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False Cape State Park

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Beachfront reachable by foot or bike
Copyright: Patty Elton - Interactive Outdoors, Inc.
Beachfront reachable by foot or bike
Description - Visiting False Cape State Park is like stepping back into history 100 years ago before people flocked to the white sandy beaches of the East Coast. From the early 1900s until the 1960s, 4,321 acres along Virginia's oceanfront down to the North Carolina border were privately owned, beautiful desolate white sandy beaches with 20' dunes and one of the East Coast's best waterfowl hunting grounds. In the 1960s, the state acquired this maritime forest along with the Wash Woods Environmental Education Center that was once home to a number of prestigious hunt clubs.

Attractions - Today, False Cape State Park remains as one of the last undisturbed coastal environments on the East Coast. It is a mile-wide barrier spit between Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the Atlantic Ocean. The only access to the park is through Back Bay, which is limited seasonally to hiking, biking and boating.

The pristine wildlife area has a huge migratory bird population and a variety of wildlife, plants and trees. Wash Woods Environmental Education Center is one of the East Coast's premier opportunities for small school, youth or scouting groups.

The park acquired its name in the 1800s because shippers believed it to be Cape Henry thus leading them into shallow waters resulting in numerous shipwrecks. A tiny community called Wash Woods is the result of such a wreck. Evidence of Wash Woods is still prevalent on the park grounds. A graveyard and church steeple are located a short distance off a trail and the visitor with a quick eye is likely to see a feral pig. Pig tracks are commonly spotted in the sandy trails.

Recreation - Because False Cape is landlocked on the southern end of the Back Bay Refuge, vehicular access is prohibited. Day visitors must either hike or bike through the refuge via the interior trails or the oceanfront. Boat access is through Back Bay. Each year, the interior hiking and biking trails are closed from November 1st through March 31st. However, the Back Bay Restoration Foundation operates a tram that leaves Little Island City Park and terminates at Barbour Hill contact station allowing visitors to explore the area for one hour. Primitive camping is permitted at False Cape but reservations are required. Drinking water is available at three locations and in each camping area. However, be prepared to take plenty of drinking water along with insect repellent for the trip in. Several pit toilets are provided. The park does interpretative programs along with special programs in conjunction with the Virginia Marine Science Museum, the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Saltwater fishing is allowed and hunting is permitted only during special seasons. Ocean swimming is permitted. Picnicking is limited to a couple tables at Barbour Hill. The park is haven to many types of wildlife including waterfowl, poisonous cottonmouth snakes, feral pigs, white-tailed deer, wild ponies and fox.

This park is about 30 minutes south of the Virginia Beach oceanfront. Virginia Beach is a bustling commercial tourist attraction offering enjoyment and variety for both families and singles. The sandy beach and boardwalk is very inviting and offers a variety of entertainment. The boardwalk area has attractive evening lighting and is well patrolled making an evening stroll very pleasant. The boardwalk is also very popular with in-line skating; however, skateboarders are prohibited. Virginia Marine Science Museum, Norfolk Naval Air Force Base, First Landing State Park and Old Cape Henry Memorial are just a few of the other popular recreational opportunities available.

Climate - Virginia generally has mild winters and warm humid summers. The eastern portion of the state has winter temperatures averaging above 36 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees Celsius). The state's summer temperatures have little variation. The eastern portion of Virginia generally experiences temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit (26 Celsius). High humidity along with warm temperatures can be uncomfortable.

Location - From I-64, take the Indian River Road East exit. Go 13 miles, then turn left onto Newbridge Road, then right onto Sandbridge Road. Turn right again onto Sandpiper Road which leads to Little Island City Park. If coming from First Landing State Park or Atlantic Avenue (the ocean front) head east onto Shore Drive (Route 60); follow Pacific Avenue to General Booth Boulevard, then left on Princess Anne Road and left again onto Sandbridge Road. Turn right onto Sandpiper Road which takes you to Little Island City Park. Parking fees required Memorial Day to Labor Day at Little Island City Park. Day use only parking is available at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are restroom facilities, picnic facilities and ocean access from Little Island City Park. From Little Island, head west into Back Bay. At the park's contact station, 5 miles through the refuge, the hiker or biker may pick up brochures and a detailed map of the trails.

Current Conditions & Trip Reports

Trip Reports:
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Filed By: Greg Snyder (Lancaster, Pa)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This is a beautiful state park, secluded, primitave, and uninhabited. If you bike in, make sure you have shocks on your bikes, as the road in is bone jarring. The trip is worth it, however, for the pristine dunes, beaches and forestland. The wildlife observations are endless. To be able to just sit and listen to the silence, or the breaking waves is truely rejuniating. This fall we plan to kayak in from Back Bay, and experience that unique enviroment.

Filed By: Justin (Ann Arbor, MI)
Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Camped overnight on the dunes. Had the place to ourselves. Saw wild horses on a morning hike along the beach as well as dolphins, osprey, sting ray, and fox. Interior trails were a great experience. Bugs were almost unbearable at times. Great experience but be prepared to have sand everywhere and lots of biting bugs. Stable flys, ticks, deer flys, and mosquitoes.

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This is the greatest park in Virginia and the staff is first-rate! You can't beat False Cape for a pristine )primative) natural beach experience.

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: This park is excellent for the average back country camper. My friends and I hiked in at low tide along the beach on a sunny January day. (winter 2002, very mild) The eight mile hike into the park was really rewarding with the ocean on our right and the enormous dunes on our left. After turning in land we we're lucky enough to see some feral hogs and ponies amongst the thick undergrowth. The rough trails, dirt roads, and decaying ruins of a long gone town left much to the imagination. It was excellent. I plan on visiting again soon. Next time I'll canoe in from the bay side.

Number of People Encountered: 0-10 ppl
Recommend to a Friend: Highly
Report: Support Virginia's Gold Medal Winning State Parks! State Parks and Natural Areas Bond Referendum, Tuesday, November 5th.

More Information

Contact Information:
False Cape State Park, 4001 Sandpiper Road , Virginia Beach, VA, 23456, Phone: 757-426-7128
, pco@dcr.state.va.us

Additional Information:
Tidewater, Hampton Roads & Eastern Shore Travel Region - Home to one of America's largest resort cities which has two state parks and a national wildlife area within its borders.
Virginia Beach Area - This is Virginia's largest and fastest growing city. Developed initially as a resort town, the city lies on the southern Atlantic coast of the state.
Virginia State Parks - Virginia State Parks are special places where visitors find a tonic for mind, body and spirit. Thirty-four parks help visitors learn about the natural and cultural history of the Commonwealth.

False Cape State Park - Official agency Website


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