Step Into the Past at First Landing State Park

Acres of untouched coastal wilderness conceal a bloody history, buried treasure, and even the supernatural at one of Virginia’s oldest state parks.

First Landing State Park sits on Cape Henry northeast of Virginia Beach, and its murky water, sand, and coniferous forest hold their share of secrets.

Where European colonization of North America is concerned, this stretch of wilderness is among the oldest historic sites in the United States.

On April 26, 1607, Captain Christopher Newport and his three ships of English colonists made landfall at Cape Henry before moving on to establish the Jamestown Settlement.

Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in America, and their landing site is located in nearby Fort Story, which borders the park.

It was for that reason in 1997 the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation changed the park’s name from Seashore State Park to First Landing State Park.

Its Seashore Natural Area was designated a National Natural Landmark in 1965, and Seashore State Park Historic District joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

A swamp seems like an unusual addition to the National Register, but for hundreds of years, European explorers, Native Americans, and pirates navigated this ancient Cypress swamp.

Bald Cypress trees, with cone-shaped appendages protruding from submerged roots, are known to live for centuries, meaning visitors might see the exact same trees as early colonists.

According to legend, in 1718 the pirate Edward Teach, better known as “Blackbeard”, buried a treasure in the sand dunes along shore before fleeing inland through the Cypress swamp’s labyrinthine waterways.

Some believe his headless shade still searches for it. Even without his infamous smoldering beard, it must make a frightening countenance.

He fatefully sailed south to North Carolina, intending to eventually retrieve his treasure.

Blackbeard was killed on November 22, 1718, however, and this fabled treasure was never found.

Some believe his headless shade still searches for it. Even without his infamous smoldering beard, it must make a frightening countenance.

But Blackbeard’s ghost is not the only spirit thought to lurk here.

In 1980, when developers began expanding homesites around Virginia Beach, they unearthed the remains of 64 Chesapeake Indians, massacred by the Powhatan Tribe in the early 1600s.

The Chesapeake Indians lived in that area for centuries, until the neighboring Powhatans grew weary of their presence.

Powhatan priests warned that “from the Chesapeake Bay a nation should arise, which should dissolve and give end to their empire.”

In 1997, the tribal remains were ceremonially reburied in First Landing State Park under a grassy mound.

In the r/Paranormal subreddit, a frequent visitor described seeing shadowy figures wearing tribal regalia and hearing drums, chanting, and quiet footsteps during the night.

First Landing State Park, at 2500 Shore Drive in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is open from 7:00am to dusk. The Trail Center and gift shop is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm. Enjoy the beach and hiking trails, but take care not to go alone. You never know what you might encounter.