Monday, October 8, 2007


We spent the long weekend at the vacation home of friends in Chincoteague, on the eastern shore of Virginia. If you’re not familiar with the geography of the state, Virginia has this odd little peninsula hanging off of Maryland, completely isolated from the rest of the state—from Fredericksburg, we have to drive north into Maryland, and then come down the shore back into Virginia (oh, to be able to drive as the crow flies). Chincoteague Island is a quaint seaside community of modest cottages, a historic downtown area, surrounded by bays and coves on all sides, and just across a narrow channel from the beautiful beach of the Assateague National Seashore on Assateague Island. Assateague is probably best known for its wild ponies, which you can see along the beach road, where even in the off season, visitors flock to take photos of the horses and the sea birds. As all of my friends know, I’m much more into flora than fauna, and don’t get very excited about animals in the wild, but a wide sandy beach gets me every time.

Assateague Island has 37 miles of protected beaches, without any shorefront development—a real contrast to all of the building going on along the beaches of the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We had a surprisingly warm weekend, with shining sun, warm water, and mild waves...really a perfect beach weekend.

Here's a view of Main Street. All three of these houses have the center gable, which I'm told is an architectural feature distinctive to the historic homes of Chincoteague. Modern development is starting to encroach on the island, and we noticed more new developments of condos, townhouses, and oversized vacation homes, but vintage cottages built during the town's heyday as a fishing village still dominate.

In addition to its daily focus on water safety, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary in Chincoteague provides help with the annual pony swim in July, when wild ponies are guided across the channel from the wildlife refuge to the town to be auctioned off, which keeps the pony population stable. Here's the station:

Curtis Merritt Harbor on the south end of the island, where small commercial fishing vessels and charter boats are docked.

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