Take a Weekend Trip to Chincoteague!

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If you head westward from the Delaware beaches and drive about an hour and a half south on Route 113 you’ll come to the small town of Chincoteague, Virginia, with a Norman Rockwell streetscape reached just beyond a beautiful causeway over the bay. 

Keep going, and you’ll soon be on Assateague Island, which has the natural appeal of our own Cape Henlopen State Park and one notable addition: wild ponies that move languidly among people enjoying the vast and beautiful beach.

Yes, you read that right. There are about 300 ponies of all colors who live on the island, where they roam free despite careful support from folks with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources who make sure they stay healthy. And on July 27, many will again be part of the annual Chincoteague Pony Swim. Celebrated every year since 1925 (aside from the Covid pandemic years in 2020 and 2021), the event allows spectators to watch adult ponies along with foals born during the spring swim across the channel between Assateague and Chincoteague.

A day later, they’re auctioned to people who travel to the area specifically to buy one of these beautiful creatures. Folks who have been there for it tell me the whole event has a magical feel because it’s so unique, and because it’s just one major highlight among the many things you can do in the area.

Get some beach time and camp in a beautiful natural setting

The beaches, for example, are wonderful for swimming and surfing, especially if you’d like to be in a place that’s less crowded than what we face at the Delaware resorts during the summer . There’s also a local business built on a simple but brilliant idea – renting beach chairs and beach buggies and umbrellas and boogie and surf boards so you don’t have to pack and unpack them on your own.

If you’re into camping, there are several options. Jellystone Park is terrific if you’ve got a recreational vehicle, since it has a pool and playground and hook-ups for electricity and wifi. 

Tom’s Cove Park is well known for its beautiful views of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore Park.

Pine Grove also offers space for tents and recreational vehicles along with apartments and a small motel.

Enjoy the best local seafood

Chincoteague also offers lots of dining options, with an emphasis on fresh seafood. . None of the restaurants are particularly fussy, although you’ll get a pretty upscale experience at Bill’s Prime Seafood and Steaks on Main Street. The menu has many dishes comprised of local catches, including Oyster Pot Pie and Oyster Stew and Crab Imperial and Crab Cakes.

There’s more upscale dining at the Ropewalk, with its lovely view of the water and more locally-caught seafood, and more water views at AJ’s on the Creek, and all kinds of super fresh fare at Don’s Seafood Restaurant and Market and at Steamers.

Stay fit and relaxed

Chincoteague and Assateague also offer lots of opportunities for hiking, biking and exploring. The whole region is flat so it’s easy to experience on foot or on two wheels. You can take easy strolls or rides through aromatic pine forests in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and get to the least crowded section of the beach via foot or bike on the Swan Cove trail. Biking and walking are also a pleasure along the quaint downtown streets and along Main Street with more water views.

If you want to be “the fun grandparent” check out the Iron Pony Adventure Park, where people of all ages can experience aerial obstacles (in a safe harness, of course).

Stay overnight for the full experience

It typically takes less than two hours to reach Chincoteague and Assateague from Delaware’s coastal and inland communities south of Georgetown so it’s certainly doable as a day trip. But it’s also a terrific weekend getaway that doesn’t have to be too expensive since there are many different types of hotels, Bed and Breakfast spots and homes and apartments that you can rent for days or weeks at a time. Many are along the water and within easy walking distance of the downtown shopping district where you can enjoy views of fishing boats or a show at the absolutely lovely Art Deco style Island Theatre.

One important note: Chincoteague and Assateague are wonderful places to visit from the spring through the fall and even in the middle of winter if you’re after solitude and peace, but if you want to be there for the Pony Swim you’ll need to reserve accommodations as soon as possible since this is the region’s most significant event of the year.

And don’t forget . . . BUG SPRAY, especially if you’re heading to the beach or nature trails due to the region’s epic reputation for its biting flies and other airborne pests when the wind is blowing from the direction of the marshlands toward the beach and ocean. Fortunately they’re not usually much of a problem if the wind is coming in off the waves. 

About Christine Davis

Christine grew up in northeastern Pennsylvania in a small town called Pittston, which is located between Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. Upon graduation, she enlisted in the United States Air Force, where she proudly served for eight + years at a variety of bases throughout the world, including Holland, Korea, and New Mexico. While in the Air Force, Christine spent most of her time working in the civil engineering career field where she thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with such a diverse group of people with varying backgrounds and experiences, and learned so much from each of them. Christine’s last assignment in the Air Force was at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, and that’s when she discovered the Delaware beaches. Growing up in PA, her family spent time at the Jersey shore. But once she moved to MD, she became one of those many drivers making the trek across the Chesapeake Bay Friday afternoon to visit the Delaware beaches for the weekend. Upon Christine’s separation from the Air Force, she spent a small amount of time working in Washington, D.C., but it didn’t take long before she was drawn to the quiet, slow pace of Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, “the nation’s summer capital”. Christine moved to Rehoboth Beach in 1999 and finished her degree in Business at Delaware Tech. At the time she was working for a large physician organization when a friend recommended that she become a REALTOR because she loved helping people and loved looking at homes. She was reluctant for quite a while because Christine didn’t think of herself as a salesperson. But after much urging by her friend, Christine decided to get her real estate license in 2003 and has not looked back since. Christine still doesn’t think of herself as a salesperson, but rather a facilitator between buyer and seller, working toward a common goal. Christine aims to make the process as smooth and fun as possible but also educates the buyer and seller along the way so they can make the best decision possible. Christine now lives in Lewes and although she misses the mountains of PA, she thoroughly enjoys spending as much time as possible at the beach, especially Cape Henlopen State Park. Christine’s philosophy in life is that it’s too short. Never spend so much time making a living that you forget how to live.

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