Article Summary: National Parks Near Virginia Beach
National Parks near Virginia Beach. There’s so much more to this waterfront paradise than the feel of the sand and the sounds of the water. In this article, More Than Just Parks takes you to five incredible national park sites that are within a day’s drive of Virginia Beach.
I’ve been to so many of these amazing places since retiring from teaching in 2018. Did I mention that I taught history? I spent a lifetime teaching about the history behind these momentous sites. Then I got to see them firsthand. And now I’m sharing the stories of these incredible places with you. It doesn’t get any better than that!
Virginia Beach is known for its flourishing local dining scene, arts and entertainment, maritime history, and family-friendly attractions.
It also features its own unique districts that offer experiences for everyone to enjoy. It’s no surprise the Oceanfront and 3-mile boardwalk is the center of the action in Virginia Beach.
It’s also home to some amazing national parks which are a day’s drive (or less) from the city.
So, What Is A National Park?
We get asked that question a lot because there’s a difference between a “national park” and a “national park site.” To help you understand that difference you might want to check out our article titled: What Is A National Park Really?
If you’re planning a trip to Virginia Beach then one book that I highly recommend is: Moon Virginia: With Washington D.C.
Now let’s go ahead with 5 reasons why you’ll want to hop in your car and make a day’s drive from Virginia Beach to one of these truly amazing places.
Table Of Contents: National Parks Near Virginia Beach
National Parks Near Virginia Beach
- Best National Parks Near Virginia Beach
- More National Parks Near Virginia Beach
- National Parks Near Virginia Beach FAQ
- Meet The Parks Brothers
- Map Of National Parks Near Virginia Beach
- We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Best National Parks Near Virginia Beach
1. Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
Distance From Virginia Beach: Three hours & 17 minutes via I-64 W.
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park marks the site of one of the most significant events in American history: the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 1865. The surrender effectively ended the Civil War, bringing four years of conflict to a close.
The site of the surrender was originally a small village known as Clover Hill, which contained a court house, jail, and a few homes. The court house became a symbol of Confederate defeat and was visited by thousands of people each year. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, local residents and organizations worked to preserve the site and its historic structures.
In the 1930s, the National Park Service began acquiring land and buildings in the area, and in 1940, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park was established. The park has since been expanded and now includes the McLean House, where the surrender was signed, as well as several other historic structures and museum exhibits that tell the story of the Civil War and its aftermath.
Today, Appomattox Court House National Historical Park is a popular destination for visitors from around the world, who come to learn about the events that took place there and to reflect on the impact of the Civil War on American history.
RELATED: 10 BEST CIVIL WAR SITES IN AMERICA
2. Cape Henry Memorial
Distance From Virginia Beach: 12 minutes via Atlantic Ave.
The Cape Henry Memorial commemorates the first landfall at Cape Henry, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, of colonists bound for the Jamestown settlement. After landing on April 26, 1607, they explored the area, named the cape, and set up a cross before proceeding up the James River.
Visitors to this historic site can see the statue of Admiral Comte DeGrasse. On September 5, 1781, the Battle of the Capes took place just off these sand dunes. Local residents might have lined these shores to watch as French and English naval forces engaged in an epic sea battle.
It is because of Admiral deGrasse, commander of the French fleet sent to support the American cause, that the British were unable to relieve Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown. This sea battle was critical in securing America’s independence from England by assuring Cornwallis was trapped at Yorktown.
Visitors can also see the Granite Cross erected in 1935 by the National Society Daughters of the American Colonists, in memory of the original wooden cross.
I also recommend checking out the Cape Henry Lighthouse. It has long served to protect and guide vessels entering and leaving the Chesapeake Bay.
RELATED: 10 BEST REVOLUTIONARY WAR SITES IN AMERICA
3. Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
Distance From Virginia Beach: Two hours & 28 minutes via I-64 W & I-95 N.
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park preserves and interprets the sites of several significant battles of the American Civil War.
The park covers more than 8,000 acres and includes battlefields, monuments, and historic structures related to the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Court House.
The earliest battle in the park was the Battle of Fredericksburg, which took place in December 1862. Union forces under General Ambrose Burnside launched a series of assaults on Confederate positions in the city of Fredericksburg, but were ultimately unable to break through and were forced to withdraw.
The Battle of Chancellorsville, which took place in May 1863, was a significant victory for Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who was able to defeat a larger Union force despite being outnumbered.
The Battle of the Wilderness, fought in May 1864, was the first engagement between Lee and Union General Ulysses S. Grant, who had taken command of the Union army. The battle was a bloody and intense struggle that resulted in heavy losses on both sides.
The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, which took place in May 1864, was another bloody battle that saw both sides suffer heavy losses.
After The Civil War
After the war, the battlefields and related sites at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania were largely neglected and allowed to return to their natural state.
In the early 20th century, local organizations and individuals began working to preserve the sites and commemorate the battles that took place there.
In 1927, the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Battlefields Memorial National Military Park was established, and in 1978, it was renamed Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park.
Today, the park is a popular destination for visitors interested in the Civil War, and it offers a wide range of interpretive programs, including ranger-led tours, exhibits, and battlefield walks.
The park is also an important site for historical research and is used by educators and students to study the Civil War and its impact on American history.
