Virginia Beach: For More Than Just A Great Tan

By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

Virginia Beach, VA - There’s something about sand and saltwater that draws people in. One only needs to try and find an undeveloped stretch of coastline on the mainland United States to discover that’s the truth. Human beings are naturally drawn to the sea—be it for laying out on the sand, swimming in the waves, or just checking out ‘the scene.’

Fortunately for those of us who’s skin tone won’t allow for extended baking in the sun, there are places like Virginia Beach—where there’s not only a great stretch of beach to do all the aforementioned activities to your heart’s content, but there’s also much more to distract you from the run-of-the-mill beach vacation.

Golf is certainly one such activity. I took the opportunity to check out three of Virginia Beach’s finest courses, and I’ve written a separate treatment on all three. Virginia Beach bills itself as an up and coming golf destination, and from what I’ve seen, that’s very accurate. Not only does it have the TPC of Virginia Beach, Heron Ridge and Hell’s Point (amongst others), there’s quite a buzz about town in anticipation of the opening of two new Arnold Palmer courses in the coming months—Bay Creek and The Signature at West Neck. With five incredible championship layouts, golfers will want to take a break from the waves and hit the links.

That’s not to say you should leave your Boogie Board at home when you come here—it’s just an extension of the wide array of things to do that Virginia Beach offers.

Without trying to cover it all, here’s a few highlights to put on your ‘must do’ list for a trip to the Virginia shore:

• Where to stay. I frequently travel with my wife and two little ones, so the crazy beach nightlife scene isn’t really for us (not that there’s anything wrong with having a little fun!). As a result, we found a property on the north end of the main drag, the Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort. I’m told it’s been recently renovated—and whatever they did, they did right. We had a beautiful oceanfront room with a balcony, sitting literally above the boardwalk and sandy beach. We could hear the waves crashing and the seagulls singing their ocean songs from the comfort of our own room. The Resort also offers some terrific golf packages, which includes golf, breakfast and a golf gift. They even feature a golf widow rate! • My wife is such a golf widow. She had a terrific time taking the kids to the pool at the SunSpree and to the beach, but also made a trip to the Virginia Marine Science Museum. The Museum features more than 800,000 gallons of aquariums and 300 interactive exhibits to both instruct and entertain. My wife and four year old got their first experiences touching a Stingray. Seems to me like that’s either a slimy or painful proposition, but they seemed to enjoy it!

In addition to the lessons you’ll learn, it’s a great place to go indoors and escape from the sometimes scorching Virginia Beach summer sun. The Museum also boasts Virginia’s only 3-D IMAX Theater—nothing like a movie on the huge IMAX screen to give you a little genuine motion sickness!

• For those wanting a valuable history lesson, try driving north from the main beach strip to visit the Cape Henry Lighthouses (located in Fort Story, but open to the public). Cape Henry and Cape Charles (17 miles across the bay) make up the ‘mouth’ of the Chesapeake Bay. The original Cape Henry lighthouse was built in 1791 (the second in 1881, and still used today), which, to put things in perspective—was ten years after the American Revolution ended a few miles up the York river at Yorktown. Amazing how some buildings stand the test of time.

• Not far from the lighthouses is the First Landing Cross—which marks the site where the eventual Jamestown settlers first made landfall on the North American continent in 1607. In addition to the markers telling the settlers’ story, is another historical event to learn about—the largely overlooked naval battle between the French and British navies that took place not far off Cape Henry in 1781. The French successfully turned away the British fleet, preventing provisions and reinforcements from reaching the besieged British troops at Yorktown. ‘But for’ this important French naval victory, the war may not have ended with the British army’s surrender at Yorktown. Leaves you only to wonder—what if the French hadn’t won? Would we all have accents like Prince Charles? My thanks go out to the French…

• Finally, not only will you not get bored in Virginia Beach, you might have to do some extra treadmill time when you go home in order to work off the excess from the great food you’ll find there. When you’re in Rome, do as the Romans do—and when you’re near the ocean, try the seafood. We sought out a place with some quaint local flavor, as well as a reputation for excellent seafood. We found it at Tautog’s. There you’ll find all the fish in the sea, literally, prepared to culinary excellence—and the atmosphere is festive without being overdone. The wine list is excellent too. I personally recommend the Mahi Mahi, and compliment it with a bottle of Santa Barbara County’s (California) finest Chardonnay from the Fess Parker Vineyard (yes, the same Fess Parker you knew as Disney’s Davy Crockett). Having visited the winery itself several times, I knew what to expect. It didn’t disappoint.

• For those desiring ocean views while taking in a meal, I suggest Mahi Mah’s, located at the heart of the ‘strip’ on Atlantic & Sixth Streets. Mahi Mah’s specializes in seafood and sushi, but also has a great selection of land-based cuisine to choose from. It’s a good place to go for a little lively beach fun, food and atmosphere—there’s nightly entertainment out on the patio and a full service bar inside.

For a long time, Virginia golf destinations have watched as large numbers of golf travelers pass through the state heading to places south, such as Myrtle Beach, Pinehurst or Hilton Head Island. Those continue to be superior golf destinations. But there’s an awful lot of great golf to be played in places like Williamsburg and Virginia Beach, too. And, as detailed above, there’s more there than just golf. You’ve got sand. History. Museums. And culture. What more do you need?

Come to Virginia Beach—for more than just a great tan!

For more information on Virginia Beach Tourism, contact the Virginia Beach Department of Convention and Visitor Development
2101 Parks Avenue, Suite 500
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Phone: (757) 437-4700
FAX: (757) 437-4747

Virginia Beach Golf:
Phone: 1-866-4-VB-GOLF

Other contact information:

Holiday Inn SunSpree Resort
39th and Oceanfront
Virginia Beach, VA 23451
Phone: (757) 428-1711
FAX: (757) 425-5742
Virginia Science Museum
Phone: (757) 437-4949

Phone: (757) 422-0081

Mahi Mah’s

Cape Henry Lighthouses/First Landing
Phone (757) 422-9421

Jeffrey A. RendallJeffrey A. Rendall, Contributor

Jeffrey Rendall is an avid golfer and freelance writer. After passing the California Bar in 1994, he moved to Virginia to pursue his interests in history and politics, where he's worked since 1995.

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