Assateague Island, VA, protected by the Assateague Island National Seashore and the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, is the ideal place for swimming, birding, hiking, and biking.
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island is within walking distance of the Refuge Inn. The Refuge is well-known as a bird-watcher’s paradise where over 300 species of birds have been spotted. Two visitor’s centers give nature-lovers of all ages a glimpse into the Saltwater Marsh and Atlantic Ocean ecosystems in the area, including a model of a majestic Bald Eagle nest, a peek into the famous Oyster industry of Tom’s Cove, and a sight-and-sound exhibit about the unique Loblolly Pine Forest barrier island ecosystem found on Assateague.
Assateague Island National Seashore is roughly three miles by bicycle and four miles by car from the inn. Any time of year, there is nothing like a relaxing walk or jog along the beach. Thirty-seven miles of the wildest and most beautiful beaches on the East Coast are yours to explore and enjoy. During the summer, lifeguards oversee a section of the beach near the bathhouses and visitor center. Changing stalls, handicap-accessible toilet facilities, and rinse-off showers are available. Outside the lifeguard protected area, you can enjoy surf fishing, an over-sand vehicle area, skim boarding, and even surfing (lessons and boards of all sizes are available on Chincoteague).
Located on a hill some 22 feet above mean high tide is the iconic Assateague Lighthouse – 142 feet high, with a diameter of 27 feet, 6 3/4 inches at the base. The light is rated at 800,000 candle power, and can be seen for 19 nautical miles. Operated by the United States Coast Guard, the lighthouse was constructed in 1833 and was eventually rebuilt in its present form in 1867. It has recently undergone a large restoration project, and is open to the public during limited hours. This is the lighthouse you can see blinking on clear nights from some pony-side rooms at the Refuge Inn.
The Refuge is also home to the wild Chincoteague ponies made famous by Marguerite Henry’s Misty of Chincoteague. Each year in late July the ponies are rounded up by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company for the annual pony swim to Chincoteague and the auction at the Chincoteague Firemen’s Carnival. For more information and a schedule of events, visit our Pony Page.
Whether you hike or bike the miles of trails, sunbathe and bodysurf at the beach, capture photos of a once-in-a-lifetime bird, climb the lighthouse, or view a rocket launch from the neighboring Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, you’ll enjoy every season of the year on Assatateague Island.