The Best Places to Take in a Virginia Sunrise or Sunset

Packed with mountains, beaches, lakes, and rivers, Virginia has countless picturesque spots to take in a sunrise or a sunset. As the sun rises and sets over these varied landscapes, something truly magical happens, creating unforgettable moments that are stunningly beautiful.

While you can really catch a sunrise or sunset anywhere, we’ve picked a few of our favorites. Head to one of these destinations at dawn or dusk to get a glimpse of Virginia at her finest! 

High Knob Observation TowerNorton

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Photo Credit: Brad Deel IG account: @brad.deel

Perched at the top of Stone Mountain’s High Knob Recreation Area in Virginia’s Heart of Appalachia region, the High Knob Observation Tower sits at an elevation of over 4,000 feet. On a clear day, you’ll get expansive views of five states from the top (Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, and West Virginia). The observation tower was reconstructed in 2014 and is now handicapped accessible, allowing all visitors to enjoy the breathtaking sunrises and sunsets seen from the peak.

Virginia Beach Boardwalk—Virginia Beach

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The Virginia Beach Boardwalk runs parallel to the sandy beachfront, so you’ll never lose sight of the ocean as you stroll along this iconic landmark. The Boardwalk is an ideal place for catching a sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean, and if you’re lucky, you may also spot dolphins leaping above the water during dawn hours. 

Salamander Resort—Middleburg

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Photo Credit: Salamander Resort

Salamander Resort features 168 luxurious rooms, a lavish spa, a full-service equestrian center, and both indoor and outdoor pools. Set on 340 acres in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the uninterrupted rolling landscape creates one of the best places to enjoy a sunrise or a sunset in the Middleburg area.

Wachapreague

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Photo Credit: Adam Lewis IG account: @adamtlewis

One of the many small towns on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Wachapreague is located on the eastern coast of the shoreline, providing an excellent vantage point for sunrises. Wachapreague has long been a well-known destination for avid sport fishermen, but the town has shied away from the larger crowds seen in many coastal destinations. Instead, Wachapreague’s residents have chosen to protect their vast acreage of unspoiled wetlands and barrier islands (some of the last in the mid-Atlantic States) so you can take in the sunrise with hardly a soul in sight. 

The Richmond City Skyline

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Photo Credit: Adam Lewis IG account: @adamtlewis

While many choose undeveloped landscapes to take in a sunrise or sunset, Richmond’s city skyline offers a more urban kind of beauty. One of the best places to take in a sunrise or sunset over Richmond’s skyline is from either Floodwall Park on the south side of the James River or Belle Isle, a 54-acre island in the middle of the river easily accessed from a pedestrian bridge that runs from Tredegar Street on the north side of the James.

James Madison’s MontpelierMontpelier Station

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Photo Credit: Aaron Watson @aaronwatsonphotography

The lifelong home of President James Madison, Father of the Constitution and architect of the Bill of Rights, Montpelier is comprised of over 2,600 acres in Virginia’s Orange County. Tour the estate later in the day to catch a spectacular sunset over the grounds. 

Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve—Kilmarnock

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Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve is made up of protected wetlands, undeveloped beaches, dunes, and upland forests. Several threatened animals call the preserve home and it is an important wintering area for migrating waterfowl and songbirds. Hughlett Point is also a habitat for bald eagles, osprey and northern harriers. With so much wildlife and untouched landscapes, Hughlett Point Natural Area Preserve is a gorgeous spot for a sunrise or sunset. 

Primland Resort—Meadows of Dan

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A luxury resort surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, Primland offers spectacular views, mountain-top chalets, elegant dining, and a wide array of recreational activities such as sport shooting, ATV tours, and horseback riding. With mountains all around, you’re sure to catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset at Primland Resort. 

The Roanoke Star—Roanoke

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

Enjoy the scenic views of the Roanoke Valley from Mill Mountain Overlook at the Roanoke Star. Built in 1949 and visible from just about every part of the Valley, the splendid 100-foot Star is situated on the top of Mill Mountain, and from this vantage point, both dusk and dawn are breathtaking. 

