Discover Gorgeous Rugged Beaches and Wild Horses on Chincoteague Island, Virginia

Lisa Goetz

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Wild horses roam free on Chincoteague Island. Photo by Sara Cottle/Unsplash

Chincoteague is a small, mostly unspoiled island off the coast of Virginia. Rugged beaches, well-known for the presence of wild horses, surround the island, making it a perfect getaway for nature and wildlife lovers alike. The island has several local charming spots to enjoy, including the historic Chincoteague Island Lighthouse.

A popular destination for beach-goers looking to bask in the sun, the island offers numerous activities for solo travelers, groups of friends, corporate retreats, and families alike, such as hiking, biking, and swimming. No matter the season, there’s always something fun or interesting to see and do on this Virginia island paradise. Here's a list of some of the best things to see and do while visiting Chincoteaque Island.

Where to Stay

Chincoteague Island hotels provide visitors with easy access to shopping, dining, and trolley stops, as well as a beautiful views across the bay for a truly unique and relaxing experience. As a popular tourist destination, there are tons of options from which to choose when it comes to finding accomodations in Chincoteague. You can choose international chain hotels such as Fairfield by Marriott and the Comfort Inn. You can also book accomodations at local hotels with a local history such as Island Resort or Holiday Cottages. If you're on a budget, you might consider booking shared accomodations in nearby homes through an app like Airbnb.

Visit the Wildlife Refuge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge personnel keep watch over the refuge's historic population of wild ponies. Adding to that, the local volunteer fire department, Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, owns a herd of 150 wild ponies and has a special permit to graze them on the 14,000-acre area. Hiking and biking routes help guide you through Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge to see the ponies trotting along the beaches.

There are also nearly 300 recognized migratory and resident birds to observe, including protected bald eagles. To learn more about the history of the people and ponies of Chincoteague Island, stop by the Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, for interactive exhibits, guides and maps.

You might catch the Pony Swim if you plan Chincoteague Island vacation just right. The exciting swim usually happens on the last Wednesday before the last Thursday of July and always starts during the slack tide—a 30-minute lull between low and high tides when there is no current. Thousands of people wait for hours to watch the horses swim across a narrow channel separating Chincoteague and Assateague Island in Maryland. Wednesday July 28, 2021 marks the 96th anniversary of Chincoteague Island's annual Pony Swim.

Sample Delicious Homemade Ice Cream

When it comes to Island Creamery, forget about your diet and counting calories. The creamery's amazing ice cream is a Chincoteague institution and comes in many mouth watering flavors, from vanilla to black raspberry to pineapple upside-down cake. And, the handmade waffle cones—filled with extra large scoops of ice cream—are just as delicious. Of course, there will be a line, but it'll go quickly.

Take an Island Trolley Ride

A seasonal trolley service is available during the summer for locals and visitors to move around Chincoteague Island with ease. The trolley provides access to most of Chincoteague Island's hot spots including motels, ice cream parlors, parks, and campgrounds as well as shops, restaurants and recreational areas. Riders can hail the trolley along any of its routes. All trolleys have wheelchair lifts and cost 50 cents per ride.

Aside from restaurants and hotels, the vast majority of activities you'll enjoy on Chincoteague Island take place in the great outdoors. Still, it's a good idea to double check with any hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites you plan to visit ahead of time to find out their COVID 19 public health guidelines before you visit.

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Lisa Goetz writes cryptocurrency news, analysis and opinion. A freelance journalist with 11 years of experience, Goetz's articles have been featured in USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and the Houston Chronicle.

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