There’s a centuries old proverb “If wishes were horses than dreamers would ride,” yet when it comes to the wild ponies of Assateague Island, “If dreamers made wishes than horses would hide” might be a better turn for catching the elusive animals. On a recent girls’ getaway to Ocean City, Maryland and nearby Chincoteague, Virginia we went in search of the island’s ponies aboard the Assateague Explorer sunset cruise (7512 East Side Rd., Chincoteague, VA). With romantic visions of great photo ops stirring in our soul, we set sail with Captain Mark, who loves his ponies but does not guarantee a command performance for the wild creatures. How could he?
Legend has it that the ponies settled on the island some 400 years ago after their Spanish ship went down off the coast. Is it true? Who knows. Like most myths and folklore, they are but a romantic notion.
In reality, this channel between Assateague and Chincoteague Islands is a magical place and while seeing the horses would’ve been nice, it was just as peaceful to glide through the bay as the sun set a magical glow over the area for a perfect weekend getaway.
Each year the ponies take a swim across the water to Chincoteague, where they’re auctioned off for charity and to benefit the local fire department. It thins the wild herd and helps a good cause. It happens this year on July 30th.
TOURIST TIP: Even if you don’t see the ponies, the cruise is a lovely boat ride in a magical bay. And do stop for lunch or dinner at Etta’s Channel Side Restaurant (7452 East Side Rd., Chincoteague, VA), just to the right of the dock. If the ponies were but a dream for me during this weekend getaway, Etta’s Maryland Crab Bisque is a memory to last a lifetime. The absolute best I ever had!