TRAVEL – Assateague Island: A Calming, Natural Sanctuary


poniesJune 1, 2013
Vaughn Powell
New Writer/News Assistant

Split by the Maryland-Virginia border, Assateague Island is an area devoted to the sanctuary of wildlife. Thirty-eight miles long, with a population of just under three thousand, the island is protected from urban development and offers an experience of pure, untouched nature.

Visitors can enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches the Atlantic has to offer, where shell collecting and horseback riding occur daily. Visitors can also obtain a fire permit and host a bonfire on the shore.

birdsInteracting with the ever-present wildlife in the area, visitors may come across the wild ponies that have inhabited Assateague Island for hundreds of years. Believed to have originated from Spanish galleons wrecked off of the Assateague coast, the ponies have been herded and divided between the Maryland and Virginia state lines. Visitors can publicly view the ponies all along the island or can take the Wildlife Bus Tour, which provides informative history about the island’s rich culture. The bus tours last around ninety minutes and cover just over fifteen miles of land. Visitors can expect to see ponies, white-tailed deer, sika elk, and a variety of birds. Wildlife bus tour tickets can be purchased at the Herbert H. Bateman Educational and Administrative Center and cost twelve dollars for adults and six dollars for children under twelve.

Visitors may also take part in the Assateague Lighthouse tours and Oil Shed art shows. Built in 1867, the Assateague Lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors can climb the lighthouse and get a bird’s eye view of the island from April through November at the small price of five dollars for adults and three dollars for children seventeen and under. On weekends, local artisans exhibit their work at the Oil Shed next to the lighthouse.

dunesFor a good eatery, visitors should travel the short quarter mile east to Chincoteague Island, well known for its fresh seafood. Families can stop at Steamers Seafood Restaurant and enjoy the all-you-can-eat menu, which includes steamed blue crabs, spicy steamed shrimp, snow crabs, and a multitude of combinations. Begin lunch at noon and enjoy dinner starting at 4:30 p.m. everyday.

Tourists are also welcome at Don’s Restaurant and Lounge. A casual restaurant, Don’s has been serving “the freshest local seafood” since 1973. Don’s offers crab cakes, flounder, and oysters and clams on the half-shell that can be enjoyed gazing at the fishing fleet and spectacular sunsets. Don’s also accommodates large groups and has plenty of room for parking.

When looking to escape the stress of the city, a nice bed and breakfast provides the perfect area for relaxation. Chincoteague Island, where most lodging is located, offers Miss Molly’s Inn and The Watson House, two distinct bed and breakfasts that deliver hospitality that will make guests want to stay forever.

Miss Molly’s Inn is a seven-bedroom Victorian bed and breakfast located on historic Main Street. This old-fashioned bed and breakfast is the perfect gateway to Assateague Island and provides outdoor porches in the midst of warm sea breezes. Visitors can indulge in tea, coffee, cookies, and other pastries all day on the indoor porch area and can relax near the English garden or on the hammocks located on the large second-floor deck.

geeseThe Watson House is another old-fashioned bed and breakfast featuring antique furniture, private bathrooms, and air conditioning for each room. Local shops and the Wildlife Refuge are within walking distance of this guesthouse, situated in the middle of Historic Downtown on Chincoteague Island. Coffee and buttermilk biscuits are also served every morning starting at 7:30 a.m., supplying guests with a quick but hearty breakfast before beginning the day.

The relaxing atmosphere of Assateague Island and the nearby attractions on Chincoteague make for a supreme vacation destination. The many visitor attractions and affordable activities provide plenty of fun for families and will ensure return visits for trips in the future.

Photos courtesy of National Parks Service Digital Archives


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