If you travel to the Virginia/Maryland State line and head toward the ocean, you’ll likely catch a glimpse of something truly extraordinary.
Assateague Island is a 37-mile long barrier island that’s located just off the eastern coast of the region known as Delmarva, which encompasses Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. There are many stretches of beaches along the east coast, but this one has something truly special that attracts visitors from all over the world – wild ponies.
If you go by local folklore, the ponies first arrived in the area after a Spanish ship washed up on the Virginia coast. Today, they are kept in two herds that are separated by a fence which runs along the Virginia and Maryland state line.
According to NPS.org, the National Park Service takes care of the Maryland herd, while the local Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company manages the Virginia herd.
In 1947, author Marguerite Henry penned the now-classic novel “Misty of Chincoteague,” which tells the story of a local family who captures and raises one of the area’s wild ponies. It also describes the town’s annual Pony Penning Day, in which the ponies are guided to swim across the Assateague Channel. The first foal that swims to the island is crowned as King or Queen Neptune and is given away in a raffle drawing later that day. Each year, the event draws thousands of onlookers from across the globe who want to see the incredible sight for themselves.
During hot summer days, it’s not uncommon to see a few horses trotting along the beach in between the masses of tourists lounging on the beaches of Assateague. Although they are accustomed to being around humans, it is recommended that you stay a safe distance from the animals and refrain from feeding them.
As someone who has experienced it firsthand, I can tell you that a trip to Assateague Island is one that you won’t soon forget. Just be sure to bring a camera and be on the look out for these beautiful creatures as you drive across the island and soak in the scenery.
You can find out more about the island and its ponies at the Assateague Island National Seashore website.