Whether you are interested in the exciting nightlife found in the Virginia Beach Resort Area or want to step aboard the battleship USS Wisconsin in Downtown Norfolk, there is no more central area in our region to live. From nuclear aircraft carriers, Navy bands, a busy harbor, sandy beaches, great sunsets, and some of the region’s most expensive housing, our neighborhood has it all.
Virginian Pilot article July 23, 2006
Psssst… Ocean View is the next best thing to your own private beach
BY HARRY MINIUM – THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT
NORFOLK — Stepping gingerly on a wooden ramp leading to Ocean View beach, we are treated to a gorgeous view. The beach is sugar white, the Chesapeake Bay aquamarine, and there is not a cloud in the sky. Sailboats dot the calm water. And for a mile or more in either direction, there is nobody in sight.
“So this is what a private beach is like,” says my companion, Ellen Brinker.
Indeed, the more than seven miles of beachfront in Norfolk’s Ocean View is an underused gem.
Virginia Beach is the state’s most popular beach for good reason – a great boardwalk, large hotels, plenty of shopping. But Ocean View has much to offer that’s unavailable in the resort city – such as free parking just steps from the beach.
Perhaps people don’t crowd into Ocean View because of its past as a mecca for drugs, prostitution and violent crime. As a boy growing up across Pretty Lake from Ocean View, I remember listening to the gunshots on Saturday nights.
As a teenager working at the Ship’s Cabin restaurant in 1971, I was forced to sprawl on the ground as bullets whizzed over my head. Yet police and neighborhood activists have worked hard to clean up the area. Police say crime has dropped dramatically in the past decade. It is also a place of political turmoil. Where much of Norfolk is transient, many Ocean View people are born, grow up and die here. Gentrification, though, has forced some lower-income people out. Dilapidated hotels and apartment buildings are being torn down. Condos are rising.
Even so, public access to beaches remains plentiful. The city has spent millions on beach replenishment, leaving tall, grassy dunes and an ample swath of sand in many places. But few visitors make it a destination.
On July 4, Virginia Beach was jammed with bodies from the Oceanfront to Chicks Beach
In Ocean View, there was plenty of room to pitch your beach umbrella and dip your toes in the warm Bay water.
So, for anyone seeking solitude or tired of the long drive to the Outer Banks, here’s your introduction to Ocean View.
It is the place where Norfolk residents have been swimming since the 1800s and where Abe Lincoln accepted the surrender of the city in the Civil War.
And if you don’t mind a few jellyfish and an eclectic community where most of the ponytails are worn by men and the fashion is more Wal-Mart than Nordstrom, a good time awaits.
Ocean View is separated into three distinct parts – East Ocean View, central Ocean View and Willoughby, all fronted by Ocean View Avenue, the area’s main drag.
Willoughby, a spit of sand on the western end of Ocean View, was formed a few hundred years ago by a hurricane. But forget it as a beach destination – it is a narrow peninsula with little on-street parking.
Downtown Ocean View, if there is such a thing, is at First View Street, the area’s only large commercial corridor. This is where the action has always been.
Here, on the Bay, once stood the old Ocean View Amusement Park, with its roller coaster that came crashing down in the 1977 movie “Rollercoaster.”
I rode the rickety old beast as a college student and went to church the next day to offer thanks that I got off alive
In its place stands Ocean View Beach Park, with its boardwalk, grassy play area and a performance stage where concerts are held. Within walking distance of restaurants and shops, it is the Town Point Park of Ocean View. About a quarter mile to the west is Sarah Constant Beach Park. An equal distance to the east is Ocean View Community Beach. All feature public parking, bathrooms and lifeguards. If you have kids, this is the place to go. And many families do. A Farm Fresh, probably your best place to load up on drinks and snacks, is across from Ocean View Beach Park. But don’t park there and go to the beach – your car may be towed. For a quick lunch, try Doug’s Hot Dogs on Granby Street. The lunch special is two hot dogs (tax included) for $3.07. My favorite is a bowl of bean soup and a dog with sauerkraut.
For the ultimate Ocean View experience, include a trip to the Thirsty Camel restaurant, located at 4th View Street. Operating out of a former hardware store, it has been open for more than half a century. It is old Ocean View – smoky and dark. It also has some of the fattest steamed shrimp available.
It is in this area of Ocean View that the Boone couple reigns supreme. Developer Ronnie Boone and real estate agent Judy Boone are arguably the area’s most influential couple. They dominate the restaurant market in the area – they own five, including the Thirsty Camel.
“There are people who don’t like us,” Ronnie Boone said.
If you don’t believe it, go to a Web site run by amateur historian R.K. Puma called Ocean View, the Nickel Tour (www.rkpuma.com/ov/). She has a page where people can mously, and many castigate the Boones.
The Boones shrug their shoulders and keep developing, making money and changing the area’s character, from blue collar to white.
Next to the Thirsty Camel they have built the Ocean View Fishing Pier. It replaced Harrison’s Pier, which was wrecked by Hurricane Isabel.
On any Saturday, from early morning until midnight, the pier is jammed with people fishing and crabbing. The view from their upstairs restaurant – the one for which their son Ronnie Jr. was fined for building without proper permits – is spectacular around sunset. The Boones plan a $60 million condominium/timeshare development. Until they start construction, Ronnie Boone said the public can park in their paved lots for free. How are the beaches in the area around the Camel and Community Beach
Mediocre. The city poured plenty of sand on the beaches, but a storm took much of it out to sea in places, leaving a hill you must climb down to get to the water
The beach at Ocean View Beach Park is sparse, but if you want restrooms and lifeguards, it’s the place to be. If you don’t have children or a weak bladder, head east.
East Beach, a luxury community rising where 1,600 low-income houses once stood on the eastern edge of Ocean