Coastal Living magazine recently picked Chincoteague, Virginia as America’s Happiest Seaside Town – #1 out of a list of 10 finalists. We here on Chincoteague Island just nodded and smiled: yeah – we knew that!
Coastal Living’s breakdown of America’s Happiest Seaside Towns for 2014 included some wonderful places – such as Saugatuck, Michigan, Captiva Island, Florida, and Haleiwa, Hawaii – but we weren’t too terribly surprised to find ourselves at the top.
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You may be picturing snow and sitting huddled around a heater when you hear “Chincoteague Island Winter Getaway,” but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Winter weather on Chincoteague Island tends to be mild, cool, and pleasant: the average temperature on Chincoteague Island in December with sunny skies is 50 degrees, making the winter holiday season the very next best time of year, after summer, to visit!
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Has it always been a dream of yours to see the infamous Chincoteague Pony Auction? For many horse lovers and fans of Misty of Chincoteague, this event is something they’ve pictured hundreds of times. If the same goes for you, it is time to start thinking about planning your trip!
This July will mark the 88th year of the pony swim. Tens of thousands of spectators from around the world will gather on our little Island to watch this annual tradition. In this blog, we are going to give you some advice for when you attend.
July 20 & 21: The Pony Round-Up
The weekend prior to Wednesday’s Pony Swim, the “Saltwater Cowboys” – the fellas that drive the ponies across the water on horseback – will begin rounding up the approximately 150 wild ponies that live on Assateague Island.
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When Marguerite Henry came to Chincoteague in order to research her new book, she stayed here, in our Victorian bed and breakfast. Even in 1946, when Henry visited, this beautiful home was in use as accommodations on Chincoteague Island for vacationers and the like. The owner of the property, Molly Rowley, was a young widow who brought boarders into her home as a way to make a living after her husband passed away. Henry would sit on the porch with Miss Molly and Captain Jack, Molly’s uncle, discussing thoughts and ideas for her new book, Misty of Chincoteague.
History behind the Misty of Chincoteague Book
While Marguerite Henry was on the island, she attended the Pony Penning and met the Beebe family. The Beebes included Clarence and Ida Beebe, as well as their two grandchildren, Maureen and Paul. The real horse on which the book was based was actually foaled in domesticity on Chincoteague at the Beebe Ranch, not in the wild on Assateague Island as was told in the book. However, as in the book, Misty was sired by a stallion named Pied Piper, out of a dam called Phantom. Though these horses also were domesticated in real life, they too provided inspiration for the wild ponies portrayed in the novel.
Henry fell in love with Misty and wanted to purchase her from the family, but Clarence Beebe knew how much the children loved the foal and refused to sell her. Eventually, an agreement was made between Beebe and the author, and Beebe allowed Henry to purchase the horse for $150 if she included his grandchildren in her next book!
Henry followed through with the agreement and published Misty of Chincoteague in 1947, featuring Maureen, Paul, and the little filly as the main characters of the work. Misty continued to grow up on Henry’s farm in Illinois, accompanying the author on book signings across the country.
Misty of Chincoteague was written in 1947 by Marguerite Henry. The story was inspired by a real Chincoteague Island pony named Misty. Although the real Misty was foaled in domesticity rather than in the wild, the book heaped pique the nation’s curiosity about the wild horses of Assateague (they are called ponies because of their small size, but they are actually horses).
It has long been a tradition to cull the wild pony herd in order to protect both the horses and their habitat. The Annual Pony Swim first started in 1924, and it has done nothing but grow since that time. In recent years, approximately 150 wild ponies are rounded up each July and made to swim across the Assateague Channel to Chincoteague Island. Once there, many of the foals are sold in an auction; the remaining herd swims back to Assateague a few days later.
Wild ponies have lived on Assateague Island for approximately 400 years. No one knows for sure how the first ones ended up on the island. Perhaps Colonial settlers allowed their horses to graze on the island, and some turned wild and stayed. Perhaps wild horses from the mainland swam to the island and stayed. Perhaps a Spanish galleon ship carrying a cargo of horses sank near the island, and the horses swam ashore and lived. It is a fun puzzle to consider, but the truth doesn’t really matter. What matters most is protecting the wild ponies that live on Assateague today.
Marguerite Henry, who visited Chincoteague and Assateague Islands, found a compelling story in the wild ponies, and she wrote it. Thanks to her, millions of young people have learned about the amazing wild horses that make their home on an island in the Atlantic. Many of those children grow up and eventually travel here to see the wild horses. Some of them stay at our Chincoteague Island Bed and Breakfasts.
