This public recreation area offers access to picturesque Chesapeake Bay as well as hiking trails, birdwatching and overnight accommodations.
Once explored by Captain John Smith, in 1608, it was named Kiptopeke (Big Water) in honor of the Accawmack Indians who befriended the early settlers.
A unique aspect of this picturesque Virginia State Park is the 9 decommissioned WWII ships that are filled with concrete and serve as a barrier to stop beach erosion.
During your visit to Kiptopeke State Park not only will you have the chance to swim, fish, boat, hike, picnic and camp but also to learn and explore.
This beautiful area has so much to discover, from its pristine maritime forest to its white sandy beaches and crystal blue water.
Each year, from Memorial Day until Labor Day, the park offers daily programs that focus on natural history, birding and appreciating all that the bay has to offer. Whether you visit for a day or stay for the week you’ll enjoy your time here.
Here are some of the activities that you can do during your visit to Kiptopeke State Park:
Swimming at Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State Park has 2 beautiful sandy beaches along the Chesapeake Bay. Both beaches contain nearly white fine-grained sand that’s perfect for sinking your bare feet into. Be aware that neither beach area is guarded and swimming is at your own risk.
The northern beach, almost a half mile long, is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day and doesn’t allow any boats, fishing or pets. The south beach area is open for swimming, fishing, crabbing and boating. And pets are allowed on this beach but must remain leashed.
Boating at Kiptopeke State Park
Kayak, canoe, jet ski or tube on beautiful Chesapeake Bay. Rentals of kayaks and paddle boards are available seasonally at the camp store. Kayaks must be launched from south beach or the designated kayak launch. And motorboats, which are allowed, may be launched from the park’s boat ramp.
Fishing at Kiptopeke State Park
Fishing from the concrete ships is ideal for anglers of all ages. If you’d rather stay on shore, a large lighted fishing pier is accessible 24 hours a day. There is a fee for using this pier – 13 and older, $5/day; children 6-12, $3/day; under 5, free.
You don’t need a fishing license to fish from the pier, but you will need one if you plan to fish from the shore.
And if you’re over the age of 16 and plan to fish from the pier you will need to register for the free Virginia Fisherman Identification Program.
Trails at Kiptopeke State Park
Scenic Kiptopeke State Park has more than 5 miles of trails ideal for hiking and mountain biking. These trails spread across the park and wind through the hardwood forest, past dunes and ponds and along the boardwalk and out to the beaches.
Extensive boardwalks connect the trails to the beach and showcase the interesting dune formation. Check out the park’s fun scavenger hunt or see if there are any hidden caches.
Here are a few of the popular trails inside the park:
- Baywoods, Raptor and Songbird Loop – An easy 2.9 trail through sand, grass and trees with spectacular views of the beach. You may notice a lot of wildlife and possibly a few deer tracks along this well marked path.
- Brown Pelican Trail – Another easy trail, 1.8 miles in length. This is a great trail for birdwatching as it overlooks the bay and leads down stairs toward the Peregrine Boardwalk. Bring binoculars and head out early in the morning and you may see dolphins close to the shoreline.
- Baywoods, Raptor and Taylor Pond Loop – This easy 1.9 mile series of trails leads past a small garden with local plants, flowers and butterflies on its way to Taylor Pond. You may notice fox and deer tracks along this path as well as many birds.
- Bald Eagle Boardwalk – A short .2 mile trail along the accessible boardwalk. Great views of the beach, dolphins and birds.
Wildlife Viewing at Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State Park lies along the Atlantic Flyway and has the largest and most unique migratory bird habitat. It’s a favorite location for bird watchers! And biologists document the migrating hawks here each fall. Hawkwatch occurs between September 1 and November 30 and is a popular time to visit the park.
Taylor Pond inside the park has two wildlife viewing blinds. Bring your binoculars for an up close look at osprey, bald eagles, falcons, hawks and many other birds, both native and migratory.
While exploring the trails within the park you’ll probably see many squirrels and deer and possibly rabbits, foxes, opossum, turtles, raccoons and bears.
Camping at Kiptopeke State Park
The park has 4 cabins, two sleep 6 and have 2 bedrooms and 1 bath and two sleep 8 and have 4 bedrooms and 2 baths. Each cabin has a fully equipped kitchen and combined dining and living room area, but does not have a dishwasher, washer/dryer, telephone, tv or linens.
The 5 lodges each have 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms and sleep up to 16. An open floor plan includes a kitchen, dining area and living room. They also each have a large front and back porch with a picnic table and grill.
Whether you stay in a cabin or lodge you will need to bring your own linens, pillows, warm blankets (it can get very chilly at night), food, dishwashing liquid, dish towels, coffee and filters, salt and pepper, bath towels and toiletries and activities such as board games, cards, magazines and books.
The 4 yurts are located in a wooded section of the park where there is more shade and privacy. Yurt 1 sleeps up to 6 and has heat, air conditioning and a refrigerator. This special yurt is only available from the first Friday in March until Labor Day.
The other 3 yurts each sleep 3 but do not have electricity, water, heat or air conditioning. These are available from the first Friday in March until the first Sunday in December.
All 4 yurts have a dining table, chairs, sofa, large wooden deck, picnic table, a grill, fire ring and water spigot. Campground bathhouses are about 500 feet away. No smoking, cooking or pets allowed inside. Bring your own linens and extra sleeping bags if needed.
The Bunkhouse, a 3 room climate controlled trailer, sleeps up to 14 and has 7 bunk beds, a refrigerator, microwave, coffeemaker and electric outlets. Outside of the bunkhouse is a deck, fire ring, and picnic shelter.
The campground at Kiptopeke State Park has 52 standard tent campsites and 93 sites that have water and electricity (20-, 30-, 50-amp) hookups, 27 of which also have sewer connections.
Laundry facilities are located inside of the bathhouses. The camp store sells local gifts, souvenirs, fishing and camping supplies, ice and snacks. And also has bike, kayak and paddle board rentals seasonally.
Pets at Kiptopeke State Park
Kiptopeke State Park is pet friendly throughout except inside facility buildings and at the north beach swimming area. Pets must be kept on a leash no longer than 6 feet or in an enclosed area.
There’s an additional $10 fee per pet per night for the bunkhouse, cabins and lodges. Please clean up after your pet and do not leave them unattended at any time.
Kiptopeke State Park
3540 Kiptopeke Dr
Cape Charles, VA 23310
Open Daily 6am to 10pm.
Pier is open 24 hours a day April 1–December 31
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Kiptopeke State Park: