Eight Reasons to Visit Portsmouth, Virginia

Just west of Norfolk, the city of Portsmouth, Virginia, has miles of waterfront along the Elizabeth River as part of the harbor of Hampton Roads. It is about four hours from Annapolis and the DC metro area, and a short drive from Hampton and Virginia Beach.

 

Tug boats guide the USS Harry S. Truman up the Elizabeth River past Portsmouth landmarks. Photo courtesy John L. Beeman/U.S. Navy

Norfolk Naval Shipyard 250th anniversary. Established in 1767 as the Gosport Shipyard, the Norfolk Navy Yard is now one of the largest shipyards in the world. The anniversary celebration took place November 1 with a Fleet Forces concert at Portsmouth Pavilion. 

End point of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race (GCBSR). The 130-mile race down the Bay from Annapolis to Portsmouth took place on October 12 this year. The post-race awards, pig roasts, deck tours, and chantey sing-a-longs in Portsmouth are always a blast; make sure to mark your calendar for next year. GCBSR

Sunset over Hoffler Creek, a 142-mile wildlife preserve located at the mouth of the James River. Photo courtesy of Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve Foundation

Start of the Intracoastal Waterway. Located at Mile Marker Zero on the ICW, Portsmouth has several great marinas and a deep, natural harbor. Free overnight dockage for vessels 40 feet and under (36-hour limit) is available at both the North Harbor Landing and High Street Landing Basins. A city-owned, free, do-it-yourself pump-out is available at the North Harbor basin. There is daily ferry service to Norfolk aboard the Elizabeth River Ferry, as well as a downtown water taxi. Before starting your trip down “the ditch,” spend some time in Olde Towne Portsmouth for provisioning or just plain fun.

Shopping in Olde Towne. The concentration of antique stores along High Street has made it one of Hampton Road’s antiquing hot spots. And there’s more than just antiques – you’ll find plenty of boutique stores, gift shops, and marine supplies. 

History. In a single square mile, the Olde Towne Historic District chronicles 300 years of history in one of the largest collections of period homes between Charleston, SC, and Alexandria, VA. As one of America’s most historic naval seaports, Olde Towne includes both the oldest operating Naval Hospital and the first operational dry dock facility in the U.S.: the Gosport Shipyard. Portsmouth also holds the proud distinction of being an official U.S. Coast Guard City, designated in 2009. There are several museums in the area, including the Railroad Museum of Virginia, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Museum, and the Lightship Portsmouth Museum, among others. And for the kids, there’s always the Children’s Museum of Virginia

Located in the Heart of Hampton Roads. Portsmouth is centrally located from Newport News, Hampton, Smithfield, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. 

Departure Point for the ARC Caribbean 1500. The longest-running ocean crossing rally in North America, the 1500 is a must-do for many cruisers. Departure was planned for November 5 (weather dependent) from Ocean Yacht Marina in Portsmouth, and the rally ends at Nanny Cay Marina in Tortola, BVI. Award ceremonies will be November 17 or 12 days after a delayed start. 

The Hoffler Creek Wildlife Preserve. This 142-acre wildlife haven sits at the mouth of the James River, connecting to the Chesapeake Bay through Hampton Roads. The preserve features hiking trails through the forest and salt marsh, docks, kayak rentals, and even oyster gardening programs. Each year Hoffler Creek hosts an Oyster Roast. This year’s date was November 4. 

For more information about all that Portsmouth has to offer, visit portsvacation.com and oldetowneportsmouth.com.