Bay. The last text was sent at 7:43 AM.Cell phones off.
At the end of the road our guide Randy Gore, an expert at helping with the unplugging process, stood waiting to explain our morning adventure - kayaking in First Landing State Park. The first rule no cell phones, pagers or cameras allowed. The rulle makes the process easy. Introductions and safety instructions complete we quickly launched from a sandy beach at the Narrows and our day adventure was underway.
The first few minutes of our journey Randy and his assistant paddled among the group providing individual coaching on kayaking techniques to ensure our day would be easy, stress free and above all fun. Randy Gore is passionate about kayaking and nature and his enthusiasm was in itself a bonus. I am sure he was at times appalled at the paddling methods practiced by our group ages eight to 68 but he has likely seen it all before.
We moved along the shoreline not exactly as a group – some wanting progress and the rest of us wanting to enjoy the moment. The water covering the sand flats of Broad Bay was clear and in many places the sandy bottom reflected the light creating a mini view of the underwater and its inhabitants. One of the obvious benefits of kayaking is to be able to glide effortlessly and in near silence. We glided over active oyster beds and through sea grass along the shore. The pace was steady and easy. An American bald eagle glided among the tree tops and unexpectedly dropped into its nest; a pod of dolphins paralleled our route as if declaring a race – all in the first hour of our trip.
Just as we were all becoming comfortable with our strokes along the shoreline route Randy turned our group inland along a narrow waterway framed by tall marsh grass Our destination White Hill Lake and the osprey rookery at the far end of the lake but to get there took time and plenty of paddling single file along a natural water pathway. Fallen logs along the way were dotted with turtles sunning themselves; a great blue heron lunched in the shallows oblivious to our entourage; an occasional snake caused surface movement along the tannin-colored water alley; from a bald cypress tree snowy egrets watched our progress with suspicion; the rhythmic sound of pecking wood peckers seemed like chatter. This secret spot epitomizes nature in balance - it seems so simple without a cell phone connection.
Our return trip was a breeze – literally. The wind had picked up and the paddling, while still easy took more energy. I hugged the shore to avoid the waves. The kids went swimming and we had a couple of water fights – all in fun. The surprising part of this excursion, we were able to unplug for most of the day even though we were only about four miles away from the Boardwalk. It was for all of us (ages 8 to 65) a delightful morning which ended all too quickly.
Cell phones on and waiting for a signal; time to text and tweet about our adventure.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. and within a day’s drive or less from one-third of the U.S. population.
Make it happen.
Log on to the website and order a free vacation catalog or go paper-free with the online trip planner. To speak to a Virginia Beach vacation expert call toll-free 1-800-VA-BEACH (822-3224) or checkout www.visitvirginiabeach.comBest Vacation Planning Resources for Unplugging Your Virginia Beach Family Vacation.
Kayak Nature Tours. Kayaking, dolphin watching tours and fishing adventures. 110 W. Randall Avenue, Norfolk. Toll-free 1-888-669-8368, (757) 480-1999 or www.TidewaterAdventures.com
Back Bay Getaways. Biking tours and kayak adventures. 3713 South Sandpiper Road, Sandbridge 23456. (757) 721-4484 or www.backbaygetaways.com
Chesapean Outdoors. Kayaking, biking and surf lessons. 313 Laskin Blvd. Virginia Beach, 23451. Toll-free 1-866-379-5188, (757) 961-0447 or www.chesapean.com
Sandbridge Eco Tours. Back Bay kayaking, ocean kayaking, dolphin tours and surfing adventures. 577 Sandbridge Road, Sandbridge 23456. Toll-free 1-800-695-4212, (757)721-6210.
Wild River Outfitters. Kayaking, canoeing, and camping. 3636 Virginia Beach Blvd. Toll-free 1-877-431-8566, (757) 431-8566 or www.wildriveroutfitters.com
Local Green Resources
Back Bay Restoration Foundation. (757) 426 3643 www.bbrf.org
Chesapeake Association of Kayakers (757) 552-0292.
Coastal Conservation Association Virginia. (757) 481-1226 or www.ccavirginia.org
False Cape State Park. 4001 Sandpiper Road about five miles south of Back Bay. Terra Gator departs Little Island City Park in Sandbridge daily during the warm season and on weekends from Nov. 1 through March 31 each year. Reservations toll-free 1-800-933-7275, (757) 426-7128 or www.virginiastateparks.gov
Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 4005 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach, VA. 23456-4325. (757) 721-2412 or www.fws.gov/backbay
Bay Restoration Foundation. 3022 New Bridge Road Virginia Beach, 23456. For Blue Goose Express tram information call (757) 426-3643 or www.bbrf.orgContent by Nancy Nelson-Duac, Editor FTF and images by FamilyTravelFiles.com and Tidewater Adventures. Updated copyright 2011.