Virginia’s Best Towns for Paddlers

Shenandoah River Outfitters on South Fork River

Paddling in Virginia has never been better – or easier, with the rise of paddling trails, more put-ins and takeouts, and the opening of previously unpaddled waters. In Virginia, you can canoe or kayak the coastal environs of the Eastern Shore, Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach. Or you can go inland to freshwater rivers scenically coursing through the Piedmont. And then there’s the mountains where boisterous rivers sing through the Appalachian highlands. Outfitters operate throughout the state, helping with kayak and canoe rentals as well as shuttles.

To sweeten the pot, Virginia features paddling towns where the nexus of excellent paddling, exciting places to eat and drink, as well as off the water attractions combine to create ideal vacation getaways for kayakers and canoers like us. Explore towns like Luray and Front Royal, nestled on the banks of the South Fork Shenandoah River, where you can paddle, hike, camp, explore caves, plus discover additional attractions. Food and landward fun add to the Virginia paddling experience.

So read on to find Virginia’s best towns for paddlers and create your base camp of fun on and off the water.


Nearby Waters: South Fork Shenandoah River, North Fork Shenandoah River, Shenandoah River

Nearby Outfitters: Shenandoah River Outfitters, Skyline Canoe, Downriver Canoe, Front Royal Canoe

Paddling Opportunities: The South Fork Shenandoah River winds for 97 miles through its valley, bordered by Shenandoah National Park to the east and Massanutten Mountain to the west. Characterized by sweeping bends and clear water, the South Fork is primarily Class I waters, with some Class II spots. Several outfitters operate on the river, if you are in need of kayak or canoe rental or a shuttle. The state of Virginia avails 20 public boat ramps along the South Fork, making varied trips easy. Nearby, the smaller North Fork Shenandoah River, across Massanutten Mountain, provides additional paddling possibilities. Six public access points help boaters get on the water. The North Fork does have some dams, and is subject to low water in late summer. The South Fork is bordered in places by the Jefferson National Forest, making overnight trips a possibility.

The main stem of the Shenandoah River – where the South Fork and North Fork converge — begins at Riverton, near Front Royal, and presents 40 miles of big river floating before it flows into West Virginia near Berryville. Multiple access points allow day trips of different lengths.

Landward Outdoor Adventures around Front Royal and Luray: Luray and Front Royal are ideally suited to explore Shenandoah National Park, just a few miles distant. Tour the park on Skyline Drive, head to Big Meadows, visit some of the numerous waterfalls, overlooks and historic sights at Virginia’s biggest national park. A few miles distant, the George Washington National Forest presents additional outdoor opportunities. Overnight at Camp Roosevelt, site of the oldest Civilian Conservation Corp camp in the United States. Mountain bike the Massanutten Mountain Trail, a 71-mile loop path. Tackle the 40-mile network of Peters Mill and …read more

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Virginia: The Birthplace of American Democracy

Virginia Capital Trail

Virginia’s Capital Trail is a scenic 52-mile paved bike and pedestrian path spanning 400 years of American history and linking Virginia’s current State Capital in Richmond, an architectural masterpiece designed by Thomas Jefferson, with its predecessors in Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown, the birthplace of American democracy. With numerous entrance points and attractions throughout its course – from Richmond’s booming culinary scene, to the James River plantations below the Fall Line, to the charms of Colonial Williamsburg’s living museum, to the archeological walking tours of Historic Jamestowne and the adjoining full-scale interpretive model of Jamestown Settlement – the Virginia Capital Trail proves that Virginia truly is for History Lovers. Throughout the trail, visitors are able to engage in rich experiences that trace the roots of American democracy from the Commonwealth’s earliest days as a budding colony to Virginia’s leading role in forging the country’s independence from Great Britain.


Launched in 1607, the Virginia Colony marked the dawn of the British Empire. From conception, the colonization of Virginia was a for-profit enterprise. Those invested in the Virginia Company were categorized as either “Adventurers in purse” or “adventurers in person.” The former were financial investors, while the latter staked life and limb (a bet many of them lost) to settle the New World.

