The West End Mom
An Easy Beach Trip: 5 Beaches less than 2 hours from Richmond
Updated: May 29, 2022
With Memorial Day & summer days headed our way, we are looking for ways to stay cool! When traveling with kids, we usually can't take a day trip that requires 2 or more hours in the car without a lot of pit stops. Luckily, Virginia has a bunch of lakes & rivers that are much faster to get to than driving to the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
Here are 5 local swimming beaches that are family-friendly & less than 2 hours from Richmond.
1. Belle Isle State Park: This state park is located about an hour and half from Richmond on the Northern Neck's Rappahannock River. It has 7 miles of shoreline, including access to Mulberry & Deep Creeks. The trails are perfect for hiking & biking, and they have a boat/canoe launch & dock. There are three picnic shelters, too. The park is open daily 8 to dusk, and you can rent bikes, canoe and kayak daily from 9-3. This park has a $5 parking fee.
We like this park because you can explore wetlands, farmland & forest, plus the playground overlooks the beach. While the beach is narrow, my littles really enjoy playing here.
When we visit Belle Isle State Park, we always stop at NN Burger in Tappahannock. The milkshakes are delicious! Another fun adventure to add on is a visit to Tom Rhodes' Enchanted Forest.
*Check here for my review of Tom Rhodes' Enchanted Forest in Warsaw.
2. Colonial Beach: Located about an hour from Richmond, this beach is on the banks of the Potomac. While this beach gets crowded on summer days, we can usually find street parking before 10 in the morning even on weekends.
We like this beach because the waves are small, so it's perfect for children and families. It's the second largest beach in Virginia, and there are a bunch of fun things to do around it. Colonial Beach has over 20 restaurants, and the boardwalk has shops & a golf cart LoveWorks sign on it. We like eating at Dockside Restaurant & Tiki Bar, and the outside patio is family friendly. There's sand under the tables - my littles loved playing in it while we eat.
*Colonial Beach is less than 20 minutes from Westmoreland State Park. It has trails and beaches, including the popular Fossil Beach.
3. Lake Anna State Park: This 3,127 acre state park has 10 miles of lake frontage, and it's just an hour & 5 minutes from Richmond. It's open from 7 am to dusk, and the beach has unguarded swimming. This is one of Virginia's most popular beaches, and this is a great spot for families. We love it because there are no waves, and it has a playground & bathrooms near the beach.
The park also has a snack bar that is open Memorial Day through Labor Day next to the beach. It costs $7 for parking ($10 on weekends in April-October). Parking is in front of the beach, but there are a lot of stairs down to the beach. You could pull a wagon down the hill, but a stroller wouldn't work.
If we don't stay at the park all day, we love adding a meal at The Cove to our trip. You can eat on their deck overlooking the lake plus there is a lot of activity for little ones to see! We have also rented boats from Sturgeon Creek Marina during our day trips. The pontoon boats are fun for special occasions like Memorial Day, Father's Day & July 4th.
*Parking fills up quickly during the summer. The park rangers will close the park road when the parking lot is full - it won't reopen to new guests until people leave.
Check here for the park's Memorial Day activities. All programs require advanced registration.
On your way to Lake Anna, you will pass this cute playground and LOVEworks sign in Mineral.
4. Jamestown Beach: This beach is just over an hour from Richmond in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown Beach is ADA accessible, family & dog-friendly. The beach is open from 8AM to sunset. The bathrooms & concession stand are open from Memorial Day to Labor Day from noon to 5 (week days) and noon to 6 (weekends). This beach has kayak rentals & a designated fishing area.
Parking is relatively close & there is a drop off location (stroller/wagon friendly). There is a parking fee from Memorial Day to Labor Day: $4 (weekdays) and $7 (weekends & holidays). There is also a 2.95% fee on credit/debit cards.
We like this beach because the waves are very small, and there are so many family-friendly attractions in the Historic Triangle. Also, Billsburg Brewery is nearby, and it's on the Jamestown Yacht Basin.
*Check here for my full review of Jamestown Beach & here for my review of VDOT's Ferry.
5. Yorktown Beach: Located in Historic Yorktown, this local beach has 2 acres of beachfront on the York River. This beach is incredibly family friendly with lots of room to play in the sand and shallow water. The only waves come from boats leaving the docks - these are so much fun to watch! Next to the beach are public bathrooms and outdoor showers to rinse off sand. There is a new Mobi-Mat that accommodates strollers, wagons and wheelchairs, making this beach accessible for everyone. It is free to park, and the walk from the different parking lots is stroller/wagon friendly.
When we visit, we enjoy eating at Yorktown Pub. The outdoor patio is tented & overlooks the beach. The food portions are generous & my children loved the grilled cheese & chicken tender meals. We also never miss visiting Ben & Jerry's; it's just a short walk from the beach.
While there are a lot of jellyfish, this is one of our favorite local beaches because of the quaint town atmosphere, the free trolley, and the restaurants along the Riverwalk.
Tips & Tricks:
1) These beaches are popular. Arrive early to find parking & to beat the crowd.
2) Colonial Beach & Yorktown Beach both have a traditional beach atmosphere with a boardwalk & restaurants close by. Jamestown Beach & Lake Anna State Park both have concessions open from Memorial Day to Labor Day. We usually pack everything we need for a day trip to Belle Isle State Park.
3) Make sure you bring your own tent or umbrella for shade! It gets really hot on these beaches because they have full sun. Most of our lake & river beaches don't have a place to rent these items either.
4) My children stay in the shallow water where we can see the bottom. If you're more adventurous, be careful of the beaches with rocks (sharp!) & wear water shoes.
5) All state parks have a parking fee. If you have a REI receipt, it has a coupon for free parking at state parks at the bottom of it.
*Check here for my summer must-haves!