Monday, June 15, 2015

Fun Things to Do With Kids On Chincoteague Island

I love to do everything that is available on Chincoteague Island and it's eastern neighbor, Assateague.  Originally, Chincoteague had a small farming community - mainly subsistence farming - and the main source of income for most folks was from the water.  My ancestors were Chincoteague watermen, and I love the water and all the intriguing marine wildlife...  That is why my first choice of anything to do on Chincoteague is going out on Captain Barry's Back Bay Cruises (see my previous blogs:  and - Barry's Sea Life Expedition is a fantastic, informative, and (if you want) hands-on trip looking at the things that Chincoteague watermen did, and do.  There are many tour boats to choose from on Chincoteague, but if you want factual information about marine biology and ecology, and how the shallow bays around the islands the islands encourage and propagate sea life, Captain Barry is the best way to learn.
  A large amount of visitors to Chincoteague are there for one of two things - Chincoteague ponies and the birds at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge - or both.  Me?  I'm as horse-crazy and bird crazy as one can be - and, yes, I do have some great suggestions about things to do...
  For those whose kids are pony crazy, or are fulfilling their own dreams (as adults) about Misty and the other famous Chincoteague ponies, I make these recommendations:
  Take a trip out with Captain Dan's Guaranteed Pony Tours - if it isn't the week of Pony Penning - and you will see the ponies (usually several different herds) going about their daily lives.  These Skippers know the individual ponies, and can give great background information.
  Visit the Chincoteague Pony Centre, open every day except Sunday, and meet some descendants of the real Misty of Chincoteague.
   Go across the bridge to Assateague and visit the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge - you can usually see some of the ponies from your vehicle, or you can walk the Woodland Trail to the Pony Overlook.  During the evening, one can drive along the Wildlife Loop, if you don't want to walk it during the day, and usually one can see several groups of ponies there, also.
   Visit the Refuge Inn, and see some of the Leonard family Chincoteague ponies in a pasture between the Inn and the McDonald's.  The Leonard family has been on the island for a long time, and they breed their own ponies, much as Grandpa Beebe did (in Misty of Chincoteague).
   For the people visiting for the bird watching, I can easily recommend:
  Visiting anywhere on the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island.  The 14,000 acre CNWR is a part of the  Atlantic Fly Way, and sees over 300 kinds of birds each year.  You can get birding lists from the Visitor's Center, or print them out from your own computer.
   Take the free Wildlife Bus Tour and Lighthouse Tour on the CNWR during the weekends.
   Take Captain Dan's Around the Island Tour.
   Take Captain Charlie Birch's Chincoteague Island Tours & Nature Cruises.
   Take Daisy's Island Cruises.
Rent a bicycle and see the islands (and all the sights) in a relaxed fashion, at your own pace.
If you're there on the weekend (Friday or Saturday night), visit the 90th Annual Firemen's Carnival.
There are all kinds of shops - local artists, photography, painting, decoys, books - and restaurants to fit any budget.
Go the the Museum of Chincoteague Island, the Captain Timothy Hill House (imagine a family living in a space that small), or, head back to the mainland and visit the NASA Visitors Center for space and rocketry information.
 Hire a fishing guide, or rent your own boat, canoe or kayak.
Play on the beach, get a tan, and swim in the Atlantic Ocean at the Assateague National Seashore (the beach part of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge).
Go clamming, crabbing, or fishing from a dock, from the water, or surf fish at the beach.
Have a picnic and look at the cloud shapes.
Relax and have the kids read any of the multitude of childrens Chincoteague books, or study the new edition of The Field Guide to the Chincoteague Wild Ponies  Expanded, Revised & Updated by Kelly Lidard. Or look over the Chincoteague Pony Identification Cards by Lois Szymanski.  Check out bird identification books written for kids and/or adults.
** A few words of warning:  Ponies do bite and kick unexpectedly.  Ticks, mosquitoes, midges, and flies are plentiful.  It's very humid and you will sweat a lot - stay hydrated.  Take insect repellent. Use sunblock.  Wear a hat.  Wear sunglasses.  If you go out on the water, take something warm to wear; weather on the water changes quickly.**
  Enjoy the islands!

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