Looking for a low-key summer vacation? Forget the big name beaches - head straight to Virginia's Eastern Shore to explore Chincoteague.
1. Small-town feel
With a population of just under 3,000, Chincoteague is small-town USA. Not in a claustrophobic sort of way – in the sort of way that makes you actually want to spend the day biking around town or playing mini-golf. The town gets busy with tourists during the summer, but not to an overwhelming degree. With a handful of attractions, shops, and comfort-food style restaurants, the focus on Chincoteague is on quality time, not on flashy entertainment.
2. Childhood Fandom
When I learned that Chincoteague and Assateague were real-life place, my mind was blown. Why? Because I had grown up reading about the area in the children’s classic Misty of Chincoteague. Written by Marguerite Henry, the book and its sequels followed Misty, a wild pony from Assateague Island. Pretty much any horse-obsessed girl has read these books, and Chincoteague celebrates its history with an adorable Misty statue, right downtown and next to the local library and independent bookshop. Built as a drugstore in 1890 and used as a barbershop from 1908-1995, the Chincoteague Island Libraryis a step back in time. Sundial Books, meanwhile, offers a huge selection of new and used books and funky local art. Even if you haven’t read the Misty books or seen the movie, all book-lovers can appreciate a town that celebrates literature.
And, of course, we have to mention the ponies. Assateague, a stones-throw from downtown Chincoteague, is home to an incredibly unique ecosystem that supports a population of around 300 feral ponies, likely descendants of either Spanish shipwrecks or colonialists (or both!) Each July, visitor swarm to the area for the Pony Swim, when the ponies are herded across the channel between Chincoteague and Assateague and foals are auctioned off. The rest of the year, visitors can view the ponies in the wild through a variety of tours or simply by hiking or camping on the island.
4. Tacos and ice cream
Seriously, it’s the menu of your childhood dreams. Chincoteague doesn’t boast Michelin-star dining, but focuses on high-quality, fresh seafood and family favorites like pasta and pizza. My personal recommendation is the tiny Pico Tacqueria, a walk-up joint that offers the most creative and mouth-watering tacos imaginable. With hammocks, picnic blankets, and lawn games, you can easily pass a night lounging in the summer weather and order taco after taco. Afterwards, don’t forget to visit one of the town’s two ice cream shops, both guaranteed to hit your sweet spot.
5. The beach
Chincoteague beach offers everything you need for a little slice of summer heaven – wide, smooth sandy, a gently sloping shore, and an atmosphere of upmost chill. While some beaches get overwhelming and packed and during high season, Chincoteague manages to maintain a sense of calm (and personal space) all summer long.