Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Look at the size of that campsite. We recently had the opportunity to stay at two Virginia State Parks www.dcr.virginia.gov that were on opposite sides of the state from one another. The picture above is of our campsite at Belle Isle State Park near Richmond.
We also stayed at the Shenandoah River State Park near the Skyline Drive National Park. Both were amazing and had huge campsites with water and electric. We didn’t pay extra for water or electric, in fact Virginia State Parks campsites come standard with water and electric at every site!! Now I’m not talking that they have a water drop for every 6 campsites, or that you have to fill your tanks before you park, nope, they have a water drop next to the electric drop at every campsite!
Here’s another cool thing Virginia State Parks do. Let’s say you were passing through and it’s getting late. You look on a map and notice you’re close to a Virginia State Park. You can pull into a non-reservable site for the night. There is an “honors” box where you can put the fee to use the spot for the night. Of course, they also have reservable sites which is what we snagged back in January when we were planning the trip. The non-reservable sites are first come first serve.
Bathrooms, Let’s talk bathrooms. The bathroom and shower house are very important to every camper. It’s important that they are clean and that the showers are hot and private. At both the Virginia State Parks we visited we were treated to clean bathrooms, private showers that were individual rooms with locks on the doors. I know that sounds funny to anyone who has never stayed at the state park, but at most places we’ve stayed, the bathroom facilities are on one side of a large room and the showers are on the other side and have a door that someone can look under, (similar to a high school locker room). At the Virginia State Parks, the showers are in an individual room with a locking door. IT WAS WONDERFUL!!! Of course, with water at every site, you can also just use your camper shower, but if you’re tent camping, the showers are important. Both of the parks also had a laundry room at the bathhouse. A couple of washers and dryers, which comes in very handy when it rains and the tent leaks.
As mentioned, we visited two separate Virginia State Parks.
One in the mountains
Shenandoah River State Park
Shenandoah River State Park is surrounded by mountains. It’s minutes away from the Skyline Drive National Park. We bought a lifetime park pass so we can visit any national park whenever we want from now on. If you’re 62 or older you can get a lifetime pass for $80. It’s a great deal.
Anyway, at Shenandoah River State Park you will see wildlife, we had a young whitetail buck in our campsite one morning. You can take a drive on the Skyline drive and visit Luray Caverns.
The one drawback to this park is that there is ZERO cell service. It’s not the park’s fault, but you have to drive to Luray (about 15 minutes) to text or call or check directions. So be sure to download your maps before you get close.
This park is relatively new (as state parks go) it was built in 1994 and is seriously beautiful. It covers 1,619 acres along the south fork of the Shenandoah River where you can kayak, tube or swim. There is also a visitors center where you can pick up maps for the extensive hiking and biking trail system that wanders through the park. Be cautious on the trails because there are bear, so be on the lookout for Yogi and his friends. If you’re looking for a day trip they also have a large picnic grounds. Just be sure to stop at the rangers station when you enter the park.
And one in the Coastal Region
Belle Isle State Park
The next place we visited was the Belle Isle State Park on the Rappahannock River. This place has trees but also a beautiful shoreline. The Rappahannock is said to be about two miles across at this point. As you can see from the picture above there is a small sandy shore where you can play in the water and pick up oyster shells.
Belle Isle is a former plantation, located in Lancaster County. The nearly 900 acres sits on a peninsula and is surrounded by coastal tidewaters. We saw a lot of wildlife while we were here. Deer, groundhogs (lots of groundhogs), lizards, a large blackrat snake (he was very uninterested in us). One night it rained really hard and after the storm there were thousands of tiny, little cricket frogs that came out. I took Penny for a walk and I felt like with was playing frogger. It was insane! We also saw blue heron, and a number of osprey.
As I mentioned, this is a former plantation that is still being used for planting. When we visited, there were field after field full of sweet corn. With any good plantation, you would expect a plantation house. Belle Isle actually has two. There is the original Georgian style plantation house that is privately owned that sits close to the entrance gate. It was built in 1760 And renovated in 1940. Unfortunately, since this is privately owned, you can’t go up to it or go inside. However, another large house in the park can be visited. It is called the Bel Air Mansion. This beautiful facility can be rented for overnight stays or weddings or other large events. It overlooks the Rappahannock river and is simply beautiful with the large magnolias and crepe myrtles framing the building. You feel like you’re walking up to a home from Gone with the Wind.
This park also offers, hiking and biking and equestrian trails. There is a boat launch and as mentioned there is a picnic grounds where you can take the kids to swim and play in the water.
Belle Isle State Park is about an hour and a half from Colonial Williamsburg And Yorktown. We had limited cell service at our campsite but in other parts of the park the service was strong. There are also many small towns that dot the roads leading up to Belle Isle with plenty of shopping including antiques, art and alcohol.
If you ever get the opportunity to stay at any of the Virginia State Parks facilities be sure to tell them that the Funchasers sent you! Have fun!!!
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Here are some valuable links to help you on your journey;
www.dcr.virginia.gov, then search for the state park you want to visit.
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