Assateague Island Camping
A while back I enjoyed one of my favorite outdoor adventures of all time: Assateague Island Camping. At Assateague Island, you can experience the raw power of the Atlantic meeting the rugged charm of the Eastern Shore. If you’re after the unpolished beauty of nature – the salt in the air, the gritty feel of sand between your toes, and the sight of wild horses undisturbed by modern life – you’ve found the right place. This isn’t just camping; this is getting back to nature’s honest roots.
My favorite memory was waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of a horse munching on beachgrass just outside my tent. The beauty of tent camping is that the sounds of the outdoors are not dampened by the tent material. This horse was literally inches from where I was sleeping. Oddly enough, although our group had numerous tents set up together in our space, the horses seemed to be able to step around and over the guy lines. We didn’t have any issues with tents getting knocked over by horses while we were there.
Assateague Island Uncovered
Straddling the coasts of Maryland and Virginia, Assateague is a no-frills kind of place. It’s where the Atlantic’s roaring waves set the daily rhythm and the expansive beaches stretch out, not with sun loungers, but with the footprints of both humans and horses.
The wild horses of Assateague are as much a part of the landscape as the sand dunes themselves. Not showy creatures groomed for display, but sturdy, independent beasts that have made this tough environment their home. Their history on the island might be up for debate, but their role in its present is undeniable and revered.
Don’t let the island’s rugged coastline fool you; it’s more than just a beach spot. Venture inward, and you’ll find marshlands, forests, and an array of local wildlife that makes Assateague a diverse nature hotspot. Grab a pair of binoculars for birdwatching, or lace up your hiking boots for some trail exploration – there’s raw nature at every turn.
By the time you set up camp here, with the sounds of the natural world as your backdrop, you’ll realize that Assateague isn’t just a place on a map – it’s a genuine, earthy escape from the daily grind.
Camping Options at Assateague Island and Nearby Areas
Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds
Oceanside Drive-in Campsites
- Suitable for tents, campers, and recreational vehicles.
- Positioned alongside the beach with some sites offering views of the ocean.
- Amenities: Picnic table, fire ring, and nearby restrooms.
Oceanside Walk-in Campsites
- Tent-only sites, a short walk from the parking area.
- Ideal for campers looking for a slightly more secluded experience.
- Offers a unique experience, especially for sunset lovers.
- Suitable for tents and smaller vehicles.
- For campers bringing their own horses.
- Special regulations and permit requirements apply.
More info for National Seashore campground…
Assateague State Park Campgrounds (Maryland side
- Suitable for both tents and RVs.
- Amenities: Fire rings, picnic tables, bathhouses with hot showers, and electric hookups.
- Large sites reserved for groups, perfect for scout troops or family reunions.
More information on Assateague Island State Park.
Backcountry Camping (for the adventurous)
- Requires a permit.
- Ideal for campers looking for a wilderness experience and solitude.
- Campers must pack in and pack out all necessities and follow Leave No Trace principles.
Nearby Campgrounds and RV Parks
Castaways RV Resort & Campground
- Located close to Ocean City, MD.
- Offers a more resort-style camping experience with amenities like a pool, arcade, and fitness center.
Frontier Town Campground
- Offers themed camping with a wild west show, water park, and high ropes adventure park.
- Suitable for RVs, tents, and has cabin rentals.
Pocomoke River State Park
- Situated a bit inland but within easy driving distance.
- Offers shaded campsites ideal for tents and RVs in a forest setting.
When choosing your camping option, it’s important to consider the type of experience you’re after. Whether you’re looking for the raw authenticity of beachside camping, the community feel of a state park, or the amenities of a nearby RV resort, Assateague and its surrounding areas cater to a broad spectrum of outdoor enthusiasts.
Sights and Activities in and around Assateague Island, including Ocean City, Maryland
The Wild Horses of Assateague
Horse Watching: Catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures as they graze, play, or wander the beaches. Just a reminder though, always observe from a distance and never feed or approach them.
Assateague’s Natural Wonders
Bird Watching: Assateague is a paradise for bird enthusiasts, especially during migrations. Look out for ospreys, plovers, herons, and many other species.
Kayaking and Canoeing: Navigate the waterways and marshes to experience the island from a unique perspective. Rentals and guided tours are available for all skill levels.
Fishing: From surf fishing on the beach to bay fishing, Assateague offers a variety of spots for anglers. Ensure you’re aware of local regulations and have the necessary permits. Charter fishing trips are available out of nearby Ocean City.
