Chincoteague Island & Wildlife Refuge, Virginia

"Yankee Spirit" enjoys a little marsh grass.  You can see one of the many local oyster beds in the foreground.

“Yankee Spirit” enjoys a little marsh grass. You can see one of the many local oyster beds in the foreground.

Wild Ponies!

I seem to have always known about the wild ponies of Chincoteague Island. I’m not sure how I first learned about the ponies . . . maybe the stories of my good friend who has visited the area for more than 40 years, or because of the famous book and movie about pony “Misty”.  In any case, who can ignore the allure of wild ponies.  The herd stays in the news due to its annual swim across the water to the historic town of Chincoteague, where the foals are sold at auction each July.  But this island is so much more than just the ponies.

On our first night here we visited the Assateague National Seashore to view the beautiful sunset.  Only a few people were around and dozens of Plovers were having a feast while running in and out of the incoming tide. Then it was our turn to feast. Our friends had asked what seafood we liked best and given us a list; I selected a few items but had no idea we were going to experience them all!  We had plump, delicious local Chincoteague oysters; fried clams and learned how to properly devour blue crabs.  Then my friend made incredible soft-shelled crabs and poached flounder – all amazing.

The next morning we joined Captain Dan for his 3-hour wild pony boat tour around the entire island.  A local with generations of family history, he provided a wealth of knowledge and perspective about local ecology, wildlife and what the future might hold for this area. His pontoon boat is limited to 6 passengers and was very comfortable on this gorgeous, sunny, bug-free day. We saw lots of ponies as well as an eagle and a small pod of dolphins  – a grand slam in terms of wildlife sightings.

Later in the day we visited the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and made a stop at one of the two visitor’s centers, where we viewed a beautifully filmed mini-documentary about the wild ponies that live in Virginia and nearby Maryland.  The Refuge is a great spot for biking, hiking, and bird watching. The Visitor Centers offer a brochure featuring a check-list for the 324 different birds seen in the area.  There are a number of short hiking trails, the longest being the 3.2 mile Wildlife Loop dedicated to bikers and hikers from opening at dawn til 3 PM, when cars can drive the Loop; the entire park closes at sunset.  The short .25 mile hike to the Assateague Lighthouse is a must.  Check the times the lighthouse is open for climbing to the top; this day we were the last group up at 2:30. There is a ranger and a small gift shop at the base and a docent at the top to offer information and historical facts.

BTW, the Chincoteague downtown area is small, just off the waterfront, with cute shops and restaurants.  Bill’s was a great choice for another exceptional dinner.

Useful links:  CaptainDansTours.com     www.fws.gov/northeast/chinco

"Golden Moose" one of the 150 famous Chincoteague ponies.

“Golden Moose” one of the 150 famous Chincoteague ponies.

Built just after the civil War, the Assateague Lighthouse still provides a beacon for boaters in the surrounding 20 miles of waters.  Seven landing with 25 steps each for a total of 175 take you up about 10-11 stories to a height of 142'.

Built just after the civil War, the Assateague Lighthouse still provides a beacon for boaters in the surrounding 20 miles of waters. Seven landing with 25 steps each for a total of 175 take you up about 10-11 stories to a height of 142′.

Sunset on the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Sunset on the Assateague Island National Seashore.

Beautiful sunset and con trails from the nearby military bases.

Beautiful sunset and con trails from the nearby military bases.

On the shore, in Virginia.

On the shore, in Virginia.

Posted on September 16, 2014, in USA and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Just got around to reading your blog, Kare. It is just beautiful, and so beautifully crafted on your blog. We ned you to plan vacations!!! Bette

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  2. Fantastic pix and yes had also read “Misty”. Nice trip food sounds so good!
    Love all the pix but lighthouse is my fave!

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  3. You should write a book. I see things vividly even before looking at the pictures, which are gorgeous. I love what you write! Donna

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