Spring is slowly but surely approaching, and families across the state are planning their summer vacations
Our family—me, my husband Steve, and our three children-- will soon be doing the same. Like we have every year for the past five years, we’ll be heading to Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Occasionally we consider trying somewhere new—but Kiptopeke always beckons and we can’t help but return.
Kiptopeke State Park beckons...
We discovered Kiptopeke by accident several years ago, when the kids were 6, 4, and 1.Steve and I both had memories of vacationing at the beach as children, and we were exploring how to make it happen for our own family.
There was no way we could afford a week-long stay at a beach house, and the idea of staying in a hotel room with three children didn’t appeal to anybody. We were rather new to the camping scene but wondered what camping at the beach would be like. When the campground we’d originally decided on was booked, we searched around and discovered Kiptopeke. Five nights practically beachfront for under $200? Why not? We hitched up our travel trailer, and we were off. After that first beautiful, relaxing week in the summer of 2008, we were hooked. Since then, it’s a place that has become dear to us, a part of the fabric of our family, where we have made hundreds of memories.
Fun in the sun at Kiptopeke State Park
To get to Kiptopeke, we travel to Virginia Beach and cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.
There’s a fee to cross, but it’s well worth it. The novelty of crossing a 20-mile bridge with two tunnels never quite wears off, either for the kids or for my highway-inspector husband. As we exit the bridge onto the Eastern Shore, it’s clear that we’ve left the hustle and bustle of Virginia Beach behind. “You’ll love our nature,” proclaims the sign that greets us. And we sure do. Kiptopeke State Park is a short three miles from the bridge.
It’s often advertised for its fishing and bird watching, but we see it as a great place for a family vacation, as do the other families we see there every year.
It’s got everything we need—a large beach with gentle waves, plenty of flat bike trails easy enough for the kids, a pier for fishing and crabbing, a large playground and picnic area, the most unique camp store we’ve ever seen, a butterfly garden, and absolutely gorgeous scenery.
Kiptopeke is known for its fishing, but we love it for many more real reasons!
The campground at Kiptopeke is more open than at some state parks, but the sites are still quite spacious, even accommodating large RV’s.
About half of the sites are shaded. We usually stay in a site under the pine trees on one side, and we’ve recently started choosing our site based on two well-placed trees for our hammock. Although we can’t see the ocean from our campsite, it’s just a short walk over the dunes or bike ride down the road (a bike lane makes it a safe ride for the kids). We love the fact that we don’t need to drive at all; we walk or ride our bikes everywhere we want to go within the park. Kiptopeke is one of only two parks in Virginia with full hook-up sites, making it easy for us to stay for an extended period of time.
Great bike riding for the whole family
There is always plenty to do for the kids at Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke is non commercial fun!
What I love most about Kiptopeke is that it is real.
We appreciate the beauty and the nature for what it is, rather than for the commercialism that often surrounds vacation destinations. My kids’ memories of the beach don’t include amusement park rides or pizza parlors on the boardwalk. Instead, they will remember breakfasts outside under the pines while an ocean breeze drifts by. . . glimpsing a deer in the underbrush beside the trail. . . .learning to crab or geocache from the park interpreters. . . long lazy days playing in the surf and digging in the sand. . .and biking home to the sound of the cicadas after watching a gorgeous sunset. They know that it’s a rite of passage when Daddy hands you the backpack along with two dollars and sends you (alone!) to the camp store to get a bag of ice, and they save their spare change so that they can pick out ice cream from the freezer or caramel creams from the jar beside the cash register while they’re there.
And the night life at Kiptopeke can’t be beat!
Every evening after dinner at our campsite, we head to the beach to watch the sun set over the bay. There are no words to describe the beauty. It’s as if creation puts on a show every night and generously allows us to witness--it never gets old. We usually head into the nearby town of Cape Charles once each year to eat dinner out, but we always make sure to time it so that we don’t miss sunset. In recent years, we’ve begun fishing and crabbing in the evenings, and the colors are just as beautiful from the fishing pier.
The nightlife at Kiptopeke State Park can't be beat!
The Wright Family loves watching the sunset at Kiptopeke!
Each year has got its own milestones and special memories.
Two of our three children learned to ride a bike without training wheels in the picnic area near the playground (the youngest, incidentally, learned at James River State Park, but that’s another story). There was the year we arrived to find the “LOVE” chairs that had magically appeared since the previous summer. And my recollection of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London will always include five lawn chairs of various sizes crowded around a tiny TV under our awning outside the camper. As the kids grow, we look forward to new adventures—trails we haven’t explored before, or maybe venturing out into the bay in kayaks.
The beach is perfect for our family at Kiptopeke State Park
In case you haven’t decided on a family vacation destination for the upcoming summer, I’d encourage you to check out Kiptopeke State Park.
Several days on the Eastern Shore might be just what you need to let go of the stress and demands of your busy life. It’s easy on your budget, and you’ll marvel at the beauty. There is no better place for a family to enjoy being together. Just make sure to save us a campsite under the pines—preferably one with trees for the hammock.