Chincoteague, Virginia, located just a few miles south of the Maryland border on the Delmarva Peninsula, is best known for a children’s novel, Misty of Chincoteague, published by Marguerite Henry in 1947. Misty is a beloved pony.
Beloved ponies provide the key to Chincoteague, and the local ponies, called Chincoteague Ponies, are essential to the Chincoteague mystique to this day. In late July, there is a pony migration by water from neighborhing Assateague Island to Chincoteague Island. After swimming across the channel separating the two islands, the ponies are penned and then sold at auction. Jay Jones wrote an entertaining story in the Los Angeles Times back in July about the pony migration.
Old-timers will tell stories of a place that used to be far quieter, with fewer facilities, though to many visitors Chincoteague will appear rather rustic today. Its downtown is full of little tourist shops, while the long strip of Maddox Road leading out to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is full of chain restaurants, miniature golf courses, tchotchke stores, and supermarkets. Chincoteague is affordable, low-key, and unpretentious.
The National Wildlife Refuge is the most beautiful part of Chincoteague, and includes a vast swath of broad beach. The beach gets very busy in the summer, of course, though it seldom forces sunseekers into cheek by jowl proximity.
Here are four retail and activity tips for Chincoteague.
1. Woody’s Beach BBQ, 6700 Maddox Boulevard. The best barbecue in town is also one of the newest arrivals on the local restaurant scene. Woody’s does fantastic chicken, pork, sandwiches, sides, and desserts. The “Fam Packs” are cost-effective for feeding hungry armies of friends and family.
2. Main Street Shop & Coffeehouse, 4288 Main Street. Housed in an early twentieth-century house, Main Street Shop and Coffeehouse is imbued with a casual if relatively upscale charm. The coffeehouse component of the Main Street Shop is but a tiny piece of the establishment, which is otherwise concerned with home wares, gift cards, books, and clothing. This is the best place in Chincoteague to fuel up on caffeine.
3. Bike rental. Check out Jus’ Bikes (6527 Maddox Boulevard) for a bike rental. (Jus’ Bikes, rather confusingly, rents more than just bikes, but no matter.) A bike will allow you to enter and exit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge free of charge. Multiday rentals will amount to around $10 per day for your rental.
4. Mister Whippy, 6201 Maddox Boulevard. Soft-serve ice cream and sundaes are an essential component of the Chincoteague experience, and Mister Whippy is the old favorite.
(Image: Flickr/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region)