Camping at Assateague

Added by Spenser Reid

Assateague Island is 9 miles south of Ocean City, Maryland and is home to 37 miles of gorgeous ocean beaches.

This is the perfect getaway if you are on the East Coast! Assateague Island is a 37-mile long barrier island along the coasts of Maryland and Virginia that is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Sinepuxent Bay on the west. The state and national parks offer the chance to explore the island in all its splendor and are sure to give you plenty of adventures that will entertain you for well over a week. The island offers swimming, beach-combing, sunbathing, surfing, paddle-boarding, crabbing, bird watching, fishing, hunting, biking and ocean kayaking. The bayside offers you the chance to explore secluded coves by canoe or kayak.

It is important to note a few differences between Assateague State Park and Assateague Island National Seashore Campgrounds

State Park:
  • offers warm showers and some electric sites
  • fresh water is located at the bathhouses
  • open fires are not allowed on beaches
  • pets are allowed in the day-use beach area from October 1 to April 30
  • registration is available 24 hours a day online.
National Park:
  • has cold showers and chemical toilets
  • fresh water is located at the bathhouses
  • open fires are allowed with permission from the Park Ranger Station
  • also allow pets (dogs must be on a 6-foot leash)
  • offers backcountry camping (A 7-day backcountry permit is $6 per person ages 16 years and older. A $15 7-day entrance fee per vehicle is also required)
  • offers an Over-Sand Vehicle (OSV) zone (The permit fee ranges from $70 to $150, depending upon the type of access desired)
  • registration is available 24 hours a day online.

The beaches of both parks are the same. However, the State Park has only one entrance through the dunes in day-use and the National Park has two. Each camping loop has at least one dune crossover to the beach.

We chose the state park for two reasons: cheaper rates and more availability. As it approaches tourist season you will notice it will be harder to find availability. So I recommend booking months in advanced or go in the off-season, which would be late May and August. The water will be slightly colder but definitely bearable. When booking at the state park, aim for campsites 12-16 on any loop, these will put you closest to the dune that separates you from the beach.

If you look at the marker I placed on the map, you will notice it isn't actually on the island. This is where the visitor center is located. It is highly recommended you stop by and grab some pamphlets before crossing over to the island. They are loaded with information on the island and the Park Rangers will tell you all of the secret spots to visit on the island. The Ranger we spoke with gave us a map of the bay and circled some isolated coves that are a must-see if you plan on going kayaking/canoeing. To reach the bay, you have to enter through the National Park. A $13 7-day entrance fee is required.

One last thing, keep your food out of your tent! The horses that roam the island are brazen and will raid your site. We witnessed a horse stomp through one of our neighbor's tents just for some twizzlers! Your food will be safe as long as you keep it in your car.

Camping at Assateague will be a pleasant experience if you plan ahead! The barrier island habitat can be harsh if you are not prepared.

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby
Handicap Accessible
Picnic Area


Leave a Review

Overall rating: 

Awesome Place To Camp, Swim, And See

I went as a kid but could barely remember. I'm so glad I went back. We camped in the state park, which had great bathrooms and showers. Hot water too. The campsites are really nice. However, watch out for the horses... they're really cool but will take all the food off your picnic table!


As another post read, this fulfilled my daughter's dream of visiting the island and seeing the ponies. All the madness created was completely self induced (terrible sun burns due to not constantly bathing in the sunscreen as I slathered it on the kids). You will have beautiful views, and weird experiences with the ponies. We left a bag of food on the picnic table while grilling dinner and I turned around to see a pony eating from the bag. Kids were thrilled, I was not happy. When the ponies moved on, through our campsite, the walked under my rigged laundry line, pulling my sons underwear as they went. We have a great picture of a pony "wearing" my sons underwear as it walked on down the beach. I recommend doing a kayak tour of the bay with Super Fun Eco Tours, especially if you have little ones. The tour guides were awesome and held the kids attention as they talked with them about the creatures living in the bay. Great experience.

šŸ„ˆ Contributor

almost 4 years ago

Gorgeous beach but beware of the bugs!

Totally fulfilled my childhood "Misty of Chincoteague" daydreams! The ponies can get a little aggressive -- they came and ate everything off our picnic table and refused to be shooed away -- but it was totally worth getting a close up view of them! The biting flies are even worse -- unrelenting even with citronella candles and bug spray so be prepared! Otherwise a beautiful, expansive, peaceful beach and totally worth coming a few miles down from nearby Ocean City which is much rowdier.


šŸ„‡Top Contributor

about 4 years ago


Every year while I was in the Boy Scouts we would have the much anticipated trip to Assateague Island! The wild ponies, the windstorms, and the serene settings made for unforgettable moments. Now that I have grown, I have not been back though with this new found inspiration, perhaps its time.

Amazing Seaside Escape

Stayed in the ocean campsite April 10-12. Great experience even though it was very windy. The horses were out and about as well

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