There aren’t many beach towns left in America that celebrate time honored traditions like that of Chincoteague, VA. Off the coast of Virginia, Chincoteague Island is a historic village where wild ponies are the talk of the town. If you remember the book “Misty of Chincoteague” you’ll fall in love with this seaside town dedicated to the preservation of the wild ponies of Assateague and Chincoteague. In addition to the famed ponies, there are the people and businesses of Chincoteague that make this beach town unforgettable.
We went to Chincoteague for a visit with “Aunt Jean and Uncle Joe” who took the liberty of showing us a great time on the island. With any visit to the shore, there is always seafood involved. Luckily, we were with the two island experts who knew all the best local spots.
Our visit started with steamed claims, soft shell crabs and a tomato pie. If you’ve never had a tomato pie, stop by Church Street Produce and order one. Filled with tomatoes, mozzarella, and herbs in a delightful pie crust, the pies are made to order and fresh out of the oven when you pick them up. With oysters on the menu, we went where the locals shop, Sea Best Seafood in the heart of Chincoteague for the freshest catch and everything you need to make it delicious – be sure to tell them Jean and Joe sent you! No beach trip would be complete without ice cream! The Island Creamery makes hand-made small batch ice cream with free tastes of any flavor. My coffee ice cream in a waffle cone was a splendid mid-day treat. Eric had Birthday Cake ice cream and it was like a celebration in a cone!
Of course, the local brewery is always a point of interest with us. New to Chincoteague, the Black Narrows Brewing Company is the only brewery on the island. With the mainstay beer, Salts, a tasty tart oyster wheat with a briny hint of lemon, we were intrigued with the creativity here. Other offerings included a delicious Mosquito Magnet IPA, Lishe, a wild fennel stout with hints of licorice and roasted coffee, and Take in the Sky, a melon, shortbread, and black pepper concoction. The beers here are created with locally sourced ingredients and they are big on giving back to the community. I can’t wait to go back here to see whats new on tap!
Our discovery of the island continued with a trip to the Wildlife Nature Reserve, a habitat for the modern-day descendants of domestic horses left on the island three centuries ago to fend for themselves, and they did. They have adapted to the hardships of living near the ocean and continue to evolve into beautiful specimens of survival. In addition to the ponies, there is an abundance of wildlife, aquatic life, and plants that are unique to this delicate ecosystem.
If you love the sky, Chincoteague will not disappoint. Feed your curiosity with a visit to Wallop Island NASA Visitors Center. We didn’t get to see a rocket launch but we did get to see an amazing display of skill as US Navy Pilots performed “touch and go” maneuvers where they land briefly, touch the runway and take off again. This was a spectacular show of discipline, adroitness, and coordination in the skies overhead. Sunsets are spectacular and the night sky is bright with constellations and planets easily visible with the naked eye.
And there is still more…we were able to ride our bikes around the entire island. As a history nerd, I found a special place on the island, Chincoteague’s oldest standing structure. The home was owned by Captain Timothy Hill and built sometime around 1800. This rare home was discovered beneath a dilapidated structure in 2009 and restored to its former architectural glory, complete with a wooden chimney. There are two ships carved into the exterior logs, however, the artist remains a mystery. Legend has it, the house is haunted by Timothy Hill’s daughter Jenny. She was killed by her long time love Tom Freeman, when her father denied permission for them to marry. The house was moved from its original location and is open to the public on weekends.
Chincoteague is a nature lovers dream come true. There is just something about the beach that brings balance to one’s life. Eric and I both agree, we are drawn to the ocean and feel at peace there. We are grateful for the opportunity to spend quality time with our beloved Aunt Jean and Uncle Joe in their “happy place.” We felt welcome, comfortable, and loved. It doesn’t get any better than that.
Until next time,
Eric and Lori