We've been pretty housebound since the move a few months ago, and I've been getting antsy. After thinking about the fact that we really haven't explored much of Virginia at all, we decided to hit the beach. In typical family fashion we decided this about 24 hours before our trip-spontaneity is kind of a family trait for us. So we started South for what the map says is a three hour drive without traffic (haha!).
There is no such things as "without traffic" around here, but eventually we made it to the boardwalk. On first impression, it immediately reminded me of other East coast beach towns (especially with the plains flying advertisements over the water). We found some street parking and made it to the sand, which was extremely hot as it was probably over 90 degrees-perfect beach weather. The heat drove us straight into the waves. The kids had a great time chasing the waves, Brian played marine biologist (which, to be fair, is one of his degrees) by rescuing a shark egg case, and I enjoyed the shade from the umbrella we rented on the beach.
After a few hours, we headed to our hotel (we love using priceline to find hotels now) and changed and rested a bit before heading back to the boardwalk for the evening. After hearing the wait times at a few restaurants (I don't do more than five minutes now-a-days) we finally found a place that had some pretty good pizza, and gelato! We then rented a family bicycle which was kind of perfect for getting around the board walk without our children dictating a slow pace. We weren't sure we'd fit in the smallest size bike (but didn't want the weight of a large one with only two peddlers), but we did. Elijah and Thomas sat in the basket the first half, until Thomas started wiggling and we traded him with Theo. It was great to see all the street entertainment and we even stopped for a bit to watch a one-man play about the Dictator ship wreck that had my boys all captivated.
The next morning, we decided to go for an early hike at First Landing State Park, as we wanted to check out some of the swamps the area is famous for. Like the nearby Great Dismal Swamp, this state park is come to a very unique bald Cypress swamp. (Who ever thought I'd want to go to a swamp on vacation... I think I've officially come to terms with being a boy mom.) We picked up a $0.50 trail guide (the older boys earned a quarter each for playing the quiet game earlier on the road), and enjoyed the very easy hike through this beautiful ecosystem. Bald Cypress Nature Trail is located right behind the visitors' center, and is less than two miles making it great for the kids. We tried to carry Thomas in his carrier, but he ended up just being carried in our arms most of the hike. A good jogging stroller may be able to make it through most of the trail, but we didn't want to try that. For families worried about the distance of the trail, at least walk back through the boardwalk and check out the beautiful swamp. It is something. The Spanish moss, and bald cypress trees with their knees was exactly what you think of when you hear the word swamp. The boys claimed it was a little scary, but I thought it was perfectly mystical.
We headed back to the beach, this time traveling a little farther away from the crowds down past the oceanfront to Sandbridge beach. Unlike the West Coast which is a rocky coast with lots of cliffs and tide pools, I remembered the East coast has many more sand bars with bay and ocean sides. The coastline consists of marshes, swamps, and islands connected by bridges. I had hoped we could just keep on going down the coast line and venture into North Carolina just a bit (I've never been to this border state of ours), but alas there is a Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the way that is the end of the road. If any of our boys ever get really into airplanes though, we can take them to Kitty Hawk because we were so close to it, but needed to take a different route to get into North Carolina. Nonetheless, Sandbridge was nice, with less crowds (but also less amenities, no bathrooms, umbrellas for rent, restaurants, or shops). We had a hoard of ghost crabs that were torturing me (though no else seemed to be scared of them) and enjoyed our time, especially making a castle/playpen for the babe.
My husband, ever the scientist, actually brought some glassware down so he could collect some of the ocean water to use in his lab (and good news, he was able to make a marinobacter virus after working late all week after our trip).
(Written July 21, photos added a month later.)