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Bethel Beach Natural Area Preserve in Virginia

A self-supported trip created by guest-paddler

Trip Overview

July 31st 2006 scouted out the Winter Harbor Haven landing put in with 3 friends. A waterman suggested we paddle to the first gut on the left after the Osprey nest on the day marker and follow the tidal creek to a small bay. We paddled and saw many turtles, blue herons, eagles, ospreys, terns, Cow-nose rays, fish jumping everywhere (wish I had packed my fly rod).

Once to the small bay we aimed for a beach in the distance, beached and walked around a bit only to find a lone no trespassing sign. Hardly looked official but we heeded its warning and shoved off to the beach over at Bethel Beach Natural Preserve. Nice calm rollers greeted us as we were open to the Chesapeake Bay for a good stretch. Water was very shallow in areas and squirrelly around the sand bars. The day was very clear and sunny. Looking out into the Chesapeake Bay in the distance we could see Wolftrap Light.

Once on Bethel Beach we looked for beach treasure and found a very large sea turtle scute which must have been at least 18 inches across and some smaller ones as well. Also found horseshoe crab carcasses, many oyster shells, red beard sponges, and the occasional fish dropped by an osprey.

After lunch on a sandbar jutting out from Bethel Beach we headed to the backside of Bethel Beach and a small lagoon then under a bridge to a canal that led to Garden Lake. The canal is approximately 1 mile each way and very slow moving water. The canal and Garden Lake are very shallow. It was very windy on the lake and we were weather-veining so we didn't stay long. Lots of large fish jumping. I suspect they were Weakfish (Sea Trout).

I would recommend paying close attention to what creek you pop out of when meandering through the tidal creeks to get to Bethel Beach. We used a Duck Blind as a reference and are glad we did, otherwise one could get lost for hours.

We were hoping to see Dolphins in the Bay off the Bethel beach area. Maybe next time.


No facilities. Waterman use the ramp for crabbing, but there is plenty of room to launch kayaks. Ramp area is not well-maintained and quite rustic.


There is parking for about 10 SUV's/Trucks. There is private property adjacent to the landing area, so be respectful of private property.


Route 17N Gloucester, bear right on 3 and 14, follow 14 to Mathews, take a right down Mathews main street and follow for a few miles to Port Hayward, take a left on 608 which is Hamburg Rd, Hamburg takes a sharp turn to the right and then becomes Potato Neck rd, follow Potato Neck to the end and you will be at Winter Harbor Haven Landing.


ADC Street Map Book for Gloucester and Mathews Counties. This book is available at most 7-11 Stores for about $11.95. These street books are a very good resource since they list all public boat ramps and launch sites.
Also "Sea Kayaking Virginia" by Andrea J. Nolan. A nice reference guide.

Trip Details

  • Trip Duration: Day Trip
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking, Canoeing
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Water Type: Open Water/Ocean

Trip Location