Our Florida To Virginia Beach Vacation Road Trips
Are We Nuts?
Each time we make this road trip, I feel like the only guy, who leaves sunny south Florida, to go to Virginia Beach, for a beach side vacation. We have made this trip, twice, since relocating to south Florida, just over four years ago. Before anyone attempts to question my mental status, let me hasten to provide some rationale. Prior to moving to Florida, my family and I lived in New Jersey, the beautiful garden state. The home state of music titans, Bruce Springsteen, John Bon Jovi, the late Whitney Houston, and big band legend, the late, Count Basie.
A 16 year Family Tradition
Our road trips to Virginia Beach, began in New Jersey, over 16 years ago. It was a rite of passage, a sacred week of the summer vacation period, and one, that the family always anticipated and enjoyed.
For me, it was always a genuine bonding opportunity. Having the family in close proximity as we, began the long drive, punctuated with lively chatter, stops for fuel and food, on the New Jersey Turnpike, in Delaware, and various other points in Maryland , and Virginia. This annual trip afforded us an opportunity, for the entire family to spend quality time together, in a relaxed, fun setting. We enjoyed it so much, that many years ago, we decided to purchase a 2 bedroom timeshare in the heart of this beachfront community. A transaction that has paid off, big time, since hotel accommodations, if available, can run $500-$600 per night for a 2 bedroom suite. Quite an expense, for a family of four, for shelter alone.
Fun Family Road Trips New Jersey To Virginia Beach
On the Sunday morning of our deeded week, we would begin the approximately 8 hour ride, by heading south, on I 95 (NJ Turnpike), picking up Route 13 S, in Delaware, continuing down the eastern shores of Maryland, and Virginia, finally crossing the engineering wonder, that is the 20 mile Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel system.
This spectacular bridge tunnel system connects the eastern shores of Maryland and Virginia, with the Hampton Roads/Virginia Beach area on the other side of mainland across the Atlantic Ocean. If you have not seen or experienced driving this bridge, please put it on your bucket list. Except for the 2 one mile tunnels, where you are under the Atlantic Ocean, the remaining 18 miles, or so, you are suspended over the ocean. Nothing but big blue skies above, and the shimmering blue Atlantic Ocean below, and as far as the eye can see. Like us, if you wanted more than just driving the bridge, it’s is a good idea to stop at the visitors center and restaurant area to stretch your legs, grab a bite, and soak up the ambience of this scenic environment.
Are We There Yet? - Almost
Upon exiting the bridge, we would head east to the Virginia Beach Oceanfront, for our week of frolic in the sea and sun. In Virginia Beach, many hotels are conveniently, lined up on Atlantic Avenue, with direct access to the boardwalk, and the beach. Although Virginia Beach is a popular vacation destination, with lots of local and international vacationers, to us, coming from NJ, it always seemed remote. Perhaps, because of its geographic location, and the way we access it, coming across the Atlantic Ocean. It might also be, because your body goes into deep vacation mode, once you arrive. It’s the kind of place where you feel compelled to forget about work. You sleep late, if you want to. You can go for an early morning dip in the ocean, if you choose. You can lie on the beach all day. You eat, when you want. And, there is no shortage of restaurants there. You can dine Al la carte, or choose ‘all you can eat’ seafood buffets, including snow crab legs. It’s all there, conveniently, within walking distance for you.
Awkward Relaxing And Enjoyable
After a painful absence of two years. In the summer 2010, we embarked on our first Florida to Virginia Beach road trip, or as I like to call it ‘The reverse commute.’
This trip is approximately 2000 miles - round trip. Roughly, two and a half times the distance from northern New Jersey, to Virginia Beach.
Travelling north, up to Virginia Beach, from Florida, definitely felt awkward. And, it did not help, that on a fuel stop in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, while exchanging pleasantries with a gas station owner. I mentioned we were on our way up to Virginia Beach. His amusing retort was – “who the hell leaves sunny Florida to go to the beach in Virginia?” Ouch!
His comment, notwithstanding, we continued northward. After overnighting, in picturesque Savannah, Georgia, we arrived in sunny Virginia Beach with plenty of daylight left to test the water. Man, the water was cold! Mr. New Smyrna was right. Florida water is much warmer than this. The rest of the family flew in from New York City the next day and suddenly everything felt right again. The whole family was together again, in our familiar vacation setting. So, there’s your answer, Mr. New Smyrna gas station man! Soccer fans, may recall, summer 2010 was the last FIFA World Cup Football (Soccer) tournament. That made our vacation even more special. Taking time-outs from the beach, to watch live telecasts of the games. All from the vantage point of our oceanfront hotel suite, fourteen floors above the beach and Atlantic Ocean, below. And yes, the appropriate beverage was always at hand.
Our recent trip to Virginia Beach proved just as relaxing and enjoyable, as before, even though one member of our family could not be there, due to a prior work commitment. My sense is, this, south to north trip, despite feeling awkward, could morph into a family tradition. One could argue, it already is. Also, June 2014 is the next FIFA World Cup Tournament.
Remarkable Changes In Vegetation
While the reverse commute up to Virginia Beach, does not include our crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, like our trips from New Jersey did. There is still a lot to appreciate while travelling northbound from south Florida. What stands out most to me is, the marked change in
vegetation as you travel from south Florida up to, say, Jacksonville, in north Florida.
Sun-drenched south Florida is dominated by palms, native pine species, and other plants that adapt well to the heat and sandy soil. The pines species appears very tall and spindly. However, once you get into the Jacksonville area, and beyond, one observes that the type of vegetation changes drastically. Large, leafy trees dominate the landscape. The trees have increased girth, the canopies become wider. In general the trees are bigger. Vegetation growth appears more green and lush. The undergrowth of shrubs appears more dense.
The pattern of lush growth continues as you move north through the states of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Savannah's Forsyth Park
Another highlight of this trip, is our designated layover city, beautiful Savannah, Georgia.
In 2010, and again this year, we stopped in this historic southern city, on our way up to Virginia Beach and back. We have been slowly acquainting ourselves with some of its neighborhoods, restaurants, and points of interest. On this last road trip we visited the famous Forsyth Park, and the surrounding neighborhood. This 30 acre park, in Savannah's historic district, features massive Live Oaks, draped with beard-like Spanish Moss. Shrubs, including, the brilliant Azaleas, and Bougainvillea blooms, makes this space a spectacular botanical treat. I look forward to learning and experiencing more of Savannah, on future trips.
Virginia Beach Our Summer Haven
For us, Virginia Beach has great significance. We have spent many fun-filled vacation weeks there, as a family. Despite the cold ocean water and the rough waves, which actually flattened my wife once, severely, spraining her ankle. We all still, love it.
We have built fond memories there. We still look forward our ride on the trolley to Virginia Beach’s Lynnhaven Mall. Walking the 3 mile boardwalk, or riding on the bicycle track. We still enjoy walking up and down Atlantic Avenue, to determine what has changed, since we were last there.
Virginia Beach will always be a fun vacation destination. My family and Virginia Beach are “Wrapped Tight” - to borrow a phrase from an album title of, the late, jazz legend, tenor saxophonist, Coleman Hawkins.
Finally, I hope, after reading the above, I have successfully convinced you to maintain my mental status as: Normal.
Please feel free to comment.