Ready for a getaway from Norfolk but short on time? These quick trips can be made in just one day, having you back by dinnertime and making the most of a weekend.
Five of the best day trips from Norfolk
Cape Charles, Virginia
This quiet, quaint beach town has a distinctly Victorian feel (famed house bloggers Young House Love renovated two homes here and ) in its lovely historic district. Located about an hour away from Norfolk, this peaceful locale also has plenty of on-the-water activities, from paddle boarding to crabbing to catching a sunset over the water, and one of Virginia’s most scenic state parks, Kiptopeke, nearby.
Colonial Williamsburg is a must-visit for history buffs, with a meticulously reconstructed colonial village that includes actors in full period dress bringing history to life through tours of the Governor’s Palace, workshop demonstrations, and more. About an hour away from Norfolk, this Historic Triangle area also includes Jamestown, the first English settlement in America near where Pocahontas and John Smith once lived, and Yorktown, where America’s independence was won.
But history isn’t all this area has to offer. Williamsburg is also home to a winery; Busch Gardens amusement park, where members of the military can visit free once each year; and world-class golf and shopping outlets that make this small town worth a visit.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia
Off the coasts of Virginia and Maryland, this tiny island and its next-door neighbor Assateague Island are famed for the wild horses that run along the shores. Located about two hours away from Norfolk, these islands have a bevy of outdoor activities, but it’s the ponies that steal the show.
Craving big city excitement but don’t want to drive to Washington, D.C.? Visit Richmond instead for a cultural fix. With the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and a nationally recognized restaurant scene, Virginia’s state capital packs a big city feel into a midsized town. About an hour and a half from Norfolk, Richmond is also located along the James River, making it the perfect spot for outdoor enthusiasts. With tubing and kayaking along class III and IV rapids, a series of nature trails, and its urban setting, it’s no wonder readers of Outside Magazine recently voted Richmond the greatest river town in America.
Richmond is also home to a multitude of museums dedicated to showing all facets of life and history of the city and its role in America, from the Civil War to modern Black history. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is now home to a Kehinde Wiley statue, the artist who rose to mainstream prominence for his presidential portrait of President Obama. Richmond’s acquisition of the famed artwork highlights the city’s growing role within the national arts community.
The Outer Banks, North Carolina
North Carolina’s famed Outer Banks is a perfect getaway any time of year. The birthplace of American flight, these islands are home to Kitty Hawk, with its burgeoning hang gliding industry; beach and water fun; and the setting for many Nicholas Spark’s novels. With miles of pristine white beaches to explore and numerous small towns to choose from, the Outer Banks is a getaway you can return to again and again.
The full Outer Banks experience can encompass a long weekend or a week of relaxation, but for a day trip, stop in the small town of Duck, North Carolina for the homemade Duck Donuts, farm-to-table restaurant favorite The Blue Pointe, and a stroll down the scenic boardwalk. Located on the northern tip of the Outer Banks islands, Duck is only about an hour and a half from Norfolk (though expect more traffic in the high seasons).
Kate Lewis has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, and is the monthly book critic for Military Families Magazine. Find her online @katehasthoughts and join our book club here!Read comments