Visiting Assateague Island is a must. It is hidden gem. It is one of the few places in the United States where you can see wild horses roaming on the beach. It is quite an amazing thing to wake up to if you choose to go camping on the beach.
Whether you are looking for a unique camping adventure or just a day trip keep reading for your guide to all things Asseateague Island including where to camp, what to do and where to stay if camping is not your style.
Assateague is truly one of the best places to go camping in the US.
So let's get started.
Where is Assateague Island?
Assateague Island is located on the East Coast of the United States. The northern part of the 37 mile barrier island is located in Maryland while the lower half is located in Virginia. Camping in only permitted in Maryland.
The Island itself is made up of three different areas, Assateague State Park, Assateague National Seashore and Chincoteague Wildlife National Refuge.
How to Get to Assateague Island
There are two ways to access Assateague Island. From the North you can access Assateague Island via Route 611 which is under 10 miles south of Ocean City, Maryland. From the South you can access Asseateague Island via Route 175 which is two miles east of Chincoteague, VA
How to Get to Assateague Island Campgrounds
Camping on Assateague Island is only allowed in Maryland therefore access to the campgrounds is only available from the North via Route 611.
Camping on Assateague Island
Camping on Assateague Island is only allowed in Maryland. You have a few different options when deciding where to camp as the facilities and amenities vary widely between the State and National Park. Entrance fees as well as site fees vary depending on what side of the island you ultimately decide to call your temporary home.
Assateague State Park
Located on the Northern part of the Island less than 10 miles from Ocean City, MD. Campsites are reservable from April-October. Sites fill out quickly so it is important to plan well in advance. Especially if you are looking for weekend dates.
There are 350 Campsites. The rates are $30/night for primitive sites and $40/night for electric sites.
Why Camp on on the Assateague State Park Side?
- Hot Showers
- Flushing Toilets
- Electric Sites Available
- Family Friendly, Drinking is Prohibited
Assateague Island National Seashore
Drive about two miles down Bayberry Drive and you will find yourself in Assateague Island National Seashore. While you do not have the amenities of warm showers and flushing toilets like on the state side the sites on on the National Side has its perks. One of the being that it is not as crowded in my opinion.
Why Camp on on the Assateague National Park Side?
- Sites here are significantly cheaper.
- Group Sites have no limit on the number of people or individuals.
- The National Park is open year round.
- Sites are available on the beach.
Visiting Assateague Island
The Best Time To Visit Assateague Island
The best time of year to visit Assateague Island is the summer where you can enjoy a little fun in the sun.
However Spring and Fall are also great times of year as the temperatures are a bit cooler which means less crowds. It is also a great time of year for hiking and biking.
Wild Horses on Assateague Island
The horses on Assateague Island are feral animals. Meaning they are not domesticated. They live on the island year round and are thought to be descendants of the survivors of a ship wreck off the coast of Virginia.
The conditions on the island are harsh. Hot summers, cold winters, mosquitos everywhere and a limited supply of food. Because of this it is important to remember a few things in order to enjoy your time on Assateague Island.
(1) Don't Feed the Horses
Don’t forget that these horses are wild animals. They may look cute but they can be very dangerous. They kick, bite and can cause serious harm. Feeding them may seem harmless but because they are aggressive you can easily get hurt. It is best to keep your distance and admire from afar.
(2) Stay at least 40 feet away from the horses at all time.
You can actually be fined for being too close. So definitely keep your distance. (Note: During my last visit the horses came really close me. Instead of retreating I completely froze because I was so scared. They didn't bother me but next time I will not take the chance and do my best to retreat as peacefully as possible).
(3) Don't leave food unattended or out in the open.
It is easy enough to be distracted by the beauty of the island but if you leave food out in the open you are guaranteed to get a visit from a few friends. (Note: Once while camping there was an open bag of Doritos in my tent. The horses ate a hole through the screen trying to get to the Doritos. They are that aggressive).
(4) Enjoy the beauty of these animals from afar.
Take pictures. Admire their beauty. They are gorgeous animals and it is amazing to see them in their natural element. This is what keeps me coming back over and over again.
*Do not try this. This picture is deceiving as I was not as close to them as it looks*
One of the downsides of Assateague Island is the mosquitos. They are brutal. Before visiting make sure you come well equipped with Bug Repellent with Deet. No one is safe. I have the bug bites to prove it.
Things to Do on Assateague Island
Spend the Day on the Beach
Nothing is better in my opinion then spending the day on the beach and with over 35 miles of shoreline it is easy to find a spot to enjoy a lazy day watching the wild horses frolic in the water. It really is quite magical.
Make sure you pack a cooler with some of your faves. There aren't alot of options for food and beverage near by and also the concessions are limited and may not be easily accesible near you. We recently invested in this cooler.
Go on a Hike
This is not your traditional hiking. But if you are looking to explore what Assateague has to offer definitely check out the hiking trails. With a variety of forest, dunes, and marsh there is something for everyone. There are several trails to choose from varying from 1/2 mile to over 7 miles.
I personally like to go for a hike early in the morning or just before sunset. However, make sure to plan ahead. The mosquitos can get really aggressive. And you want to make sure you complete your hike well before dark. For trail maps in both Maryland and Virginia the NPS site is a great resource.
Before you pack your bag don't forget to check out our budget-friendly camping recipes to make the best of your camping adventure.
Spend a Day on the Bay
If you are looking to avoid crowds spending the day on the Bay may be a great option. There are many activities you can take advantage of such as clamming and crabbing. Kayaking is also a great way to discover what the Bay has to offer.
