The family and I have been traveling to Chincoteague Island, on Virginia’s eastern shore, for several years. It takes us about seven hours to drive there but it’s convenient for Beth’s sister, who typically joins us. We picked it as our pandemic vacation retreat for a few reasons:
- Socially distanced beachgoing isn’t too difficult. The beaches – an island away on Assateague – don’t see the kind of crowds we get on the NC and SC coasts. Plus, because the beach at Assateague Island is a National Seashore, there aren’t any condos and houses crowding the waterfront.
- Fresh seafood is bountiful and good. There’s no reason to go out.
- It’s cheap. House rentals can be surprisingly affordable.
- The eastern shore has good places to explore.
A few highlights and lowlights from our week on Chincoteague Island. I’m going to rate each of the businesses mentioned from one star (lousy) to three (good job!) based on how well people were behaving themselves, distance and mask-wise.
It was hellishly hot. Too hot to go to the beach hot. Too hot to go running before dawn or after dusk hot. Yeah, that hot. Only one day did the temperature dip to the point where we were tempted to go back to the beach, following a brief trip early in the week after which we returned worn out and savaged by sand flies. We gave into temptation and had a great time – temps were in the low 80s and the ocean felt nice and cool. We swam and swam some more. It was glorious.
Janes Island State Park is a jewel. It sits on the Tangier Bay side of Maryland and has one of the most beautiful campgrounds I’ve seen in a state park. Yeah, it’s seven hours away but I’ll drive seven hours to camp there, do some fishing, and go kayaking on the canals and bay.
We explored a small park on the Atlantic side of the eastern shore, as well as Deal’s Island, which answers the question, Who’s ready to sell their house due to rising water? (Answer: Every other person, it seemed) Rising seas at Tangier Bay threaten local communities, including Tangier Island, and on Deal’s Island this was on full display.
Eat & Drink on Chincoteague Island
I mentioned seafood, right? Gary Howard Seafood*** and Ricky’s** were our go-to places to get fresh seafood. We had tuna steaks, shrimp and scallops from the former, and a giant pile of local oysters from the latter. We tried to shop at SeaBest Seafood*** but the owner got wound up and shouty when I said the word “ceviche” while scoping out some fish. We got the hell out of there.
There’s a small market*** on Maddox Avenue (the main drag). I didn’t get the name, but if you look on Google Maps for the Banana Hammock you’ll find the location. Apparently, frozen bananas are less appealing than a great selection of seafood, meat, and produce. I bought some pork chops and the ingredients for killer gazpacho. We shopped there several times and the owners treated us right.
Chincoteague Island has a newish brewery and it’s good. Black Narrows*** brews some tasty beers. I’ll vouch for their Sit a Spell IPA and Salts tart oyster wheat (that’s right). They offer crowlers to go, as well as indoor and outdoor seating. I didn’t take advantage of this, but they deliver.
Beach vacations demand ice cream and Mr. Whippy*** is my place. Chocolate, vanilla or a swirl are the only choices and that’s the way it should be. The family likes Island Creamery*** and it’s good, too, if you prefer your ice cream fancy.
Amarin Coffee*** serves, you guessed it, coffee. The beans are from Vietnam and you can order a perfect Vietnamese coffee. The only thing bad about them is that they don’t have an outpost in Greensboro.
Lilly’s Little Mexico*** is in a food truck park on Maddox. If you are in a hurry you might want to go elsewhere. If you are patient and like good food, it’s a great option. And if you’re with someone who loves BBQ and COVID-19, you can send them across the way to Woody’s*, where the owner’s not a fan of masks. Plenty of people were waiting a half-hour plus to get their orders from Lilly’s, while I saw two customers at Woody’s.
SeaStar*** is a reliable take-out sandwich shop. I’ve eaten many sandwiches there and have never had a bad one.
I don’t know how we missed this place during previous trips, but Beach Road Roundup*** has a hell of a breakfast. They have great food, and funny and cheerful service.
There is an outdoor tiki bar* in Chincoteague. We checked it out. I won’t name it but it’s the only tiki bar on the island and trust me, you can skip it unless you like mediocre, watered-down drinks.
Books read: 1
Movies watched: 0
Heat index: 108
Delmarva fox squirrel sightings: 0
Times I went running: In that heat? Are you kidding?