• Chincoteague Island Milky Way Photography Sign with Assateague


Chincoteague Island is a beautiful place to capture the night sky.


1. The Beach – The beach is a great place to set up your camera and capture the Milky Way but plan for foreground material. There is not much on the beach. We caught a bus leaving and created light trails in our image. Bring a tripod to keep your camera steady while taking long exposure photos.

2. Maddox Family Cemetery – This cemetery offers a unique vantage point for photographing the night sky. The gravestones make for exciting foreground elements in your photos.

3. Assateague Lighthouse – The lighthouse is a classic Chincoteague Island landmark. It’s also a great place to take night sky photos, but the lighthouse constantly emits light at night, making it difficult to photograph the Milky Way.

4. Ponies grazing in a field near Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge – These wild ponies are an iconic part of Chincoteague Island and are challenging to plan. The ponies roam primarily at a distance, so don’t count on getting this type of shot. Lighting them up in the darkness would also be difficult unless you get lucky enough to find a pony standing still for your long exposure that is not far in the distance.

5. The main road has a few good spots where the waters reflect the stars, as seen in the images above, next to the sign entering the park. The road around in the loop closes at night, so don’t scout that area during the daytime looking for sites unless you plan to do a lot of walking.


Chincoteague Island is a popular summer vacation destination in Virginia’s Eastern Shore region. The island is home to Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, known for its abundant wildlife, including the famous Chincoteague ponies.

The best time to visit Chincoteague Island for photography is during the summer when the weather is warm and sunny. However, it’s essential to remember that the island can be pretty crowded this time. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the shoulder season (May-June and September-October) and what we prefer are good times to visit. Don’t forget to be sure it is Milky Way season and Milky Way week before planning your trip.


There are several hotels and resorts on Chincoteague Island, but we recommend booking your accommodations in advance at the Refuge Inn for the best rates, service, and overall outstanding experience. It is located just outside the park entrance, so the convenience is also a plus.

The comfortable, at-home atmosphere is what draws us to this luxury experience. We found the hotel uniquely decorated for comfort, style, and relaxation. The staff is outstanding and highly knowledgeable. They guided us to several potential Milky Way Photography locations throughout the area and gave us all the information we needed to enjoy our trip.

Each room features a private patio or balcony, in-room coffee maker, refrigerator, private bath, flatscreen TVs, free high-speed wireless internet access, phone, voicemail, in-room hair dryer, plush towels, and sliding doors to fresh air. Special attention to little details and extra touches gives you the feeling that checking into The Refuge Inn is like slipping into something memorably comfortable.

The Refuge Inn – Book your room at the Reuge Inn


Just fill out the form, hand it to your door, and breakfast arrives!! You can look at the image above and see the variety of things you can order. There is a coffee bar downstairs by the office. We sat outside on the balcony patio in our room overlooking the grounds and the indoor/outdoor pool and enjoyed our breakfast before heading off to do photography.


Offering unsurpassed island elegance, their well-appointed King rooms feature carefully chosen furnishings, textures, toiletries, and fabrics. King rooms comfortably sleep two guests.


Exceeding the average, the individually-decorated Queen rooms are furnished with two Queen beds and comfortably sleep four guests.


Chincoteague NP is a 20,000-acre cypress swamp and freshwater lagoon that attracts bird watchers worldwide.

The Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge is home to one of the Shawnee herds of wild ponies, who have been free-roaming the islands for the past 200 years. The fire company has owned one of those herds since 1943 and has a special permit to graze 150 of them on the refuge.

The refuge has many habitats for diverse wildlife. You can find the ponies and birds on the beach. Still, you’ll also see many birds, such as migrating and federally endangered peregrine falcons, arriving in late September and October. The dunes are a nesting ground for piping plovers and other shorebirds with shrubs where migratory birds and monarch butterflies live. The forest is home to deer, fox squirrels, and more, while waterways are a habitat for ducks.


The Chincoteague Lighthouse is a historic landmark located inside the park. The lighthouse was built in 1833 and has been in operation ever since. The light from the Chincoteague Lighthouse can be seen for miles, and is a popular tourist destination.


The Chincoteague Lighthouse is one of the most popular tourist attractions on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Nestled on the edge of Assateague Island, the lighthouse offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and Chincoteague Bay.

Visitors to the lighthouse can explore the grounds, climb to the top of the tower for a panoramic view of the area, or take a tour of the lighthousekeeper’s quarters. The grounds also offer a perfect spot for photography enthusiasts to capture the beauty of nature.

Whether you’re looking for a place to enjoy a sunset or want to snap some photos of Virginia’s coastline, the Chincoteague Lighthouse is sure to please.

The Chincoteague Lighthouse has undergone several changes over the years, but it remains an active aid to navigation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently manages it as part of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.


Chincoteague Island is a small island off the coast of Virginia. It is accessible by car, ferry, or plane.

If you make a round-trip visit to the Eastern Shore within 24 hours, your return trip is only $6 during off-peak and $2 during peak periods.

If you are visiting Chincoteague from Maryland or Delaware, you can take the highway that starts at Pocomoke City and go down towards Chincoteague.

