Bike Touring in Tidewater
On this page we will try and answer some of your most frequently asked questions about bike touring in our part of Virginia.
The Tidewater Virginia region is sometimes referred to as "Southside Hampton Roads." It is comprised of 5 cities including Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Suffolk, plus Isle of Wight County and Smithfield Township, and Surry County.
Geographically the northern part of our area is very urban and densely populated. The southern and western half tends toward rural farmland, with an occasional subdivision "sprouting up" and replacing more traditional crops.
The eastern most cities of Portsmouth, Norfok, Chesapeake and Virginia Beach are very flat and low elevation, about 10 ft above sea level. Suffolk, Isle of Wight County and Surry County have some elevation change, mostly small hills in the 40-70 ft range. Not terribly difficult, though the culmulative effect can wear down unsuspecting flatlanders.
We have typical urban traffic conditions in most of the developed areas. Dedicated bike facilities, in particular bike lanes, shoulders, and wide outside lanes are sparse. Some cities such as Virginia Beach have an extensive system of side paths.
Q: I plan to visit the Tidewater area. Where are the best places to ride?
A: That is difficult to answer without knowing more about your background and where you are staying. For starters we suggest looking for one of our group rides or those sponsored by many of the area bike shops. It's a great way to learn the area as well as meet the locals. We'd love to have you along for one of our many rides- we truly enjoy riding with cyclists from other areas!
Q: What trail or off road opportunities are there?
A: You may want to check these out:
- First Landing State Park (Virginia Beach)
- Elizabeth River Trail (Nofolk)
- Dismal Swamp Canal Trail (Chesapeake)
- Boardwalk bike path (Virginia Beach)
- False Cape State Park (Virginia Beach)
- Ipswich Park (Virginia Beach)
Q: What is the best time of day for an experienced tourer to bike across the breadth of Tidewater?
A: Early morning to mid-day is often preferred. Evening traffic conditions, especially between 4-6 pm can be a challenge. If you are faced with this situation ontact us; we may be able to suggest some alternatives.
Q: Can you suggest a route between the Virginia Beach Resort Area and the Jamestown-Scotland Ferry?
A: Because of the choke point created by the Great Dismal Swamp and the James River, there are only three alternatives: US17, VA-330 (Nansemond Pkwy), and US58/460. Though technically legal, the latter has taken on an interstate feel with a 60 mph speed limit, though it does have shoulders. The others are 45 mph arterials with sparse shoulders. US17 tends to be favored by most cyclists for crossing northern Chesapeake and Suffolk into or out of Isle of Wight County.
Here are directions and maps for one route used by tourers. Variations are possible and sometimes advantageous depending on timing. The route begins at 2nd Street and Atlantic Ave in Va Beach which offers good access to the Atlantic Ocean for a ceremonial wheel dip.
Va Beach to Scotland-Jamestown Ferry (directions)
Va Beach to Norfolk (map):
Norfolk East (map):
Norfolk to Portsmouth (map):
Chuckatuck segment (map):
Smithfield segment (map):
Bacon's Castle segment (map):
Scotland Ferry segment (map):
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