I can't begin to put into words how amazing the CNWRefuge is!! We went in the off-season (mid-March) and had a wonderful time birding. We saw a ton of Bald Eagles, shore birds, and migrating warblers. Also saw some good wildlife: otter eating huge fish for breakfast, muskrat, snapper and painted turtles, fox squirrels, and yes the ponies.
The ponies are wonderful and they put the Islands on the map so to speak, but my husband and I both agree that Chincoteague/Assateague REALLY deserve a new association..outdoor recreation/birding paradise!
We rode our bikes out to the Refuge every morning and enjoyed the paved trails including the wildlife loop with great observation decks. We hiked the trails including the one along the deserted beach. LOVED the new Bateman Education Center and Tom's Cove Visitors' Center. They have done such a fabulous job of creating displays and interactive stations (can you tell we're both environmental educators!).
We were able to launch our canoe from the house we rented and paddle around in the Chincoteague Channel and Little Oyster Bay...was wishing we had had our kayaks, although the canoe worked well we just couldn't cover as much distance as we wanted to. Not having been there during the 'season' I don't know what a lot of boats would have done to the tranquility of the waters, but we had the place to ourselves!
We also did some crabbing off our dock (used squid) caught 3 nice-sized (have to be 5 inches tip to tip of shell). We did some surf fishing, oystering and clamming! Had a WONDEFUL time and highly recommend a visit, especially when the mosquitoes aren't in season (mid-May - first killing frost) although Chincoteague sprays and if there hasn't been rain they won't be so bad...
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