Amenities - Local Birding Excursions, Dining & Lodging
Since this website's primary intent is to be a comprehensive guide to all things bird-related in Virginia Beach, it seems useful to offer information on area dining, lodging & also provide visitors to the area with a list of recommended bird-related excursions! Please note that this portion of the website is currently under construction & it will be continually revised over the coming weeks.
As leaders in coastal and marine environmental conservation, research, and preservation, the Virginia Aquarium's boat trips bring the ocean to you. Since 1989, boat trips have been staffed by knowledgeable marine educators engaging in responsible viewing practices, research, and conservation. Boat trips run throughout the year and offer views of an immense variety of seabirds and waterfowl, as well as other species that visit our coastal waters. As trips leave from the Virginia Aquarium dock, guests are treated to inshore and pelagic species, as well as hot spots in Rudee Inlet and the Owls Creek salt marsh.
In addition, the Virginia Aquarium has maintained an eBird account since 2013. The Aquarium’s expertise in identifying avian species has introduced guests to rare species which may have been otherwise overlooked. The Virginia Aquarium was the first to record a Common Eider in Rudee Inlet during the winter of 2018-19, as well as captured the city’s first record of a Common Murre since 1995. This was also the first record with images. The Aquarium’s efforts with recording over 60,000 individual birds throughout the year has assisted with rewriting migratory patterns of coastal and pelagic birds, and the boat trips are a key component of that success. For more info please click here!
Well known for running pelagic birding excursions out of Hatteras, NC, Brian Patteson began his offshore trips here in Virginia during the 1980s! In recent years, the excitement of "seabirding" has become more widespread among the birding community, and as such, Brian has begun leading ventures out of Lynnhaven Inlet in Virginia Beach! During the winter of 2015-6, Brian's trips were able to find species like Manx & Great Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, Black-legged Kittiwake, Red Phalarope & Razorbill. In past year's these trips have turned up some bonafide rarities like Fea's Petrel (Sept. 1995). During the Fall of 2016, Brian has several trips scheduled out of our area, and anyone interested in seabirds should sign up for a trip as soon as possible
Rudee Inlet provides the perfect launching point for anyone interested in observing birds out on the coastal waters of Virginia Beach. While the Rudee Flipper is traditionally a whale & dolphin watching cruise, this boat also places birders in the appropriate locations to observe many species of birds that cannot be found from shore. During the winter whale-watching trips, one can observe Red-throated & Common Loons in numbers that exceed anything visible from the shoreline. Species like Red-necked & Horned Grebe, Surf, Black & White-winged Scoter, and Bonaparte's Gulls are often encountered on the inshore waters navigated by the Flipper. Northern Gannets often put on displays of their numbers, diving into the water at will, and occasionally, "seabird" species like Wilson's Storm-Petrel or several members of the shearwater family are detected.
Directed by seasoned waterman (those who grew up on the local waters), particulary Rick Kellam, these excursions have not only yielded great observations, but have been exciting to all aboard! Though these trips typically depart out of locales on the Eastern Shore of Virginia with deep water access, they are readily accessible for visitors to Virginia Beach. During the winter season of 2015-6, Rick took many parties out onto the Eastern Shore Lagoon System in search of Long-billed Curlews, and also the fabled Western Grebe that spent several months on the waters of the Machipongo River! With experience dating back several decades, Rick knows the waters of the Eastern Shore better than anyone who offers commercial outings, and he genuinely enjoys spending time on trips educating folks who are visiting the the area!
Living in Virginia Beach, it is easy to take for granted all the wonderful restaurants we have within driving range. Since even local birders will eventually need to stop and grab a bite to eat while out birding, here is a list of my favorite spots with some descriptions as to how they might fit into your day. For out-of-town birders who are here for a weekend, or a vacation, these local favorites should certainly be visited! This list of recommendations will not provide the locations of standard fast food and sit-down restaurants because while you're visiting Virginia Beach, it is my sincere hope that you are able to a true local experience; common restaurants may be found via any GPS or smartphone app, but as birders, it is my bet that "the unusual" is what you are seeking, and this is likely not limited to the birds! Because of this, I highly recommend these locations:
The very best in lunch options that Virginia Beach has to offer (not just for birders), Taste Unlimited specializes in sandwiches and their ever-popular gelato. This is a great spot if a quick, but still sit-down, stop after birding areas like Pleasure House Point Natural Area or First Landing State Park is desired. The outdoor seating also makes for a great time-killer during May & June, just in case the Thoroughgood Mississippi Kites were missed earlier in the day! While there are several locations available for this local chain, my preferred site is located at 4097 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach, VA to your GPS. The full website can be viewed Here, while the lunch menu specifically may also be viewed Here.
