Virginia Beach, VA Day 2 Cape Henry Lighthouses

May 31, 2023 We both slept in. We were wiped out after our long drive yesterday. Skies were overcast and it was windy. It was a cooler day of 65 degrees, but there was no rain in the forecast. Woo-hoo! We decided to take a drive down towards the Boardwalk and Old Cape Henry Lighthouse. General Booth Blvd., right outside the campground, would take us right there. We left at 11:00 and crossed over Rudee Inlet where we could see all the boats docked below.

We drove down Atlantic Ave. which takes you right along the waterfront.

The street is lined with shops, restaurants, and every touristy thing you could imagine.

Funny thing . . . the street was empty of shoppers. Those few that were there, were fighting the strong 15 mph wind out of the north. The flags were blowing straight out and still we saw tourists in sleeveless tops and shorts. It was a blustery day!

We decided to skip our walk on the Boardwalk hoping for a better weather day tomorrow. We continued on Atlantic Ave., passing through the North End Neighborhood to get to the fort. There were a lot of beautiful homes in this neighborhood.

We drove all the way to the end of the road and the entrance to Fort Story.

Fort Story is the Army’s only training facility for logistics over-the-shore operations to train troops on amphibious equipment to practice the transfer of military cargo from the ship to shore. At the gate, we had to show our IDs and they wanted us to roll down our windows to look into the back seat (our windows are tinted). Once we got the “ok”, we proceeded to the parking lot. We could not drive ourselves, but had to ride the shuttle to the lighthouses. From the parking lot, we had to enter a small portable building where we had to give up our IDs in exchange for a “pass”/map. The map showed us where we could go and what was off limits. We also had to empty our pockets and be wanded before we could leave and get onto the shuttle. After all, we were on a military base. The Old Cape Henry Lighthouse and the newer lighthouse were what we came to see . . . and climb!

The Cape Henry Lighthouses are a pair of lighthouses marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay. The historic lighthouses are the entry point to the ports of Norfolk, Newport News, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The original Old Cape Henry Lighthouse was the first federal project completed under the new Constitution in 1792. President Washington took special interest in its construction and Alexander Hamilton appropriated the money to have it built as the Secretary of the Treasury. It was the Nation’s first lighthouse. The second lighthouse (black and white) was completed in 1881 a short distance away after there was a concern about the stability of the first lighthouse. The Civil War put the Cape Henry Lighthouse out of the commission temporarily. In 1861, the tower was seized and the lens was destroyed. In 1872, they noticed cracks on 6 of the 8 walls and deemed it unsafe. The new lighthouse was constructed standing 350 feet southeast from the old tower. It was lit in 1881. Surprisingly, the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse never crumbled or was swept away in a storm. In 1896, they placed a plaque on the lighthouse commemorating it as the site of the first landing in 1607 of the English colonists in Virginia. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is the 4th oldest lighthouse still standing in the United States.

We took the shuttle to the lighthouse and paid the $9 fee (seniors) to climb up the 71 stairs to the base of the lighthouse which sits on a 56 ft. sand dune. Even from there, you get great views of the other lighthouse and Chesapeake Bay.

I couldn’t convince Bob to do the climb, but he went this far with me.

From there, I made the 100+ stair climb alone.

The lighthouse used to have a 2nd order Fresnel Lens, but it destroyed. This is where the lens would have been.

It is 26 feet in diameter at the base and 16 feet in diameter at the top. The walls are 3 feet thick. From the top, I had great 360-degree views of the area.

I took in the views awhile until 2 more people arrived. They took a picture of me to prove I had reached the top.

The descent was easy and I met Bob waiting for me below. We walked over to the new lighthouse which was just across the street.

It contains a 1st order Fresnel Lens–the largest there is.

I love this ornate entrance to the lighthouse. It is not open to the public because it is still a working lighthouse. As you can probably tell, I am a LIGHTHOUSE LOVER!

We could have walked over to the beach via the public stairway (military personnel have their own stairway), but it was quite windy, so we decided to hop back on the shuttle and return to the Jeep. We drove back along Pacific Ave. which is one block off of the beach and stopped at Food Lion for some groceries. We got back to the campground around 2:30. Bob decided to wash the Jeep and I sat outside to work on my blog and keep Auggie company. Some people stopped by the campsite that Bob had befriended in Charleston. They also own a Discovery motorhome and we chatted about where we’ve been and where we’re going. They are traveling the same direction as we are and going to some of the same places we are, so we had a lot of notes to compare about all sorts RV experiences. They are nice people and we may see them again in Maine. The sun finally came out when the clouds disappeared and blue skies appeared. The wind was still blowing strong, but it had switched directions. We soaked up that sunshine sitting on the patio! We enjoyed cocktails in the sun (Bob in the shade) before dinner. We listened and watched the F-18s, the Navy’s Super Hornet fighter jets out of Naval Air Station Oceana, take off and fly overhead throughout the afternoon. They were cool to see and loud to hear. We had a later dinner and took our evening walk around the campground. This KOA has so many nice amenities for the kids and adults and they are currently building a larger pool, water slide, and splash pool. It should be nice when it is done. We will walk the Boardwalk tomorrow and enjoy our time near the ocean.

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