Norfolk is a bustling city in Virginia packed with attractions, farm-to-table restaurants, and a thriving arts scene. When you’re wanting a change of pace and scenery, embark on a weekend getaway to explore new surroundings such as beach communities and mountain towns. Within a three to five-hour driving distance of Norfolk, there are numerous quaint towns and charming cities in adjacent states like North Carolina and Delaware. Make your Norfolk vacation rental your home base, then head out to explore neighboring areas. When you’re ready to start creating your itinerary, check out the most popular destinations accessible from Norfolk.

a sail boat at fort miles
Source: Flick/Lee Cannon

1. Ocracoke Island, North Carolina

After a four-hour drive, drop your bags at your vacation rental and soak up the sun on one of the island’s many pristine beaches. In the evening, walk around downtown and check out some of the eclectic shops, such as Island Ragpicker, for a unique souvenir. For dinner get your fill of fresh seafood at the Jolly Roger Pub and Marina, which includes a kid’s menu for little eaters. Rent a golf cart from Ocracoke Island Golf Carts to zoom around the island and stop by the Ocracoke Light and the Ocracoke Island Wild Pony, where the locals keep wild horses with minimum interference but provide safety and care.

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2. Raleigh, North Carolina

A short three-hour drive brings you to the capital city of North Carolina, Raleigh. This town is part of the Research Triangle area and home to several colleges that provide it with a hip feel. The North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences is the largest of its kind in the southeast and features many interactive exhibits and assembled skeletons. Kids enjoy creating tree music at Marbles Kids Museum and then stopping by the IMAX to see the latest movie or a special educational flick. Pullen Park is one of the town’s most popular green spaces with a public pool, a carousel, and boats to rent to pedal around the lake.

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3. Lewes, Delaware

Lewes, Delaware is a brief three-hour drive north from your home in Norfolk. Feel the sun on your face as you head out onto the water by booking a tour through Cape Water Tours. The company offers eco-tours and sunset cruises. Toss your blanket on the sand at the beach in Cape Henlopen State Park, or opt to spend the day hiking and exploring the remains of the former military base. The Junction and Breakwater Trail offers around six miles of smooth walking. Climb to the top of the observation tower for amazing views. Designed to look like a Dutch city hall, the Zwaanendael Museum offers a look at local history.

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4. Alexandria, Virginia

Close to the nation’s capital city and a three-hour drive from Norfolk, Alexandria is a great town to explore over a weekend. Take a tour of Mount Vernon. As you walk through the halls, the guide tells you stories of America’s first president, George Washington and what life was like for him at his plantation. After the tour, wander through the gardens. Take a stroll along the cobblestones and red bricks that line the streets in Old Town and gaze at all the historic buildings. Show your creative side with an art class at the Torpedo Factory Art Center, or just check out the works done by local artists.

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5. Calabash, North Carolina

Right at five hours driving time, Calabash, North Carolina, is worth the drive for the food alone. Known locally as the Seafood Capital, this small town has its own style of preparing seafood with special breading and a crispy fry. Bird Island is a protected reserve where your family can get in a little bird watching or spend a day playing on the beach. While on the island, check out the Kindred Spirit mailbox. Inside, find a journal with messages written by past visitors and write your own. Book a day out on the water through Hurricane Fleet Charter Fishing. You can try your hand at some deep-sea fishing while the kids watch dolphins play in the wake of the boat.

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6. Roanoke, Virginia

Roanoke is about a four and a half hour drive from Norfolk and offers family fun. Mill Mountain Zoo is a quaint little zoo with a train ride that the kids beg to ride over and over again. As night falls, look towards Mill Mountain to catch sight of the iconic, neon Roanoke Star sign. Go hiking or biking on Roanoke Valley Greenways, 26 miles of trails that wind their way among the green spaces in town. Trains, planes, and automobiles are the subject of the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which offers interactive exhibits and old cars and train sections.

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7. Wilmington, North Carolina

Wilmington, North Carolina, a little over four hours away, has a lot of family fun on tap. Along the Cape Fear River waterfront, Riverwalk is a popular boardwalk area for enjoying the scenery and breathing in the fresh air. Along the boardwalk, you can tour the USS North Carolina, a World War II destroyer. The New Hanover County Arboretum and Arlie Gardens are the best places in the area to explore nature and stop and smell the flowers. Learn more about the local history at the Cape Fear Museum. This museum, which opened its doors in 1898, is the oldest in the state.

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