The lock at Great Bridge, VA is the only lock on the so-called, North Carolina – Virginia Route of the AICW. Of course, this is what I would term the “primarly” passage that most cruisers use to pass between Virginia and North Carolina waters, or the other way around. Of course, the other possible passage is by way of the Dismal Swamp Canal Route.
I am no expert on the Great Bridge lock, but my memory is that it’s larger than the two Dismal Swamp Canal locks, and it only raises or lowers your craft a few feet. It also operates far more frequently than its Dismal Swamp counterpart.
Below, once again, Captain Arnold give us all some great advice on where to find some seriously cheap dockage near Great Bridge!
Since you cover the Dismal Swamp you presumably mention the Great Bridge Lock on the shorter route. There also is a great free docking in the approach between lock and bridge on the south side (going south) which they say is limited to 24hrs but nobody objects if you stay longer. Many shops / groceries are within easy walking distance and the Farm Fresh grocery store manager will run you back to the dock. The Veteran Club there will give you fresh veggies from their vegetable garden if you gratiously make a small donation for the kids they support.
I agree with Arnold – the dock between the lock and the bridge is great (no pun intended). Just a few of notes: 1) Make sure you pull as far forward as possible when you dock. It can get busy here, 2) If you plan on only stopping for a few hours, remember that the Great Bridge Bascule Bridge stops opening at 7pm, 3) Expect wake from barges and tugs passing very close, and 4) There is no power to hook up to. Outside of that, there is plenty of shopping, including a grocery, within walking distance. If you continue past the bridge (when going southbound/eastbound), there is another free dock on the north side of the ICW. It’s not in as good shape, but you won’t get stuck with the opening. Also, it adds about another 1/4 mile to your shopping walk since you have to cross the bridge on foot to get to the shopping areas. If you’ve done an overnight run down the Chesapeake from Annapolis, like we did in the freezing cold of December, these free docks are a wonderful spot to stop at for the night.