A Side Trip to Onancock
Plan to look around Onancock (www.onancock.com), a creekside town about 20 miles south of Chincoteague. Dating to 1680, genteel Onancock has always made its living from farming and trading rather than fishing, and even today its immaculate lawns, gourmet market, boutiques, and art galleries stand in marked contrast to Chincoteague's fishing-town image.
From U.S. 13, take Va. 179 west through town to the docks and Hopkins & Bro. General Store, built in 1842 and now home to Mallards at the Wharf (tel. 757/787-8558), a worthy restaurant with water-view tables in warm weather (daily 11:30am-9pm).
Also worth a peek is Ker Place, 69 Market St. (Va. 179), a stately Federal mansion built about 1800 and now home to the Eastern Shore of Virginia Historical Society (tel. 757/787-8012;www.kerplace.org). Admission is $5 adults, $2 children. It's open from March through December, Tuesday through Saturday from 11am to 4pm.
The best place to stay is the Charlotte Hotel & Restaurant, 7 North St. (tel. 757/787-7400; www.thecharlottehotel.com), which has eight rooms upstairs over a very good restaurant serving breakfast and dinner.
Bed-and-breakfasts include 1890 Spinning Wheel B&B (tel. 888/787-7311; www.1890spinningwheel.com) and The Inn at Onancock (tel. 757/789-7711; www.innatonancock.com).
Cruising to Tangier Island
The remote Tangier Island, 14 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay, is one of my favorite places to escape from civilization. You can get there from Crisfield, Maryland, a fishing town about 25 miles north of Chincoteague, with Tangier Island Cruises (tel. 800/979-3370 or 410/968-2338; www.tangierislandcruises.com), which depart at 12:30pm daily from May 15 until October 15. The return voyages leave Tangier at 4pm, giving you about 2 hours on the island. Round-trip same day fare is $25 per adult, $12 for children 7 to 12. Add $10 per adult if you stay overnight. Fares are the same on the Courtney Thomas (tel. 757/891-2240), also known as "The Mail Boat" because it hauls the U.S. mail. It leaves Tangier at 8am and returns from Crisfield at 12:30pm Monday to Saturday year-round. I usually buy my tickets in advance.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.