One of the most spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay area can be witnessed from the shores of Fossil Beach in Westmoreland State Park. The contrast of the smooth Potomac waters and the tall jagged cliffs are highlighted by the yellow-orange rays of the rising sun. The glowing backdrop seems to change with each blink of the eye as the light begins to peak from behind a cliff to greet us. As we sip our thermos coffee and dig our toes into the cool sand, we agree that this breathtaking display made the early alarm and dimly lit hike through the woods well worth it.
This is definitely a sight to behold before jumping into a search for shark teeth and fossilized finds. It’s a mile walk on a trail from the parking lot to secluded Fossil Beach, so plan to leave your campsite in plenty of time. We heard that the small beach can fill up quickly, but is fairly empty first thing in the morning. And it was completely empty on the morning of our visit. Empty of people, but not empty of shark teeth. After training our eyes to know what to look for, finding those tiny triangle treasures become easier and easier. Tip: Take some sort of sifter with you to aid in the process. We picked up a few fine mesh strainers from the kitchen section of a dollar store and keep them in the camper. You never know when they’ll come in handy!
The weather could not have been any better on this Labor Day weekend visit. The pool was closed during our time there, and the website now states that it is permanently closed. But we enjoyed water and shore time at the park beach. Tip: Take the incredibly long, steep, heart-pumping staircase that connects the park road to the beach area down below at least once. Cool experience and will count as your daily workout. Win-win. The beaches do not offer guarded swimming and while we were there the water was filled with small jellyfish. But this did not deter our kids, and had quite the opposite effect once they realized the tentacle-free jellies did not sting. They played with the translucent little guys up until the time their hands surprisingly started turning a bright red. Maybe don't play with sea creatures no matter how cute they are?
From playing with nature's jelly and hunting for ancient chompers to playing at our woodsy campsite, the kids had a blast during this trip. They made friends with neighbors and enjoyed bike rides around the paved loop. They received their Junior Ranger badge after completing their activity books and reciting the pledge. They peddled over to the Discovery Center where they were presented with large shark teeth and all the supplies to turn them into necklaces (for a small fee).
Westmoreland is one of the original six state parks that opened in 1936. I’ve seen photos of park visitors from that year displayed in a cabin we stayed in at Fairy Stone State Park, and it’s pretty incredible. The only downside to the historical aspect of this park is the bathhouse we used during our stay. It is very rustic. And not a cute historically-preserved rustic, it’s more of a worn out rustic. However, in stark contrast, the new Visitor Center with views of the Potomac is spectacular.
One day we ventured into the quaint town of Montross, where we ate good food, drank delicious coffee, and had wonderful conversations with fellow visitors. We also checked out the nearby George Washington Birthplace National Monument. This beautiful property also has a nice beach where we hung out.
I continue to marvel at the variety of landscape this state offers. We tend to gravitate more towards mountain camping excursions, but the seaside ones have pleasantly surprised us. From coastal scenery to rolling farmland to mountainous backdrops, every corner of Virginia truly holds something magnificent.