Initially, the adventurers of purse tended to be investors who remained in England in hopes of making handsome profits from the transatlantic diamond in the rough. This endeavor was heartily encouraged by King James I as England’s resources were badly depleted following years of war with Spain. The virgin resources of the New World colony were a tempting opportunity for those in the mother country to fill their purses with proceeds from an untapped and unspoiled wilderness. It was sold as easy pickings.

On the other hand, the adventurers of person were almost evenly divided into two categories: gentlemen and laborers. Those designated as “gentleman,” presumably sent to provide leadership and a whiff of civility. Added to this group was a six-man Council responsible for providing the rule of law. The other half was drawn from what was considered the “lower orders” – both highly skilled craftsmen and unskilled laborers. A quick scan down the list of settlers reveals the thinking behind what investors deemed necessary to get the colony off the ground: six carpenters, a bricklayer, a blacksmith, a tailor, a sailor, a barber and a preacher. The remaining 13 adult men were classified simply as “laborers” – lower-skilled jacks-of-all-trades with strong backs who with oversight could pitch in on the less technical tasks. Collectively, they served as a construction crew charged with building out the infrastructure for a later influx of settlers.


It was an inauspicious beginning. With gentlemen comprising too high a ratio among the settlers, the colony was top-heavy, illustrating the Virginia Company’s highly unrealistic expectations for easy gains. Recognizing the illogic of this approach, one plainspoken member of council, the legendary John Smith, sent a …read more

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Beyond the Coast: 25+ Beaches in Virginia for an Incredible Summer Vacation

Virginia Beach

If you have ever vacationed at the beach, there is a magical moment where you can just imagine staying in that one spot forever. It may be the slight breeze that carries the smell of salt water, the sound of crashing waves along the shoreline, or the feel of the fine grains of sand trickling through your fingers as you lie back and soak in the summer sun, but that exact moment is why we absolutely LOVE Virginia’s beautiful beaches. Plan your trip to one of these beaches to discover your own magic moment this summer.

—Oceanfront Beaches—

Take a dip in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean at these surfside beaches.


Straddling the eastern coast where the Atlantic and the Chesapeake Bay meet, Virginia Beach is the most popular of Virginia’s beaches, drawing thousands of visitors each year. The city is a sea-foodie dream, with the day’s catch often making it to the plates of local restaurants in just a few hours, and you can wash it all down with refreshments from one of the many coastal craft breweries. While on vacation, wake up early to catch the stunning sunrise over the ocean (and quite possibly see some dolphins frolicking in the waves!). If sunbathing is a bit too sedentary for you, take a walk or rent bikes to ride along the expansive Boardwalk.


assateague island

Wild ponies, pristine beaches, and miles of undeveloped shoreline…what’s not to love about Assateague Island National Seashore? The white sand beaches stretch along the northeastern coast of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, just a few miles from the charming town of Chincoteague. Climb the stairs of the Assateague Lighthouse, built in 1867, for awe-inspiring scenery as far as the eye can see in every direction. Keep an eye out for the wild ponies trotting through the sandy dunes, which were made famous by the best-selling children’s book Misty of Chincoteague.



Although technically part of the city of Virginia Beach, Sandbridge is very different from the oceanfront found at the heart of the city. This quiet, residential beach area attracts families looking for a peaceful oceanfront getaway away from the hustle and bustle of the Boardwalk. Instead of towering hotels, a bevy of rental homes border the beach sands, inviting families of every size to enjoy their own personal retreat just steps from the surf. The countless businesses and restaurants that draw the summer crowds to Virginia Beach are missing from Sandbridge, creating a more serene surfside alternative.

A Few More Beaches on the Atlantic Ocean:

—Beaches on the Chesapeake Bay—

Virginia’s Bay beaches are strewn along the coastline, from the Eastern Shore to the Northern Neck region.


<img src="" alt="cape charles beach" width="100%" height="100%" srcset=" 1200w, …read more

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