Where to Stay Near Assateague Island
If camping is not your thing there are plenty of options for those that prefer the comforts of a hotel room. You can check out Ocean City which is about 10 miles north however my personal favorite place to visit when I am not camping is Chincoteague Island.
Its glamping more your style. Check out how we went glamping in NYC.
Located south of Assateague on the eastern shore of Virginia, Chincoteague is worlds away from the tourist beach towns we have come to hate and love. Make your home in the town of Chincoteague and spend your day exploring the Chincoteague For those looking to explore the Chincoteague Wildlife Preserve.
You can have a lazy day on the beach, go for a hike or enjoy the sunset over the bay.
When you’re done with your day exploring the Preserve, check out one of the many restaurants, bars and ice cream shops Chincoteague has to offer.
Where to Stay Near Assateague Island?
If camping is not your jam then there are two areas nears Assateague where you can easily book a hotel for the night, the week or the weekend.
Where to Stay in Ocean City, Maryland
Ocean City is a pretty popular hangout spot in the summer. The combination of beaches, bars, and restaurants make it a great place for people trying to burn off a bit of steam.
Hotels book up quickly in the summer but here are some options that come with great reviews are fall within several different price points.
Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort
This all-suite hotel located right on the beach is a great option because all rooms have a kitchenette. You can find anything from a two-bedroom to a studio which makes it great for couples and even families.
Check the latest rates and availability for Princess Royale Oceanfront Resort here
Francis Scott Key Family Resort
This family-friendly resort is a great option when you are looking for a fun getaway with the kids. There are plenty of activities to keep everyone busy. Also, the rates are probably the best in Ocean City. They usually have a lot of specials so be sure to keep an eye out.
Check the latest rates and availability for Francis Scott Key Family Resort here
Sun ‘n Fun Motel
This no-frills budget-friendly option is great if you're only looking for a place to crash. The location is about a block and half away from the beach which means that it quieter so you will be sure to get a good night's rest.
Check the latest rates and availability for Sun ‘n Fun Motel here
Hyatt Place Ocean City / Oceanfront
The newest kid on the block is the Hyatt Place Ocean City. While we have yet to visit this property we are huge Hyatt Place fans. Free breakfast, clean and modern rooms, and location make this a great option.
This location can be pricey though (although I have found some great deals so check often). But this would be our number 1 choice if the price is right.
Check the latest rates and availability for Hyatt Place Ocean City / Oceanfront
Where to stay in Chincoteague Island, Virginia
If you prefer something that is a bit slower paces and quieter than Ocean City then head down to Chincoteague Island. This is where we almost always stay when we are not camping. It is just more of our vibe.
This is one of the most popular places to stay on Chincoteague Island. Therefore during peak season, it is highly recommended you book early.
They are also one of the few places in Chincoteague where you can find a Tesla charging station. Bonus for Tesla owners
Check the latest rates and availability for Refuge Inn here
Visiting Assateague Island
I love exploring new places but Assateague Island is a place that I visit almost every year. I look forward to the magic of waking up to the sunrise. Watching the wild horses play in the water at dusk. And hanging out around the campfire while admiring the starry night sky. If you have never been to Assateague Island add it to your list.
Have you been to Assateague Island? Have I convinced you to go yet?
Before you go don't forget to Pin this Post to your favorite Travel Board. Happy Exploring.
I have family up in Maryland and Virginia. I have never been to Assateague Island, but it definitely looks like a place we should take a road trip to on our next visit up north!
You have to go. It is so amazing. We go every year now. So fun.
Nancy J Donnelly says
My husband and I were in Newark Md. camping and drove over to Assateague to see the horses. We were not dissapointed. We saw quite a few. What a beautiful area. We are going to try to come back and camp at the state park.
Oh you definitely should. We try to go at least once a year. It truly is a gem.
Kevin Kane says
Thinking of going in late October with our 5th-wheel camper. From what I have read from other people, the mosquitos are not as bad during that time of year. Would you agree? Do sites at Assateague National Park have water and electric?
The cooler temps mean less mosquitos. With regards to the sites in the National Park there are no hookups on the National Side.
Jolene Hannum says
Our family lives in the Midwest. We discovered Assateague Island many years ago on a trip to Washington DC. We were immediately captived and have camped there many times and under many conditions. Storms, mosquitos, wind, heat, cold. Nothing has changed our love for this favorite place of our, except maybe the black flies. Our children have grown and now our grandchildren also love it!
There is truly something captivating about it. It keeps us going back too. Although I will say those mosquitos are brutal in more recent years.
2020 Family road trip says
We are taking a family rv trip. Are RV’s allowed to stay overnight on the island?
Yes. They do have drive in RV spots on the bayside.
Great blog post! I plan on visiting Assateague State Park this Spring with my family. I appreciate your tips.
Hi Marion, You’re going to love Assateague. We are hoping to make it out there again this summer.
English Saddles says
Great Article And Beautiful Place. I Would Love To Go To This Island.
Yes. It is incredible. I have been many times and every time is just as good as the first.
Hey there! Beautiful shots you’ve got here. Especially love the one soaking up the sun in front of the tent with some bubbly! Can I ask you which site you stayed on during your trip? We’re planning an early September trip and I am super familiar with the mosquitos (from many childhood trips) but am hoping to snag a site further from the brush/swampy areas to minimize the problem! Would love any thoughts you have. Thanks!
This was actually at one of the group sites. We either do group site 1 or 2.
I love the image of the two horses on the beach. Any chance I could get that jpg file from you? Thanks!
Hi Krista. You can submit a formal request to taima at poorinaprivateplane.com