Spend the weekend in Chincoteague. You’ll be happy you did.
Sometimes it is so easy to get wrapped up in the Assateague ponies we can forget that Chincoteague Island is only a few miles farther as the crow flies, but those of us who aren’t crows have to make the 45 minute drive west, then south then east to wind up on Chincoteague Island. Let me tell you now, it is worth the trip. I spent the afternoon on Chincoteague this week and, even though it’s only been a couple of months since I last visited, I was struck by the island’s potential.
Now, to be clear, I don’t mean that Chincoteague has potential. Given the diversity of distractions (shops, restaurants, and of course the bay, ocean and all those entail) Chincoteague is about as fully realized a destination as it can be. I meant that I tend to forget how much potential it has for me as a weekend destination. It is eminently walkable. It has a 20th century movie theater, almost too many restaurants to choose from and the kind of views you really just have to experience.
It starts with the drive in
I was down to take a look at the fairgrounds, where the annual pony auction is held. If you for some reason are unfamiliar with the concept, there are wild horses on Assateague and Chincoteague islands. The Assateague ponies are federally protected and the Chincoteague ponies are owned by the local fire department. The fireman care for the herd and auction some of the ponies off each year to manage the population and fund the fire department.
They’ve been doing it for such a long time that the fairgrounds are permanent, a village of stone buildings holding fast against the elements. Also, as it happens, the fairgrounds are the perfect place for a beer festival, more on that here.
But it would have been silly to make a trip all the way to Chincoteague and not take notice of its potential for me and that’s what I want to get at. By the height of summer Chincoteague is as abuzz as it gets with visitors and part-time residents taking advantage of its perfect placement between the ocean and bay.
There always is something to do on Chincoteague, even if it is nothing
The hotel rooms are nearly laughably inexpensive at this time of year and I thought about taking a weekend trip, Friday to Sunday, just to knock around. It is the knocking around part that makes the island a particular attraction. You can wander to the park and watch the penned ponies at play or at rest. You can bike, walk or drive out to Chincoteague National Park and explore the beach. You can sit bayside and have a meal and maybe a drink or two before wandering off again.
Realizing how much there was to do (or not do) on the island is what convinced me to pitch this weekend away to you. The weather will have broken by the end of April and even more of the shops and restaurants will have weekend hours. April 29th, the weekend of the Shore Craft Beer Fest: Chincoteague is an arts weekend as well. There will be a plein air festival and wet paint sale and after-party. The town shops will participate in their own particular ways.
This will be a weekend where Chincoteague shows off its diversity and sparks your imagination for making it your next big weekend destination.