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?

A markerAssateague Island -
Assateague Island, Berlin, MD 21811, USA
[get directions]

Photos of the Wild Horses of Assateague Island

Click thumbnail to view full-size
One of the Assateague Wild Horses on the Beach.This wild horse ignored the sign to keep off the dunes.  The wild horses will walk along the Beach at Assateague Island. The Wild Horses will graze on the dune grass and any other vegetation they can find on the on the Island. Here you can see the beautiful thick coat on this wild horse.Two of the wild horses in the brush. The Wild Horses on the Virginia side are fenced up far away from the road. Without an extremely long telephoto lens, this is the best photo I could get of one of the horses from the Virginia herd. One of the Fireman's Horses in the Pens on the Virgina Side of Assoteague.
One of the Assateague Wild Horses on the Beach.
One of the Assateague Wild Horses on the Beach.
This wild horse ignored the sign to keep off the dunes.
This wild horse ignored the sign to keep off the dunes.
The wild horses will walk along the Beach at Assateague Island.
The wild horses will walk along the Beach at Assateague Island.
The Wild Horses will graze on the dune grass and any other vegetation they can find on the on the Island.
The Wild Horses will graze on the dune grass and any other vegetation they can find on the on the Island.
Here you can see the beautiful thick coat on this wild horse.
Here you can see the beautiful thick coat on this wild horse.
Two of the wild horses in the brush.
Two of the wild horses in the brush.
The Wild Horses on the Virginia side are fenced up far away from the road. Without an extremely long telephoto lens, this is the best photo I could get of one of the horses from the Virginia herd.
The Wild Horses on the Virginia side are fenced up far away from the road. Without an extremely long telephoto lens, this is the best photo I could get of one of the horses from the Virginia herd.
One of the Fireman's Horses in the Pens on the Virgina Side of Assoteague.
One of the Fireman's Horses in the Pens on the Virgina Side of Assoteague.

Wild Horses

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

show route and directions
A markerAssateague Island, Maryland Side -
Assateague Island National Seashore, Berlin, MD 21811, USA
[get directions]

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.

B markerAssateague Island, Virginia Side -
Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Chincoteague Island, VA 23336, USA
[get directions]

The Virginia side is connected to Chincoteague Island by a small bridge. When visiting the Maryland side make sure to visit the Assateague Lighthouse.

A shot I captured of a Great Egret Fishing for minnows in the marshes of Assateague Island
A shot I captured of a Great Egret Fishing for minnows in the marshes of Assateague Island

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!

A photo of the Assateague Lighthouse from my last trip to Assateague Island in 2010.
A photo of the Assateague Lighthouse from my last trip to Assateague Island in 2010.

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.

A photo of Assateague Island Beach on a peaceful spring day. I took this photo the day before Easter well before the summer tourist season began.
A photo of Assateague Island Beach on a peaceful spring day. I took this photo the day before Easter well before the summer tourist season began.

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!

Kite Flying

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!

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.

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!

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Comments 16 comments

stephhicks68 profile image

stephhicks68 6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

Beautiful photographs - I especially love the wild horses.


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Steph, The wild horses are always a favorite.


Simone Smith profile image

Simone Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

Great hub! When I went to GWU in DC, our weekend adventure trips club went there- I wanted to go, but had too much homework! Now I'm kicking myself for never checking it out @_@


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Simone, it really is one of places everyone should have on their bucket list to go to at least once in their life.


mtsi1098 6 years ago

this is one place we keep talking about for a visit...After seeing this hub we will plan it...thanks


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

You will not be disappointed mtsi.


Purple Perl profile image

Purple Perl 6 years ago from Bangalore,India

Beautiful life captured in pictures. I loved the horses and the birds.Thanks for the virtual tour. Great hub and congrats!


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Perl!


WannaB Writer profile image

WannaB Writer 6 years ago from Templeton, CA

Those are great shots of the horses and the beach is spectacular. Congratulations on winning The Treasure of the Day Contest for Thursday.


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thank you very much!


Denise Handlon profile image

Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

Wow! What a great hub-beautiful photos and description. I can see how it won the award.

Ever since I was a little girl watching the Disney channel about the 'wild ponies' I've wanted to visit. Now that I'm in NC it's alot closer and have made it one of my goals. Any suggestion as to the 'best' or better time to visit?


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Denise,

I just moved down to the great state of North Carolina also.

The Pony Swim, Auction and Fireman's Carnival is at the end of July. If you don't mind the crowds this is a great time to go. If your looking for a more relaxing and private experience I would recommend the early spring.

I made the mistake of going there one year in the fall a couple weeks into the fall. The town was deserted, the movie theater was just about the only place open. Worse of all we were camping and it was Hurricane Season. So, yeah avoid the off season.


travel_man1971 profile image

travel_man1971 6 years ago from Bicol, Philippines

Congratulations! Now I know..I will not feed wild horses. Thanks, aperturering.


Pat 6 years ago

Beautiful photos of a very magical place. Thank you for the wonderful memories. God made this special place for all to enjoy. Congratulations!


aperturering profile image

aperturering 6 years ago from Raleigh, NC Author

Thanks Travel Man, animals don't stay very wild once people start feeding them.

Thanks for your kind words Pat.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Some great photos - Enjoyed reading about Assateague Island. Congrats.

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