The island can be reached by car via the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, which connects it to the mainland. The bridge is about 23 miles long and has a toll of $14 for cars and $18 during peak periods, Friday through Sunday, May 15 – September 15.

If you make a round-trip visit to the Eastern Shore within 24 hours, your return trip is only $6 during off-peak and $2 during peak periods.


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Light pollution map – light pollution map

Camera – You will need a camera to control your ISO, shutter speed, and aperture manually.

Lens – A fast wide-angle lens of 1.4 – 2.8 is ideal. If you use a 3.5 or higher (slower lens), you must increase the ISO. The higher the ISO, the more grain or digital noise or grain in your photos.

Tripod – A good, sturdy tripod is essential for night photography. If it gets windy, you will need a sturdy one. Remember, when you buy one, it should be sturdy enough to withstand the wind but small enough to fit in your suitcase.

Sky Map – Sky Guide is $ available through the iTunes Store for $1.99. It has a 5 out of 5-star rating on both the current (3.2) version (1200+ ratings) and all previous versions (8600+ ratings).

Flashlight –  Our choice is Coast brand for flashlights. The ideal flashlight will have high lumens, and you can zoom in and out on the amount of light emitting from the flashlight. Get the HP7, PX45, or the G50. Ideally, go with the  HP7.

Moon Phaze Map – The best time to go is during a new moon, and you want to be in the darkest area possible. The week before the new moon, when the moon has not risen, is a perfect time to go, so check the moonrise chart to see when the moon will be up.

Remote Shutter Release – When painting with light and you want to go over a 30-second exposure, you must have a shutter release to use your bulb mode. You can use the remote release or your camera’s built-in two-second timer when exposing your pictures.

Use a Tripod – First, you must be on a tripod. A good, sturdy tripod is necessary if it is windy. If the tripod moves, your picture will blur.

Focus – Use live view. Use your camera’s live view to focus in the dark, hit the zoom button, and focus on a bright star. You can also light it up with a flashlight, focus, then gently, without touching the focus ring, put the camera in manual focus so it will not search for the focus. You must do this each time you move your camera to take your next angel.


ISO – Start with ISO 1600 – 3200. This is a common starting point, and you will adjust from here.

Shutter Speed – Remember, the earth is rotating. If you leave the shutter open briefly, you will see star trails that will not make for a crisp image. We want crisp, non-star trail images. Here is the formula to avoid star trails—the 500 rule – Divide 500 by the focal length of your lens. So, if you have a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera, you will set your shutter speed to 20 sec. (500/24 = 20.83). If you are using a crop sensor camera, first do the math of the crop sensor to find the focal length. Cannon is 1.6, and Nikon is 1.5. Convert to full-frame focal length, then use the formula. Nikon 18mm x 1.5= 27mm – 500/27 = 18.51 seconds.

Aperture – Depth of field isn’t critical in these shots, but letting the light into the camera is; therefore, you should shoot wide open. If the depth of field is essential to you, try not to go too high. (wide open =the lowest aperture your camera will allow). You will have to increase the ISO, giving you digital noise.

White balance suggestion: Use live view mode to change your white balance settings and see what they look like. You can shoot in shade or cloud mode as a standard setting and adjust things later.

area information - photography



8231 Beach RoadChincoteague Island VA23336-2149
Roads, beach and trails
May through September 5:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Daily
April & October 6:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., Daily
November through March 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., Daily
Wildlife Loop (Driving Tour) Daily 3:00 p.m. to dusk
Refuge Visitor Center Hours
Thursday – Sunday
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Closed on December 24, 25, 31 and January 1
Refuge Office Hours
Monday – Friday
8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Closed on Federal Holidays



Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your campground to stay during their ghost-hunting trip? Put your campground information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number, and the information on your campground to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you. They are good at getting there in the dark.

Would you like to be featured in an article as a place to stay while doing photography or ghost hunting? If so, please send us an email. You will be surprised at how affordable our prices can be.



Do you want us to send our photography and ghost-hunting friends to your restaurant after their ghost-hunting trip? Put your restaurant information here. We will put a picture of your establishment, the website link, the phone number, and the information on your restaurant to make it easy for our photographers and ghost hunters to find you.

The best hotels while doing photography


The Refuge Inn – See full details and images above.



Don’t forget that you can use a rain sleeve on your camera if it is raining. If it is bright and sunny, you want to use a low ISO, such as 100.

If you are doing photography along with your ghost hunting on cloudy days, you can do running water or waterfall photography to avoid the glaring sun. You can also use an ND filter to get a long exposure for dramatic effects, even in the sunshine. If you ghost hunt indoors in abandoned places, be careful!


The sun rises over Chincoteague Island, and the air is alive with the calls of myriad birds. Photographers flock to the area, eager to capture the beauty of these feathered creatures in vibrant colors and intricate patterns. Every click of the shutter reveals a new bird and a new moment that won’t be repeated.

Some of the birds at refuge:

– American Avocet
– Black Skimmer
– Great Egret
– Snowy Egret
– Osprey
– Peregrine Falcon
– Northern Harrier
– American Oystercatcher
– Willet
– Laughing Gull
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