If your kids adore wild ponies and the stories of Marguerite Henry, they'll fall in love with the beach town of Chincoteague, VA. This is a magic island far removed in spirit from its crowded, action-packed neighbors only an hour away. Here you'll find quaint villages, marshlands, and nature galore. The seven-mile long island of Chincoteague is separated from neighboring Assateague Island by a small bridge. Assateague Island National Seashore contains 10 miles of unspoiled beaches and abundant wildlife, including the world-famous ponies.
During the third week of July, the Chincoteague volunteer fire department stages Pony Penning. Members of the volunteer fire department round up the wild ponies on the third Wednesday and Thursday of the month and swim them across the narrow channel between Assateague and Chincoteague Islands.
The beaches on Assateague are undeveloped and particularly beautiful. You'll find a bathhouse with rest rooms and showers, but no food concessions. Picnics are very popular (especially with the seagulls!), and lifeguards are on duty near both bathhouses. Watch out for green-headed flies during the months of July and August -- their bites can be particularly nasty.
Camping is available on Assateague Island, but all other lodging accommodations are on Chincoteague. If you're thinking about visiting the area, check out some of the following moderately priced accommodations:
Waterside Motor Inn: This 45-room inn overlooks Chincoteague Channel, and offers nicely furnished rooms with wooden balconies overlooking the water. Families can fish or crab from the 220-foot pier, and the water views are particularly delightful. In addition to regular rooms, larger "Diplomat" rooms featuring sofas and great views are located at the end of each floor. For more information, call (877) 870-3434 or (757) 336-3434 or visit their website: Waterside Motor Inn
Island Motor Inn: This 60-room inn offers spacious rooms, an exercise room complete with jacuzzi, a 600-foot boardwalk, and an indoor pool. If possible, request one of the 12 newer rooms. For more information, call (757) 336-3141 or visit their website: Island Motor Inn Resort.
The Refuge Motor Inn: This beautiful inn is located right across the bridge from the national seashore -- about as close to the beach as possible without camping. It offers nicely decorated rooms, a swimming pool, and a large fenced-in area under the pines which usually has a number of ponies available for viewing. For more information, call (888)-257- 0039 or (757) 336-5511 or visit their website: www.refugeinn.com.
The Driftwood Motor Lodge: This lodge is also located right across the bridge from the national seashore. Rooms are nicely furnished and come complete with refrigerators. For more information, call (800) 553-6117 or (757) 336-6557 or go online for more details: www.driftwoodmotorlodge.com.
Chincoteague Island Vacation Cottages: This agency specializes in the rental of homes and cottages on Chincoteague Island. For more information and a free brochure, call (800) 457-6643 or (757) 336-3720. To view possible accommodations check their website at: www.chincoteagueisland.com.
Island Property Enterprises: This agency also handles home and cottage rentals on Chincoteague. Homes are available both in town, and in more secluded locations overlooking the water. For more information, call (757) 336-3456 or check out their website at: www.islandprop.com.
In addition to great beaches, Chincoteague offers excellent fishing, biking, bird watching, and a host of watersports. Fun places to eat include the Landmark Crab House, The Village Restaurant (try the Chincoteague oysters here), and Memories. The Island Creamery has particularly good ice cream.