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Take a Weekend Trip to Chincoteague!

If you head westward from the Delaware beaches and drive about an hour and a half south on Route 113 youll 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 youll 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, theyre 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 its so unique, and because its 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 youd like to be in a place thats less crowded than what we face at the Delaware resorts during the summer . Theres 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 dont have to pack and unpack them on your own.

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

Toms 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 youll get a pretty upscale experience at Bills 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.

Theres more upscale dining at the Ropewalk, with its lovely view of the water and more locally-caught seafood, and more water views at AJs on the Creek, and all kinds of super fresh fare at Dons 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 its 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 Delawares coastal and inland communities south of Georgetown so its certainly doable as a day trip. But its also a terrific weekend getaway that doesnt 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 youre after solitude and peace, but if you want to be there for the Pony Swim youll need to reserve accommodations as soon as possible since this is the regions most significant event of the year.

And dont forget . . . BUG SPRAY, especially if youre heading to the beach or nature trais due to the regions 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 theyre not usually much of a problem if the wind is coming in off the waves.

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