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Chincoteague: The other horse island

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

chincoteague island
Chincoteague in the distance. There is a kind of skyway (or super long bridge) that connects the island to the land.

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

Some of the ponies are penned, others roam the beaches.

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.

Tony Russo
Tony Russohttp://Ossurynot.com
Tony Russo has worked as a print and digital journalist for the better part of the 21st century, writing for and editing regional weeklies and dailies before joining the team that produces OceanCity.com and ShoreCraftBeer.com among other destination websites. In addition to having documented everything from zoning changes to art movements on the Delmarva Peninsula, Tony has written two books on beer for the History Press. Eastern Shore Beer was published in 2014 and Delaware Beer in 2016. He lives in Delmar, Md. with his wife Kelly and the only of his four daughters who hasn't moved out. Together they keep their two dogs comfortable.

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  1. Thanks for writing this article!! So nice to see local destinations supporting each other. I did want to clarify that the vast majority of “Chincoteague Ponies” manged by the CVFC actually live on the Virginia end of Assateague Island. They do the famous pony swim every July, when the ponies swim from their year-round home on Assateague to their 3-day vacation on Chincoteague, where the foals are sold at auction to maintain a herd size appropriate for the Assateague ecosystem. Only a few foals and yearlings stay at the Carnival Grounds outside those 3 days of the swim/auction/swim back in July.

  2. I’ve never gotten tired of Chincoteaque or Assateaque. My father used to take us when we were kids to see the pony roundup and Misty. I am 58 now, and we moved from Maryland to Florida when i was 15. I wosh i had the money to come back. i really miss it.

  3. This is a good, interesting article and I’d love to share it with others, but someone needs to edit it for grammar.


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