It is easy to think of Chincoteague as a typical beach town, but that really doesn’t fit the bill. In spite of its many regular visitors, at heart Chincoteague remains a small rural town in downstate Virginia. Many of its stores and restaurants cater to tourists over the summer season, but continue to serve the three thousand or so who stay around (or visit) all year round. Here are a few things we think you should know to enjoy your stay.
The only full-service grocery store in Chincoteague is Island Foods on Cleveland Street, near Main Street. It is fairly well stocked with usual grocery items. There is a larger Food Lion off the Island at the intersection where you turn onto Route 175 heading into Chincoteague. It’s about a 15 minute drive away. There is also a limited selection of foods at the Family Dollar on Maddox at the traffic circle. They have beverages, frozen food, snacks, bread, milk, and eggs.
During the summer season, we also enjoy Church Street Produce’s local melons and peaches, as well as their homemade pies (order ahead or they’ll run out!). Their tomato pie (yes, tomato pie!) is a town favorite and one of the most uniquely ‘Teagan things you could try on the Island. It is a wonderful cross between a pie and a deep dish pizza.
Another worth-while spot to try is the Whiteraven’s Nest stand on Maddox. They have a range of produce, dairy, and meat fresh from local farms.
We don’t come to Chincoteague for the food scene, except for the amazing ice cream at Island Creamery. The Reedys are serious ice cream connoisseurs, and we consider Island Creamery among the best ice cream shops we’ve visited in the world.
However, if you don’t want to cook, some of the better options in town are:
Lilly’s Little Mexico – traditional Mexican
Backyard Firepit – on Church Street – traditional BBQ, plus some interesting daily specials
Captain Zack’s – if you’re in the mood for some good, fried seafood
Pico Taqueria – We were originally skeptical about hipster Mexican food, but it has turned out to be a favorite.
Amarin – coffee and high-quality croissants and other baked goods
Sandy Pony Donuts – Decent fresh glazed donuts with a variety of toppings. Yabba Dabba Doo-nuts are pretty tasty!
Ledo Pizza – Just like the other Ledo franchises. It is a Mid-Atlantic original. Very thin crust. Very tasty.
The Launch Box – This food truck is actually back on the mainland near Wallops Island. It is on the main road (Rt. 175) and Mill Dam Rd. It is one of the best values around, especially their breakfast sandwiches.
Trash transfer station / Recycling
I hesitate to call this the town dump. It as a very clean site where anyone is welcome to deposit extra trash and recycling. Chincoteague recycles mixed cardboard and plastics, and metal. There is no glass recycling. It is located on Deep Hole Road near the intersection with Chicken City Road. They are open every day except Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Chincoteague has an unusual way of calling in the volunteer fire department for an emergency. They use the village “air raid” siren, so it goes off a couple of times a week. Don’t be “alarmed!”
To do in town
- Chincoteague is becoming more and more bike friendly. The Wildlife Loop and the Woodland Trail are both excellent trails for family biking. If you park at the Wildlife Loop and do both trails, it is just about 5 miles. Also, Chincoteague has recently opened a nature trail off of Hallie Whealton Smith Drive. It isn’t terribly long, but it is a pretty ride through the wetlands. You will need to bring bikes with you, or rent them on the island. We do not have bikes available to borrow.
- If you want to get a bit of exercise in, Veteran’s Memorial Park has basketball courts, tennis courts, a baseball field, and even a skate park. You can also go fishing off the pier without needing a fishing license. More information about this park, and other Chincoteague recreational facilities can be found on the town’s website.
- Photo spots: Chincoteague is a beautiful place to take portraits and family photos. In addition to the beach, we’d recommend the nature trail listed above, and the bridge on the bike trail that runs behind the Dollar General. Both trails give you beautiful wetlands backdrops.
- And finally, speaking of the stars, keep track of what is going on at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. If you are fortunate enough to be able to watch a launch, enjoy it. The best viewing is from the official viewing areas at the Visitor’s Center, but if you can’t get in there, you can drive to the south end of the Island, to Curtis Merritt Harbor, and watch from the path that leads to the Chincoteague Waterman’s Memorial
On the Refuge or Beach
- Notice which way the wind is blowing. On days (20% of the time?) when the wind blows from shore out toward the ocean you’ll find biting flies on the beach. They do make things fairly miserable. Getting in the water can help you escape them. Just don’t get too discouraged. When the wind changes direction the flies disappear entirely. We’ve spent many, many days on the beach playing in the sand or reading a good book. During the summer, OSVCount.com maintains a “Fly Report.”
- If you want to track the tides and water temperatures, here are a couple of good sites:
– Seatemperature.org – Chincoteague
– Tides4Fishing.com – Chincoteague
– National Weather Service Tides – Chincoteague
- If you want a quieter spot on the beach, ride a bike. Swan Cove Trail goes off from the Wildlife Loop in the Refuge and leaves you at a much less trafficked beach, including bike racks to lock up your bike and a port-a-potty. It is just about 4 miles from Utter East to the beach.
- Stargazing: People often don’t think about the fact that the Refuge is open until 10pm. On a clear, night, with a new moon or before moonrise, the stars are clear and beautiful out on the beach. You can easily see the full Milky Way. It is well worth the late night trip. Here’s a site that lets you track the moon’s phases and rising on Chincoteage: Timeanddate.com – Chincoteague
Chincoteague – Virginia’s Island Treasure
Enjoy this dated (1995), though still accurate, documentary about Chincoteague and the ponies.