Chincoteague Island, Virginia is an oasis and one of the best places to visit on the East Coast summer getaway. It is only three and a half hours away from Washington D.C. and one of the most beautiful beaches in Virginia. For a small island known for Misty the pony, there are plenty of things to do in Chincoteague to make a perfect weekend trip.
You can go on a cruise, enjoy camping, relax at the beach, kayak to find wild ponies, and more. There are so many fun things to do in Chincoteague and so much to fall in love with, that you may never want to leave.
We first fell in love with Chincoteague last year when we went to the Chincoteague Pony Swim. After our first visit, we knew we had to return. This says a lot about the island, as we hardly ever return to a destination.
In addition to having several fun things to do, Chincoteague is one of the best places to travel in the United States on a budget. Allow me to show you why we love this budget-friendly beach town and why it should be your next destination on the East Coast!
Full disclaimer – We were invited by the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce and received complimentary or discounted tours, dining, and accommodation. As always, our opinions are non-biased and our own. We want to thank the Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce and all the companies we worked with for their generosity. In addition, we want to thank everyone for following and supporting us on all of Our Sweet Adventures.
The Best Things to do in Chincoteague During Summer
Summertime is the best time to visit Chincoteague Island because during winter almost all of the local businesses close. Peak season is from May to Labor Day with its busiest time of the year during the Pony Swim. Since it is a very small island, if you want to visit with fewer tourists, we recommend coming at least one week before and/or after the Pony Swim.
Speaking of the Pony Swim, ponies are the main attraction and what the island is most famous for. One of the top things to do in Chincoteague is going on a cruise or kayak tour to see the wild ponies. Both tours are a fun experience for all ages.
To reiterate why we love Chincoteague, it is because of their Southern hospitality. You will never meet a single rude person on this island. Everyone in Chincoteague welcomes you with a smile and open arms. For us, it feels like coming home.
Chincoteague Island’s Annual Pony Swim
The Annual Pony Swim is one of the most famous things to do in Chincoteague and one of the most unique experiences we have ever witnessed. It is a week long event, but the actual swim always takes place on the last Wednesday of July. Before the swim, the Saltwater Cowboys round up the Northern and Southern herds and place them in a corral. Visitors are able to visit the corral and see the ponies before their swim.
The Pony Swim takes place during “slack tide”, which is a period between tides when there is no current and lasts for about 30 minutes. The slack tide varies between 7am to 1pm each year. During this 30 minute period of slack tide, is the safest and easiest time for the ponies to make their swim across the Assateague Channel. To watch the Pony Swim, visitors can take either a cruise or kayak into the water to be as close to the action as possible. It is truly amazing to watch the ponies swim across the Assateague Channel.
To read our guide on the Annual Chincoteague Pony Swim, click here.
One of the best things to do in Chincoteague is a cruise around the island and Assateague. During your cruise, you have the opportunity to search for wildlife such as, bald eagles, osprey, dolphin, oysters and of course, the wild Chincoteague Ponies. To be able to see the famous wild ponies from the water is truly an amazing experience and something you cannot miss during your trip.
Chincoteague has a variety of tour operators that offer cruises throughout the day with two special tours during the sunrise and sunset. We are typically sunset people, but a sunrise cruise is worth waking up early for. The lighting is perfect for landscape photos and one of the best times to find the wild ponies. In addition, you will not find many cruises on the water compared to the afternoon or sunset. Regardless of when you go, we guarantee this will be one of the most enjoyable things to do in Chincoteague during your visit.
The tour operator we highly recommend is Saltwater Pony Tours. Prior to our sunrise cruise, Saltwater Pony Tours were beyond helpful in making arrangements for our tour. They made the entire process easy and were always friendly. Our sunrise cruise was with Captain Gene and we could not have asked for a better captain. Captain Gene was funny, friendly and very knowledgable about all the wildlife and the entire island. Nine times out of ten, we were always first to find a herd of wild ponies because of Captain Gene’s expertise.
We cannot recommend Saltwater Pony Tours enough for a cruise around Chincoteague and Assateague Island.
Saltwater Pony Tours
2246 Curtis Merritt Harbor Slip 34
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Cruise prices: $45 for adults and $35 for children
Kayak Eco Tour
For those who enjoy a little exercise and adventure, we recommend a rel=”nofollow”https://inflatablekayakadventures.com/”>kayak eco tour. In addition to the cruise, this is also one of the best things to do in Chincoteague. Though it requires some exercise, it is a very peaceful and fun activity to enjoy on the water. In addition, it is another great way to view the wild Chincoteauge ponies and other wildlife.
Visitors can either go on a single or double kayak. If you are with a partner, friend or family member, a double kayak is the best option. When you have great teamwork it is a lot of fun! The stronger person has to be in the back of the kayak and for us, that meant Adam. The person in the front must listen to their partner in the back, as they set the tone. So for once, Christina had to listen to Adam, which he thoroughly enjoyed.
