Park at Toms Cove Visitor Center (GPS: 37.89001,-75.34489)
Main attraction: Beach, wild ponnies
Hike length: 2 to 6 miles out and back
Map and Directions
Last weekend we visited the most preserved and peaceful beach in the East Coast: Chincoteague Island, in northern Virginia. The beach offers a relaxed summer atmosphere and all the beauty of unspoiled nature.
From hiking, swimming and biking on the 14-mile virgin beach, to viewing a spectacular sunset over the bay and marshes. The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is filled with all sorts of wildlife, including birds, clams, crabs and popular wild ponies.
Once you park your car or bike at the beach, you can walk a bit north, far away from the main access, where the beach becomes completely empty. It's a perfect spot to enjoy a day or two with beloved ones or alone, far away from the crowds. Since it's a protected wildlife refuge, it's far away enough from ugly buildings, bars, casinos or stores. In Chincoteague there are no high rises, board walks, or traffic jams. The only money you can spend here is the $15 fee to access the park.
The best part of spending a long summer day on a beach is that one loses the notion of time. Since there is no rush to do anything in particular, apart from swimming, walking, observing, eating and resting. Everyday life thoughts go away ... the constant movement of the ocean stretches the present moment to the infinity: we remember trying to keep track of time a couple of times with no success.
Motion and Wildlife
We hiked along the shore, observing the dynamics of the place: sand, sea shells, water and sunlight soaked every view. At first sight, the shore seems to lack wildlife. But when you stop and observe things closely, you discover small interesting creatures.
Tiny crabs building their nests in the sand, colorful clams opening their ingesting tubes with the rhythm of the waves, and one of the last living fossils on Earth: the horseshoe crab. This big and ugly arthropod has blue blood and dates from 450 million years, before plants even existed! We collected some Dali-shaped clams, surfed some waves, and slept several naps.
Just before leaving the beach and heading to the campground, we watched an unforgettable pinky sunset over the inner lakes and marshes of Chincoteague Island.
We also met the popular wild ponies, which have inhabited the area for hundreds of years.
We stayed at the Maddox Family campground. It's the closest one to the natural refugee, with views to the historic red-striped lighthouse.
The campground features good facilities and has enough shade and breeze to make the stay comfortable. There is the option to camp on the national reserve, but as expected to east coast, permits run off on the first day they are launched.
We spent the rest of the weekend napping at the beach, observing vestiges of marine life, swimming and reading. We were glad to follow these 3 easy tips:
1) Go to Chincoteague Beach only during sunny warm days.
2) Bring sunscreen and mosquito repellent.
3) Once there, walk a bit north from the parking lot and enjoy the beautiful northern untouched beach.
What we did last weekend? We had fun in nature!
This trip is featured on the book 20 Weekend Trips Close to Washington DC.