For snowbirds heading south soon, an overnight (or longer) stay in Hampton, Virginia, offers one of the better treats on the entire trip.
As the real estate people say, it’s all about location, location, location. And here, Hampton is pretty much at the top of the list. It’s almost next to Norfolk and Mile Zero of the ICW (the Julia Tuttle Causeway in Miami is at Mile 1,087), and it also offers a rich variety of marinas, history, museums, parks, restaurants, and things to see and do.
By boat, Hampton is easy to get to. It’s a natural harbor at the southeastern tip of the Virginia peninsula, surrounded by water on three sides. Heading south, it’s basically a straight shot from the lower Chesapeake; just aim for Hampton Roads. Heading north, pass through Norfolk and then look on your port side.
A boater-friendly community, Hampton has several full-service and smaller marinas. The Docks at Downtown Hampton (pictured above) have floating docks and are just steps away from Hampton’s historic area. The Bluewater Yachting Center is just a mile up the Hampton River; it can handle boats up to 200 feet and has a swimming pool and restaurant.
Hampton is a history-lover’s mecca. Old Point Comfort is where the English settlers first set foot in the New World in 1607. It’s also where the first Africans landed in 1619. The Old Point Comfort Lighthouse is the oldest one on the Bay.
Point Comfort is part of the Fort Monroe National Monument area; the fort is the largest stone fort in the U.S. and it’s where Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, was briefly imprisoned after the Civil War.
For more recent history, visit the Virginia Air & Space Center, where there are replicas of the Wright Flyer and the Apollo 12 Command Module, among others. It has an IMAX theater, and an interactive Space Explorer Gallery for kids.
If you want to stretch your legs, or enjoy a lot of waterfront views, Hampton has several walking and biking trails. The Chesapeake is a beautiful backdrop along the 3.9-mile Fort Monroe Seawall Trail. Sandy Bottom Nature Park has 11 different trail systems over a total of 12 miles. The Waterwalk at Central Park lasts 2.5 miles from the Power Plant shopping area to the Air Power Park.
There are many, many restaurants to choose from in Hampton. But my favorite is the Deadrise on the waterfront in Fort Monroe at the Old Point Comfort Marina. It’s run by my friend Joe Illes; say hello.