The Hampton Roads region of Virginia has received accolades for livability when compared to other southern communities of its size. But where exactly is Hampton Roads? Maybe more accurately, what is Hampton Roads? Named in part for the Earl of South­ampton in 1610, Hampton Roads refers to the body of water in southeastern Virginia formed by three converging rivers as they flow toward the Chesapeake Bay: The James, Nansemond, and Elizabeth.

As late as 1983, the term “Hampton Roads” became an official postal designation that refers to the 1,800 square miles of land that surrounds this vast expanse of water. The collective name also reflects the growing social and economic integration of the counties and cities on both sides of the water. Which leads into the next clarification: What is included in the region known as Hampton Roads?

The waters of Hampton Roads separate South Hampton Roads with the Virginia Peninsula communities of Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, Williamsburg, York County and James City County. “South­side” communities include Chesapeake, Isle of Wight County, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. The southside and peninsula form the lion’s share of the Norfolk-Newport News-Virginia Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area or MSA, a vast region that encompasses 15 cities and counties – including Currituck County in North Carolina. Unlike many MSAs around the nation that revolved around one large metroplex, Hampton Roads claims several cities that have grown to a significant size. In fact, Virginia Beach is the largest city in the entire Commonwealth of Virginia.

A prime location is partially responsible for the region’s flourishing economy. Hampton Roads lies with 750 miles of three-quarters of the nation’s industrial activity and two-thirds of its population. The vast reconstruction that has occurred over the centuries has ensured continual expansion of bridge, tunnel, rail, trucking, highway, air and sea transportation networks. Perhaps even more essential to the area’s overall success — even more than advantageous geography or efficient transportation — Hampton Roads claims stability based on diversity. High technology, communications, manufacturing, financial services, healthcare, and customer service industries continue to grow and prosper alongside the military, transportation, distribution, agriculture, construction, and tourism industries. Every component of the region is strong in its own right, with no single dominating industry.

Companies and corporations are attracted to Hampton Roads for its low tax rate, abundant and well-educated labor force, and the well-managed transportation system. Owned by the Virginia Port Authority, the Port of Hampton Roads combines three general cargo terminals located in Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News. With both Norfolk International Airport and Newport News/Williamsburg International airport in this region, area corporations enjoy ready access to major domestic and international markets.

Superb rail and trucking service combines with a massive network of interstates, major highways, bridges, and incredible bridge-tunnels to link all corners of Hampton Roads with all points north, south, east and west. Although ferries were once the only connection between South Hampton Roads and the Virginia Peninsula, the modern transportation scene guarantees a quick and easy commute from one part of Hampton Roads to another. Travel between southside and peninsula has become a point of daily existence, whether the motivation is employment, recreation, education, medical or cultural.


Boasting some of the most respected public and private schools in the nation, Hampton Roads is dedicated to education as a lifetime of learning and growth – not a classroom routine. Residents can choose from nearly a dozen local colleges and universities, including the nation’s second oldest institution of higher education — the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg. Norfolk offers Old Dominion University with its recognized engineering program, while the Tidewater Community College system serves four of the region’s cities with satellite campuses.

Two of the nation’s historically black colleges — Norfolk State University and Hampton University — provide degree programs while they support area business with training programs. Eastern Virginia Medical School or EVMS draws the finest research minds to the area, provides quality medical education, and firmly anchors the leading medical institutions of Hampton Roads.

As a leader in healthcare, Hampton Roads claims some of America’s finest and most advanced medical and research facilities, attracting patients from around the world. In addition to regional and community hospitals, the region is home to specialty institutions, in-home and community-based services, alternative living programs, rehabilitation centers and outpatient services. Pace-setting and progressive, the area has been internationally recognized for some of its ground-breaking work. The in-vitro fertilization program of the Medical College of Hampton Roads focused the international spotlight on Norfolk when the first baby conceived by the in-vitro method was born in the early ‘80s.


As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Mid-Atlantic region, Hampton Roads manages to entertain millions of annual visitors who often return again and again. Some are drawn to the Historic Triangle and Colonial Williamsburg, while others prefer soaking up the sun and strolling along the boardwalk at Virginia Beach. Many plan an extended trip that not only combines the best of both worlds, but adds theme parks and cultural attractions to the agenda. Residents of this lively region of natural and handcrafted beauty have the advantage of world-class attractions and leisure activities just beyond their front doorstep.

