Saturday, July 9, 2016

Fun Things To Do On Chincoteague and Assateague Islands

In Virginia, people live on Chincoteague and only wild things live on Assateague.  In Maryland, a person can camp on Assateague, which isn't possible in Virginia.  There are a myriad of things to do and see in either state and on, or around, both islands.
    Assateague Island is a National Seashore in both states, and, in Virginia, Assateague is also the site of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (CNWR).  This confuses a lot of people.  Chincoteague ponies run wild on Assateague Island in both Virginia and Maryland - but each state has a unique way of dealing with the ponies.  All of the different kinds of wildlife on Assateague mingle and breed together - except the ponies (usually).  There is a fence separating the Maryland and Virginia sides of the island, but ponies do, on occasion, break through and mingle.  I can definitely say the ponies on the Virginia end of Assateague Island are branded and micro-chipped. The Maryland ponies are not branded.  I don't know if they are chipped or not.  A person, or family, can legally camp on the Maryland side of Assateague with a permit.  No over-nighters are allowed in Virginia.
   Chincoteague Island is located within the Virginia state borders only.  It's where people live, work and play.  If you visit Chincoteague or Assateague for the annual festivals, you know that you usually stay on Chincoteague in a hotel, motel, rental, or bed and breakfast. There are all sorts of festivals on Chincoteague.  The most widely known, thanks to Marguerite Henry's book and the 20th Century Fox movie, Misty) is Pony Penning.  There are also a Blueberry Festival, Seafood Festival, Oyster Festival, Decoy Festival, Arts and Crafts Festival, Chili Festival, the Volunteer Firemens' Carnival and multiple bird-watching festivals, throughout the year.
   If you visit the islands, be prepared for heat, humidity and mosquitoes in the summer.  Storms come from the Atlantic regularly - northeasters and hurricanes.  I can easily remember the five high tide lines on the wall paper in my Grandfather's kitchen.  A seemingly huge storm can sweep across the island in a few hours and wash everything new again.
   What is there to do on the islands?
  Well, first and foremost, Assateague is a National Seashore.  The beach is highly recommended.  Get some sun, play in the surf, or walk the beach.  There are many walks and trails available for hiking on Assateague in both states.  Check in at the respective Visitor's Centers and see what is recommended, or is off limits, for the day. (Some beach areas may be closed due to bird and/or turtle nesting.)  There is also a widely varied group of wildlife on Assateague - from over 400 different kinds of birds, including bald eagles and peregrine falcons, to otters, muskrats, the Delmarva fox squirrel, water and grass snakes, turtles and terrapins, white tail deer, miniature elk (aka Sika deer), seals, ponies, frogs and toads, butterflies, raccoons, fox, groundhogs and rabbits, to name a few.  Take a birding guide and/or a guide to wildlife tracks.  Wild turkeys are in abundance and might startle you.  With a fishing permit, you can surf fish from the beach.  And you can tour the Assateague Lighthouse from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. during the summer.
   Water activities?  There is swimming and surfing, or one can take out a canoe, kayak, paddle board, or small motorboat.  You can see all the sights on a guided tour; take a fishing boat into the bays or channels, or out into the ocean; you can fish, crab, clam and oyster - as long as it isn't on private or posted property.  You can cook and eat what you catch - flounder is running well, I hear.  On small cruises, one can take a hands-on ecological tour of the marshes and bays (with Captain Barry), tours around the island of Chincoteague with some local history thrown in, sunset cruises with champagne (with Captain Barry, and others), a guaranteed pony-sighting tour (with Captain Dan), sunrise and sunset cruises on the Miss Chincoteague, and just about anything you can imagine, or want, to do.
   On Chincoteague, the choices seem endless - walking, biking or trolley tours; shopping; eating; reading; the library; the cinema; coffee houses; the Carnival on weekends in July; Second Saturday art shows; the Saturday Farmers Market; the Chincoteague Island Museum; the Chincoteague Bay Field Station; the Chincoteague Pony Center; the Chincoteague Natural History Alliance; the Refuge Golf and Amusements Center; or just kicking back and relaxing....  There are three parks on the island where you can picnic.  And I mentioned eating a little earlier in this paragraph - the home made ice cream on Chincoteague is to die for!  The Island Creamery is known as having the best ice cream on the east coast of the United States; then there's Mueller's Ice Cream Parlor and Mister Whippy - all delicious!
   If you don't mind taking a short trip off the island, you can visit the NASA Visitors Center, go hang gliding with Virginia Hang Gliding, take an air tour with Carter Crabbe aviation, visit the Delmarva Discovery Center in Pocomoke City, or the Barrier Island Center of the Eastern Shore in Machipongo.  You can also go horseback riding at Queen Hive Farm in Assawoman.
   I never get around to doing everything I want to when I'm there - I have to pick and choose.  You will, too.

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