Photo Trip to the Delmarva Peninsula
The decision to travel up the coast of Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware came about rather quickly. My usual vacation spot in Oak Island, NC suffered a direct hurricane strike just a couple months prior to traveling. I needed my yearly dose of ocean air and sand between my toes to retain any ounce of sanity after a crazy 2020. I also had not visited Delaware yet (my bucket list is to visit all 50 states) and I've always been curious about the "Delmarva Peninsula" after hearing The Weather Channel's Jim Cantore say it so eloquently over the years. So it was set. I would travel to the area and see what I could see.
Leaving Western North Carolina, I traveled for a few hours before stopping to visit with some AH-MAZING friends in Reidsville. (shout out - you know who you are!) The next day, I made my way along VA-58 which took me through the Virginia countryside before dropping me straight into Virginia Beach. I stayed at the Clarion Beachfront Hotel with my complimentary Hotels.com Rewards. The hotel was very centrally located and had great reviews; however, it was directly under the flight path of the Oceanic Naval Station. The jets rattled my teeth (and the windows) and made it impossible to sleep past 7am. The November weather cooperated enough to provide some perfect beach days.
Horse Riding Tours along the ocean with the Virginia Beach Fishing Pier in the background.
Shorebird - first time I had ever seen one of these birds banded and tracked. I found it very interesting.
Horse Riding Tours with the commercialized beachfront of Virginia Beach in the background.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel
As with most coastal areas, travelers are sure to cross a bridge or two (or ten) during their excursions. This one is mostly bridge and two tunnels combined. It connects mainland Virginia with coastal Virginia/Maryland by going over and under the Atlantic Ocean.
Click here to see a video about the Chesapeake Bay Bridge or click the image on the right for the website.
This bridge/tunnel combination spans almost 18 miles. During Covid-19, the restaurant in the middle and scenic pull-offs were closed. I'm happy to report there were no leaks detected, and yes, was a little nervous to go under the channel.
Chincoteague Island, Virginia and
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge
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The wild horses of the Virginia coastal regions, Chincoteague specifically, are rather elusive according to some of the locals I spoke with inside the refuge. The regulars who visit Chincoteague were eager to share their knowledge about the horses, and I learned quite a bit in a short amount of time. The Virginia horses are branded with the year in which they were born. They are tracked by observation only and have no collars or any other means of electronic signal. The volunteers record which horses they see, the habitat/areas seen, and which other horses they are seen with. All the horses were named and the volunteers knew them all. It was amazing. They informed me that it is very rare to see the Virginia horses up close and the photo above depicts the usual distance the horses are seen. They also noted the Virginia horses of Chincoteague would have to swim way out into the ocean and around a fence at the state line in order to cross over into Maryland. Which means, they usually don't cross state lines. One volunteer shared that a few years ago a Stallion made it around the fence to spend some time with the ladies on the Virginia side. They said it took a long time to catch him and return him to Maryland. I guess he was needed on the Maryland side to keep the herd going there and Virginia already had several Stallions. Also, this created territorial issues and violent horse attacks between the Stallions. Talk about a photo opportunity!
The horses are well protected from humans as they are fenced from being able to wander into the road in certain areas. The wild brushy environment made the horses difficult to photograph. One other volunteer was stopped at this location and he said he had never seen them in this area before. I was happy to see them this close, even though the photos are obstructed in most of the photographs. The lighting of the sun perfectly outlined the horses' silhouette and lit up their natural manes. Other than being branded, the horses seemed in great shape. I was a happy photographer to witness a close encounter during my short visit to the area. To be directed to the website of Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia, click here.
My time at the Wildlife Refuge was short (about 2 hours) and I didn't have a chance to hike any trails. I did time my visit perfectly to align with the opening of the motor loop and was thrilled with the scenic views along the way. Random landscape photos shown below.
Assateague Island State Park and Assateague National Seashore
Leaving Chincoteague, I headed back to the mainland and continued my route due North for approximately 50 miles until I reached the Northern end of Assateague Island. My daylight was fading fast and I did a quick drive through the State Park before heading on to my condo just inside the state of Delaware. I knew I was coming back the following day and would have the whole day to explore the State Park and also the Assateague National Seashore.
The weather here was also amazing, but it was getting ready to change due to a hurricane approaching. Knowing this was my last chance at a beach day, I made the most of it. The park itself was a sandy road along the dunes with tons of camping spaces and picnic shelters on the left. On the right was the channel of Chincoteague Bay. I made note of returning and camping oceanside in the future. Some areas required 4x4 vehicles, but there were many miles of roadway for regular vehicles as well. It was Veteran's Day and the park was a little busy. I drove all the way to the end just to see what I could see and the crowd thinned out the farther I drove. I saw a few wild ponies along the way, but never saw them running along the ocean. I guess I had a pre-conceived notion that the horses always do that - haha!
The photos below are the Maryland horses (they call them ponies there, but they looked like the others I saw in Virginia.) I did see a baby - it was SO CUTE! After snapping a few photos, I headed to the beach to enjoy my last day of sunshine.
Delaware - Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge
After an amazing beach day, I headed back North to Delaware. The rain, fog, and cooler temperatures had arrived. I decided to drive a couple hours North and visit Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Smyrna, Delaware. I tried to hike a couple trails, but quickly decided it was a better day to stay in the car and photograph from the driver's seat. That Northern weather is NO JOKE. :)
Keeping my expectations low on what to expect at Bombay Hook, I was pleasantly surprised. Bombay Hook was a big wetland area with tons of ducks, geese, and other waterfowl that I had to research. I saw a bald eagle and counted about 10 kinds of ducks. There were flocks of geese, blue herons, white egrets and very few people. This gave me ample time to work on my bird photography. If you've never photographed moving birds before, let me assure you it takes lots of practice. I was happy to sit and watch all the comings and goings of different birds throughout the day. I packed a lunch and just made myself cozy taking photos out of my barely-opened window. Ya'll, it was cold there! I would like to go back someday with someone who knows about ducks, blinds, and the migration. I have so much to learn about that, but will save it for the future.
My route home took me through Norfolk, Virginia. I was trying to drive straight through home, so I didn't make many stops. The photo to the right is a new Naval ship being built. It took me a 1/2 mile on the freeway to get passed the humongous aircraft carrier. Impressive to say the least.
So that was it for this 6-day trip. Eating in Delaware was very challenging. Most restaurants were closed for the season and the few that were opening year-round were only open on weekends due to Covid-19. I ended up with grocery store heat-and-eats for the duration in Delaware, which was very disappointing. I was looking forward to fresh seafood. Sadly, that didn't happen.
The restaurants in Virginia Beach were open and socially distancing tables and utilizing outside seating. My best restaurant recommendation is Tautog's Restaurant on 23rd Avenue. Link here.
Everywhere I stopped, people were masked-up and social distanced. I was able to solo travel and keep myself safe and healthy. I'm looking forward to returning to my favorite beach spot next year - Oak Island, NC.
Be well and photograph often!