Posted on 2/1/2024

Everything you need to know about Chincoteague Island's Pony Swim Week

Chincoteague Island, nestled along Virginia's Eastern Shore, is a haven for nature lovers, history buffs, seafood aficionados, and, of course, pony enthusiasts. Each July, the island hosts a unique and thrilling event known as "Pony Swim Week," celebrating its famous wild ponies. If you're planning to visit the island for this magical week, you're in for a treat! In this Pony Swim Guide, we'll break down the various events throughout the week, from the South and North Herd Round-Ups to the Pony Swim & Auction and Swim Back. Stay tuned to our Events Page for specific dates and times!

  • South and North Herd Round-Ups (Saturday and Sunday)

Pony Swim Week kicks off each year with the South and North Herd Round-Ups on the Saturday and Sunday before the Pony Swim. The South Herd Round Up is an extraordinary experience to watch the famous Saltwater Cowboys round up more than 50 Chincoteague ponies as they’re herded to the Southern Corral.

Note: The North Herd Round Up is NOT open to the public for the safety of the ponies and visitors.

  • Beach Walk (Monday Morning)

On Monday, the excitement builds as the Chincoteague ponies from the North Herd are released and paraded along the shore to join the South Herd in the South Corral. Arriving early for this event is highly recommended as Beach Rd will be closed to traffic once the Walk has begun. Bring your beach gear to stay for the day, or follow the ponies and cowboys to the corral for a peak at your favorite ponies!

  • Vet Check & Buyback Pony Selection (Tuesday Morning)

Gather at the South Herd Corral and watch as the ponies receive their vet checks prior to Wednesday's Swim! Buyback Ponies are also selected on this day! Parking is available at the Woodland Trail Parking Lot.

  • Pony Swim (Wednesday Morning):

The moment you’ve been waiting for! The highlight of the week, the Pony Swim, occurs at slack tide on Wednesday morning. Thousands of spectators gather along the shores to witness the Chincoteague ponies make their way from Assateague over to Chincoteague Island. This magical event is truly breathtaking, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for many. Guided by the Saltwater Cowboys, the ponies rest after making their way onto land, and are then paraded to the Carnival Grounds.

  • Pony Auction (Thursday):

After a successful Pony Swim, the ponies rest and recuperate before the Pony Auction, which takes place on Thursday. This is your only chance to take home a Chincoteague pony each year! Auction proceeds go towards the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company, which helps care for the ponies and maintains their island habitat.

  • Swim Back (Friday):

The fun-filled week comes to an end with the Swim Back, which occurs on Friday morning. After the excitement of the Pony Swim and the Auction, the Chincoteague ponies make their way back to Assateague Island. The South Herd makes a return swim, while the North Herd is trailered back. Spectators gather once more to bid farewell to these beautiful animals as they return to their natural habitat.

  • Fireman's Carnival (Throughout the Week):

While the Pony Swim and Auction are the stars of the show, Chincoteague Island's Fireman's Carnival is a delightful part of Pony Swim Week. Running throughout the week, this traditional carnival features games, food, and entertainment for the entire family. It's an opportunity to enjoy local delicacies, carnival rides, and live music.

Tips for Visitors:
  • Plan Ahead: Accommodations on Chincoteague Island can fill up quickly during Pony Swim Week, so make your reservations well in advance. Bonus Tip!!! If you're looking to come into town for the 100th Annual Swim in 2025, booking your home for the 2024 swim will give you the first opportunity to rebook for next year!

  • Get There Early: For the Pony Swim and other events, arrive early to secure a good spot for viewing.

  • Avoid the Traffic: Trust us, you're not going to want to be stuck in traffic after the Pony Swim. Take advantage of the Pony Express! This seasonal trolley is a service provided by the town, and is by far the best way to get to and from the Swim! Stay tuned to the guide for a route map closer to the event!

  • Stay Hydrated and Wear Sunscreen: The midsummer sun can be intense, so remember to protect yourself from sunburn and stay hydrated.

  • Respect Wildlife: Remember that Assateague Island is a wildlife refuge. Please respect the animals and their natural habitats.

  • Check Back: There are likely to be more events popping up in the area that your family will love participating in! Recently, the Chincoteague Pony Drill team performed a mini show just behind our office in Robert Reed Park! We'll be sure to update this post as the big week approaches with any new events that may pop up!

Chincoteague Island's Pony Swim Week is a magical experience for visitors of all ages. From witnessing the incredible Pony Swim to participating in the Pony Auction and enjoying the Fireman's Carnival, there's something for everyone to enjoy. If you're passionate about horses, nature, or just looking for a unique adventure, make sure to mark your calendar for Pony Swim Week on Chincoteague Island. It's a celebration of history, heritage, and the enduring bond between our island and its beloved ponies.

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