Chat with us, powered by LiveChat
< Back to Boating
Campfire Collective May 5th, 2017

Boating in Virginia

Will you be visiting a big city like Virginia Beach, Richmond or Norfolk? Or a smaller, cozy VA town like Kilmarnock? How about a historic gem like Alexandria? Doesn’t matter much – there are lakes everywhere!

So how do you like to spend a day on the water? Making waves? Skimming the surface in your kayak? Taking a tumble off a tube? Nailing a new trick on your wakeboard? Whatever your style or watersport of choice, you’ll definitely find the boating experience you’re looking for on one of Virginia’s lakes, rivers, coastal waterways or when you’re out boating in the beautiful Chesapeake Bay area!


Virginia has spectacular lakes and rivers for boaters and paddlers to check out! No matter which area of the state you live in or will be visiting, you can always count on there being a lake less than an hour away! To get you started on your Virginia boating adventure, we thought we’d suggest a few of our favorite places to hit the water in Virginia!


One of Virginia’s most popular lakes is Lake Anna. It offers a boat launch making the lake accessible to visitors brining their own boats in tow. The park also has a fish pond accessible to children and the disabled, a boathouse complex and camping facilities including cabins and lodges. There are over 15 miles of trails allowing visitors to hike. bike and horseback ride.

Anglers can access the boat ramp from 5:30am onwards.


Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and State-Approved Boating Course, Test & License.

Get your Official North American
Boating License

The Official NASBLA and State-Approved Canada Boating
Course, Test & License.


Wise Lake/Reservoir provides the water supply to the town of Wise. The lake also serves as a venue for anglers, picnicers, wildlife watchers, boaters and swimmers. There are many trails around the lake giving walkers able opportunity to be emersed in nature and the lake backdrop offers much in the way of photography.

The lake is a mecca for bird lovers with various migrants including warblers, swallows, flycatchers, waterfowl and shorebirds. The area is also known for reptiles and amphibians including various species of frogs and snakes.


John H Kerr Reservoir is Virginia’s largest lake with more than 50,000 acres of fresh water and over 800 miles of shoreline. The lake is a platform for skiing, fishing, sailing & swimming and the shore offers other recreation such as camping, hiking, bicycling, hunting, & golfing.

Listed as the number one Crappie fishing lake in the U.S. by “In-Fisherman” magazine, Kerr Lake is host to state and national fishing tournaments.


Smith Mountain Lake, or SML, is considered Virginia’s most popular lake. It features 500 miles of shoreline in being a 40 mile long, 20,600 acre lake. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of rural southwestern Virginia it provides a scenic backdrop for an array of outdoor activities.

Boating is a key activity and you can launch from any of the marinas along the shore and use one of the six public docks. There are a number of boat rental companies and other restaurants and businesses are accessible from the water. SML is a great place to learn with sailing courses offered as well as other boater education courses.

So enjoy a leisurely ride along the steep shoreline of deep pine trees and islands littered with tents and tanned families.


Ideal for swimming, camping, hiking and picnicking, Claytor Lake is known for sport fishing and boating. The park has a full-service marina with docking slips, supplies, fuel, boat rentals and refreshments.

Three lodges and 15 cabins overlook the 4,500-acre lake, offering visitors a scenic retreat. The historic Howe House has interactive exhibits describing the ecology of the lake and the surrounding areas. Guests can also rent bikes and enjoy a universally accessible fishing pier, picnic shelters, a seasonal snack bar and playgrounds.


They’ve been consistently rated as some of the best parks in the region, so what are you waiting for? Plan your boating adventure in one of Virginia’s State Parks! There are 36 Parks stretching across the state and many of them are located on the Atlantic Coast and along the shore of Chesapeake Bay.

So, how many of Virginia’s 36 State Parks offer boating access? The odds are really good, with 24 fully accessible parks for boaters. Several of Virginia’s State Parks are also equipped with full-service marinas, boat launch ramps and boat rental facilities. It couldn’t be easier to plan a visit to a Virginia State Park with your boat trailer in tow.


Did you know that the IGFA World Record blue catfish was caught from Virginia’s Bugg’s Island Lake? Or that there are 2,800 miles of trout streams in Virginia’s lakes and rivers, several of which are regularly STOCKED with trout? That’s right, we used the ‘s’ word.

In Virginia’s freshwater lakes, you’ll catch largemouth and smallmouth bass, sunfish and catfish. Along the coast, even in the shallow waters, anglers can reel in flounder and striped bass. Or, if you’re in vacation mode and feeling adventurous, you could consider chartering a boat and doing a little deep sea fishing for marlin, tuna and more – But be prepared for the roll of the ocean and fish that can fight!

Learn up on Virginia’s Fishing Regulations and Boating Laws before you launch a boat or cast a line.

You Might Also Like




Go boldly, tell your story. Campfire is building a collective of ambassadors who share a passion for the wild. If you’re an influencer, publisher or sport expert drop us a line. Let’s hook up and inspire others.




Stay in the loop. Sign up for our newsletter
to get the latest stories from around the fire.