Assateague Island - A Different Kind of Island Adventure in Maryland and Virginia
Assateague Island National Seashore
If you enjoy the outdoors you should set Assateague Island as the destination for your next vacation.
Assateague island offers much more than your standard beach vacation. From Beach Camping to Wild Horses this Island a one of a kind Island Adventure. Hiking, Bike Riding, Visiting a lighthouse, Boogie Boarding, Body Surfing, Kite Flying are just some of the things you can enjoy on a vacation to Assateague Island.
- Not sure where to go for your next vacation?
- Are you sick of beach vacations where you spend your entire week sitting on the beach doing nothing but getting sun brunt?
- Do you like camping and horses?
- On a budget and don't have a lot of money spend on vacation?
Well then an Island Adventure Vacation on Assateague Island may be in order for you.
Visit Assateague Island
Assateague Island sits offshore from the mainland of both Maryland and Virginia. It is the sister Island of Chincoteague Island and is located just south of Ocean City, Maryland. The island is long and narrow. It is 37 miles long but only a quarter-mile to 2 and a half miles wide.
Assateague Island is a barrier Island, meaning it sits between the ocean and the mainland. Barrier Islands take the brunt of the oceans waves and storms, protecting the coastlines of the mainland. As such the beaches of Assateague Island are constantly being eroded away and each year the island moves closer and closer to the mainland. This movement towards the mainland is called "Island Rollover".
Where is Assateague Island?
Photos of the Wild Horses of Assateague IslandClick thumbnail to view full-size
Assateague and it's sister Island Chincoteague are best known for their Wild Horses.
There are two herds of Ponies on Assateague Island. The two herds are sepeated by a large fence that runs across the state border and are commonly reffered to as the Maryland and Virginia Herds. The Maryland Herd is managed by the National Park Service, and the Virginia Herd is owned and managed by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Company.
DO NOT FEED THE WILD HORSES
Visitors to the Island used to feed and pet the wild horses. Some would even sit there children on the wild horses to take a picture. However, this caused the horses to become very freindly towards people and unafraid of automobiles. In the 80's I remember driving around the circle by the entrance of Assateague Island and the horses would stick their heads right into the car looking for some hand outs. Over the years accidents with the wild horses being hit by cars increased. Because of these problems fences have been constructed on the Virginia side to keep the horses far from the roads keeping the horses away from cars as well as people.
Virgina and Maryland Sides of the Island
It is a good drive from Chincoteague Island to get to the entrance for the Virgina side fo Assateague. But, I would highly recomend taking one day to visit the Maryland side of Assateague Island since the horses are still allowed to roam freely there. It is truely an amazing experience to see these wild horses up close. It is something you will remember for the rest of your life. However, let the fences on the Virginia side serve as a reminder not to pet and especially feed the wild horses.
How to get to the Maryland and Virgina Sides of Assateague Island
The Maryland side is a good drive from Chincoteague. But, it is well worth the trip to see the Wild Horses still roaming freely across the island.
The Virginia side is connected to Chincoteague Island by a small bridge. When visiting the Maryland side make sure to visit the Assateague Lighthouse.
Birds at Assateague
During the off season Assateague Island thousands of birds flock to Assateague Island as they migrate, making the Island their temporary home. Throughout the year you can see lots of large water birds in this protected bird sanctuary. Everything from Great Egrets to Blue Herons and many more can be found on the Island.
Make Sure to Bring your Binoculars!
The Assateague Lighthouse
On the Virginia side of the Island stands the Assateague Lighthouse. This brick lighthouse was built in 1867. It is 142 feet tall and has red and white stripes painted on the outside.
The Assateague Lighthouse is open to the public. For a small donation fee you can go inside the lighthouse, hike up the to the 198 steps to the top, and walk around the observation deck.
From the top of the lighthouse you can look down at the southern portion of the Island and out into the ocean. If you are lucky some of the wild horses will be in the fields below. While on the observation deck you can also see the new compact lens that is used by the lighthouse today. You can see the much larger lens that used to be in the lighthouse at the Oyster and Marytime Meuseum in Chincoteuge right at the bridge to enter Assateague.
The Beach on Assateague Island
Assateague Island is one long beach which runs along the eastern side of the island. There is no shortage of things to do at the Beach on Assateague Island. The wind at the beach is excellent for flying a kite. The waves on the beach are perfect for buggy boarding or body surfing. The sandy beach is great for building sand castles.
No vacation is complete without a trip to the Beach!
There is usually plenty of wind on the beach, which makes flying kites a breeze. Kite flying on Assateague beach is very popular. On a nice summer day you will see many brightly colored kites flying in the air above the beach.
If you don't already have a good kite, don't worry there is no shortage of kites available in Chincoteague. There are several kite shops on Chincoteague Island where you can buy a kite to fly on the beach. My favorite kite shop in Chincoteague is the Kite Koop. They carry all sorts of kites from the cheap plastic kites to more durable fabric and nylon kites that will last a lifetime. You can get a kite in all sorts of shapes and sizes there. They even sell kites with multiple strings so you can better control and do tricks with them.
Lets Go Fly a Kite!
Tips on Flying a Kite
Boogie Boarding and Body Surfing
While the waves at Assateague Island are usually not large enough for Surfing on a Surfboard, they are perfect for Boogie Boarding and Body Surfing.
You can pickup a Boogie Board at any of the Beach shops in Chincoteague or if you are planning ahead you can save some money and buy a boogie board online.
For those not familiar with Body Surfing it is the same as Boogie Boarding except you don't have a board. You just swim out to where the waves are breaking and you let the waves carry you back to shore.
Lets Hit the Waves!
How to Boogie Board
Build a Golf Ball Drop Sand Castle
Building Sand Castles
Assateague Beach has some beautiful sand that you can use to build a sand castle.
All you need to create a magnificent sand castle is a shovel and pal. Oh and don't forget a lot of patience.
If you are looking to build something different, you can build a Golf Ball Drop Sand castle. Golf Ball Drop Sand Castles are a lot of fun to build and can provide days of entertainment after you are done.
Lets Build a Sand Castle!
- Assateague Island National Seashore
Camping At Assateague through the U.S. National Park Service.
Camping on the Beach
When planning a trip for Assateague Island you could stay in a hotel on Chincoteague Island and have a wonderful vacation. You could also go camping on one of the two great campgrounds on Chincoteague. But, for the ultimate Assateague Island Adventure you can go camping on the beach of Assateague Island.
Can you think of a better vacation than camping on a beach with Wild Horses running around?
Vistor and Education Centers
Both sides of the Island have Vistor and Education Centers where you can learn about the Wild Horses, the History of the Island, and the local environment. The centers have many classes available to visitors and the park rangers are always glad to answer any questions you may have. They also hold special events throughout the year, so make sure to stop by the visitor centers at the start of your trip to find out what is going on throughout the week.
- The Bike Depot
The closest bike and beach rental outlet to the Assateague Beach, with over 250 bikes to choose from, as well as a wide variety of beach accessories. Come meet our wonderful staff or send us an email.
Getting Around on the Island
Assateague is a National Park and as such there are many trails on Island that you can hike on. So make sure to bring some comfortable hiking shoes in along with your flip flops or sandals for the beach.
Some of the paths also allow bike riding and you will see many people biking on the roads instead of driving their cars. If you do not bring your own bike there are also bike rentals available in Chincoteague.
You can even rent a Tandem Bike for Two!
Visit Chincoteague Island
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