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Kayaking with dolphins along the Virginia Beach coastline

Virginia

Virginia Beach, Virginia: 5 Incredible Animal Encounters

By: Idoia Gkikas

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  • States:
    Virginia

With its beautiful coastline, winding waterways and scenic cypress forests, Virginia Beach is a sanctuary for a variety of wildlife.

There are countless ways to meet creatures great and small, from elusive birds to humpback whales. Add these family-friendly animal encounters to your itinerary when you visit Virginia Beach.

Go Whale Watching

For many people, going whale watching is a bucket-list vacation experience. During their winter migration, humpback whales can be seen off the Virginia Beach coast. If your itinerary brings you here during the right time of year, you don’t want to miss the occurrence. From December to the end of February, view humpback whales on a boat tour with Rudee Tours or Sea Adventures by the Virginia Aquarium.

Amazing sight of a whale breaching in the Atlantic Ocean

Amazing sight of a whale breaching in the Atlantic Ocean
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Kayak with Dolphins

Humans and dolphins seem to have a natural affinity for each other, and getting close to these intelligent and playful mammals is such a treat. Chesapean Outdoors and Surf & Adventure Co. both lead guided kayak tours of the coast to see bottlenose dolphins, sea turtles and other marine wildlife. You don’t need any paddling experience to participate. For an especially memorable evening, sign up for the sunset dolphin tour.  

Curious dolphins keeping kayakers company

Curious dolphins keeping kayakers company
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Spot the Birds

Avian traffic is heaviest in December and January at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge and First Landing State Park, both havens for migratory birds along the Atlantic Flyway. Bring your binoculars and look for Canadian geese, American bald eagles, tundra swan, hawks and the endangered piping plover along with dozens of other species. Explore 13 kilometers of foot trails or book a guided kayak tour to get an even closer look.

Spy a swamp sparrow through the trees at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Spy a swamp sparrow through the trees at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge
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Meet Sea Turtles and Seals

Head to the Virginia Aquarium to see thousands of sea creatures, a delight for families with children. In addition to its large sea turtle exhibit, the aquarium conducts sea turtle research and conservation, including a hatchling program and turtle rehabilitation and rescue. From approximately May to September, sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach; peak season is June and July. Keep your lights off at night and do not disturb if you see a protected nest in the sand.

Another aquarium program offers behind-the-scenes access to harbor seal building. Participants will learn what it takes to care for and train the harbor seals from one of the aquarium’s professional mammal trainers, plus meet (and take a photo with) a harbor seal! The program also offers insight into the harbor seal habitat, adaptations and conservation efforts.

Take the family behind-the-scenes to meet a seal at the Virginia Aquarium

Take the family behind-the-scenes to meet a seal at the Virginia Aquarium
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Getting There

After arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), catch a connecting flight to Norfolk International Airport (ORF) in Virginia, which is about 20 minutes from Virginia Beach. Another option is to rent a car at Dulles and drive south for about 345 kilometers to Virginia Beach.