Picture perfect: The break of day at Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach, VA, is a bustling city on the southeastern Atlantic Coast, bookended by a state park to the north and a national wildlife refuge to the south. High-rise condos and hotels face the ocean and line the lively boardwalk, but the skyline lowers and the crowds thin quickly as you head out of town. Stroll to the beach for the best views of the sunrise.
Sunrise times for Virginia Beach
Virginia Beach's annual Salute to Summer takes place over Memorial Day weekend, when the sun begins to rise around 5:45 a.m. The festival features music on three stages along the beach. On the Fourth of July, stake out a spot on the beach for the day – the sun rises a few minutes before 6, and fireworks begin at 9:30 p.m. By Labor Day, the traditional close to the summer season, the sun rises at around 6:37, and beach house rentals empty out, hotel rates start to drop and the crowds on the boardwalk thin. If seeing the sun rise over the ocean on New Year's Day is a bucket list item for you, be at a vantage point by around 7:15. Dress for the weather – the temps will probably be in the 30s.
Best places to watch the sunrise
The broad, 3-mile-long Virginia Beach boardwalk is the best place for an unobstructed view of the sun rising over the Atlantic Ocean. You'll have time to stretch your legs on the boardwalk or ride the distance on the dedicated bike lane because most restaurants serving breakfast don't open until 7 a.m.
If you book a room in one of the many oceanfront hotels or if you arrange for a week-long stay at a rental condo, ask for accommodations with a balcony facing the Atlantic. Pack your tent and sleeping bag or rent a cabin for a rustic stay at First Landing State Park, just a few miles north of the boardwalk. Reserve a campsite near one of the boardwalks that leads to the beach for an early morning stroll to see the sun rise.
South of Virginia Beach, False Cape State Park is so remote that you can't get there by car. Visitors must hike, bike or boat in or use one of the seasonal shuttle services operated by the park. Leave early to make the long hike in time to catch the sunrise or spend the night at a primitive campsite.
Weather events that affect the sunrise
Hurricane season in Virginia Beach begins June 1 and ends November 30. A storm off the coast will create high surf, a dramatic backdrop to the sunrise, but don't linger if local authorities tell you to steer clear of the beach. Nearby Hampton Roads, north of Virginia Beach, has smoggy days each summer, depending on weather patterns, which can cause hazy sunrises in Virginia Beach. The condition clears as soon as ocean breezes blow onshore. Expect morning fog when cool ocean water meets warm air moving across the coastline, and don't give up on watching the sunrise even if it's cloudy – you may get to see the rising sun peek out between low clouds.