Spring makes us think of the beach and one of our favorites is at Assateague Island National Seashore. This special place is also somewhat unique in the national park system because it spans from Maryland to Virginia.
Beginning just 8 miles south of Ocean City Maryland, Assateague Island continues 32 miles south to Chincoteague Island in Virginia – a destination in and of itself. We actually camped at both ends – in the north at Assateague State Park in Maryland, right on the beach.
Then we camped in the south at a private campground, just a short bike ride from Chincoteague National Wildlife refuge.
The biggest draw of these islands is not the beach, it is the wild horses. There are two herds. The herd in Maryland is managed by the National Park Service. The herd in Virginia is owned but the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company and each year they have an auction to sell the ponies, a fund-raiser for the fire fighters that has been going on for almost 100 years!
You can’t miss the wild horses when you visit. They were right in our campground at Assateague. One wandered past our campsite and stopped at the next campsite to take a leisurely roll in the grass. Very neat. But they do have warnings all over the place to remind folks that they are wild and will bite if you get too close. We kept our distance!
Things to Do
Along with the ponies, there are miles of windswept beaches for walking or horse-back riding. The park also boasts a 4 mile paved bike path and lots of hiking trails. There are even a few back country campsites that you can hike or paddle to, on the ocean and the bay side of the island. You will see lots of kayakers taking advantage of the calm waters in the bay. It is also a gorgeous place to enjoy the sunset.
If you visit Assateague, we would recommend a stop at Chincoteague; of course to see the horses but also to visit the dunes, forest and marshes in Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. We loved the giant snapping turtles; they seemed prehistoric.
The birds were incredible – spoon bills, egrets, ibis, pelicans, herons and more. We watched them as they fished. They list over 300 species of birds that can be found there – a birder’s paradise.
It is also fun to visit the Assateague Lighthouse, active since the 1860s and now on the National Register of Historic Places. When open, you can climb to the top for great views of the barrier islands.
Top of our list was the food. The national park website talks about fishing and crabbing. We didn’t do that, but we sure ate our share! Amazing little local restaurants with great fresh fish. The seafood was certainly a highlight of our visit.
Need Help Planning Your Visits?
If you would like to explore this or other National Park Units, but need a bit help in the planning, please give us a call at (480) 609-3978. We are happy to offer customized trip planning.