History is about change...nothing stays "the way it was" forever! Just as the shifting sands sculpt the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean, past events and people have shaped Chincoteague Island's landscape and culture into what it is today. Chincoteague's rich heritage is unique and captivating, tangible and tempting, seductive and charming. We invite you to explore the "historical spirit" of Chincoteague Island with itineraries and trip ideas to please all history lovers.
It all started with a series of fires.... Pony Penning that is. Two fires occurred at opposite sides of town in the 1920's that destroyed much of the Main Street commercial district due to a lack of effective firefighting equipment. Chincoteaguers were determined to never let that happen again. Thus, the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company was born and a fundraising pony swim and auction was the brainchild of its founders. The wild Chincoteague Ponies have become famous in their own right and are a huge part of our present as well as our past. For over 95 years, young and old from near and far line the shores of Assateague Channel in late July to participate in this historical event that inspired Marguerite Henry's award winning Misty of Chincoteague in 1947 and a Hollywood movie in 1961. Take a "Step Through Time" guided tour along Historic Main Street and learn how the fires influenced Chincoteague's future along with other interesting facts about our island town. One tour includes the Beebe Ranch where Misty of Chincoteague lived with her very real family!
Learn more about Misty of Chincoteague, the Beebe family, and our rich island history at the Museum of Chincoteague Island. Explore our fascinating oyster industry and how it has changed over the years. Did you know that Chincoteague Island sided with the North in the Civil War when the rest of Virginia seceded from the Union? It was all about the oysters! Meet some of our colorful decoy carvers through displays of their talented works of art. Frequently changing exhibits make the Museum of Chincoteague Island a new experience each time you visit. A celebration of Heritage Days will take place virtually from March 25-28. Be sure to visit either virtually or in person and learn more about our island existence. Bookstores and Specialty Shops carry local history books and offer another source to learn about our fascinating past like the Ash Wednesday Storm.
Driving south along Main Street will offer a glimpse of some of the oldest homes on the island with their lovely front porches facing the Chincoteague Bay. There are even a few Sears Roebuck homes tucked in amongst new construction down a few streets. The oldest home on the island, Captain Timothy Hill House, circa 1800, can be found on north Main Street (check their website for tour information). Biking the island is the perfect way to see these lovely old homes up close.
Chincoteague Island was not always accessible by car. The causeway from the mainland was opened in 1922, but it was another 40 years before a bridge was built over the Assateague Channel to connect the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague, our sister barrier island and home to the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and the Assateague Island National Seashore. In 1962, tourism became a major industry and hotels and restaurants popped up to provide services to folks visiting our beautiful shores. Explore the pristine beaches and nature trails to experience what it might have been like to live in Assateague Village amongst the wild loblolly pines of the maritime forest. Visit the Assateague Lighthouse, built in 1833 to guide mariners along the ragged Atlantic coastline of northeastern Virginia. You will notice it does not stand directly on the shoreline now! Hike down to the "hook" (when not closed to nesting piping plovers) to see the Old Coast Guard Station originally built in 1874.
Our lives have been shaped by tides and time and we can't wait for you to discover the secrets of our ancestors. Visit www.chincoteaguechamber.com to begin your historical journey into Chincoteague Island's storied past to better understand its colorful present. While you are here, visit the local shops. Enjoy casual, coastal dining in an elegant restaurant, take out deli, or quaint little food truck. See the wild ponies (climb to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse when open to get an aerial view across the marsh), enjoy nature trails and miles of pristine beaches, take a boat cruise or kayak around the islands, and end the day with a breath-taking sunset from the balcony of your hotel, Bed & Breakfast or vacation rental, Robert Reed Downtown Waterfront Park, or Curtis Merritt Harbor. Once you have discovered our little corner of paradise, you will be beckoned back time and time again.