False Cape State Park is an hour south of Virginia Beach, located at 4001 Sandpiper Road, Virginia Beach. The state park lies between Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia and Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge across the adjacent border in North Carolina. False Cape is one of the last remaining coastal areas left pristine and undisturbed and offers few facilities. Within the park, there are activities appealing to outdoor enthusiasts who appreciate a secluded, unspoiled backdrop. There are both day-trip opportunities within the park or, with False Cape State Park camping available, visitors can stay for a longer vacation.
False Cape is surrounded by unusual history: in the nineteenth century, it was referred to as a ship’s graveyard. The name came to be for the geographical makeup that took the form of a cape resembling a local one named Cape Henry. The cape was known to beckon boats toward shore yet the waters were so shallow most of them capsized. The immediate area, named Wash Woods, was settled by people involved in area shipwrecks and many of the town’s buildings, like the local church, were constructed of materials (mainly cypress wood) salvaged from a shipwreck.
Getting to False Cape State Park by any type of vehicle is impossible because the park is completely landlocked. Access is gained by hiking or cycling interior trails, by way of the beach through Back Bay, or by canoe or boat. Between November 1 and March 31 each year, hiking trails are closed but access is possible via the Terra Gator, a specially designed 4X4 vehicle traversing the beach toward False Cape. It departs Little Island City Park in Virginia Beach each day at 9:00 a.m. and returns at 1:00 p.m. for a round-trip totaling an hour and a half. If heading to the park for a day trip, there is a two-hour window for exploring the beach and hiking trails.
False Cape State Park camping is perfect for extended stays in the 4,000-acre natural setting. There are a dozen campsites on the peninsula, each requiring reservations through the State Park Reservation Office. False Cape State Park camping sites are divided into four specific areas called Barbour Hill Ocean, Barbour Hill Bay, False Cape Landing Ocean, and False Cape Landing Bay. Altogether, the site arrangement forms a square with sites separated in each of the four corners creating very private settings. With only a dozen sites, the beaches are often secluded, creating a spectacular natural setting for vacations and a place to truly enjoy nature.
Things to do in the park included fishing, canoeing, hiking, cycling, and swimming. There are several top-rated biking and hiking trails including Back Bay Wildlife Refuge, Barbour Hill Interpretive Trail, Dudley Island Trail, Ocean Bay Trail, and six others leading through pine forests, beaches, sand dunes, bays, and marshes. With coasts on either side, both saltwater and freshwater fishing is possible. Within the bay there are several open areas and docks to use to fish for flounder, skates, croaker, and spot fish. If fishing on the Atlantic side, it’s not uncommon to see humpback whales, bottlenose dolphins, or sea turtles, which means hanging out along the Atlantic coast side, even if not fishing, can offer some of the best sightseeing in False Cape State Park.
Image: propros (flickr)