Camping on Chincoteague

After more than a year of going basically nowhere, we were all stir-crazy and itching to get out of the house and do basically anything other than hike our local trails (as nice as they are). But I don’t really have the ability to take a weeklong vacation right now – having just started a new job – and there was almost nothing available in the way of beach houses anyway. After spending several hours scrolling Airbnb and VRBO unsuccessfully, I hit on the idea of a camping trip. Even the campgrounds were mostly booked, but I found a KOA with availability on Chincoteague Island, about three-and-a-half hours from D.C., and leapt on it. So in the late morning last Saturday, we shoved off for Chincoteague.

We rolled into Chincoteague around lunchtime and after a quick snack at a waterfront restaurant (crab legs for me – I had to share every other bite with Nugget) we hopped aboard a boat for a tour with Saltwater Pony Tours. It was a magical experience that deserves its own blog post (so that will be next Friday) but – spoiler alert above, we saw the famous ponies and spent more than an hour observing them up close. Totally incredible.

Still reeling from the incredible pony-watching experience, we made our way to the campground and staked out a spot for our tent. I’d booked us one of the “primitive” tent sites, which were already crowded by the time we got there – but we found a little nook near the marsh where no one else had set up. Steve suggested that people might have avoided it on the theory that it would be buggy but after a few layers of bug spray, the mosquitos weren’t too bothersome. And I pointed out that there was standing water all over the campground – there must have been a storm – so if they were avoiding this spot because of fear of bugs, the joke was on them because our site was the driest one I saw all weekend, and it had an amazing view.

The Assateague Island Light, right across the marshy creek!

Dinner the first night was shrimp boil foil packets, which Peanut helped me assemble – followed by s’mores, obviously. The Hershey bars I packed for the purpose had inexplicably melted and turned into liquid goo (how? nothing else melted?) but I rigged up a squirting system and it ended up being kind of amazing. Not that I will be melting all s’mores chocolate going forward.

Home sweet home – from left to right, Peanut’s sleeping bag, Steve’s, mine, Nugget’s. Notes on the sleeping arrangements: Nugget was obviously delighted to have Mommy next to him all night; Peanut brought five stuffed animals; Steve’s air mattress got punctured by a tack that stowed away in Peanut’s backpack (“YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE TACKS!” … “I DIDN’T KNOW, IT WAS STUCK TO MY BOXCAR CHILDREN BOOK!”).

On Sunday morning, after a mostly decent night’s sleep, considering the arrangements, we drank our coffee with a view of the Assateague Light – not too shabby. And then headed out for the one must-do activity of the day…

The beach! We were a ten minute drive from the Assateague Island National Seashore beach. (I had actually wanted to camp on Assateague, but turned my sights to Chincoteague when Assateague was – unsurprisingly – booked solid for the Fourth of July.) But it was a convenient drive and we sailed through the check-in thanks to our America the Beautiful pass (seriously, best purchase).

We were on the sand by 9:00 a.m., which was perfect timing. The beach wasn’t too crowded yet, we got a money parking spot, and it was fairly cool with a refreshing morning breeze. We didn’t plan to get there that early, but after drinking our coffee and having breakfast at the campsite, we figured we might as well go to the beach early since there was nothing else to do – it ended up being totally the right call. (By the time we left at around 1:30, the cars were parked along the road a mile back, and there was a massive line to get into the park.)

It was a gorgeous beach! I grew up going to Cape Hatteras every summer, so I have a deep affection for the National Seashore system as it is, and Assateague was every bit as beautiful as Hatteras.

Assateague National Seashore was a perfect place to spend the Fourth of July – I always want to be around water, but we usually do a lake day. The beach was a fun way to mix it up, and we all had a fabulous time. I showed the kids how to build drip castles (“That looks like poop!” ~Nugget), Steve took a nap in the beach chair, and we spent hours wading in the surf and jumping over the waves.

Perfect!

After we had thoroughly doused ourselves in ocean water, we meandered to a trail with a “pony overlook.” I did see the ponies again, but only through the viewfinder of my gigantic zoom lens, and I couldn’t get a good picture – plus there were armies of mosquitos that were intent on eating us alive, bug spray be damned. (They were near the road heading out of the park, so I got some good pictures on the way out – stay tuned next week.) So we didn’t stay long and headed for the opposite of the National Seashore…

Maui Jack’s Waterpark. Had to happen! It was right at the entrance to the KOA campground, so naturally the kids noticed it immediately. Nugget had a fabulous time – he was too short for the really big waterslides, but he bounced back from that disappointment and did the lazy river three times, got dumped on by the gigantic bucket in the little ones’ area, and hit the smaller waterslides dozens of times. Peanut spent the entire time pouting on a lounge chair; we couldn’t figure out what her problem was. Can’t win ’em all.

Fourth of July dinner at the campsite – campfire nachos for the whole family (delicious, but would have been better if a third of the jar of salsa hadn’t ended up in Nugget’s tummy before I got the chance to put it in the nachos) and hot dogs for the kids, cooked over the fire with their telescoping toasting forks that I bought because I’m a soft touch. And then we crashed pretty much as soon as the sun set, and continued our grand family tradition of somehow missing the fireworks.

On Monday morning, we planned to hike before heading out of town. The idea was to hit the Lighthouse Trail and then the Wildlife Loop on Assateague. Lighthouse Trail first – it was a short hop through the woods to the Assateague Island Light.

The woods were swarming with mosquitos – you could tell they were bad because they were even biting me (and my bitter blood is usually disgusting to insects, it’s a gift). So we didn’t stay long – just long enough for me to snap a couple of pictures, declare “Another lighthouse for Mommy’s collection!” and flee back to the car. No one wanted to do the Wildlife Loop after being eaten alive on the Lighthouse Trail, so we packed it in and headed to the Chincoteague Diner for breakfast, and then home to warm showers.

It was the best kind of weekend, though! Entirely outdoors, mostly unplugged, with some beach and some wildlife and some hiking, and we all ended up exhausted and filthy at the end. Can’t complain about any of that!

How was your Fourth of July?

10 thoughts on “Camping on Chincoteague

  1. I’ve been hoping for this post! Your trip looks absolutely lovely and I can’t wait for the follow up post about the ponies. I grew up going to the Cape Cod National Seashore. Maybe I need to visit as much National Seashore as possible?!

    • I love Cape Cod, too! I grew up going to Dennisport every summer – I don’t think I made it to the National Seashore part of the Cape though, or at least not very often. Visiting all the National Seashores – now that’s a goal I can get behind! šŸ˜€

  2. I love how you are forever creating memories and grand adventures with your kids! This sounds like a great idea for a trip (when I saw your pics on Instagram, I was wondering if you camped or got lodging somewhere…this answer my question…and now you’re even MORE adventurous in my eyes!).

    Also, I had no idea that mosquitos don’t bite you…me neither! I rarely meet someone who isn’t dousing themselves with bug spray when there are mosquitos around, and I never use it, and I don’t get bit. People who hear this really hate me. šŸ™‚

    • Mosquitos don’t bite you either?! We’re both bitter, I guess – LOL, I knew we were friends for a reason! And thank you for your sweet (as ever) comment. I try to create memories and adventures, for sure! My parents did that and I am trying to do the same for my munchkins – as much as it annoys them now, they’ll like having a childhood full of memories to look back on. šŸ™‚

  3. Looks like such a fun trip! I am going camping next week and this really got me hyped up for it! My forth was quite tame at home just hanging around with my daughter and husband.

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