Spending a weekend in Richmond, Virginia, is always an authentic northeast experience, entailing plenty of historic landmarks, entertaining shopping, dining, and tourist attractions. As one of Virginia’s best cities full of history, urban culture, and nightlife (and not too far from Virginia’s best music festivals for fans of the latter), the fact that it boasts scenic parks, nature spots, and trails for enjoying the fresh air and scenery aren’t abnormal — many metropolises do, after all.
However, right in the heart of bustling downtown Richmond is the picturesque Sharp’s Island, also home to recreational assets, public art, ecological and geological wonders, and historical significance. Sure, it’s just another tiny island off a quintessential American city — no biggie. Or is it?
What makes this one-acre islet appealing isn’t solely its natural beauty, long and fascinating stories of the past, and its outdoorsy pursuits; no, this Richmond hidden gem is the only place where camping is legal —and campers can enjoy the island’s sandy beaches, forested interiors, and natural splendor all to themselves.
What Is Sharp’s Island Richmond, Virginia?
Richmond’s Sharp’s Island is one acre of granite and sand surrounded by water. Sounds unassuming, but there’s more to it than that modest description. Richmond isn’t exactly one of the least populated towns in Virginia — a fact rendering many city-dwellers in need of escapism and a quick vacation amid nature. Where’s the closest, most accessible oasis to do just that? Of course, Sharp Island.
This tiny islet is a prime nature spot with its pretty views, sandy shores, lush forestry, and bustling wildlife, all bolstered by the sounds of the running river — a haven to which to retreat away 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 pint-sized speck on the map of Richmond makes for fantastic fishing, especially during the spring when the shad and striper run takes place.
There’s also a Sharp’s Island Airbnb, which visitors can book. According to Sharp’s Island reviews, the host and camping experiences are highly rated, earning this spot among the top attractions in Richmond for tourists and locals alike.
What Is The History Of Sharp’s Island, Richmond, Virginia?
Sharp’s Island received its name thanks to the Sharp family of Richmond, who owned the location as far back as the 1850s. For 75 years, Sharp family members resided on the island in a two-story house, which was sadly washed away by a flood. The property’s old brick foundation, visible on the island and in Sharp Island pictures, is the only remnant of the family’s house today.
Can You Camp At Sharp’s Island?
Indeed, this historic, one-acre island is the one place to camp in Richmond. Camping at Sharp’s Island grants adventurers the opportunity to enjoy an entire private island experience to themselves, resting under the stars and soaking up the atmosphere — just a stone’s throw away from the bright lights and busy streets of the Richmond skyline, at which they can gaze from the island (imagine the views of Richmond at night!)
Given its location, this beautiful spot delivers some of the best island camping Virginia has to offer, where adventurers can choose their own campsite: a sandy shore or verdant forest (or anywhere that piques their fancy). Perhaps best described as Richmond’s answer to camping in Cape Cod (or any other of the best camping spots in America), Sharp’s Island is a must for any traveler seeking out peaceful nature spots bizarrely yet beautifully located in the midst of a big city.
How Much Is Camping At Sharp’s Island In Richmond?
- Sharp’s Island Camping Price: From $53 a night (not including any canoe, kayak, or camping gear rental)
Guests booking through the site’s Airbnb will currently pay on a per-person per-night basis. According to Sharp’s Island Airbnb reviews, canoes are available for rent, but not camping gear — guests must bring their own tent. The island boasts an A-Frame cabin and a tent platform for camping. Visitors can reach the island by motoring up to Ancarrow’s Landing on a boat or canoe/kayak over from the trail located just below Mayo Bridge.
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 the like; this is camping in every sense of the word — in its rawest form (yes, in the middle of Richmond!) Still, isn’t that part of the adventurous experience?
What To Do On Sharp’s Island, Richmond, Virginia?
Of course, escaping to the island to savor its refreshing outdoors, natural beauty, scenic shorelines, and forested sections is the order of the day. Taking a camera is a must, particularly for capturing the lovely views of the sky as it paints the Richmond cityscape with vibrant, ever-changing colors throughout the day and night. However, besides typical nature-appreciation hobbies and photography, what is there to do on Sharp’s Island? The answer: quite a bit!
While sauntering around the islet is what most visitors undertake when getting to know its grounds, fishing is also a fun pastime — especially in spring when fish action becomes more prolific, such as the aforementioned springtime shad and striper run. What’s more, rafting and kayaking downriver are also epic activities popular among the island’s thrill-seeking guests — luckily, the Airbnb host offers these for hire. Furthermore, when summer arrives, and the river rises and levels out, dozens of sublime swimming holes appear along the banks — ideal for lounging in (which the Airbnb host also offers for rent!)
If all that heart-thumping fun sounds a little too much, there’s always paddling and wildlife watching (especially birds) on the more relaxing side. To finalize the sublime picture of camping out in the wilderness (despite being in central Richmond), fire pits are also available — sending embers into the sky as the sun sets over downtown in the distance. Plus, another interesting site to check out on the island is the Little Free Library (essentially, a small bookshelf to which campers can help themselves), as well as the enormous metal sculpture dubbed ‘The Angler.’
Where Is Sharp’s Island In Richmond Virginia?
- Sharps Island Richmond Address: Richmond, VA, 23219, United States
- Sharp’s Island, Richmond, VA Coordinates: 37.5285, -77.4363
How To Get To Sharp’s Island?
This is no car camping trip; it’s wild, open to the elements, and thus 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 method of travel before cars and powered boats is the way in these parts. The easiest way to reach the island is by john boat, kayak, or canoe, the latter two of which visitors can rent from the site’s Airbnb host if they can’t bring their own.
Boaters are recommended to head out to the island from Richmond’s Ancarrow’s Landing. They can park their vehicle at the gravel parking lot located on the south side of Mayo Bridge, walk their boat across the street, and take it down to the water. Alternatively, it’s also possible to paddle to Sharp’s Island when the river’s water is low — the distance to paddle is around 75 yards.
Are Pets Allowed At Sharp’s Island In Richmond, Virginia?
According to the Airbnb Sharp’s Island page, pets are welcome to come along with their owners. However, as with most campsites, leashes are advised since wildlife roams the area.
Tips For Camping On Sharp’s Island
Camping at Sharp’s Island is easily one of the best things to do in Richmond, VA, and ideal for anyone looking to spend a memorable, outdoors-oriented weekend in Virginia. To make the trip go swimmingly, intending visitors can take these tips on board before packing camping bags:
- Visitors have to reach Sharp’s Island on their own, but the site’s Airbnb host does offer kayak and canoe rental.
- The rocks at the furthest west end of the island is a picture-perfect area with surreal views and a relaxing soundtrack of the running river — take a thick tent pad or sleeping bag for camping at this spot, as the rocky ground is hard (but worth the atmosphere and vistas!)
- Driftwood can be found along the island’s shoreline, so there’s no need for campers to bring their own firewood.
- Of all the things not to forget to pack in a camping bag, a fire starter comes top for this trip!
- Reviews of Sharp’s Island advised campers to bring a tool for cutting wood and clipping overgrown foliage that may affect tent or hammock set-up.
- After 5 pm, traversing 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 send kayakers off course.
- Bring binoculars — bird watching on the island is amazing!
- Parking before traveling to the island can be challenging, so arrive earlier than needed to allow time for finding a safe, legal parking spot.