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Visiting Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Only seven miles long and one and a half miles wide, Chincoteague Island, located off the Eastern shore of Virginia, is a beautiful resort retreat full of history, fantastic seafood, mile's of pristine seashore, entry way to Assateague Island National Seashore and home to wild ponies that roam freely along the beach. Wildlife and natural beauty abound at this remarkable barrier island.

If driving to the island by car, proceed across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel near Norfolk, Va. and take US 13 North to VA 175 East. This will take you directly to Chincoteague Island. If you plan to fly and then rent a vehicle to drive to the island, the nearest regional airport is Wicomico located 50 miles away in Salisbury Md. The closest international airport is located 93 miles away from the island in Norfolk, Va. There is no public transportation available on the island but trolley service is provided during the summer. Bicycles are a great way to explore the island and rentals are available for adults and children.

If you prefer hotel, motel, inn or suite accommodations, there are many to choose from including Hampton Inn & Suites, Best Western Chincoteague Island, The Lighthouse Inn, Chincoteague Inn Motel, Island Motor Inn Resort, Blue Heron Inn and the Refuge Inn. Several are within walking distance of Assateague Island and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. For more romantic and personalized accommodations, there are several turn of the century style Bed & Breakfasts, each with their own unique history, such as the Watson House B&B, 1848 Island Manor House B&B, Miss Molly's Inn and Channel Bass Inn. Rental homes, cottages and campgrounds are also available.

The island is well-known for its superior oysters and clams and there are both buffet and family-style restaurants in town, such as A J's on the Creek, Bob's Seafood, Village Restaurant and Skipper's Family Restaurant, that specialize and serve fresh seafood dishes daily but also offer varied menus to include steaks, ribs, chicken, veal and prime rib. For lighter meals there are a variety of restaurants in town serving homemade pizzas, pasta, vegetarian dishes, salads and ice cream parlors. For fast food, there is a Subway and McDonald's.

Chincoteague is famous for its wild (feral) ponies that can be seen roaming freely along the beaches. There are two herds, one on the Virginia side of Assateague Island and the other herd, separated by a fence, on the Maryland side of the island. The Virginia ponies are owned and maintained by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department while the Maryland herd is managed by the National Park Service. It's estimated the ponies are descendants of domestic horses and have inhabited the island since the 17th century. The size of the herd is maintained by having a yearly round-up of the ponies and an auction with the proceeds going to the fire department. These horses are wild and beautiful in their natural habitat and the safety of the animals and visitors is a number one priority.

The refuge is also home to numerous species of migratory birds and waterfowl and is the ideal spot for bird watching enthusiasts. Numerous activities on the island include swimming, surfing, charter boat fishing, boat tours and cruises, crabbing, hiking, bicycling, jogging and kayaking. Places of interest include the Refuge Waterfowl Museum, Oyster & Maritime Museum, NASA Visitor Center at Wallop's Flight Facility and touring the Assateague lighthouse constructed in 1833.

When visiting Chincoteague, there are three important things to remember. First, if you're traveling with pets and plan on visiting Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge, make arrangements for your pets while you're visiting the refuge as no pets are allowed on the wildlife refuge even if they're being transported in a vehicle. Second, if you plan on swimming, be aware that the waters of the Atlantic can be dangerous and unpredictable. Use caution whenever swimming or surfing and never swim alone or leave children on the beach without adult supervision. Third, if you encounter a wild pony while traveling around the island, do not, under any circumstances, try to touch or feed it. This is for your safety as well as the ponies.

There are numerous events and festivals ongoing throughout the year at Chincoteague such as the annual volunteer fireman's carnival and Fourth of July fireworks display, the annual Pony Swim and Auction held at the end of July, Chincoteague Oyster Festival held in October and the Easter Art Festival in April. Additionally, there are workshops held by local artists and artisans, Art Strolls, and tours of the Assateague Lighthouse. For more information on these activities and more along with information on real estate, shopping and maps of the area, visit the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce website.

Written by:
Vickie Ferguson
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