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  1. Default DC to Chincoteague Long Weekend Trip in January

    Hi! I'm planning to drive from Washington DC (home) to Chincoteague Island in VA for a three-night stay from January 8-10, 2016. I'm traveling with my 26-year-old daughter and 23-year-old son. Both my daughter and I read the Misty of Chincoteague/Assateague books when we were children and have been fascinated with the area ever since! I'm new to DC from LA, my daughter has been in DC since college but has not made this trip, and my son will be visiting from SFO, so this will be a fun adventure for all of us.

    1) I'm trying to rent a house right on the beach (literally on the sand/dunes), but keep finding houses that face Virginia rather than the Atlantic and are on the water but don't seem to have real beachfront. Is this because the windward/Atlantic side of the island is too exposed to weather for safe beach building?

    2) I have this romanticised version of walking on the winter beach with my kids and my dog. We will also drive to see the wild horses on Assateague. Am I crazy? Will the weather and the beach be miserable? Of course, I realize the weather is quite variable, and it's been a very mild winter to date. Seventy degrees in DC today - December 12! We're not serious sightseers and will probably spend the rest our time together cooking, reading and playing board games.

    3) The route from DC looks like 50 East to 13 South to 17 East. Sound right? Any places that are MUST SEEs along the way? I'd love to take a week to explore, but we're limited to three nights due to my daughter's work schedule. My son and I will be on vacation time. An alternative travel plan could be for my son and me to spend a few more days in the area and have my daughter drive on her own.

    I'm open to and grateful for all and any advice. Thanks!! Julia

  2. #2


    Julia, it is an easy drive especially during the off-season. Chincoteague National Seashore is a protected wildlife area, so no pets and no buildings on the beach. The properties on the water you see will be on back waters, not the ocean front. There is a bridge linking the village of Chincoteague and the ocean and a large parking area. Relatively isolated.

    Assateague Island National Seashore, on the Maryland side, is loaded with ponies. And a few major parking areas. As you approach the Island after crossing the bridge, straight ahead you will see the State Park (land leased from the Federal gov't). Turn right and head down to the Federal Seashore for more open spaces and plenty of ponies. Both Chincoteague and Assateague are pay to visit facilities part of the national park system (one payment good for both areas).

    Ocean City, Maryland, has many condo and hotel rentals on the beach. It is basically a concrete community along a stripe of paved/developed area right up to the Delaware border from the Ocean City Inlet. Everything used to shut down over the winter but there are plenty of eateries open these days. From OC/Md it is a short drive down to Assateague and Chincoteague.

    Berlin is a small town inland from Ocean City that could provide a diversion when you are not walking the beaches.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA Forum!

    I don't have a lot of info on this area, but I suspect the reason you aren't finding any homes on the atlantic side is because Chincoteague Island is blocked from the Atlantic by Assateague Island, and nearly all of Assateague is a National Wildlife Refuge where development is prohibited.

    I'd expect the weather to be cool, and you won't want to spend any time in the water, but I'd suspect on a typical winter day you wouldn't have any problems walking the beach, properly bundled up. I'd say your bigger concerns would be running into a storm on the days you are there, which could make it very unpleasant. Also, keep in mind, I suspect the vast majority of businesses that cater to tourists are going to be closed during your trip.

    Must sees are a tough thing - as each person has a completely different idea about what that means - but if you want to do something a little different, instead of heading straight back to DC, you could look at heading down across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge/Tunnel and check out some of the interesting things around Virginia Beach/Norfolk or Williamsburg on your way back.

  4. #4

    Default No oceanfront at Chincoteague

    Good morning!

    There is no oceanfront to build on at Chincoteague Island inasmuch as the island itself is entirely tucked behind Assateague Island, sheltering it from the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the south via "The Hook" which also creates the Tom's Cove anchorage east of Wallops Island. All of the Virginia section of Assateague Island is within the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore so there is no residential development on the oceanfront there.

    The very nice visitor center on Assateague is accessed from Chincoteague by auto via a short causeway and low bridge. Many visitors choose bicycles for the very short distance from "downtown" Chincoteague to Assateague. Continuing past the visitor center on "Beach Access Rd" brings you to a large parking area directly on the Ocean. If open in winter, that provides access to the "Wild Beach" with foot access only for 10 miles to the north, where vehicle access on the Maryland side of the line is allowed further to the north under certain conditions and in certain seasons. One can also walk the beach to the south and complete the semicircle along the sand spit forming Tom's Cove (The Hook). There are many foot trails around the salt marshes and along sand pathways just inland between the beach and the visitor center. Some are elevated boardwalks.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no oceanfront development whatsoever between Ocean City, MD on the north and Virginia Beach on the south side of the mouth of Chesapeake Bay. What lands are not within the National Seashore are controlled by the Nature Conservancy. A smattering of private inholdings do remain on some of the "seaside islands" under Nature Conservancy control but the islands are subsiding while sea level rises, so most of these boat access only dwellings are closed up or in the process of being moved to the mainland, where feasible.

    I recommend close examination of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Island National Seashore websites, where detailed printable maps and full visitor information is available. The NWR's site notes that it's open 7 days a week.

    Access from DC via US 50 east to US 13 south to VA 175 east is essentially the only way to reach Chincoteague Island.

    Mid-January weather is a complete toss-up. Anything from bluebird days such as this weekend's to highs in the 20s or 30s with high winds. Snow and ice are not out of the question, either. There is just no way to tell until 5-7 days prior to departure, and the forecasts will be rather more reliable 3-5 days out.

    I don't know what is generally available on Chincoteague in terms of groceries and restaurants, etc, during winter, but I'd do some checking beforehand. It may be a 20-30 minute drive back out to US 13 to reach supplies if the Island is pretty well closed up in winter.

    It's a very nice area and if you catch good weather, a long weekend outdoors can be terrific.


  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Southern California


    If you're at all interested in space travel and space history, NASA Wallops Island Visitor Center is right along the side of the road between US-13 and Chincoteague.


  6. Default

    Thank you so much! I now see that Assateague is between Chincoteague and the Atlantic. The building moratorium explains my challenge finding a home rental on the eastern side of the island.
    It's difficult to find detailed maps of the area. I'll now plan to bring groceries with us in case the local stores are closed.

    I'll keep you posted on my progress!

  7. Default

    Perfect! Sounds like a great, quick side trip. Thanks!

  8. Default

    Thanks for your detailed info - especially about the ponies. I'm still trying to find a house - now it seems like the Chesapeake shore or one of the inland waterways are possiblities.

  9. Default Thanks to all who replied to my post!

    This forum is awesome! Each post provides me with different, complementary information about my trip to Chincoteague.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default asking the locals

    Quote Originally Posted by moodyjulies View Post
    It's difficult to find detailed maps of the area. I'll now plan to bring groceries with us in case the local stores are closed.
    You can never go wrong by checking in with the local tourism boards, especially when it comes to specifics, and that's certainly the case with chincoteague. Not only does it look like they have a lot of information about rentals and activities, I'm sure you can contact them directly for more information about maps and what services will be open in January.

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