Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Review 4260: Chincoteague Resort Realty, Jones Cottage
2bed/1.5bath on Chincoteague Island, Virginia
August 2009, 7 nights
I chose Jones Cottage because it was a dog friendly property with a fenced yard, and was next door to the beautiful English Gardens of the Channel Bass Inn, another dog friendly property (which serves high tea that according to my sister had full sized sandwiches and scrumptious pastries). It is located one block from Main St. on Chincoteague Island, VA, which is nearby to several restaurants, a movie theater and many nice shops. There was another house that was across the bay from the Chincoteague Nature Reserve on Assateague that sounded nice, but they were not available during the week we wanted. In retrospect, I am glad because the Main St area was relatively free of mosquitoes (as was the beach with its wind), but more wooded regions on the water were heavy with biting insects.
The house itself has a screened porch and large spacious rooms with hardwood floors. There is actually a third locked bedroom that was not part of the rental. The front stairs were a bit steep, and our 14 year old dog did tumble down them, so care was needed. The kitchen was very well equipped, with excellent knives and bowls/plates/cups, pots and pans, hot mitts, wine openers, barbecue tools and charcoal chimney, and even a long lighter and crazy glue. However, we did have to buy a nonstick skillet because the skillets were in poor condition. The queen bed and two twins were quite comfortable, but the pull out sofa bed much less so. There were also two trundle beds.
The fenced yard includes enough space to park a minivan, car and small SUV, and in addition, the house was across the street from free public parking. The yard was quite attractive and had a large outdoor table under a wisteria covered awning, and stepping stones all around. The local grocery was two blocks away, and one block N on Main St was the Sea Star Cafe, which opened at 11 for the most scrumptious sandwiches (The Bistro was delicious, with a Dijon based honey mustard, and the Fresh Shrimp Salad Croissant was tasty, but a bit messy. I wish I had a chance to try the gazpacho). A few blocks south of Post Office St on Main is Muller's Old Fashioned Ice Cream parlor, in a charming Victorian home with good fresh fruit on ice cream.
The best part of the location was that obliquely across Main St. was the Sugarbakers Bakery, which opened at 7:30 and had the most delicious blueberry scones among other things. It can develop quite a line in the morning. One morning I walked our puppy to the dock and waterside park while my sister waited in line, and she was lucky that 12 scones came out right when she got to the front of the line. She bought nine for the six in our house and our three friends in another house, and there was a collective groan from the people in line behind.
The house is also very close to the small movie theater, which is across Main St. from the Saigon Village restaurant. We highly enjoyed this small Vietnamese restaurant for a quick casual dinner after the movie. We ordered several dishes to share in Asian family style dining and were very pleased. Each dish had its own flavor and all were delicious. We got the BBQ pork vermicelli, the broccoli with tofu in light brown sauce (that sauce was one of my favorites although I am definitely not vegetarian), a cholon wonton noodle soup with delicious little dumplings, roast pork and egg noodles, and an eggplant dish with spicy brown sauce and chicken. Well worth repeat visits.
You can ride your bike all the way to the beach (5.1 miles one way) by going up Church St, turning left on Chicken City Road, right on Beach Road, straight across the traffic circle to the bike trail. Look for it on the other side of the road just before the bridge to Assateague, and there will be a turnout on the right to make it easier to cross the road. You can then take the bike path to the Wildlife Loop, Black Duck Trail, but then have to ride along the rather busy road again to get to the Toms Cove Visiter Center and the Beach Access. Try not to wear dark clothes and sweat a lot as that can cause swarming by flies and mosquitoes in some of the side trails on the way to the lighthouse and along the Woodland Trail (which by the way is the way to see the wild horses on the Virginia side, as they are penned on the marshy part of the island west of the Beach Road. We were lucky to see a herd of four up close that had gotten to the Wildlife Loop, but the ranger said they were going to get them back to the other side.
The Assateague Lighthouse is really worth the $4 visit to the top. It is not a hard climb, with a turnoff to rest every 25 steps. The view from the top of the island is fantastic, and you can even see wild horses from there. The best thing is that the breeze on top keeps it completely bug free.
A definitely highlight of our trip was Captain Barry's Back Bay Cruise. He operates out of a small slip behind the Chincoteague Inn Restaurant on Main St. south of the bridge. Captain Barry offers a highly entertaining and educational experience complete with amusing theme music. We had four adults and two kids (13 and 8) on a private, somewhat wacky pontoon boat tour. He was good at engaging both kids and adults to fully experience the different ecosystems around the island using all five senses. Who doesn't like walking through the warm organic muck to find clams with your toes, while soothing bug bites and enjoying a nice mud and seaweed wrap? We gathered enough clams to prepare a feast for eight in just a few minutes, and he taught us how to prepare baked clams on the half shell. Both children got a chance to pull up a crab trap and we all learned how to safely hold crabs and moon jellyfish. He showed us several bird species and their calls, and there was a stop to a shell encrusted shore where we could collect treasures, a stop on a nice sandy private beach with osprey nest and birds, and a stop on a private marshy island where we harvested mussels. We also learned about the history and mechanics of the old drawbridge and the progress made in constructing the new bridge, as he works as a tugboat captain in the off season. My children were totally enthralled by the opportunity to get wet and gather sea-life, although I was the only one in our group to try the fresh clam (it was not at all slimy and had the texture of a jicama or broccoli stalk). This was definitely the best boat tour I have taken anywhere.
As far as ice cream goes, the Island Creamery on 6243 Maddox Blvd. has the best tasting waffle cones I have ever had anywhere. The line is long, but moves along well due to their organized serving system, where each scooper identifies the next party to start scooping and when done scooping meets them at the cashier. This means your wait is not longer if you happen to be stuck behind a huge group. Our party of nine went there every night after we discovered this place. They have great flavors: the pecan praline, lemon, Elvis's chocolate surprise, mud, and the combination of pineapple and coconut in a double scoop stand out for me. It can be hard to find parking until you figure out the back entrance to the large gravel parking lot behind the building. This place also has free WiFi (as does the Sea Shell Cafe by the Best Western - convenient for lunch when biking back from Assateague). The scooper told me they are very busy 2-4 and then after dinner, but that 11-2 are relatively slow as is 4-6 pm.
All in all, the house, while showing scratched up paint in areas, and having a somewhat tricky front door, was a wonderful place to stay. Roomy inside with a well appointed kitchen and a lovely fenced yard with screened porch. A great place to vacation with the whole family.
This review is the opinion of a Slow Travel member and not of slowtrav.com.
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