Named after the American Coot, this true 'hole in the wall' is a must for anyone birding in southern Virginia Beach. Located centrally between Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area, Blue Pete's offers a great stopping point during lunchtime. Being located on a canal leading to Back Bay, this restaurant provides fantastic outdoor seating as close to the water as one could hope for. All meals here begin with a plate of sweet potato biscuits, which seem to get better each visit! Blue Pete's' main website can be viewed Here, their menu can be viewed Here & the address one would use to stop in is 1400 North Muddy Creek Road, Virginia Beach, VA.
Like Blue Pete's, Pungo Pizza & Ice Cream is a southern Virginia Beach favorite! Located just north of the Indian River & Princess Anne Road intersection, this restaurant is great for a sit-down lunch between birding sites, and for family visits later in the day. Fantastic pizza, coupled with home-made ice cream make this restaurant stand out from the plethora of other similar sites in Virginia Beach. While it doesn't boast outdoor views, it is a great place to mop up species like House Sparrow, European Starling, Common Grackle, and ever-present American Robin & Northern Mockingbirds! Located at 1824 Princess Anne Road, the full site may be viewed Here & the menu can be viewed Here!
Stationed in the Strawbridge area of Virginia Beach, Lucky Oyster may not be right on the water but you would never be able to tell from the quality of seafood. Whether you are traveling from Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, or Princess Anne Wildlife Management Area towards the northern parks of Virginia Beach, or, vice versa, Lucky Oyster provides a great stopping point for lunch. Well known among locals, this restaurant tends to get a bit busy during the standard hours, but even with a slight wait, it is well worth it. The maritime decor fits perfectly into most birders' comfort zone, and items like fresh Blue Crab and in-season fish make this an excellent spot!
No Frill Bar & Grill
An absolutely wacky local favorite, you will not find the dishes from No Frill served anywhere else. Located in both Norfolk's Ghent District and in the Hilltop region of Virginia Beach, this is a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a good meal near the Oceanfront area. From their daily seafood specials to gigantic (one serving) salads, to prize winning meatloaf and delectable french onion soup, and to one-of-a-kind sandwiches & a wide array of locally crafted beers, No Frill encompasses all that is necessary in a popular restaurant!
Located along the Shore Drive corridor of Virginia Beach, Bay Local is one of our newer must-visit-restaurants. This website highly prides itself on promoting all things local, and Bay Local delivers on that rationale. Purchasing fish & shellfish directly from boats that bring their catch to Lynnhaven Inlet, Bay Local has swiftly become one of the favorites among Virginia Beach residents. Particularly a dinner venue, Bay Local is a perfect spot to visit with a family while in town. If visiting the area singly, its bar also specializes in eccentric drinks, and the Bloody Mary special here is one not to be missed!
Expansive views of Lake Rudee are not easy to offer for any restaurant, but Rockafeller's is one that manages this local feat. Surrounded by residential neighborhoods, locals often find themselves at home here, enjoying the Prime Rib night, or the local seafood that is accessible any night of the week. The quality of food (and service) are so consistent at this location that my wife & I chose this as the site of our wedding's rehearsal dinner, and we were so impressed that we also booked a post-wedding brunch! A perfect spot for post-Rudee Inlet seawatches, Rockafeller's is a true gem, and the great thing is, even after a day of watching the seas, the upper levels still provide the opportunity to observe birds!
One of the premier destinations in Virginia Beach, Chick's Oyster Bar's influence is far reaching. If one were to ask any resident where their must-stop locale might be, Chick's would likely be the top runner. Located just east of Lynnhaven Inlet, Chick's has one of the most beautiful views over the Lynnhaven River that is accessible to the public. With a private room attached, Chick's is often the first choice of locale companies who are looking to sponsor events. Parking at this site is valet only, due to the limited area that vehicles can be placed, so make sure to plan ahead in both time, and money.
While Chick's Oyster Bar might have the reputation, Dockside Inn consistently produces higher quality meals. Located just to the west of Chick's, Dockside offers all the same options, as well as a fresh seafood market, straight from the boats of Lynnhaven Inlet! Whether it is earned or not, Dockside is much better known as a dinner locale that Chick's, which holds the reputation for "drinks". Nowhere outside these two restaurants is the view over the Lynnhaven River so wonderful. In fact, Dockside is the launching point for any offshore pelagic trip that Brian Patteson's boat embark on, and it is also the preferred location of the Williamsburg Bird Club's ventures onto the Chesapeake Bay!