If you’re thinking of joining the snowbirds heading south this fall (or returning north in the spring), you also are probably thinking about stopping in the Norfolk/Hampton area along the way. After all, Norfolk is Mile Zero of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway so unless you’re cruising offshore, you’ll be there.
Norfolk, of course, is the Navy’s largest base in the world, and it’s busy with military and commercial traffic. Hampton, next door, shares its rich history and offers more marinas and facilities for cruising boat owners. If you just want to start down the Waterway itself, go south 12 miles to the Atlantic Yacht Basin, one of the best, and best-protected, full-service marinas I’ve ever visited.
The entire area is steeped in history. Three English ships entered Hampton Roads and explored the James River in 1607 and settled there, creating the oldest, continuous English-speaking settlement in the New World. Nearby Jamestown and Colonial Williamsburg are more than worthy of a visit if you’re spending more than a day there.
And during the Civil War Hampton Roads was where the first ironclads in the world, the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (built on the remnants of the USS Merrimack) fought to a draw on March 9, 1862. In a savage four-hour battle (pictured above), the captain of the Monitor was blinded and the captain of the Virginia was wounded.
Things are more peaceful today. Here’s a great story from Southern Boating with lots of details of what you’ll find on the water, and on shore, in Hampton and environs. Read more: