In the summer months, the town of Chincoteague, Virginia is flooded with visitors, all eager to enjoy the pristine scenery and beachy coastal vibe. However, those looking for a more laid-back escape will love experiencing a different side of this 7-mile long Eastern Shore barrier island in the fall months, when the crowds thin and temperatures cool.
Here are 3 fabulous things to do in Chincoteague this fall.
1.) Revel in the slow season at the Refuge
The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (read: ponies) and Assateague National Seashore (read: beach) is at the heart of what visitors love best about Chincoteague. For the popular summertime Pony Swim, around 40,000 visitors descend on the refuge in a single day.
During the off-season, you’ll feel like you’ve got the place to yourself– and you practically will! Feel free to drive extra slow and pony-spot to your heart’s content. And don’t miss driving through the refuge at night, admiring the reflection of the moon on the water.
2.) Eat yourself silly at the Chincoteague Oyster Festival
Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a hub of oyster aquaculture. Barrier islands produce the cleanest waters in the Mid-Atlantic, and both bay and ocean-grown oysters produce a range of local beauties suited for all palates. Chincoteague’s annual Oyster Festival is considered the grand opening of oyster season, with all-you-can-eat oysters (steamed, fried and raw) as well as clams, shrimp, hush puppies and more! (2017’s festival is October 7th and tickets are $45/ person.)
3.) Seasonal sunset-spotting, with a side of LOVE
Four 10-foot tall chairs in a scenic locale is like a beacon to photo-happy travelers looking for the perfect shot. Head down to Waterfront Park and enjoy having the Chincoteague LOVEworks sculpture all to yourself. Coordinate your visit for sunset and you’ve struck photography gold.
WHERE TO EAT
- LUNCH: Poseidon’s Pantry, a year-round gourmet market and sandwich shop. Stock up on a well-curated array of locally-sourced products and grab a sandwich to go. My pick? The BLT with house-made pimento cheese and avocado will change your life.
- DINNER: As Chincoteague’s ultimate “fine dining” local establishment, it should be no surprise that Bill’s PRIME Seafood and Steaks excels at seafood and steak specialties. You won’t go wrong with upscale classics like shrimp scampi, crab cakes, surf & turf and french onion soup. This is one local restaurant that’s packed year round!
- DESSERT: You can’t come to Chincoteague without stopping by the Island Creamery, named in 2014 as one of Trip Advisors top 10 ice cream parlors in the US. This ice cream shop specializes in homemade, small batch ice cream in unique flavors like “Marsh Mud” (an extra chocolate-y concoction) and Whiskey Brickle. Fall visitors are extra lucky because they’ll get to order one of their seasonal specialties, including Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Spice Latte and Apple Cider Sorbet (featuring locally-pressed cider from M&C Vessey Farm).
WHERE TO STAY
The aptly-named Refuge Inn is the ultimate place to “get away from it all” in Chincoteague. This inn is located away from the hustle and bustle of town but convenient to all Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge exploration, including the Assateague National Seashore. Accommodations are basic but spacious and clean. And, there are bikes available for rent right next door. And, ponies.
**DISCLAIMER: Many of my meals, accommodations and activities for this trip were provided by the Virginia Tourism Corporation and Visit ESVA. As always, all recommendations and opinions are completely my own.**