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When most of us think of going camping, we envision a wooded area filled with trees, dirt, and woodland creatures like bears, skunks, and squirrels. Camping on the beach at Assateague Island off the coast of Maryland offers you the opposite experience, allowing you to fall asleep under the stars to the sound of waves crashing on the shore. Rather than bears running by your campsite, you’ll keep your eyes and ears alert for the beautiful wild ponies that roam along the shoreline.
Where to Camp
Although Assateague Island stretches along the coast of Maryland to Virginia, you can only camp on the Maryland side. You can opt for the National Park Service campsites, which have cold showers and chemical toilets, or Assateague State Park campsites, which offer bathhouse facilities with hot water. The sites maintained by the state are only open from late April until November, whereas the National Park Service sites are open year round. It’s a good idea to make your reservations in advance to secure your site. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider getting a permit for backcountry camping, where you can really rough it.
When you come to camp on Assateague Island, you need to come prepared. In addition to the basic equipment, you need to bring your own firewood if you plan on using the fire rings. You’ll be on the beach and out in nature, so don’t forget sunscreen, bug spray, and proper clothing to keep covered up if it gets chilly. Since you’re going to be surrounded by sand, you’ll probably want to have a screen tent for dining and hanging out. Bring plenty of food and drinks so that you can avoid having to drive back onto the mainland.
What to Do for Fun
As with any camping trip, you have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities on Assateague Island. Bring your fishing gear and set up on the shore for a few hours. Kayak along the coastline. You can enjoy bird watching, as there are more than 300 different species that call the island home. Hike around and explore, and try to see how many different kinds of wildlife you can find.
One of the biggest draws for visitors is the hundreds of wild ponies that live and roam freely around the island. It isn’t known exactly what brought these majestic creatures to Assateague, although there are several different theories, like a Spanish cargo shipwreck sometime long ago. In any case, they have made the area their home, and you have a chance to see them up close anytime of the day or night while you’re there. My fondest memory from a childhood trip was waking up to the sounds of the horses stampeding right past our campsite.
Camping on the beautiful beaches of Assateague Island is truly one of the most unique and memorable outdoor experiences that I have ever had. If you’re looking to relax on the beach and enjoy activities like fishing, crabbing, kayaking, and scouring for shells, this is the place to do it. Being surrounded by coastal nature and majestic wild horses will definitely make for a camping trip that you won’t soon forget.