A Historical Tour of Hampton Roads

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Virginia is one of the most history-rich states in the country. As one of the original 13 colonies, European settlers first began settling in our area over 400 years ago. The Hampton Roads area, in particular, is a melting pot of historical sites and attractions—from all different eras!

Get a glimpse of the past, while visiting these fascinating historical locations and museums, in the Hampton Roads area.


Virginia Beach

Cape Henry Lighthouse–This lighthouse, completed in 1792, sits next to the site where English Settlers arrived in 1607. The lighthouse was approved by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton.

Old Coast Guard Station–As a tribute to the Virginia coastal communities and the shipwrecks of bygone eras, this museum hold 1800 artifacts, thousands of photos, and a library.

Military Aviation Museum–Interested in the World War I and World War II time periods? The Military Aviation Museum boasts one of the largest private collections of WWI and WWII military aircraft in the world. On top of that, visitors can even book rides on a historical plane!

Francis Land House–The home of Francis Land VI, a wealthy plantation owner in Princess Anne County, Virginia, offers tours where visitors can see and learn about a working plantation of the 1800’s, and the roles of each household member

Adam Thoroughgood House–This house, built in 1719, shares stories from many Thoroughgood generations and the changes the home went through during each one.

Ferry Plantation House– The Ferry Plantation House, facing the Western Branch of the Lynnhaven River, has been known by many names over the years. Tour the plantation to get a feel for what this property experienced in the 1700-1800’s.


Great Bridge Battlefield and Waterways Park–The historic Battlefield Park serves as a tribute to the history of the Battle of Great Bridge and is soon to be the home to a museum.


USS Wisconsin–An Iowa-class battleship that that participated in World War II, the Korean War, and the Persian Gulf War, the ship was decommissioned in the 1990’s and moved to Norfolk in December 2000. The USS Wisconsin is now open as a museum vessel and for tours.

Hampton Roads Naval History Museum–The official museum of the United States Navy, the museum studies over 240 years of history in the region.

MacArthur Memorial–General Douglas MacArthur served in World War I, World War II, and the Korean War, and this memorial in downtown Norfolk serves as a museum and research center that explores the life of a legendary leader.

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church–As with other historical sites, this church has been known by many names since its first establishment in the colonial era. The Church has been the location of several historical events, including surviving the bombardment and burning of Norfolk in 1776. St. Paul’s Episcopal Churchyard is open to the public during the day, and self-guided tour brochures are available in the church vestibule.


Lightship Portsmouth Museum–Like lighthouses, lightships were vital navigational aids in the 1800’s and early 1900’s. These vessels attached lights on top of their masts to help guide ships. Ships would often anchor at strategic locations at sea for months at a time. Currently, the lightship serves as a museum in Portsmouth and is open for tours.


Casemate Museum–Within Fort Monroe, the Casemate Museum shares the military history of the fort beginning in 1609. One of the highlights includes the room where Jefferson Davis was held briefly as prisoner following the American Civil War.

Newport News

The Mariners’ Museum & Park–America’s National Maritime Museum is home to maritime artifacts and small crafts—including the American Civil War Ironclad’s iconic gun turret. In addition, the museum also features a 5-mile hiking trail and paddleboat rentals.


Colonial Williamsburg–Colonial Williamsburg is undoubtedly one of the cornerstones of the region’s historical locations. The 18th century city is the world’s largest living history museum—including over forty sites, four historical taverns, and two museums.

Jamestown Settlement–The first permanent English colony, the Jamestown Settlement explores 17th-century Virginia. The historic site includes ship re-creations, gallery exhibits, and outdoor tours.


Yorktown–This site is most noted for the Battle of Yorktown where General Charles Cornwallis surrendered to General George Washington, which was ultimately a decisive factor in the end of the American Revolutionary War. Tours of the battlefield and colonial culture are available.


Historic St. Luke’s Church–Virginia’s oldest brick church holds over 400 years of history. Daily tours are available, along with periodic religious services.

Smith’s Fort Plantation–The land was given by Chief Wahunsenacawh as a dowry for his daughter Pocahontas and her marriage to John Rolfe. The historical site is host to an 18th century manor house that preserved a large amount of original woodwork. There is a museum store, guided, and self-guided tours on the premises.


This list of historical sites and landmarks is only a fraction of what our area has to offer—take advantage of the rich history of Hampton Roads and learn more about our fascinating past.