resort city (1990 pop. 393,069), independent and in no county, SE Va., on the Atlantic coast; inc. 1906. In 1963, Princess Anne co. and the former small town of Virginia Beach were merged, giving the present city an area of 302 sq mi (782 sq km). It begins at the North Carolina state line, extends N for 28 mi (45 km) along the Atlantic to the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and to Norfolk, varying in width from c.7 to 15 mi (11–24 km).
The city is a railroad terminus and its many manufactures include rubber, plastic, glass, and wood products; electrical and electronic equipment; machinery; chemicals; building materials; textiles; transportation equipment; and consumer goods. Tourism is important, and there is agriculture (barley, wheat, corn, soybeans, livestock, and dairy products) and commercial fishing. Four large military bases are within the city limits: Naval Air Station Oceana, a huge base with hundreds of carrier planes; Dam Neck, a fleet combat training support center that is part of Oceana; a naval amphibious training center at Little Creek; and Fort Story, a U.S. army transportation command.
Virginia Beach is the state's largest city and one of the fastest-growing U.S. cities, marked by a population increase of nearly 50% between 1980 and 1990. Long a popular resort, it has beautiful beaches, a boardwalk, and excellent sportfishing. Of interest are the Cape Henry memorial cross, site of the landing of the first colonists in 1607; the Cape Henry lighthouse (1791; restored); the nation's oldest brick residence (1636; restored); and the Alan B. Shepard civic center, a geodesic aluminum-domed structure. Seashore State Park is there, as are Atlantic Univ. and Regent Univ. Virginia Wesleyan College is on the Norfolk–Virginia Beach border. The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (opened 1964) links Virginia Beach with the Eastern Shore of Virginia and Maryland.