The Chesapeake Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, a multitude of creeks, rivers, lakes, inlets and tributaries all add up to the same abundant natural resource — water. Hampton Roads provides excellent facilities for every type of water sport or water-related activity, from windsurfing, jet skiing, and water-skiing to power-boating, sailing, kayaking, canoeing, and fishing.
Anglers will be especially enthralled with some of the out-of-the-way freshwater lakes, quiet coves, and rushing streams. Equally attractive to many is the chance to enjoy the sea breeze from a fishing pier or trawl for the “big ones” on the high seas. Since Hampton Roads brings together the cold-water species from the north and the warm-water varieties from the south, the area is unsurpassed for sport fishing.

Mild winters, spectacular autumns, lovely springs, and seemingly endless summers characterize the southeastern section of Virginia. Golf enthusiasts can choose from a complete selection of lush courses, both public and private, that include several championship layouts. With hundreds of public tennis courts, well-groomed ballfields, basketball courts, and private sports clubs from which to choose, an active lifestyle is easy to maintain.

Those who want to cheer at spectator sporting events will find year-round collegiate competition as well as professional teams for baseball and hockey. The Hampton Roads Admirals professional hockey team attracts enthusiastic crowds to the Norfolk Scope Arena. The Norfolk Tides, an AAA farm team to the New York Mets since 1969, is another local favorite, playing at home in the 12,000-seat state-of-the-art stadium at Harbor Park.

Soccer fans on the Peninsula can catch outstanding collegiate action at Christopher Newport University and Hampton University. The Portsmouth Invitational Tournament continues the college basketball tradition, providing fans and scouts with the finest of talent from across the nation. Many of today’s and yesterday’s sports stars once played in this tournament, held the week following the NCAA Final Tour. At the East Coast Surfing Championship, distinguished as the oldest continually running surfing event in North America, draws crowds surpassing 10,000 who gather to watch the nation’s most talented surfers compete for a share of the purse.

Family activities and adventures are virtually unlimited in the Hampton Rhodes region, from world-famous theme parks to cultural attractions just for the younger set. Many of the programs and facilities within the cities and counties are nationally recognized for their excellence. Neighborhood leagues for children offer instruction and competition at all skill levels in a variety of sports, from soccer and football to basketball, baseball, hockey, softball and T-ball. Area parks feature elaborate playgrounds and unique diversions, while the major cities have developed outstanding museums and cultural centers for children of all ages.

The Virginia Living Museum in Newport News combines a zoo with nature study and science exploration. The Children’s Museum of Virginia provides mesmerizing hands-on, interactive exhibits with a focus on science, art, music and technology. One of the most popular destinations for children and adults is Nauticus, the National Maritime Center in Norfolk. Virtual reality experiences include a navigational sonar sub hunt, oil drilling, time travel, reef diving and flight simulators. More than 300 animals are waiting at the Virginia Zoological Park, also in Norfolk.

Cultural events and the performing arts are well represented throughout the area. Within minutes from any Hampton Roads address are symphonies, community theaters, opera, ballet, Broadway hits, live stage performances, musicals, concerts, world-class galleries, and museums. Active arts groups work tirelessly to arrange for national and international talent on Hampton Roads’ stages and to support emerging talent in community theater, workshops, choral groups, and other artistic endeavors.

Housing options in Hampton Roads are as varied as the cities and counties that share the regional name. Even the long-established cities of Portsmouth, Norfolk, Newport News, and Hampton provide a full complement of styles and settings, from quaint historic districts to modern subdivisions or luxurious planned communities. Residential growth is always followed closely with expanded commercial activity that ensures quick access to fine restaurants, services, neighborhood plazas, and sprawling shopping malls.

The more rural areas provide the acreage and undeveloped resources that are so well-suited to new construction. Among the diverse selection are farms, three-acre farmettes, horse properties, country estates, golf-course communities, waterfront properties, and villages that combine single and multi-family dwellings. Whether you prefer the contemporary appeal and clean lines of modern architecture or the charm of a three-story Victorian surrounded by cobblestone streets and mature shade trees, Hampton Roads can bring your dream home into reality.

Throughout Hampton Roads, you’ll find a willingness to share and lend a helping hand, a spirit of cooperation, and a sense of regional unity. Even the larger cities have managed to retain the friendliness associated with much smaller towns, where strangers are quick to smile or wave hello or extend a warm greeting. In spite of its place at the apex of progress, Hampton Roads retains the true Southern hospitality and gracious hospitality of its roots. Few locales in the nation can rival Hampton Roads for the fine balance of yesterday’s glory with the sure promise of a brilliant future.

Search by List

Search by a list of area regions or city names.


Search by Map

Use our interactive map to find your community