A recent cousin campout at First Landing State Park was filled with sand, swimming, and laughter. There was not much sleeping.
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Growing up in Virginia Beach, we occasionally camped. When we did, there was only one campground we even considered. First Landing State Park, nestled on the Chesapeake Bay, has easy trails to the beach, playgrounds, and beautiful oak trees.
We went back a few weeks ago for a friend's birthday party. When the friend had to cancel due to a sick child (unfortunate 2020 reasons to cancel) we pressed on with my sister and her family.
Know this about my camping skills: I have none. I bring nothing to the outdoors tent /cabin / trav-L-park scenario except a good attitude. Basically, I can't contribute, but I won't complain.
Camping trips have long been the more affordable vacation for families, especially big families. We have four kids, making us a multiple hotel room-sized group and the rented beach house is a once a year event. Add to these factors, a never-ending pandemic, and the camping trip with all the ventilation of nature comes out on top.
Just remember that if you don't sleep.
First Landing State Park is located off Shore Drive in Virginia Beach. It's around the corner from the oceanfront and provides an inexpensive alternative to the beach vacation. Across the street from the campground entrance, you can access the trails and The Narrows, a small beach on the waterway that connects Broad Bay and Linkhorn Bay.
The Campground is on the dunes of the Chesapeake Bay. Campsites for tent camping and campers come in a range of sizes. Twenty cabins are available for rental. Campsites and cabins can be rented between March and December.
The cousins were super excited to be together with flashlights, glow sticks, and sleeping bags. We just had to get the tents up.
Our families had two campsites next to each other. Which meant that we could spread out our four tents, move them, and then move them again until everyone felt satisfied. Once the tents were up we enjoyed the take-out pizza we had planned for dinner, explored a little bit, and headed to the bay.
Our family never tires of the BEACH part of Virginia Beach. First Landing State Park offers the best of beach camping without actually sleeping on the beach.
The kids quickly found the walkway to the beach, a few minutes from our campsite. Swimming in the bay is dreamy with young kids- shallow forever and no waves. PLUS, if you want to see the sunset over the water, the Chesapeake Bay is your spot. We played in the water, took in the sunset, washed our feet, and headed back to the campsite.
Want to make a memorable campfire after a season filled with s'mores? I recommend these massive marshmallows. Kids just like things bigger. Bigger marshmallows means bigger s'mores. Or more fire if you really like to roast with flames...
My parents crashed our campfire since they live at the south end of the beach. They wanted to be part of the fun. Actually I think they came to laugh at us about how they were going back to their beds.
Then the night officially began. It seemed smooth at first. The kids settled into their various tents and the adults hung around the campfire for another hour or so. We noticed the sweet sounds of nature but didn't think it would get disruptive. It did.
There seems to be a Colony of Extroverted Frogs living precisely between Campsites 32 and 33 at First Landing State Park. Are all frogs nocturnal? Surely nocturnal does not mean "up all night?"
These were my thoughts as I passed between my kid's tents, turning on noise machine apps, looking for pieces of nature to be organic earplugs, and perhaps, taking turns at my niece's toddler potty.
It was a wild night. Nature is so beautiful. It's restorative in a stressful time. But wow, nature is not quiet.
We stumbled out of our tents in the morning. (It was obvious it was morning because the frogs had gone silent) Once we ate a healthy breakfast of pop tarts and made the quick hike over the dunes to swim in the bay, all was great again. Who needs to sleep really when there is the great outdoors to explore?!
Should you take on your own camping adventure at First Landing State Park, I recommend you pack a few key items. A swimsuit, bug spray, more bug spray when you lose the first bottle, a battery-operated noise machine, and earplugs. Oh and baby wipes, just trust me. We went through a whole pack just wiping off sticky marshmallow hands.
If you are thinking of camping, First Landing is a great place for a first camping trip or a 101st. It's beautiful and bay swimming can't be beat. Plus, off of Shore Drive you are not far from a number of food options if your campfire cooking skills are limited. The Virginia Beach boardwalk is also a few minutes away with plenty of options for play and dining.
Because, remember, camping is for everyone. Some of us may appear less successful than others... but if you judge by the amount of laughter afterward and re-told stories, our sleepless group still won.