RELATED: 15 MUST-SEE HISTORIC SITES IN VIRGINIA
More National Parks Near Virginia Beach
4. Manassas National Battlefield
Distance From Virginia Beach: Two hours & 34 minutes via US-15 N & US-29 N.
On July 21, 1861, two armies clashed for the first time on the fields overlooking Bull Run. The First Manassas or First Battle of Bull Run resulted in thousands of lives lost and is referred to as the first major land battle of the American Civil War.
The battle began when about 35,000 Union troops, led by General Irwin McDowell marched from the federal capital in Washington, D.C. to strike a Confederate force of 20,000, led by General Pierre G.T. Beauregard, along a small river known as Bull Run.
After fighting on the defensive for most of the day, the rebel forces under the leadership of General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson rallied and were able to break the Union right flank, sending the Federals into a chaotic retreat towards Washington.
The Confederate victory gave the South a surge of confidence and shocked many in the North, who realized the war would not be won as easily as they had hoped.
Second Battle Of Manassas
The Confederates named the first battle after the town of Manassas. The Union named it Bull Run after a stream running through the battlefield area. There were actually two battles fought there.
The Second Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) proved to be the deciding battle in the Civil War campaign waged between Union and Confederate armies in northern Virginia in 1862.
As a large Union force commanded by John Pope waited for George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in anticipation of a combined offensive, Confederate General Robert E. Lee decided to strike first.
McClellan failed to reinforce Pope while Lee and his top lieutenant, Stonewall Jackson, achieved an unambiguous Southern victory, which solidified General Robert E. Lee’s reputation as a brilliant tactician and paved the way for his first invasion of the North.
TAKE A DEEPER DIVE
So many books have been written about the Civil War and the various battles that took place. Of course, the big three authors when it comes to war are, in my humble opinion, Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote and James M. McPherson.
What these three have written are the best collections of books encompassing the war as a whole. You can’t go wrong with any of these authors.
My personal favorite is Shelby Foote. I have read his fabulous three volume history of the Civil War–twice!
Things To Do At Manassas
Manassas National Battlefield Park encompasses nearly 5,100 acres of land and includes more than 40 miles of hiking trails. The park has developed a series of loop trails that traverse key areas of the First and Second Manassas Battlefields.
Many of these recommended routes include trailside interpretive markers describing the battle action that occurred in that area and highlight the experiences of soldiers and civilians alike.
CHECK OUT: 25 BUCKET-LIST FAMOUS LANDMARKS IN AMERICA (MUST-SEE)
5. Shenandoah National Park
Distance From Virginia Beach: One hour & 13 minutes via State Route 6/VA-6 W.
Shenandoah National Park features over 200,000 acres of protected lands that are haven to deer, songbirds, and black bear, there’s so much to explore.
If you’re feeling lazy then a great way to see the park is along Skyline Drive. The Skyline Drive runs 105 miles north and south along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Shenandoah National Park and is the only public road through the park.
It takes about three hours to travel the entire length of the Park on a clear day. Or you could take a mountain bike or a road bike along Skyline Drive and on all paved areas in Shenandoah National Park.
If you’re looking for more of a challenge Shenandoah National Park has 196,000+ acres of backcountry and wilderness and over 500 miles of trails to explore. For a rugged adventure there’s backcountry camping.
By its very nature it’s a primitive experience that allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and challenge of this natural wonderland.
Don’t Forget Your Fishing Pole And Your Camera
There’s also 500 of hiking trails to choose from. Or you might want to bring a fishing pole along as the park contains over 90 mountain streams and their minor tributaries. Over 70 of those streams contain fish, and most of those 70 contain native brook trout.
And don’t forget to bring your camera as you’ll want to photograph the incredible wildlife you’ll see during the day and the brilliant night sky you’ll experience after the sun goes down.
National Parks Near Virginia Beach FAQ
National Parks Near Virginia Beach:
Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
Cape Henry Memorial
Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park. More National Parks Near Virginia Beach
Manassas National Battlefield
Shenandoah National Park
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
New River Gorge National Park and Preserve
Bluestone National Scenic River
Gauley River National Recreation Area
Why Trust Us About National Parks Near Virginia Beach?
We’re Jim Pattiz and Will Pattiz, collectively known as the Pattiz Brothers (and sometimes the Parks Brothers) and we absolutely LOVE the national parks.
You should probably know that we don’t just make this stuff up out of thin air. We’ve spent our entire adult lives exploring and filming America’s national parks and public lands.
We’ve worked with the National Park Service, the Department of Interior, USDA, and the U.S. Forest Service for years creating films on important places and issues. Our work has been featured in leading publications all over the world and even some people outside of our immediate family call us experts on the national parks.
Meet The Parks Brothers
Map Of National Parks Near Virginia Beach
List Of National Parks Near Virginia Beach
- Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
- Cape Henry Memorial
- Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park
- Manassas National Battlefield
- Shenandoah National Park
We Hope You’ll Follow Our Journey
Our goal here at More Than Just Parks is to share the beauty of America’s national parks and public lands through stunning short films in an effort to get Americans and the world to see the true value in land conservation.
We hope you’ll follow our journey through the parks and help us to keep them the incredible places that they are. If you’re interested in joining the adventure then please sign up below!
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