Hiking and Biking: Explore the island’s diverse landscapes through its network of trails. The “Life of the Marsh” trail offers an immersive experience of Assateague’s marsh ecosystem.
Ocean City, Maryland – A Stone’s Throw Away
Food: If you want a short break from camping meals, there are numerous seafood restaurants in Ocean City. Unfortunately, my favorite restaurant recently closed. Phillips Crab House. But there are many other seafood restaurants in Ocean City.
Boardwalk Adventures: Stroll along the iconic 3-mile boardwalk, lined with shops, eateries, and amusement parks. Enjoy classic treats like Thrasher’s French Fries and Dumser’s Dairyland ice cream.
Watersports: Jet skiing, parasailing, paddle boarding, and more await adrenaline seekers. Numerous rental shops and instructors are available along the coast.
Nightlife and Entertainment: Ocean City comes alive at night with bars, clubs, and live music venues. Catch a concert at Seacrets or enjoy a relaxed evening at one of the beachfront bars.
Golfing: For those looking to hit the links, Ocean City boasts numerous golf courses with picturesque views.
Events and Festivals: Throughout the year, Ocean City hosts a range of events from car shows to seafood festivals. Check local listings for upcoming attractions during your stay.
Nearby Attractions and Historical Sites
Berlin, Maryland: Just a short drive from Assateague and Ocean City, this charming town was named the “Coolest Small Town in America” in 2014. Explore its historical buildings, boutique shops, and quaint eateries.
The Rackliffe House: A beautifully restored 18th-century plantation house overlooking the Sinepuxent Bay. Offers a glimpse into the colonial history of the region.
With a perfect blend of natural wonders and lively activities, Assateague Island and its neighboring regions promise a diverse range of experiences. Whether you’re inclined towards serene nature observations or the bustling vibes of a coastal city, there’s something for every traveler.
Camping with the Wild Horses of Assateague: Must-Know Information
Understand the Horses
Wild, Not Tame.
First and foremost, it’s essential to remember that these horses are wild animals. While they might appear calm or even indifferent to human presence, they can be unpredictable. The wild horses have been part of Assateague for centuries, and various legends surround their arrival. Some believe they are the descendants of horses that survived shipwrecks, while others think they were abandoned by early settlers.
For Your Safety
Always stay at least 40 feet away from the horses. They might appear peaceful, but they can bite or kick if they feel threatened.
Do not feed them. Human food is not suitable for these wild horses and can even be harmful. Feeding them can also lead to aggressive behavior.
Avoid blocking their path. If you come across horses while hiking or on the beach, give them space to move freely without blocking their way.
Secure your campsite. Store food securely, and don’t leave scraps or leftovers out. Wild horses are opportunists and can raid campsites searching for food.
For the Horses’ Welfare
Limit human interference. Too much human interaction can alter the natural behaviors of the horses and can lead to them becoming reliant on humans for food, which poses risks to their health.
Drive slowly. When driving in and around Assateague, always be on the lookout for horses and drive at reduced speeds to avoid collisions.
Report misbehavior. If you witness anyone harassing or attempting to feed the horses, report it to park rangers immediately.
Enjoy their Beauty Respectfully
Capture these magnificent creatures with your camera, but always use a zoom lens to maintain a safe distance. Don’t be THAT tourist that goes viral because they get attacked by a wild animal because they wanted to get a selfie next to it.
Observe and Learn
There are ranger-led programs that provide insights into the life and behaviors of these wild horses. Joining one of these programs can enrich your understanding and appreciation of the animals.
The wild horses of Assateague Island are undoubtedly one of the island’s main attractions. But with this unique opportunity comes the responsibility to treat them with respect and care. By adhering to these guidelines, you ensure the safety and well-being of both the horses and yourself, making your camping experience truly unforgettable.
The raw beauty of Assateague Island isn’t just in its sprawling beaches, diverse habitats, or the rhythmic dance of the Atlantic’s waves—it’s also in the untamed spirit of its wild horses. These magnificent creatures remind us of nature’s inherent wildness and the delicate balance that exists between humans and the environment. As campers and lovers of the outdoors, it’s our privilege to witness such wonders, but it’s also our duty to preserve and respect them. Every step we take, every interaction, leaves an imprint on the sands of Assateague. Let’s strive to ensure our footprint nurtures, protects, and honors this pristine wilderness, ensuring that future generations can experience the same magic we’ve been graced with. As the campfire dims and the stars come alive over Assateague, may the wild horses’ distant silhouettes and the tales of this island continue to inspire, educate, and stir the souls of adventurers for years to come.