With over 14,000 acres of land that includes prime beach front real estate, sand dunes, marshes and maritime forests, Virginia’s Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is a popular vacation destination for many. And it’s no wonder!
From wild pony sightings to world class bird watching, from soft-n-sandy beaches to maritime forests, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge offers something for everyone. And this serene ocean-front destination is where we found ourselves on a weekend get-away, intent on a little rest & relaxation.
Explore Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge with us and see why you too should consider a weekend jaunt to Chincoteague.
Warm Sandy Beaches And Frothy Ocean Waves
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge encompasses a wonderful stretch of Atlantic Ocean beach front bliss. Because it’s a designated wildlife refuge, there’s not a single home to obstruct the views nor block beach access. And there’s not a boardwalk in sight to distract from Mother Nature’s bounty of attractions.
What you will find instead, is lots of fine, soft sand perfect for sand castles and digging your toes in deep. And of course, lots of frothy Atlantic Ocean waves begging to be jumped into. Waves ready for boogie boards and body surfing action. Waves to sooth the soul, or for simply sitting back and enjoying a hot summer’s day on the beach.
Travel Tip: If you are planning a summer weekend on the beaches of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, consider arriving early to score a prime waterfront spot.
Explore Mother Nature’s Handiwork On Foot or Bike
Hit the trails! Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge offers several easy trails from which to experience this spectacular locale up close and personal. Whether it’s a sandy beach walk past crashing waves, a bike ride through a maritime forest, or a hike past a salt marsh, there is sure to be a trail to suit your style.
The refuge has 15 miles of trails open to the public. Don’t miss the Lighthouse Trail, easily accessible on foot and by bike. As the trail’s name suggests, it leads to an 1867 light house. For a small fee, climb to the top of the light house for a commanding view of Chincoteague Island.
Park the car at one of the turn-outs on the Wildlife Loop or Beach Road and stroll along the path. Go for a morning hike along the 1.6 mile paved Woodland Trail. Take a meandering bike ride from town to the Visitor’s Center to learn more about the refuge. Engage the kids in the Junior Refuge Manager program.
Who knows what you might discover along the way. Maybe you’ll get a close-up view of the wild ponies. Maybe you’ll find some pine cones begging to be tossed at your brother. You most likely will find mosquitos! Bring bug spray. Those mosquitos are quite hungry.
Wild Pony Sightings & Other Wildlife Spotting
The Refuge’s Wildlife Loop and Beach Road are very popular places to observe local wildlife. There is a reason for that! This is where you’ll probably catch your first glimpses of the refuge’s most famous residents – the wild ponies. It doesn’t take long to spot several of them hanging out off in the distance.
Nobody is quite sure how the Chincoteague ponies came to make this barrier island their home. What is known, is that they’ve been here a long time. And they are quite beautiful! Be sure to get out of the car and hike in to get a closer vantage point. And there they are. Wild ponies, complete with birds perched upon their backs!
The refuge is also home to Sika deer, white-tailed deer, red fox, raccoons, fox squirrels, horseshoe crabs, sand crabs and lots and lots of birds. Oh, and this pretty cool spider. Telephoto lenses are great for capturing spider photos without getting too close! 🙂
Photographing A Plethora of Feathered Flyers
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge’s prime location along the Atlantic Flyway makes it a vital resting stop for migratory birds as well as a prime year-round habitat for a myriad of local feathery residents. Just hang out along any of it’s roadways, take a walk along one of the hiking trails, and you are sure to meet several of them.
Sit quietly and patiently along a watery tributary. Who knows what feathery creature is also sitting quietly, perhaps right in front of you. It could be an elegant great blue heron, blending into it’s surroundings.
Look up in the trees. You might see a red headed turkey buzzard perched high above, a keen eye in search down below for his next meal. Walk along the water’s edge, where a white egret may be poised and ready to catch his lunch from the flowing water.
Canada and snow geese, osprey, red-tailed and Cooper’s hawks, kestrels, merlins, wood ducks and black ducks, owls, piping plovers and many more feathered flyers come to roost at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. More than 300 species of birds consider the Refuge a migratory stop-over, a nesting ground, or a permanent home.
Trying Your Hand at the Finer Art of Crabbing
Don’t forget to bring crabbing gear with you! Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge isn’t all about beaches and birds. It’s also a great place to try your hand at crabbing. Crabbing can be great family fun for everyone, and a nice change of pace from a day on the beach.
Don’t have any crabbing gear with you? No problem! Just stop at one of the local fishing supply stores along the road leading into the Refuge and pick up a few supplies. All you need is a net, pole, fishing string, and some bait, and you are good to go crabbing.
Wow! The action was good in this location. Caught us a few decent sized blue crabs. Once our crabbing adventure was over, all crabs were released to return to their watery homes.
Have You Been to Chincoteague?
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is conveniently located along Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It is a laid back, family-friendly destination just right for getting away from it all. Was it worth spending our long weekend here? You betcha it was!
How about you? Have you been to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge? What was your favorite thing about it? Do share!
Love the idea of exploring Chintoteague Island? Don’t miss my next post on this family-friendly destination:
All images by C.Biederman
Notice: Speaking of family adventures, I’m stepping away for a week of relaxation in the sun. Back shortly, with a whole slew of new adventures to share.