The Wild Ponies of Assateague and Virginia’s Eastern Shore

The Eastern Shore of Virginia. Separated from the main part of Virginia by the Chesapeake Bay, the only way to drive there is through Maryland from the north or by crossing the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay using the 17-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel from the south.

Since we were coming from Williamsburg, we opted for the route from the south, across the largest bridge-tunnel complex in the world. It was designated as “One of Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in 1965 and is truly a marvel to traverse. The bridge-tunnel consists of two one-mile tunnels, two bridges, two miles of causeway, and four man-made islands. It was a delight for the kids to go through the mile-long tunnels under the ocean.

Image courtesy

When we got across the bridge-tunnel, we found a completely different part of Virginia. It was remote, isolated, full of small towns, farms, fishing villages, and fresh seafood (Did you know there are seven flavors of Virginia oysters?). The shoreline is marsh, grasses, and forest that are mostly untouched and in their natural state.

We stayed at the Virginia Landing RV Campground, very isolated from even the rest of the area. We drove back into the forest several miles along a small peninsula before it opened up into a big grassy field along the shore. We enjoyed the quiet peaceful atmosphere of the place and spent most of our time there just staying put and enjoying the solitude (and playing tag at the playground).

Playing tag again

Wild ponies of Assateague

Our one excursion during our time at the Eastern Shore of Virginia was to visit Assateague, a barrier island off the coast.

Courtesy of Cornelis Verbeeck [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wild ponies have lived on the island since the 1600s, when a Spanish galleon carrying a cargo of horses sank offshore. Some of the horses survived and swam ashore to Assateague, where they adapted to the marshes, forests, and sand dunes of the island.

Starting in the 1920s, residents of Chincoteague (pronounced SHINK-uh-teeg by locals) began an annual tradition of rounding up the wild horses and swimming them across the channel to Chincoteague Island to auction off foals. After a few days of auctioning, the remaining horses swim back to Assateague. This tradition has helped keep the population of the ponies under control so they can continue to thrive on the island.

Misty of Chincoteague
The kids read the famous book Misty of Chincoteague by Margaurite Henry before we visited and learned all about this annual tradition.

Visiting Assateague and Chincoteague

We spent the morning of our visit on Assateague Island. The kids were super stars and completed two Junior Ranger badges, one from the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and one from the Assateague National Seashore.

Assateague Island Junior Ranger Badge

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge Junior Refuge Manager

Then we drove around to see the wild horses and stopped at the beach for lunch.

Wild Assateague Ponies

During the afternoon we drove around the town of Chincoteague. We found some tasty homemade ice cream, bought fresh steamed crabs and clams from Gary Howard Seafood, and bought a couple of hermit crabs for Nathan. He’s been begging for a pet to take care of for a couple of years now and we figured hermit crabs would be a good start in our small living space.

Island Creamery Homemade Ice Cream

Great place for takeout crab, oysters, and clams

Fresh steamed crab!

Posing with Misty

New pets – Hermit crabs

This was a fun outing to a unique place. Misty of Chincoteague is a great read for kids and, if you can find a copy, the movie is pretty good, too.

Junior Ranger Badges

  • Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
  • Assateague National Seashore

Travel Tips:

Chincoteague pronunciation – We didn’t know quite how to say this word until we visited and found out how the locals say it. They pronounce it SHINK-uh-teeg.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

  • The tunnel clearance is 13’6″ and RVs are allowed to go through, but you have to stop at a propane check station before entering to verify your tanks are shut off.
  • You can find out what the toll will be here. It was $22 for us towing a 5th wheel.

4 thoughts on “The Wild Ponies of Assateague and Virginia’s Eastern Shore

  1. Pam Kritzeck

    Beautiful: isn’t it? The two years I spent on the northern neck were amazing, I rented a small house on the Potomac: boat dock and all for $350 a month. I am going to look up the pictures with the snow fall. Great memories. Miss you guys!

  2. Cindy Judice

    I have really enjoyed reading your blogs about your family’s travels in a Fifth wheel! My husband and I have One and are able to take a few trips per year. Hopefully we will retire soon and travel more! It just so happens we were at Disney Campground around the same time y’all were at Disney.
    Love the story about the Wild ponies experience and have ordered a book for my granddaughter who loves to read.
    Keep up the great blogs and interesting travels.
    Y’all should visit Lafayette, LA “Cajun Country” especially during festival season! This weekend is Festval International.
    Safe Travels,
    Cindy Judice

    1. Nate Post author

      Glad you’re enjoying reading! We stayed overnight in Broussard earlier this year and definitely plan to visit the area again. We love the crawfish!

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