Outdoor Adventures in Norfolk: Parks and Recreation

outdoor adventures in Norfolk parks and recreation

Norfolk, Virginia, is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a myriad of activities that cater to all interests and ages. From its stunning gardens and family-friendly parks to kayaking adventures and historical attractions, Norfolk provides endless opportunities for exploration and fun. Whether you’re looking to relax on the beach, embark on a scenic hike, or enjoy waterfront dining, Norfolk has something for everyone.

Key Takeaways

  • Norfolk offers a variety of outdoor activities, making it an ideal destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.
  • The city boasts beautiful gardens such as the Norfolk Botanical Garden, Hermitage Museum and Gardens, and the Pagoda and Oriental Garden.
  • Family-friendly parks like Town Point Park, Lakewood Park, and Northside Park provide excellent spots for recreation and relaxation.
  • Kayaking and fishing are popular activities, with numerous spots like the Ocean View Fishing Pier, Lafayette River, and Elizabeth River.
  • Biking, hiking, and wildlife observation are well-supported with dedicated trails, rentable bikes, and nature reserves such as the Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

Exploring Norfolk’s Beautiful Gardens

people enjoying a sunny day in a Norfolk park with beautiful gardens

Norfolk is home to plenty of lush green spaces, including the largest botanical garden in Virginia. No matter what time of year you’re visiting, there’s a beautiful assortment of greenery to peruse at these locally loved gardens.

Family-Friendly Parks in Norfolk

family enjoying outdoor activities in a Norfolk park

Town Point Park

Town Point Park is a vibrant waterfront park that offers a variety of activities for families. From seasonal festivals to outdoor concerts, there’s always something happening. The park features spacious lawns, a playground, and scenic views of the Elizabeth River, making it a perfect spot for a family picnic or a leisurely stroll.

Lakewood Park

Lakewood Park is a hidden gem in Norfolk, offering a serene environment for families to enjoy. The park includes a large playground, walking trails, and a beautiful lake where you can feed the ducks. It’s an ideal location for a relaxing day out with the kids.

Northside Park

Northside Park is one of the largest parks in Norfolk, providing a wide range of amenities for family fun. The park boasts multiple sports fields, a swimming pool, and a well-equipped playground. It’s a great place for kids to burn off some energy while parents can enjoy the peaceful surroundings.

Norfolk is the perfect place for you and the kids to explore, learn, seek adventure, and make some unforgettable memories together.

Kayaking Adventures in Norfolk

kayaking in a scenic park in Norfolk

Norfolk Kayak Tours

There’s arguably no better way to reconnect with nature than by paddling out on a kayak tour to explore the gentle rivers and quiet coves which some of Norfolk’s most beautiful wildlife calls home. Rent a vessel through Norfolk Kayak Tours, embark on a guided journey at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, or BYOK (bring your own kayak) to paddle off from a public launch.

Kayaking at Norfolk Botanical Garden

Paddle your way to adventure during a kayak excursion on the Lafayette River. Even the tiniest members of your family can relax along these calm waters as you row, row, row your boats along. Choose from a single or tandem kayak, depending on your group’s size and ability. All rentals come with a United States Coast Guard-approved life vest. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and sunglasses, and be on the lookout for some beautiful water birds native to Norfolk.

Public Kayak Launch Sites

With the Elizabeth River and the Chesapeake Bay running along its west and north borders, Norfolk is the ideal home for sailing. Still learning? Check out Sail Nauticus and its informative boating excursions. Sign up for a weekend course emphasizing on-the-water instruction and earn a U.S. Sailing Basic Keelboat certification.

Fishing Spots in Norfolk

fishing in a scenic park in Norfolk

Norfolk is bordered almost entirely by water and is home to the longest fishing pier in North America. This makes it a prime location for fishing enthusiasts. Whether you prefer the Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, or the Elizabeth River, you’re sure to find a spot that suits your needs. Norfolk’s mild climate and wide variety of aquatic life make the region’s waterways one of the best places for fishing.

Ocean View Fishing Pier

The Ocean View Fishing Pier is a must-visit for any angler. Stretching out into the Chesapeake Bay, this pier offers ample space and opportunities to catch a variety of fish. It’s a popular spot for both locals and tourists.

Lafayette River

The Lafayette River is another excellent fishing location. Known for its calm waters and abundant fish, it’s a great place for a relaxing day of fishing. The river is easily accessible and offers a peaceful setting for anglers of all skill levels.

Elizabeth River

The Elizabeth River is a favorite among local fishermen. With its diverse aquatic life, you’re likely to catch something interesting. The river’s proximity to the city makes it a convenient option for a quick fishing trip.