It is best to call ahead and ask for the best time to go on the kayak eco tour. The time always changes based on low or high tide. Low tide is said to be the better time to kayak because visitors can row within channels throughout the marsh. Furthermore, you are also able to anchor into the marsh for the opportunity to get extremely close to the wild ponies.
We highly recommend everyone to book your kayak eco tour with Snug Harbor Marina. We have not used them once, but twice because of how wonderful they are. Basia and John run this amazing, hard working, local business with passion and warm hospitality. Before everyone got in their kayaks, we received a short kayak 101 lesson that we all found very helpful. We were fortunate to have Basia as our instructor and she truly gave us an experience we will never forget. We found a wild pony and her baby close to shore and were able to anchor into the marsh to enjoy their beauty. This experience continued to get better as the wild pony came only a few feet away from our kayak and even gave Basia’s kayak a little kiss!
You truly cannot find a better tour guide and company than Snug Harbor Marina.
Snug Harbor Marina
7536 East Side Road
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Kayak Eco Tour price: $49 per person, but if you pay in cash you receive a 10% discount
Relax on the Beach
Beachgoers can find plenty of things to do in Chincoteague by visiting the beach on Assateague Island. So bring your best travel towel and all your favorite beach essentials to find the perfect spot on the soft sand. Then kick back relax and have fun! Visitors can enjoy swimming, surfing, and boogie boarding in the refreshing ocean. Or you can enjoy a picnic on the beach from Poseidon’s Pantry, play fun beach games, read a book or take a nap to recover from your sunrise cruise. There is so much to enjoy on Assateague Beach for everyone!
Assateague Island can be accessed by foot, bike, or vehicle from Chincoteague Island. The entrance fee by foot and bike are FREE, but by vehicle is $20 for a 7-day pass. The long beach is organized by a right and left side. The difference between the right and left sides of the beach is simply lifeguard duty. On the right side of the beach, there are lifeguards on duty, whereas the left side has none. With that said, we found the right side to be slightly more crowded with families because of the extra safety.
Visit the Assateague Lighthouse
Visiting Chincotegaue’s famous lighthouse on Assateague Island is perfect for anyone who enjoys scenic views from a high spot. It may come at the price of climbing 175 steps to the top, but we promise the views are worth it!
The lighthouse is open daily for guests during the hours of 9am to 3pm (closed from 12pm – 12:30pm for lunch). There is a small parking lot for visitors as well. Admission is FREE, but donations are always welcomed.
Where to Eat and Drink
At Chincoteague Island, we are on island time which means we are dining casually. We are not only impressed with the food, but also could not believe the amount of restaurants on the island. In fact, there seem to be more restaurants than things to do in Chincoteague. That is saying something because there is a lot to do on this island!
There are so many casual eateries to indulge on the island such as, BBQ, sandwiches, seafood, craft beers, tacos, donuts, ice cream and more! We basically just named all of our favorite foods. Needless to say, there is definitely something for everybody to enjoy in Chincoteague. Here are a few places we highly recommend!
To read even more about places to eat in Chincoteague, click here.
One of the most delicious things to do in Chincoteague, is stopping by Poseidon’s Pantry to purchase everything you need to enjoy a picnic on the beach. They have fresh sandwiches, salads, cheese, charcuterie and healthy snack options for everyone. Poseidon’s Pantry is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or create a picnic to go.
Poseidon’s Pantry is not only a gourmet deli, but it is also a grocery store too. They sell local, healthy and hard to find products that you will instantly fall in love with. A few favorites of ours were, oriental sesame rice crackers and a fig and chocolate jam! They also sell local coffee, wine and beer you may have trouble finding elsewhere.
In addition to the outside products, Poseidon’s Pantry also makes a few of their own products to sell. Their most famous product is pimento cheese spread. We could not get enough of this delicious pimento cheese spread. It is such an island favorite that you can order the cheese to go, on your sandwiches or hot dogs. Honestly, we would put this pimento cheese on anything edible. Don’t believe us? Try it for yourself, they always have some for samples.
Lastly, we keep bringing up the people of Chincoteague, and Sarah, the owner of Poseidon’s Pantry is one of the nicest women we have ever met. She was more than happy to step out of her busy day to showcase her passion of fresh and local food. Her energy and love of Poseidon’s Pantry radiates throughout the shop that you can feel the happiness surrounding you. Every ingredient and component made at Poseidon’s Pantry is made with genuine love – you can taste it with every bite!
Must order: Poseidon’s Hoagie, Broccoli Bliss and a container of Poseidon’s Pimento Cheese
6219 Maddox Blvd.
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Wed-Sat: 11am – 7pm
Sun: 11am -5pm
Closed: Mon – Tues
Woody’s Serious Food
If you are looking for some seriously delicious BBQ, look no further than Woody’s Serious Food. Woody’s Serious Food has been an island favorite since 2017 and is now one of our favorite places too. If a Texan approves this BBQ, then you know it is finger licking delicious! Yes, Christina (a born and raised Texan), devoured her ribs and tried to finish Adam’s sandwich too – everything was tender, juicy and full of flavor.
