The slender island of Chincoteague on Virginia’s Eastern Shore made a name for itself with its storied wild horses, but it offers a relaxed ocean getaway for diners looking to revel in summertime harvests, the Atlantic’s freshest catches, and sugary boardwalk indulgences.
Drive through or walk up for morning caffeination at Amarin (6141 Maddox Blvd.) on the bustling main drag. It features all the usual suspects alongside bracing Vietnamese iced coffee and colorful milk teas. Then stroll to Sandy Pony Donuts (6276 Maddox Blvd.) for made-to-order confections in fun flavor combos, such as honey-glazed with Fruity Pebbles and caramel-glazed with pretzels.
At lunchtime, a good bet is Ricky’s Seafood & Produce (7432 Beebe Rd.)—a charming roadside shack offering no-frills, all-thrills soft-shell-crab sandwiches, clam fritters, and other deep-fried seafood. Or dive into Poseidon’s Pantry Gourmet Grocery & Deli (6219 Maddox Blvd.) for cold-cut-packed Italian hoagies, BLTs schmeared with pimiento cheese, and design-your-own grilled cheeses, plus gourmet groceries and craft beers.
Stock up on fresh produce at Whiteraven’s Nest (6382 Maddox Blvd.), where you can also find local meats and blackberries picked from the brambles out back, and Church Street Produce (6493 Church St.), which offers vegetables, just-cut herbs, and farm-fresh eggs. When it comes to seafood, it’s best to drive about 20 minutes off-island to Ray’s Shanty (32157 Chincoteague Rd., Wattsville), a guppy- size market packed with fresh-off-the-boat catches.
Afternoon ice cream is a battle between the pirouettes of soft-serve at Mister Whippy (6201 Maddox Blvd.) and the rainbow of housemade scoops, including several vegan and sugar-free choices, at Island Creamery (6243 Maddox Blvd.). For more sweets, Pony Tails Taffy (7011 Maddox Blvd.) is a Wonka-esque wonderland—gummies in every shape imaginable, rich fudge, and saltwater taffy. Then pop into Sundial Books (4065 Main St.) for both breezy beach reads and cuisine-spanning cookbooks.
As the sun goes down, AJ’s on the Creek (6585 Maddox Blvd.) is a popular destination for white-tablecloth crabcakes, fried oysters, and giant steaks—as is Bill’s Prime Seafood & Steaks (4040 Main St.). For casual takeout, Famous Pizza and Sub Shop (6689 Maddox Blvd.) turns out crisp pan pizzas with all-ages appeal.
Where to Stay
Airbnbs and private-home rentals are the best way to experience the island’s laid-back sensibility, and they often include ocean access and Instagram-worthy sunsets. Otherwise, families are well served by the Refuge Inn (7058 Maddox Blvd.) thanks to its kid-friendly amenities: pool, hot tub, and a corral of friendly ponies. Rooms start at $125. For romantic getaways, the Channel Bass Inn Bed and Breakfast & Tea Room (6228 Church St.) offers nine cottage-chic rooms starting at $135, plus breakfast spreads with fresh-from-the-oven pastries and a sumptuous afternoon tea.
Things to Do
The 14,000-acre Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (8231 Beach Rd.), over on Assateague Island, features an epic beach with easygoing surf, hiking and biking trails through the bird-filled marshlands, and plenty of pony-watching. Get out on the water with Captain Barry’s Backbay Cruises (6262 Marlin St.), a hands-on, entertainingly educational tour of the vibrant coastal ecosystem.
Icons by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the May 2022 issue of Washingtonian.