Take an Overnight Journey to Chincoteague for Horses and Rockets – and on May 6 if You’re a Seafood Fanatic

I love doing posts about fun day and overnight trips because there are so many interesting destinations in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia. This week I’m spotlighting one of the most unique places in the country: Chincoteague, Virginia. A place where you can walk within a few feet of wild horses who trace their lineage to the 1700s and get a close-up look at supersonic rockets that send science experiments and satellites into the Earth’s orbit. 

Getting there is fairly easy, with a mix of high-speed highway taking you down Delaware toward the Eastern Shore of Virginia, with some gorgeous vistas to enjoy as you approach the region, comprised of two adjacent islands, Chincoteague and Assateague.

Chincoteague is the first island you come to after crossing over Chincoteague Bay. It has a quaint downtown lined with shops, cafes and the Island Theatre, a perfect example of preserved Art Deco architecture dating back to 1947. The theatre often shows the film Misty of Chincoteague, based on a bestselling book by Marguerite Henry for children and teens. The movie was filmed on the island and opened in 1961. The theater also shows current feature films and serves as a gathering place for bingo and other activities.

Go for the Seafood

Chincoteague Island is unique in so many ways. Its main street has expansive views of the bay across from its commercial buildings and fine homes dating back to the Victorian era. It’s full of nice hotels and Bed & Breakfast establishments. It also offers lots of great seafood restaurants. Local favorites include A.J.’s On the Creek, The Channel Bass Inn, which is located in a lovely B&B, and Bill’s Prime Seafood, which offers the most amazing Seafood Norfolk, with scallops, crab, shrimp and an ungodly amount of melted cheese and butter in a sizzling casserole (you can get fries on the side, too!)

If you’re a true fanatic, you should plan your trip for this weekend so you can indulge in the Chincoteague Seafood Festival on Saturday, May 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It takes place at Tom’s Cove Park. Tickets are $60 for an all-you-can-eat extravaganza and kids under 5 get in for free. Check it out if you love steamed shrimp, fried fish and oysters and clams and raw oysters and clams, along with grilled chicken and other items.

And for the Beach, and the Chincoteague Ponies

The next big year-round attraction is the chance to see the wild ponies on Assateague Island, which is reached by another bridge from Chincoteague. The island itself is a lovely refuge with gorgeous natural vistas of marshes, forests and the ocean (with a wonderful beach). 

There are different theories of how the horses came to inhabit the island, with some believing they swam ashore from a shipwreck in the 1700s. The more likely explanation according to historians is that they were herded there around the same time by locals who didn’t want to pay mainland taxes.

Today they roam free, yet with constant supervision from park rangers and representatives of the Chincoteague Fire Department, who ensure they’re kept healthy with vaccinations and monitored for any life-threatening ailments. The population is typically kept to 80 to 100 horses, and once a year – this year on Wednesday, July 26 – they’re herded by “Saltwater Cowboys” from Assateague to Chincoteague, where they’re auctioned off to folks who cherish the opportunity to bring them home.

And for Adventures in Space

One of the most prominent sights you’ll see as you get close to Chincoteague is the Wallops Island Flight Facility. If you go with your grandkids they’ll be wide eyed at the window at the view of vast fields filled with satellite dishes. It could be a scene from a sci-fi film but it’s actually a vital research and testing facility that has launched more than 16,000 rockets carrying science experiments, technology and satellites. 

There’s a technology-filled Visitor Center that’s open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday (it’s closed on Sunday and Monday). There are exhibits about NASA’s Earth Science program and on rockets, aircraft and scientific balloons, along with an interactive Sun Earth Universe exhibit. There’s also a Wallops Island overview film that plays on a loop, and the NOAA’s Science On a Sphere theater, that also offers interactive experiences.

Admission to the Visitor Center is free but the Web site encourages people to double check operating hours, which might change according to special events or NASA mission operations. It’s also closed on major holidays. You can double check opening hours for the days you plan to visit by calling 757 824-1404.

Perfect for a Romantic Getaway for a Family Adventure

On a final note, Chincoteague and Assateague are peaceful and romantic places for an overnight getaway, with many hotels that overlook the water. But it’s also hard to think of a better place to take your grandkids, with the beach, wild horses, space technology, camping, fishing and other great opportunities for exploration all in one beautiful place. You can learn about additional attractions, including nature walks and the famous Assateague Lighthouse at this blog post

About Christine Davis

Christine grew up in northeastern PA and served in the United States Air Force for 8+ years. She worked in the civil engineering career field and traveled to various bases throughout the world. After leaving the Air Force, she moved to Rehoboth Beach and finished her degree in Business. She became a REALTOR in 2003 and aims to make the buying or selling process as smooth and fun as possible while educating clients. Christine now lives above their downtown Lewes office with her husband and fellow REALTOR, Bill Davis, and enjoys owning the brokerage and assisting the agents and meeting all the new clients moving to the area. Christine and Bill's philosophy is to be #bettereveryday. Life is short, make it count!

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