Marguerite Henry herself stayed in one of our Chincoteague B&Bs, Miss Molly’s Inn. Stay in the room where she once stayed. Perhaps you’ll feel inspired to create something enduring, as well.
Books Clubs are all the rage these days, and with good reason. It’s fun to read, it’s fun to talk about what we’ve read, and it’s fun to get together with a group of friends. Why not go a step further? Instead of meeting to discuss a book for an hour or two, make a weekend out of it. Host your next Book Club at our Chincoteague Bed and Breakfast.
Avid readers will recognize Chincoteague from Marguerite Henry’s book, Misty of Chincoteague. The wild ponies she refers to in her book still inhabit Assateague Island, which is close to our Chincoteague Bed and Breakfast. Indeed, Marguerite Henry stayed here back in the 1940s while researching the area for her book. Two members of your Book Club could stay in her room.
Misty of Chincoteague is a book for children, and a quick read. Read it before you come with your book group, then enjoy an excursion to see the wild ponies of Assateague Island. Our innkeeper will happily make the arrangements for you.
A Book Club getaway is a great way to get to know your fellow readers. Most book groups stay on topic for some of their meetings, but can’t resist talking about other topics because everyone is so interesting. This is your chance to talk to your hearts’ content. Stay up late, linger over breakfast, go for long bike rides and walks on the beach, relax by a warm fire…. Celebrate your love of literature in a beautiful setting.
Our Book Club Special includes 2 nights at our Chincoteague Virginia Bed and Breakfast, gourmet breakfasts, and access to bikes and beach chairs. We’ll serve you Afternoon Tea one day, a tasty supper one evening, and ply you with snacks day and night. $495/couple. Please call 1.800.221.5620 for more details.
By far the most famous inhabitants of Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are the wild ponies that have lived here for generations. People come from all over the world to gaze upon them. It is a truly remarkable experience to see them grazing, frolicking, and running together. They are wild, and they are thriving.
Many guests of our Chincoteague Bed and Breakfasts come here specifically to see the ponies. Many have read Misty of Chincoteague, and remember the touching story of Paul, Maureen, and Misty. They want to see the land and horses that inspired Marguerite Henry’s 1947 book.
Marguerite Henry stayed at Miss Molly’s Inn, our Chincoteague Bed and Breakfast, when she came here to meet the real Misty. Today, guests may stay in our Marguerite Henry room, where the author once slept. For fans of the book, this can be quite moving.
Boat and kayak tours are perhaps the best way to see the wild ponies; they enable visitors to get close to the ponies without disturbing them. Boat tours of the Chincoteague wild ponies run daily (many companies close for the winter some time between October and December).
We recommend the following companies for cruises around Assateage Island:
Feel free to ask our innkeeper about sightseeing cruises and wild pony tours. She will happily book the cruise for you.
Fall is a wonderful time to visit Assateague and Chincoteague. Summer crowds have dissipated, but the weather is still lovely. Please visit Miss Molly’s Chincoteague Bed and Breakfast to make a reservation.
AOL Travel, a great online resource for travel information worldwide has just published its annual list of America’s Top Ten Beach Towns, and this year, Chincoteague has been voted number one! While there are many fantastic beaches where you can sunbathe, play in the surf and build your dream sand castle, this article focuses on what to do when you’re not catching a wave. Classic American beach towns, filled with local flair, delectable food, great shopping, unique history, and unparalleled festivals (all of which Chincoteague offers) helped our town come out on top.
The annual swim of the feral ponies from Assateague Island to Chincoteague is due to commence on Wednesday, July 28. This not-to-be-missed summertime event is an experience to last a lifetime.
Marguerite Henry, author of Misty of Chincoteague, completed her novel of the intrepid foal, Misty and her mother, Phantom, during the pony swim over sixty years ago from her lace-filled room at Miss Molly’s Inn. Eastern Shores News featured our bed and breakfast in a news article last week. Today, Miss Molly’s Inn offers the Marguerite Henry room as well as six others at the Victorian-era Inn for you to relax and take in the magic of Chincoteague island.
Miss Molly’s Inn, and it’s sister bed and breakfast, 1848 Island Manor House just across the street, both offer inviting accommodations only a few miles from the famous swim site that Marguerite Henry so tenderly described.