What makes Woody’s Serious Food seriously delicious? The time and dedication of cooking the meat perfectly in the smoker. Nothing is half-assed at Woody’s Serious Food, which is why their meat is extremely tender and juicy.
Visitors cannot miss Woody’s Serious Food with its vibrant orange 70’s bus and decorations. If the smell of BBQ is not drawing you in, the fun atmosphere surely will. Woody’s Serious Food has hammocks, picnic tables and backyard games to enjoy during your meal. Needless to say, this restaurant is one of the more fun things to do in Chincoteague than almost anywhere else on the island. You can eat and play – what more can you ask for?
We also had the opportunity to be able to sit down with the chef and owner of Woody’s Serious Food, Larry. Larry is one of the many friendly men on Chincoteague Island and has a great sense of humor, but he is also serious about his food. His hard work and dedication goes beyond just cooking BBQ, he is also dedicated to educating his young employees and making every guest leave happier than when they came.
Must order: Woody’s Signature Sandwich, Baby Back Ribs, Peach Lemonade and Banana Pudding
Woody’s Serious Food
6700 Maddox Blvd
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Open for lunch and dinner
Black Narrows Brewing Co
One of the newest things to do in Chincoteague is going to a local brewery! Black Narrows Brewing Company is the first brewery on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. They use all local ingredients possible to help create their tasty craft beers. In addition to supporting local farmers and producers, they also donate 10% of every beer sale. Five percent goes towards a local cause and the other five percent goes towards a global cause. Black Narrows are not only creating craft beer, but also creating a better world.
Since they are a small craft brewery, their beers on tap are always changing. Guests can purchase tasters, full pours or a crowler. There is seating inside and outside on the patio for those warm summer nights. The only bummer about Black Narrows, is that they do not serve food. However, they have partnered with nearby restaurants and you can order food to be delivered to you.
By the end of the night we were surprised to find that spending hours at the brewery was one of our favorite things to do in Chincoteague. Why? Because they do not have Wi-Fi, instead they have board games and decks of cards! We spent hours playing childhood favorite games like Uno and Battleship. Being able to truly disconnect and go back to basics was a lot of fun. We could also tell that we were not the only ones enjoying this lifestyle too. The brewery was packed with people laughing, talking and playing other board games.
Black Narrows Brewing Co
4522 Chicken City Rd.
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Where to Stay
With so many things to do in Chincotegaue, there are so many places to stay. Visitors have two options, campgrounds or hotel stays. We always enjoy a luxury hotel stay, but we find that camping at Chincoteague adds to the fun island experience. If camping is not your cup of tea, we recommend staying at the rel=”nofollow”https://www.booking.com/hotel/us/hampton-inn-suites-chincoteague-waterfront-va.html?aid=1346808&no_rooms=1&group_adults=1″>Hampton Inn and Suites. This property is the third best Hampton Inn and Suites in the entire nation. Not to mention, it is right on the waterfront and has spacious rooms.
There are a few campgrounds to choose from, but the two most popular ones are KOA Campground & Resort and Tom’s Cove Campground. We have been fortunate enough to stay at both and love them equally. They are both family friendly and great campgrounds, but have some differences. KOA has a new waterpark among other fun activities on site, which are a lot of fun. However, with this said, the campground is far more busier and louder. For a more intimate and local experience, Tom’s Cove is a great option for you. They are also right on the water, so when you wake up you have spectacular views.
Tom’s Cove Campground
From the moment you check in you feel a part of Tom’s Cove family. The staff are very friendly and helpful to get you acquainted to the large campground. During check-in, you are explained all the simple rules, given complimentary trash bags, car parking sticker and the Wi-Fi password (hooray).
The facilities at Tom’s Cove Campground are kept clean and stocked for everyone. They are also strategically placed close to almost every camp site. Guests can enjoy the convenience of a large country store on site, a 30 by 60 swimming pool, live entertainment on select weekends at their air conditioned pavilion and cable television on selected sites. Children can also enjoy a playground and clubhouse with video games and pool tables. For those seeking the great outdoors and adventures, there is a fishing and crabbing pier on the campground, as well as, a boat ramp and marina. There is definitely something fun for everyone to enjoy at this lovely campground!
We were more than pleased with our campsite. There were trees to provide us with shade and plenty of even ground for our tent. The entire weekend we were at our campsite, it was always quiet and perfect for everything we needed.
Tom’s Cove Campground
8128 Beebe Road
Chincoteague, VA 23336
Tent with no hookup price: $35 per night. For more camp site options refer to their link.
So as you can see, there are so many fun things to do in Chincoteague for a summer weekend getaway. Visitors can enjoy wildlife, nature, beaches, kayaking, cruises, fishing and more. Furthermore, the food on the island is delicious and there are fantastic places to stay. There is always something for everyone to enjoy at Chincoteague. If you need any further information or want to find out about any events, be sure to check Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce.
I hope you are able to experience this wonderful island for yourself very soon!
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