Holiday Tips, Lifestyle Tips, Travel tips — April 1, 2016 at 10:48 pm

Getting Away: the storybook beaches of Chincoteague Island, Virginia

The next in our new “Getting Away” series, a collection of vacation ideas that go beyond the norm. This month, we revisit the site that inspired the Marguerite Henry classic Misty of Chincoteague.

Chincoteague-Island

As a child, if you were lucky enough to read Marguerite Henry’s classic, Misty of Chincoteague, about a herd of shaggy wild ponies living off the coast of Virginia and Maryland, then spending a week or more in their presence might make for an ideal literary and nature lover’s vacation. In fact, you can even stay in Miss Molly’s Inn, the same Victorian B&B where Henry wrote her novel in 1947.

Low key, laid back and boasting a storybook version of unsullied beaches, dense maritime forests and lush salt marshes, Chincoteague Island lies on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, the island acts as the gateway to the Virginia portion of Assateague Island, home of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and where the wild ponies have lived for centuries.

Come in the summer and you’ll be among the throngs who flock to the area for the annual Pony Swim in July. Saltwater Cowboys, most of whom serve as volunteer fire fighters for the Chincoteague Island fire department, which maintains the ponies, herd the adults and foals across the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague — to great fanfare — where they’re looked over by veterinarians. Part of the Fireman’s Carnival event, the festivities last for nearly a week and are highlighted by the Pony Auction, which raises funds for the fire department and for the care of the herds. On the last day, the adult ponies swim back to Assateague Island where they live untroubled for another year.

For those seeking a tranquil experience, the islands provide an ideal place to explore via bike or on foot. The whole 38-mile long stretch of Assateague Island comprises a wildlife sanctuary, and claims one of the most lauded beaches on the Atlantic. A scenic boat cruise — there are more than a dozen from which to choose — gets you up close and personal with the abundant wildlife, including the ponies, and pristine back bays and marshlands in the area. Along with crabbing, clamming, fishing, kayaking, hiking, golfing and hang gliding, Chincoteague offers several popular festivals throughout the year.

You won’t find mega resorts on the island, rather you can select from one of the many charming island cottages (or larger family homes), bed and breakfasts or one of the island’s hotels. There are even a couple of campgrounds for the more rugged types.

Miss Molly’s Inn Bed and Breakfast, 4141 Main Street, Chincoteague, VA, 757-336-6686, www.missmollys-inn.com, www.chincoteaguechamber.com, 757-336-6161.