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.
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.
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 visit the NPS site here.
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 the 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.
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 have a lazy day on a 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.
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 convince you to go yet?
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