Spending a weekend in Richmond, Virginia is always an authentic Northeast experience filled with historic landmarks, fun shopping, dining, and tourist attractions. As one of Virginia’s best cities packed with history, urban culture, and nightlife (and not far from Virginia’s top music festivals for fans of the latter), scenic parks, natural areas, and hiking trails to enjoy the fresh air and scenery aren’t uncommon — many metropolitan cities do this finally.
In the heart of bustling downtown Richmond, however, lies picturesque Sharp’s Island, which is also home to recreational amenities, public art, environmental and geological wonders, and historical significance. Sure, it’s just another tiny island off a typical American town – no problem. Or is it?
What makes this one-hectare island attractive is not just its natural beauty, long and fascinating tales of the past, and outdoor activities; No, this hidden gem in Richmond is the only place where camping is legal – and campers can enjoy the island’s sandy beaches, forested hinterland and natural splendor all to themselves.
What is Sharps Island Richmond, Virginia?
Sharp’s Island in Richmond is an acre of granite and sand surrounded by water. Sounds humble, but there’s more to it than this humble description. Richmond isn’t exactly one of the most sparsely populated cities in Virginia – a fact that draws many city dwellers to relax and take a getaway surrounded by nature. Where’s the nearest, most accessible haven for doing just that? Sharp Island, of course.
This tiny island is a premier natural area with its pretty vistas, sandy beaches, lush forests and bustling wildlife, all aided by the murmur of the flowing river – a haven to retreat to from the hectic urban sprawl of Richmond. Where Piedmont meets the coastal plain along the James River – with the north-south rapids bisecting the island – this tiny speck on the Richmond map is a fantastic fishing destination, especially in spring when the shad and striper runs take place .
There is also a Sharp’s Island Airbnb that visitors can book. According to Sharp’s Island reviews, the hosting and camping experiences are highly rated, making this place one of the top Richmond attractions for tourists and locals alike.
What is the history of Sharp’s Island, Richmond, Virginia?
Sharp’s Island got its name from the Sharp family of Richmond, who owned the site as early as the 1850s. For 75 years, members of the Sharp family lived on the island in a two-story house that was unfortunately washed away by a flood. The old brick foundation of the property, which can be seen on the island and in Sharp Island pictures, is all that remains of the family home today.
Can you camp on Sharp’s Island?
In fact, this historic 1-acre island is the only place to camp in Richmond. Camping on Sharp’s Island offers adventurers the chance to enjoy a private island experience all to themselves, resting under the stars and soaking up the atmosphere – just a stone’s throw from the bright lights and bustling streets of the Richmond skyline, which you can admire from the Island (imagine the view of Richmond at night!)
Because of its location, this beautiful spot offers some of the best island camping that Virginia has to offer, where adventurers can choose their own campsite: a sandy beach or a lush forest (or anywhere they like). Perhaps best described as Richmond’s answer to camping in Cape Cod (or any other of America’s top campgrounds), Sharp’s Island is a must-see for any traveler looking for peaceful natural spots that are bizarre yet beautiful in the midst of a big city are located.
How much is Camping on Sharp’s Island in Richmond?
- Sharp’s Island Camping Price: From $53 per night (excluding canoe, kayak, or camping gear rentals)
Guests booking through the site’s Airbnb currently pay per person per night. According to Sharp’s Island Airbnb reviews, canoes are available for rent, but no camping gear — guests must bring their own tent. The island features an A-frame cabin and tent platform for camping. Visitors can access the island by taking a boat or canoe/kayak from the trail just below the Mayo Bridge to Ancarrow’s Landing.
Overall, this patch is the ultimate way to get back to nature despite being in the busy core of the city. There are no luxuries, showers, hot water or anything like that; this is camping in the truest sense of the word – at its roughest (yes, right in the middle of Richmond!). But isn’t that part of the adventurous experience?
What to do on Sharp’s Island, Richmond, Virginia
Of course, escaping to the island to enjoy the refreshing outdoors, natural beauty, scenic coastlines and forested stretches is the order of the day. Bringing a camera is a must, especially to capture the beautiful view of the sky that bathes the Richmond cityscape in vibrant, ever-changing colors day and night. But what can you do on Sharp’s Island apart from the typical hobbies of nature viewing and photography? The answer: quite a lot!
While most visitors stroll around the islet to get acquainted with the terrain, fishing is also a fun pastime – especially in the spring when the fishing action becomes more productive, such as in the spring. Additionally, rafting and kayaking downriver are also epic activities that are popular with the island’s more adventurous guests — thankfully, the Airbnb host offers these for rent. Plus, as summer comes and the river rises and falls, dozens of great swimming holes appear along the banks — perfect for lounging (which the Airbnb host also offers for rent!).
If all this heart-pounding fun sounds a little too much, there’s always paddling and wildlife viewing (particularly birding) on the more laid-back side. To round out the lofty picture of wilderness camping (despite being in central Richmond), fire pits are also available, sending embers into the sky as the sun sets in the distance over downtown. Another interesting sight on the island is the Little Free Library (essentially a small bookshelf that campers can browse from) and the giant metal sculpture called “The Angler”.
Where is Sharps Island in Richmond, Virginia?
- Address of Sharps Island in Richmond: Richmond, VA, 23219, USA
- Sharp’s Island, Richmond, VA Coordinates: 37.5285, -77.4363
How do I get to Sharp’s Island?
This is not a car camping trip; it’s wild, open to the elements and therefore perfect for getting back to nature – but how do people get to the island without their trusty vehicle? There’s no public transportation or easy access to Sharp’s Island; The good old fashioned way of traveling before cars and motorboats is the walk in these parts. The easiest way to reach the island is by John’s boat, kayak, or canoe, which visitors can rent from the site’s Airbnb host if they can’t bring their own.
Boaters are advised to access the island from Ancarrow’s Landing in Richmond. You can park your vehicle in the gravel parking lot on the south side of the Mayo Bridge, walk your boat across the street and down to the water. Alternatively, it is also possible to paddle to Sharp’s Island when the river is low – the paddling distance is approximately 75 metres.
Are pets allowed at Sharp’s Island in Richmond, Virginia?
According to Airbnb Sharp’s Island, pets are welcome to come with their owners. However, as with most campsites, leashes are recommended as wildlife roams the area.
Tips for camping on Sharp’s Island
Arguably one of the top things to do in Richmond, VA, camping on Sharp’s Island is ideal for anyone looking for a memorable outdoor weekend in Virginia. To ensure the trip goes smoothly, aspiring visitors can take these tips on board before packing camping bags:
- Visitors must reach Sharp’s Island on their own, but the site’s Airbnb host offers kayak and canoe rentals.
- The rocky outcrops at the far west end of the island is a scenic area with surreal views and a relaxing soundtrack of the flowing river – bring a thick tent pad or sleeping bag to camp at this site as the rocky ground is tough (but the atmosphere and worth the view!)
- Driftwood can be found along the island’s coastline, so campers don’t need to bring their own firewood.
- Of all the things not to forget to pack in a camping bag, a fire starter for this trip comes first!
- Reviews from Sharp’s Island advised campers to bring a tool for cutting wood and trimming overgrown foliage that could interfere with tent or hammock setup.
- After 5pm, crossing the water to and from the island can be difficult. Visitors are advised to arrive earlier and avoid crossing after this time as water levels can drop dramatically, potentially causing rocks and rapids to throw kayakers off course.
- Bring binoculars – bird watching on the island is fantastic!
- Parking before traveling to the island can be difficult, so arrive earlier than necessary to allow time to find safe, legal parking.