Your last summer-of-’17 vacay needs to be at this Virginia island

Back to school already?!? Make a beeline to Virginia’s Chincoteague Island for one last end-of-summer hurrah with wild horses, zero high rises and the feeling of a good old-fashioned beach getaway. Here are 9 more reasons why you need to pack up and go now.

Unspoiled beaches

Photo credit: Christina Valhouli

For sun and sand, head over just a few miles to neighboring Assateague Island, a national wildlife refuge. The beach is pristine, non-commercial and unspoiled. Pack a picnic lunch and don’t forget the boogie board.

Catch your dinner

Photo credit: Christina Valhouli

Chincoteague is famous for fresh crab, but half the fun is catching them yourself. Pick up crabbing lines and bait (chicken neck!) at a tackle shop — although some local fishermen swear by using bacon. Then head to a designated crabbing spot around the island, and try your luck.

Indie shopping

Photo credit: Christina Valhouli

Instead of chain stores, visitors will find small shops like Hot Stuff! on Cropper Street, which claims more than 500 types of hot sauce and salsa. Try the locally made Wild Pony sauce. Indie bookstore Sundial is housed in a cozy two story space packed with new and vintage tomes.

Take a hike (or bike)

Photo credit: Geoff Alexander, CC 2.0

Explore the island the good old-fashioned way— on two feet, or rent a bike and cycle from Chincoteague to Assateague Island. Explore Assateague’s 37 miles of beach, and — pro tip — don’t forget the bug repellant.

Horses galore

Assateague Island is famous for its wild ponies, which can be spotted in the marshlands en route to the beach. If you’d rather ride a horse, head to the Chincoteague Pony Centre.

Laid-back dining

Photo credit: Christina Valhouli

Some of the best meals on the island can be found at roadside stands like Bettye’s Big Bad Burgers or Pico Taqueria — try the fried oyster taco. Ropewalk offers toes-in-the-sand waterfront dining, while AJ’s on the Creek is the place to go for local oysters.

Sky-high views

Climb to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse, which dates back to the 1800s. You’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the beach and wetlands. Nearby, NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has an educational visitor center, and if you time your trip right, you may see a rocket launch.

Cruise for wildlife

Photo credit: Bill Crabtree, Jr.

Hop aboard Captain Barry’s Back Bay Cruises to learn about the local wildlife, and try digging for oysters. Captain Dan’s Around the Island tour offers a close-up look at Assateague’s wild ponies, and guests may even spot dolphins.

The sweetest treats

Round out a day at the beach with something sweet. Try a made-to-order donut from Sandy Pony Donuts. Or Island Creamery serves small batch ice cream in flavors like bourbon caramel crunch and makes its own waffle cones. Go ahead — you’re on vacation.

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Story by Christina Valhouli.

Christina writes about travel, beauty, design, and lifestyle for many publications and travel websites like The New York Times and

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