Beach Getaway: Assateague and Chincoteague Islands
These Virginia and Maryland coastal islands offer the chance to enjoy nature up close, with their wild ponies and unspoiled beaches. And you might see a rocket launch.
You can explore the coast by bike or kayak at the Marine Science Consortium.
Assateague and sister island Chincoteague—off the Maryland and Virginia coasts—are where to go for an unprogrammed vacation. You don’t visit for the stuff to do but for the unspoiled natural beauty of the area, with its quiet beaches, and the chance to hike among the flora and fauna, including Assateague’s famed wild ponies.
Most people explore both islands in a single trip. Assateague, 37 miles long, is prized for its beaches and ponies, and Chincoteague, seven miles long, is known for its wildlife refuge, dunes, forests, and marshes. Most visitors use Chincoteague Island, a fishing village with shops, restaurants, hotels, and a marina, as a base because no development is permitted on Assateague. Click here to reserve a camping spot.
Tom’s Cove Park
8128 Beebe Rd.; 757-336-6498
Many campers stay across Assateague Channel from Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in one of the campgrounds on Chincoteague Islands, such as Tom's Cove Park, where there’s access to water and sewer hookups. A tent site is $31.50; a hookup site starts at $49.
Visitors looking for creature comforts will find hotels, motels, inns, and B&Bs on Chincoteague Island. A bridge connects the town to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
Miss Molly’s Inn
4141 Main St.; 800-221-5620
Fans of Misty of Chincoteague can book a room at, a seven-room B&B where Marguerite Henry wrote her famous children’s book. Guests can borrow beach cruisers to ride around the island as well as beach umbrellas and boogie boards. Rooms begin at $150.
7058 Maddox Blvd.; 757-336-5511
Families will like the Refuge Inn, which is owned by native islanders and has an indoor/outdoor pool, swings, bike rentals, free wi-fi, and its own herd of gentle Chincoteague ponies. Rooms start at $165.
Toms Cove Visitors Center on Assateague—not to be confused with the campground—is the best starting point to explore the beaches. There are secluded nooks in both directions as well as showers and a guarded beach. Click here for directions and information on ranger-guided programs.
Wallops Flight Facility
Rt. 175, Bldg. J-17, Wallops Island; 757-824-1344
You can see a rocket launched from the NASA Visitor Center observation deck and check out a moon rock during a free visit to Wallops Flight Facility.
Marine Science Consortium
34001 Mill Dam Rd., Wallops Island; 757-824-5636
The Marine Science Consortium offers day and half-day programs that start at $10 a person, such as the hands-on Under the Sea Workshop, which teaches kids about marine animals.
Channel Bass Inn
6228 Church St.; 800-249-0818
A civilized breakfast awaits you at the Channel Bass Inn. The B&B serves this meal to non-guests who make reservations. Breakfast might include cranberry nut bread, egg-and-cheese casserole, and scones made by the very British owner.
Woody’s Beach Barbecue
6700 Maddox Blvd.; 410-430-4429
Woody’s Beach Barbecue is an outdoor venue with award-winning barbecue and crabcakes. Pull up a beach chair while dining and play ring toss with the locals.
Bill’s Seafood Restaurant
4040 Main St.; 757-336-5831
Bill’s Seafood Restaurant, an island tradition known for local seafood such as breaded oysters, is about as upscale as you’ll get here.
4069 Main St.; 757-336-7299
Saigon Village is a cozy Vietnamese restaurant, owned by an expat named Hahn, that makes an authentic version of the soup pho.Order takeout and dine at the waterfront park out back.