False Cape State ParkVirginia Beach

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Photo Credit: Trevor Frost, IG account: @tbfrost

Located between Virginia Beach’s Back Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, False Cape State Park is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas along the eastern seaboard of the U.S. The park offers an opportunity to get back to nature in a unique setting, just minutes from the bustle of Virginia Beach but in a seemingly remote landscape. Plus, with oceanfront primitive campsites, you can hike out, set up a tent to take in sunset and sleep under the stars, and then wake to a picture-perfect sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway

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Photo Credit: Scott K. Brown

The 469-mile  Blue Ridge Parkway follows the Appalachian Mountains and boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. Running from the northern Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina, the route has dozens of scenic overlooks where you can stop and take in a sunrise or sunset. Want to add more picturesque mountain views to your trip? The Blue Ridge Parkway connects to Skyline Drive on the northern end, taking you through the famed Shenandoah National Park

High Bridge Trail State Park—Farmville

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Photo Credit: Kyle LaFerriere, IG account: @laferriere.photography

Farmville’s High Bridge Trail State Park is a multi-use trail used for hiking, bicycling, and horseback riding. Its centerpiece is the majestic High Bridge, which is more than 2,400 feet long and 160 feet above the Appomattox River, and from this vantage point, both sunrise and sunset are absolutely stunning. 

Netherlands Carillon—Arlington

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Photo Credit: Tom Hamilton, IG account: @tomhamiltonphotography

If you’re looking for a fantastic sunrise or sunset in Northern Virginia, head to the Netherlands Carillon in Arlington. Standing near the Iwo Jima Memorial and Arlington National Cemetery, the Netherlands Carillon has one of the best views in the area, overlooking the Potomac River with Washington, D.C. in the background. 

McAfee Knob—Catawba

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

How about pairing sweeping views with one of Virginia’s best hikes? A 4.4-mile trail (8.8 miles there and back) will take you to the awe-inspiring McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. The Knob offers an almost 270-degree panorama of the Catawba Valley and North Mountain to the West, Tinker Cliffs to the North, and the Roanoke Valley to the East. On a clear day, you’ll have some of the best views in the Southern Shenandoah Valley from the top. This is a popular hike, but if you set out early to catch the sunrise, you’ll likely reach the peak before it gets too busy.

Cape Charles

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Photo Credit: Sam Dean, IG account: @sdeanphotos

A charming town on the southern end of Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Cape Charles is the ultimate low-key beach destination. Catch a sunrise or sunset from the beach, or take a kayak tour with SouthEast Expeditions to Chatham Vineyards. Beginning at a working watermen’s wharf on the shores of Nassawadox Creek, the 45-minute paddle takes you through the marsh waters before arriving at Chatham Vineyards, where you can relax and sip a nice glass of Virginia wine. Pro tip: the 2:30pm tour time will give you the chance to see a sunset over the water during the shorter days of the year. 

Breaks Interstate Park—Breaks

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Photo Credit: Joshua Moore, IG account: @jtm71

Straddling the Virginia/Kentucky border, Breaks Interstate Park is one of only two Interstate Parks in the nation and encompasses over 4,500 acres of greenwood lands and mountain scenery. The best spot to catch a sunrise or sunset in the park is probably overlooking the “Grand Canyon of the South”, the deepest gorge east of the Mississippi River. In addition to amazing views, the park offers elk viewing tours, miles of hiking trails, fishing, paddle boats, cabin rentals, campsites, a lodge and visitor center, an on-site restaurant, and a gift shop.

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge—Chincoteague

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The Eastern Shore’s Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a 14,000-acre wildlife preserve that sits primarily on the Virginia side of Assateague Island (some sections are also located on the Maryland side of the island). The island is home to a herd of wild ponies and is well known for its migratory birds, and with hours running from 6am-6pm, you can witness both sunrise and sunset from the refuge depending on the time of year. 

Where do you catch the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets in Virginia? Share your favorite spots with us in the comments below! 

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