Norfolk’s fishing spots offer something for everyone, from the seasoned angler to the casual fisherman. With so many options, you’re sure to find the perfect spot to cast your line.

Biking Through Norfolk

biking in Norfolk park

Bike Lanes and Trails

Norfolk is a biker’s paradise with over 100 miles of dedicated street and nature paths. The city has made biking easier with well-established trails featuring historic points of interest, restaurants, breweries, and wildlife. Biking through Norfolk, VA has never been easier!

Rentable Bikes

For those who don’t own a bike, Norfolk offers rentable bikes throughout Downtown and other key areas. This makes it convenient for both locals and tourists to explore the city on two wheels.

Bike Repair Stations

Norfolk also provides bike repair stations at various points, ensuring that you can keep your ride smooth and hassle-free. These stations are equipped with tools and air pumps, making it easy to fix minor issues on the go.

Norfolk is known for many greats—history, seafood, and vibrant culture among them. One attraction that stands out is its bike-friendly environment, making it a must-visit for cycling enthusiasts.

Wildlife and Nature Reserves

wildlife in nature reserve park Norfolk

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge offers a serene escape into nature with its diverse habitats, including beaches, dunes, woodlands, and freshwater marshes. Birdwatchers will be thrilled by the variety of species that call this refuge home.

Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge

The Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge is a vast, mysterious wetland teeming with wildlife. Visitors can explore the swamp via hiking trails or paddle through its waterways. The refuge is a haven for birdwatching, photography, and simply enjoying the tranquility of nature.

First Landing State Park

First Landing State Park is a historic and scenic park offering a mix of outdoor activities. From hiking and biking to swimming and fishing, there’s something for everyone. The park’s diverse ecosystems, including maritime forests and wetlands, make it a unique spot for nature enthusiasts.

Discover the natural beauty and diverse wildlife of Norfolk’s nature reserves. Whether you’re an avid birdwatcher, a hiking enthusiast, or simply looking to relax in a tranquil setting, these reserves offer something for everyone.

Beach Fun at Ocean View

family enjoying beach activities at Ocean View, Norfolk with nearby parks and recreational areas

Swimming and Sunbathing

Ocean View and East Beach are your gateway to beach days, sandcastles, water activities, seafood, and gorgeous sunsets. These beaches are perfectly situated on the Chesapeake Bay where warm waters and gentler waves make it ideal for families. Spend a day making sandcastles, soaking up the sun, and spotting dolphins in the distance. Don’t want to leave the beach? Pack a picnic with food from Taste, they have several locations throughout the city.

Beach Volleyball

For those who love a bit of sport with their beach day, Ocean View offers several beach volleyball courts. Whether you’re a seasoned player or just looking to have some fun, these courts are a great way to stay active while enjoying the beautiful surroundings. Gather your friends and start a friendly match!

Picnic Areas

Ocean View is not just about the sand and sea; it also offers well-maintained picnic areas. These spots are perfect for a family outing or a romantic date. Bring your own food or grab some local seafood to enjoy while overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. The picnic areas are equipped with tables and benches, making it convenient for everyone.

Ocean View in Norfolk is a must-visit for anyone looking to enjoy a day at the beach with a variety of activities and amenities. From swimming and sunbathing to beach volleyball and picnicking, there’s something for everyone.

Outdoor Sports and Activities

people enjoying outdoor sports and activities in Norfolk parks

Norfolk offers a variety of outdoor sports and activities for enthusiasts of all ages. Whether you’re a seasoned athlete or just looking to have some fun, there’s something for everyone.

Golf Courses

Norfolk boasts several beautiful golf courses that cater to both beginners and experienced golfers. The lush greens and scenic views make for a perfect day out on the course. Some popular options include Lambert’s Point Golf Club and Ocean View Golf Course.

Tennis Courts

For tennis lovers, Norfolk has numerous well-maintained tennis courts available to the public. These courts are perfect for a friendly match or serious practice. Many parks in the area, such as Lakewood Park, offer excellent facilities.

Soccer Fields

Soccer enthusiasts will find plenty of fields to play on in Norfolk. The city maintains several high-quality soccer fields that are open to the public. Whether you’re part of a league or just want to kick around with friends, you’ll find a spot to enjoy the game.

Norfolk’s outdoor sports facilities provide endless opportunities to stay active and enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Historical Outdoor Attractions

historical park in Norfolk with people enjoying outdoor activities

Battleship Wisconsin

Step aboard the Battleship Wisconsin, one of the largest and last battleships built by the U.S. Navy. This majestic vessel offers a glimpse into naval history and provides interactive exhibits for all ages. Don’t miss the chance to explore the deck and see the massive artillery up close!

