Where to eat, drink and stay

Crab Benedict. Photo courtesy of AJ’s on the Creek.

Slender Chincoteague Island on Virginia’s east coast has made a name for itself with its legendary wild horses, but it offers a relaxed ocean getaway for diners looking to revel in summer harvests, the freshest catches of the Atlantic and sweet indulgences from the boardwalk.

Cross or walk for morning caffeine at Amarin (6141 Maddox Blvd.) on the busy main street. It features all the usual suspects, plus Vietnamese iced coffee and colorful milk teas. Then stroll up to Sandy Pony Donuts (6276 Maddox Blvd) for made-to-order confections in fun flavor combinations, like Glazed Honey with Fruity Pebbles and Glazed Caramel with Pretzels.

At lunchtime, a good bet is Seafood and Ricky’s products (7432 Beebe Road)– a charming roadside shack offering no-frills soft-shell crab sandwiches, clam fritters and other fried seafood. Or dive into Poseidon’s Pantry Gourmet Grocery & Deli (6219 Maddox Blvd) for cold-packed Italian hoagies, BLTs drizzled with pimiento cheese, and design-your-own grilled cheeses, as well as delicatessens and craft beers.

Island Creamery Mint Fine Cone.

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 Products (6493 Church Street), which features fresh-cut vegetables, herbs and farm-fresh eggs. As for seafood, it’s best to drive about 20 minutes off the island to Ray’s Cabin (32157 Chincoteague Road, Wattsville)a market the size of a guppy teeming with freshly landed catch.

Afternoon ice cream is a battle between spins from soft-serve to Mr Whippy (6201 Maddox Blvd) and the Rainbow of Homemade Balls, including several vegan and sugar-free choices, at Island Creamery (6243 Maddox Blvd). For more sweets, ponytail corkscrew (7011 Maddox Blvd) is a Wonka-esque wonderland – gummies in every conceivable form, rich fudge and salt water taffy. Then enter into Books on sundials (4065 Main Street) for breezy beach reads and cookbooks covering the kitchen.

As the sun goes down, AJ is on the creek (6585 Maddox Blvd) is a popular destination for white tablecloth crab cakes, fried oysters and giant steaks, as is Bill’s Prime Seafood and Steaks (4040 Main Street). For occasional take-out, Famous pizzeria and sub-shop (6689 Maddox Blvd) turns out crispy pizzas with appeal for all ages.

Where to stay

Photograph of Refuge Inn by Jumping Rocks Inc.

Airbnbs and private home rentals are the best way to experience the island’s laid-back sensibilities, 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 child-friendly facilities: swimming pool, whirlpool and a corral of friendly ponies. Rooms start at $125. For romantic getaways, the Channel Bass Inn Bed and Breakfast and Tea Room (6228 Church Street) offers nine cottage-chic rooms from $135, plus breakfast spreads with freshly baked pastries and sumptuous afternoon tea.

Things to do

Sunrise over Chincoteague.

The 14,000 acres Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge (8231 Beach Road), on Assateague Island, offers an epic beach with easy-going surf trails, hiking and biking trails through bird-filled marshes, and plenty of pony-spotting opportunities. Get out on the water with Captain Barry’s Backbay Cruises (6262 Marlin Street)an interactive and entertaining tour of the dynamic coastal ecosystem.

Assateague Lighthouse at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Lighthouse photograph by Casey Manera/USFWS.

Icons by Connie Zheng.
This article appears in the May 2022 question from the Washingtonian.

Parent Writer

Nevin Martell is a parenting, food and travel writer whose work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Times, Flavor, men’s diary, Fortune, Travel + Leisure, The runner’s world, and many other publications. He is the author of eight books, including It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, Red Truck Bakery Cookbook: Reference recipes from America’s favorite rural bakeryand the success of the small press Finding Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Groundbreaking Comic Book. When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife and their six-year-old son, who already runs faster than him.