Fort Norfolk

Fort Norfolk is a well-preserved historical site dating back to the 18th century. Wander through the old fortifications and imagine life as a soldier during the War of 1812. The fort offers guided tours that delve into its rich history and strategic importance.

Historic Ghent District

Stroll through the charming Historic Ghent District, known for its beautiful architecture and vibrant community. This area is perfect for a leisurely walk, with plenty of cafes, shops, and historic homes to admire. It’s a delightful blend of past and present, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts.

Norfolk’s historical outdoor attractions offer a unique way to step back in time while enjoying the beauty of the present. Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a scenic outing, these sites provide a perfect blend of education and recreation.

Scenic Hiking Trails

scenic hiking trail in Norfolk park

Noland Trail

The Noland Trail offers a serene escape with its 5-mile loop around Lake Maury. Perfect for both beginners and seasoned hikers, this trail provides picturesque views of the water and surrounding woodlands. Don’t forget to check out the scenic overlooks along the way.

Sandy Bottom Nature Park

Sandy Bottom Nature Park is a haven for nature lovers. With over 12 miles of trails, you can explore diverse habitats, including wetlands and forests. The park also features educational exhibits and a nature center, making it a great spot for families.

York River State Park

York River State Park boasts a variety of trails that cater to all skill levels. From easy walks to more challenging hikes, you’ll find something to suit your preference. The park’s trails offer stunning views of the York River and its surrounding landscapes.

For those who prefer a more relaxing type of outdoor recreation, Virginia boasts more than 3,000 miles of scenic roadways, taking travelers to coastal beauty, mountain vistas, quaint small towns, and peaceful countryside.

Explore the best rated trails in Norfolk, VA, whether you’re looking for an easy walking trail or a bike trail like the Salem Road Trail and General Booth Boulevard Trail.

Waterfront Dining Experiences

waterfront park in Norfolk with dining area

The Waterside District is a vibrant hub for dining and entertainment along the Elizabeth River. With a variety of restaurants offering diverse cuisines, it’s a perfect spot for a meal with a view. Enjoy amazing views of the mighty Atlantic Fleet while dining at one of the many eateries here.

Freemason Harbor offers a more intimate dining experience with its charming waterfront restaurants. Whether you’re in the mood for seafood or international cuisine, you’ll find something to satisfy your taste buds. The serene atmosphere makes it an ideal location for a romantic dinner.

Granby Street is known for its eclectic mix of dining options, from casual eateries to fine dining establishments. The street’s proximity to the water means you can enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the scenic views. Don’t miss out on the local favorites that make this area a culinary hotspot.

For a unique dining experience, consider booking a brunch, lunch, or dinner cruise. These cruises offer unprecedented views of the Elizabeth River and the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, making your meal truly memorable.


Norfolk, VA, truly offers a treasure trove of outdoor adventures for everyone. Whether you’re kayaking through serene waters, exploring lush gardens, or embarking on a family-friendly adventure, there’s something for every nature lover and thrill-seeker alike. The city’s rich history, vibrant culture, and diverse recreational activities make it a perfect destination for creating unforgettable memories. So pack your bags, bring your sense of adventure, and get ready to discover all the outdoor wonders Norfolk has to offer. Happy exploring!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the best outdoor activities to do in Norfolk, VA?

Norfolk offers a variety of outdoor activities including exploring gardens, kayaking, fishing, biking, hiking, and enjoying beach activities.

Is Norfolk a family-friendly destination?

Yes, Norfolk is perfect for family-friendly fun with activities ranging from outdoor adventures and educational opportunities to sporting events.

Where can I go kayaking in Norfolk?

You can rent a kayak through Norfolk Kayak Tours, embark on a guided journey at the Norfolk Botanical Garden, or use public kayak launch sites.

Are there any good fishing spots in Norfolk?

Yes, some popular fishing spots in Norfolk include Ocean View Fishing Pier, Lafayette River, and Elizabeth River.

What are some popular parks in Norfolk?

Popular parks in Norfolk include Town Point Park, Lakewood Park, and Northside Park.

Can I rent bikes in Norfolk?

Yes, you can rent bikes in Norfolk and there are also bike lanes and bike repair stations available throughout the city.

What are the best wildlife and nature reserves to visit in Norfolk?

Some of the best wildlife and nature reserves in Norfolk are Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, and First Landing State Park.

Where can I find historical outdoor attractions in Norfolk?

Historical outdoor attractions in Norfolk include the Battleship Wisconsin, Fort Norfolk, and the Historic Ghent District.

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